CWA Beginner – Session 4

Session 4 introduced the letters U and C.  

In the official CWOPS Beginner Book, it’s divided into copying segments: R, H, D, L, 1, R, U, C (five times each)

chat, chair, chin, chart, ouch, couch, touch, such, teach, reach, sun, son, hold, told, sail, rail, tail, nail, oil, soil, toil, coil, rain, cause, sauce, toss, toll, tall, tell, cell, call, NC5A, NA2T, CU1LL, 10, CO5NO, NU4R, CT1AC, CE1NI, 4241, 1452, in the cell, that hurts, at the hall, hole in 1

And sending segments: chat, chin, teach, sail, rain, tall, tell, NC5A, NA2T, CU1LL, CO5NO, NU4R, CT1AC, CE1NI, 4241, 1452, sail on sailor, tell all, hold on

Thank you for a great class.  Nice variety of words, too.  Favorites were: Scotland, Santana, Latch, Loud shout, church

Sunday’s session 5, will introduce the letters M and W, the numbers and 6, and our first punctuation, ?.  The question mark has a very distinct and musical sound.  It’s also fun to do on a paddle with repeat: hold for two dots, hold two dashes, hold two dots, release.   

Events: 
Paul mentioned the K1USN slow speed (con)test: http://www.k1usn.com/sst.html  This event is a leisurely-paced opportunity, intended to be more welcoming to new CW operators.  By “slow speed,” they mean relative to the CWOPS event perspective, at 15-20wpm.  They will slow down to you.  (To set some context, CWOps has its “CWT” event every Wednesdays at 6am, noon and 8pm PST.  There are a lot of folks “running” a frequency at 25wpm and up.  The CWT two weeks after classes end is a <= 20wpm session to welcome new participants.  K1USN felt there should be one of these every week.)

The K1USN SST event is Sunday 17:00 – 18:00 PDT on 20m (14.032-14.039), 40m (7.032-7.039) and 80m (3.532 – 3.539).  Several of K1USN members are in the northeast, so if you have difficulty hearing them on the air, I’ve included some information on Web SDRs below.  (The Milford, PA, site should work for this.  If there are west coast participants, the Northern Utah and Half Moon Bay, CA Web SDRs are very good.)  It sounded like there were a lot of participants – N1QE (Tim) reported making 50 contacts.

This style of event is great for a newcomer because the exchanges are predictable. If you find someone “running” a frequency (where they stay in one spot and people “search and pounce” contacts for them), the repetition gives you a lot of opportunities to pluck out the essential information for an exchange. For example, if K1USN is running a frequency, you might hear this sequence (bold black = what’s actually sent, red is the translation):

CQ SST K1USN  (Translation: “Calling anyone participating in SST, this is K1USN, anyone there?“)
     If Paul were on, he would respond with his call sign: W7PEZ 
     If K1USN hears you and wants to reply, they will send back: W7PEZ HAROLD MA (Hi, W7PEZ, I am Harold from Massachusetts)   
     Paul will respond: TU PAUL WA (Thank you, I am Paul, from Washington state)
     And finally, K1USN: GL PAUL TU K1USN SST (Good luck, Paul, and thank you.  This is K1USN calling for anyone participating on SST.)

We’ll review this a lot more as we’re working on our QSO cheat sheet in session 10+.  TU (thank you), GE (Good evening), GM (Good Morning), GA (Good Afternoon), FB (Fine business) are also acceptable courtesies you can respond with.  After a while, you’ll recognize these as words and it gives your brain time to focus on the exchange part.  

If, in the response, K1USN answered another station, it’s common courtesy to not resend your call sign until K1USN has finished that exchange, e.g., once they send TU K1USN SST you can call again, or you can wait for them to do the full CQ.  

There is also a CW Academy “QSO party”, which is more free-form:

The CW Academy QSO Party is now on Tuesday nights. 7.100 – 7.200. 17:00 – 19:00 PDT, 0000GMT to 0200GMT. Get on the air and have fun. This is a great watering hole for Academy classes that require the students to make QSO’s. Short exchanges, rag chews, just have fun. No scores kept, no submitting logs. All are encouraged to keep your Keyer speeds up and use generous Farnsworth spacing. Get on the air, have some fun!

Practicing copying what you send: The Intermediate class I’m associate advising for started using Audacity (free download: https://www.audacityteam.org/ ) to record their sending then play it back for self-evaluation.  (There may be a phone app to do the same.)  Some folks have found this helpful for working on timing for some of the more complicated letters to send (like L) that alternate multiple times. 

Errors: No biggie.  Take a breath to center, then resend.  In the intermediate course, you’d send eight dits (……..), pause, then resend the portion again.   For now, when sending multiple words, let’s plan on a breath before and after anything over five letters.   

Web SDRs

If you want to listen (with headphones) at work or are having difficulty picking up anything, there are online SDR (software defined radios) you can tune and listen to:

          North America
Milford, PA: http://websdr.k3fef.com:8901/
Birmingham, AL: http://n4dkd.asuscomm.com:8901/
Half Moon Bay, CA: http://69.27.184.62:8901/
Milford, PA: http://k3fef.com:8901/
Northern UT: http://www.sdrutah.org/ (there are four servers)
Sedona, AZ: http://w7rna.dyndns-remote.com:8901/
Washington, DC: http://na5b.com:8901/

The screens are daunting and have different layouts for each one, but the most important settings are enumerated below:

  1. Waterfall of the spectrum – brighter lines represent signals. You can zoom in/out and pan around to focus on the specific area of the band. For example, for 20M, you might watch 14025 – 14045. The red box represents where I am currently tuned. You can see a strong, narrow signal.
  2. Frequency selection – This is the most precise. On some sites, you can click the mouse and use its scroll wheel. Typically, CW frequencies will fall on 50Hz intervals, but adjustments slightly off may be easier to copy.
  3. Band – A quick way to select frequency; sometimes these will have a mode (Choose CW)
  4. Bandwidth – This lets you limit how wide a chunk you are listening to. When starting out with CW, it is helpful to choose “CW nrw” (narrow) so you will hear a specific caller.

In the screen capture below (Ulvila, FI), I have set it up to listen to CW on the 20M band at 14037kHz with a narrow CW filter. F6HKA is currently calling CQ CWT.

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