Morse Code

Discussion in 'Cleared for the Approach' started by JOhnH, Mar 9, 2011.

  1. SkyHog

    SkyHog Touchdown! Greaser!

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    See that's bizarre to me. Smacks me the same was as abbreviating METARs and weather reports.
     
  2. Capt. Geoffrey Thorpe

    Capt. Geoffrey Thorpe Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    I heard that same one a few thousand times. (It had the voice and the Morse).
     
  3. azure

    azure Final Approach

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    I think that's probably a big part of it for all of us that find it a lot easier to copy code aurally than to decipher dots and dashes on a page. You and I learned the code to get our ham licenses, so to us, it's an aural, sounded-out language. I guess if you don't have that imprinting, it might be easier to learn to make the connection between written dot-dashes and what you hear through your headset. I learned when I was about 10 years old. I got my novice license (with encouragement from my parents who were both hams), never went any farther in ham radio, but never forgot the code even though I could never copy much above about 17 wpm. Today it's just very very hard for me to figure out written out Morse code. But I can appreciate that someone who has never learned to associate the sound patterns with characters might have an easier time reading the decodes on the charts. The other issue is that although the code was pretty easy for me to learn as a child, it might not be so easy for an adult.
     
  4. EdFred

    EdFred Taxi to Parking

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    There is absolutely no rhyme or reason to the setup. Then again, QWERTY keyboards don't have one either.
     
  5. Let'sgoflying!

    Let'sgoflying! Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    Old things (and old guys) are betta!
     
  6. Dr. O

    Dr. O Pattern Altitude

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    Ahhh, my old CFI, Frank, would always insist that we ID the VOR in use - he was a stickler for the regs...
    I would turn up the volume on the VOR ID and listen to one cycle of code and say,"Yup, it's xxx. This was with an old (even in those days) Super Homer...
    He would always glare at me and say, "you didn't write it down."
    I would always reply, "I don't have to write it, I hear the code just like I hear you talking."
    He would reach by me and turn up the audio, then grimly copy the dots and dashes onto his chart (which was nearly obliterated from the stuff he wrote all over the chart) and then laboriously use the table printed on the chart to convert each set of dot/dash into letters... Then he would finally say, "you are right, this time. But that smart ass attitude is going to get you someday."

    I never understood at that time why he had such a bee in his bonnet over my being able to copy the morse code in my head... Then a number of years later I bumped into him at a restaurant and he did not know me... His wife told me he had full blown Alzheimers by then... I think that was what was bugging him in those early days, that his short term memory was going and he could not retain the sequence of dot/dash in his memory long enough to find it on the chart... And that was why he wrote everything on the chart, because his short term memory was gone...

    I felt bad after that because I did not recognize what was going on at the time... The most surprising thing is that he was an effective CFI and well liked by his students... His long term memory, the stuff he knew from before his disease set in, was perfect... The man was considered the last word when there was a discussion on regs, or anything involving flying... But as his disease progressed apparently even that faded (I was gone by then)... I was told the end came one day after he 'retired'... The FBO was short handed that Saturday and Frank was in the terminal having coffee with the gang and he was asked to take a couple on a photo flight over their cottage on the lake - and he could not remember how to start the airplane... Sad really, Frank was a super nice guy...

    denny-o
     
  7. ScottM

    ScottM Taxi to Parking

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    There is actually and is has to do with the dit to dah symmetry and the more common a letter is in the English language.
     
  8. poadeleted20

    poadeleted20 Deleted

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    As I said above, ID'ing the station ain't about regs (in fact, no reg specifically says you have to do it) -- it's about safety, because failing to ID a navaid can get you killed.
     
  9. fszczerba

    fszczerba Filing Flight Plan

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    Not true. The codes were assigned by letter frequency, so that the more common letters (such as . = E) are shorter than the less common letters (--.- = Q). The length of a character is approximately inversely proportional to the frequency of the character. This type of coding gives the most efficient transmission (though it does nothing for ease of learning).

    QWERTY keyboards are pretty much the exact opposite. They are designed to slow down typing so that the early mechanical typewriters would be less likely to jam when the keys were pressed too closely together. Typewriters that used more efficient layouts were less reliable, so the slowest layout won in the market.
     
  10. EdFred

    EdFred Taxi to Parking

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    Perhaps, but there's no reason for a Q to be --.- and not -..- or -.-- or some other 4 code variant. And why is L a 4 code variant? I would have figured with R S T L N E being the most common (at least according to Wheel of Fortune) that L would have less code than W, K and M would be dropped from line 2 to line three.

    The only thing that makes sense to me is the numbers.
     
  11. fszczerba

    fszczerba Filing Flight Plan

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    Dashes are three times as long as a dot, and there's one dot time between each symbol in a letter, so -..- is shorter than --.- or -.-- (11 dot times vs 13), but between the latter two the assignment is totally arbitrary.

    As for why L is so long (or O for that matter, which is more common than I but takes almost 4 times as long to transmit), Samuel Morse just plain got it wrong. Huffman Coding (the formal, methodical approach to this sort of encoding, which is used in pretty much every lossless digital compression algorithm) was first published in 1952. Morse had the right idea, but didn't get it completely right (and who knows what he used as the source data for his letter frequency analysis... it likely wasn't even straight English text).

    A "perfect" encoding (for English at least) would be more like:

    E . (1)
    T - (3)
    O .. (3)
    A .- (5)
    I -. (5)
    N ... (5)
    S -- (7)
    H -.. (7)
    R .-. (7)
    D ..- (7)
     
  12. denverpilot

    denverpilot Tied Down PoA Supporter

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    I was inches from getting a pink slip on my Private check ride because I *did* know Morse Code. Examiner was convinced I didn't "tune and identify" stations. I did. Had to prove it.

    For those flying DME-equipped aircraft... Make sure you listen for the DME IDENT too. :D :thumbsup:

    FAA Morse is way too slow to copy properly via sound. Drives me nuts. ;)
     
  13. AuntPeggy

    AuntPeggy Final Approach

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    How many VORs are there? How much does it cost to upgrade each of them? What do you want your tax dollars spent on?
     
  14. fszczerba

    fszczerba Filing Flight Plan

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    7 wpm isn't fast enough for you?

    I have the local identifiers memorized, but I'm not proficient enough to rely on that with unfamiliar stations, so I'll be sure to pull the chart out on my checkride.

    Good point about the DME too.
     
  15. ScottM

    ScottM Taxi to Parking

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    Agreed.

    I ran a slow speed CW net on 2m for locals to learn code a few years ago. It was really hard to send off the cuff. My mind would wander far too much and by the end of the first word I would forget what it was I was trying to send. I ended up scripting stuff and using a keyboard Morse generator to send at the 3-5wpm that we were working with.
     
  16. denverpilot

    denverpilot Tied Down PoA Supporter

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    No, I copy somewhere around 12-15 WPM on a good day. Way out of practice.

    I never could get up to 20 WPM, so I'm an official "Low-Code Extra" for Ham Radio purposes.

    I've toyed with the idea of firing up CWSkimmer and trying harder, but it's so utterly time-consuming to get good at fast CW and I have flying and other things to do, most of the time.

    I only bothered to upgrade to Extra during a stint without a job. Had to use the brain for something less mind-numbing than sending out resume's. ;)

    I still hate Smith Charts though. Haven't ever found a scenario where they made things easier than just doing the math, nor the right "instructor" to get the point into my head.
     
  17. azure

    azure Final Approach

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    Yeah, I can see how that might happen and I've been thinking about how to prove it to the DPE without turning it into another "PTS task". I don't remember it coming up on my private checkride, or at least not to the extent that it was an issue. I think she pretty much took my word for it.

    At least the examiner won't have to cover my SL-30 -- it takes at least two "hearings" before it displays the id.

    Yep, very slow code was always harder for me to copy than moderate speeds (like 10-12 wpm). But today my old slow brain is just about comfortable at 7 wpm. :)
     
  18. Ted DuPuis

    Ted DuPuis The pilot formerly known as Twin Engine Ted Management Council Member

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    As it is, this is something of a moot point.

    Even when I get told to go to a VOR anymore, it gets plugged into the GPS as a waypoint. If I'm bored, I'll plug it into the 530 and it'll identify it for me.

    If I'm doing a VOR check, I'll identify it. Also I'll do it if I'm doing an ILS (doubly so if it's to mins). So for the couple times a month when I need to use it, it's far more efficient for me to look at the chart than for me to try to learn some sort of code that serves no other purpose for me, and that I will probably forget between uses.
     
  19. denverpilot

    denverpilot Tied Down PoA Supporter

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    GPS? What is this GPS of which you speak? Witchcraft! ;)

    Okay so I have the iPad instead of $10K worth of Garmin branding... Heh...

    But the airplane is /A and not likely to change for a while. ;)
     
  20. Ted DuPuis

    Ted DuPuis The pilot formerly known as Twin Engine Ted Management Council Member

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    Understood, but for those of us who have and use a GPS, it becomes something of a moot point. Especially since, 20 years from now, it wouldn't surprise me if VORs became extinct.

    Of course, I back up my GPS location with VORs.
     
  21. poadeleted20

    poadeleted20 Deleted

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    ...a point often forgotten. The VOR can be up but the DME down, or vice versa, and only by listening to the ident can you tell for sure. The DME ident is also higher pitched than the VOR, for what that's worth. Also, remember that DME idents only come every 30 seconds instead of every 10, so wait for it...wait for it...
     
  22. nddons

    nddons Touchdown! Greaser!

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    My interest in Morse Code came from my love of watching WWII movies with my dad. The Longest Day starts out with dit dit dit dah - the "V" for victory. Then I learned it in Boy Scouts, but forgot most of it.

    I also learned flag semaphore - another diminishing and probably useless skill, unless I became a sailor. Which I did not.
     
  23. Ghery

    Ghery Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Me, too. The pain of getting to 20 wpm was just too much for the extra 75 kHz of SSB spectrum I would have picked up over my Advanced ticket. When the rules change was announced I went out and re-took the Extra written and held on to the certificate until the rules change went into effect, then went to another exam session and upgraded. No way was I taking the next Extra written. I passed the Advanced written once, and that was enough.

    Ghery, N6TPT
    ARRL TA and VE
     
  24. ScottM

    ScottM Taxi to Parking

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    I thought the new Extra Class exam, post Morse, was easier than the pre-version. But that is just my opinion. I agree that the Advanced was a little bit of a PITA when I took it way back in the early 80's. It was before I had finished my engineering degree though. FWIW my advanced call was KF5JQ and the QTH then was Albuquerque, NM. It was fun being rare DX, hi, hi!!
     
  25. jnmeade

    jnmeade Cleared for Takeoff

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    As I'm sure you know, the latest philosophy is to use the Koch method with Farnsworth spacing and learn at 20 wpm from the start. Starts with K and R and add a letter as soon as you get 90% copy. Sounds good, but I still have trouble with it. I've talked about it with some old WWII shipboard operators who are still active and a guy who works a lot of DX and is comfortable at 35 wpm. I'm still working on it. :fcross:
     
  26. denverpilot

    denverpilot Tied Down PoA Supporter

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    Wes Farnsworth was a nice guy. Funny too. Wheelchair-bound when I met him.
     
  27. Ghery

    Ghery Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Interesting, given that the new Extra written combined the question pools from Advanced and Extra. Now, the old Extra written was EASY. Play in the hobby for a while and pay attention and you could pass it. I did the first time in 1992, but 20 wpm wasn't going to happen that day, so I settled for sqeaking the 13 wpm test and upgrading from Technician to Advanced. And my call has been the same since I was first licensed in 1988.
     
  28. JohnAJohnson

    JohnAJohnson Cleared for Takeoff

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    My MX300 (NAV2) does make Morse Code sounds, but on my GMA340 Audio Panel, it comes across through the COM2 button, not the NAV2 button. Strange, because my NAV1 (GNS430) does require the NAV1 button to be pushed to hear the morse code.


    Also, be sure to turn the volume up (bottom left dial) on the MX300.
     
  29. jmcsherry

    jmcsherry Pre-Flight

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    The mental translation from the printed version to the audio is not always an easy one. I coach IR students to whistle (or hum) the identifier as read from the chart, so that the sound will be familiar. I do have an Amateur Radio ticket, and can (with attention) copy about 8-10 wpm, which is a good deal faster than most navaids use. But most citizens these days don't have that background, so a little bit of mental gymnastics is needed.
    It is a very useful thing to do, identifying the navaid, whether by the Morse audio or from "the TV screen". I have, on more than one occasion, found out from the identifier that I had tuned the wrong freq (or read it wrong from the chart) and was cheerfully navigating to somewhere other than I intended. The correction was simple and soon, so no harm done. But w/o the identifier, I might have gotten "positionally confused" :crazy:

    By all means, tune & identify
    N3AMF
     
    Last edited: Apr 20, 2011
  30. Doggtyred

    Doggtyred En-Route

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    Im a HAM too.. but one of the new generation who doesnt know, nor never tested, code. I always checked the identifier against the chart. Always.
     
  31. dtuuri

    dtuuri En-Route

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    Way back during flight school one of the other students had been a radio operator in the Navy. He insisted you could tell a persons personality and even picture them like you can on a telephone. Is that really true?

    I don't know code, but never found it to be a hindrance in over 40 years since passing my instrument test. It would have been nice to know, though, if I could know it without having the learn it first.

    dtuuri
     
  32. denverpilot

    denverpilot Tied Down PoA Supporter

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    Not really. Each person, especially with a straight-key has a distinctive "fist", say... An "accent". Their unique length of their individual elements of a character or even of whole words as you speed up above 13 WPM.

    You can often tell WHO is operating a particular station, say a Club station where everyone's operating under the club callsign, by their unique on-air sound after you've heard it before, but I wouldn't say you could glean their "personality" or anything like that.

    With the advent of keyers, bugs, paddles, and even computer keying and even copying with tools like CW Skimmer, and not many folks using straight-keys anymore, this is very difficult.

    The "purists" don't like the tech, and like any other clique, can be found "brass pounding" away, in certain portions of the bands, just about any time of day. You can also find the computer-keyed/copied guys slamming away at 35 WPM or much faster intermixed with the "old-timers".

    Common courtesy would dictate that if you get a call at a slower speed than you can operate, the other operator may be struggling and you should match the slowest sending speed.

    If they still can't copy they might send a "QRS PSE" (Send slower please) to you, indicating their need for slower copy. It may not always be because they can't copy faster code, but because of local noise conditions, fading/warbling (common on "over the pole" HF paths), etc.

    And some people won't slow down for anyone. So if that's a "personality" trait, perhaps.

    But generally copying a personality? I don't think so.

    You might tell if a person is a stickler for a well-operated station by things like key-clicks, chirping, warble of their frequency, etc... But that can also be a sign that they're struggling in the backwoods with an underpowered generator powering the station. Etc.

    Some of these folks might be dimming the lights in their whole camp every time the morse key closes. The voltage drop can make for cool-sounding "sloped" elements the longer they hold the key down, and used to be common to hear from old tube-stations in South America, Cuba, Mexico, anywhere electrical power was not stable. Russia and the Soviet bloc too, back in the day.

    Morse is losing out to a lot of nifty digital modes that base their roots firmly in Morse, but modern DSP technology allows these faster, forward-error-corrected signals to be copied by the DSP math so far down into the noise that a human simply can't hear them. Some specialized modes (like WSTJ) are built for meteor-scatter propagation (gotta be quick to bounce a signal off the ionization trails of meteors entering Earth's atmosphere) or moonbounce with exceedingly weak signals unless you have a giant dish and hundreds of watts at VHF, multiplied by the ERP of the antenna focusing almost all of that energy at the face of the moon.

    I grew up right on the edge of the era where real teletype machines were still hooked to radios to do RTTY, and computers and homemade modems were taking over. In such, I still like RTTY but it's hard on radios with a horrendous duty-cycle and slow copy. I built my first two modems, one for RTTY and one for Packet/AX.25 from components on a breadboard and had a boatload of fun with both. Today, Ham Radio Deluxe software and a PC sound card interfaced to the radio will let you do those and a whole lot more for the cost of a couple of junkbox parts and a cable.

    In fact, a friend and I spent an entire evening flipping through every mode we could on various digital modes just to try them out. It took all evening just to get through all of them.

    My personal favorite radio interface for this stuff is the RigRunner USB, but computerized morse/CW and other digital modes can be done for virtually zero cost if you're on a tight budget.

    Fun toys. Another expensive and time-consuming hobby. Right now most of my gear is gathering dust while I go flying on weekends. :(
     
  33. dtuuri

    dtuuri En-Route

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    I enjoyed that post. It was as if you came from out of another dimension. I had no idea.. fascinating.

    Maybe the guy in school meant that he would conjure up mental images of the person, but not really their personality and of course not having any hope of being accurate--like we do when talking to strangers on the phone. It was 45 years ago.

    dtuuri
     
  34. flyingcheesehead

    flyingcheesehead Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Hey now... After what you've been through the last few months, that should definitely be a :) not a :(!!!