Thursday, February 18, 2016

The need for speed in CW

CW QSO speed statistics... 

As I continue on my Morse Code Journey I have been using a desktop application called Morse News to work on my code comprehension of natural language sentences for ragchew training. I set the program to send at speeds higher than I can copy to stretch me.  Presently I have it set at 26wpm character speed and 23wpm Code speed.  I can usually figure out what the news story is talking about but I miss a lot of the specifics.

I was a kid in the 1970s when Speed Racer was a popular cartoon

The need for speed

Currently I'm OK working up to 20wpm qsos as long as the other station has good spacing.  Sometimes I lose the thread or the specifics in a ragchew at 20wpm and I just ask them PSE AGN? 

In sprints I can copy a callsign sent at 25wpm to 30wpm if I hear it a few times but that's no good for real contests where you need to catch that call sent at 30-40wpm sent the first time.  My friend AA4XX has asked me to help him in multi-op contests but I know he is sending around 30wpm and I just can't hang there at this stage in my Morse Code journey.

Statistics show 25wpm is the magic number

So it got me to wondering what was the actual "average" qso speed.  I downloaded days of raw data from Reverse Beacon Network.  RBN collects the call sign, the SNR and the SPEED.  The raw files contained between 40 to 50 thousand CW CQ calls logged each day after I filtered out other modes.

The average speed from RBN CW logs worked out to exactly 25wpm.  The standard deviation was 5.34wpm which would mean most of the time you would expect to work stations between 20wpm and 30wpm.  That seems reasonable and matches what I seem to hear on air.  These numbers are from the CQ calls themselves and are only measuring character spacing speed so the code spacing is likely a bit lower in most cases and for ragchews is likely averaging 2 to 5 wpm lower than the actual sent character speed.  Since I am not much interested in serious contesting at this stage in my hobby going over 30wpm isn't on my radar.  

So based on those calculated CW speed statistics from RBN data if I can reach the point where I am comfortable in a 25wpm ragchew I should be content (for a while)

That's all for now.

So lower your power and raise your speed.... err expectations

Richard, N4PBQ


  1. Good evening Richard, keep at the code speed it will come in time. What I have notice from CW contesting is that my contest read and send speeds are much higher for contests compared to conversation CW. I think the reason a contest you have an idea with is coming at you. For e.g. station call, report (599) then maybe a serial number depending on the contest. So for me once I hear the call and the report my brain is ready for numbers. Now having said that doing S&P in a CW contest is not even close to calling CQ contest! Calls come flying at you and it can get nerve wracking for sure. But having said that it takes practice you can (if you have not already) try a program called morse runner.

    1. Good points Mike. I'm sure I will eventually get interested in contests and MorseRunner and equivalent programs look like good tools to work on my QRQ listening skills.