Thursday, January 3, 2013




I've written a few times on this blog about the joys of learning CW (Morse code) at an age more andvanced than the teens.

I've never been all that interested in psychology or neural science, but I have come across some weird surprises along this journey.  For example, over the Christmas holiday, I started wondering whether I could learn to send code with my left hand & if so, how fast.  I am totally right handed & cannot make a legible scratch with my left hand, but I can use a computer mouse.  It's a little bit slower, but it works & it got me through a period of problem with repetitive motion syndrome once.

As a quick test, I turned my Touch Keyer (a good stand-along practice device which is much less forgiving than a standard keyer/paddle) upside down. That way the thumb was still on the dits & the index finger on the dahs.  I started off at 5 WPM & worked my way up to about 18 WPM.  This is only slightly below may normal right-handed "cruising" speed!  I made a lot more errors with my left hand & I "got confused" more, but it worked a lot better than I thought it would. My hand felt totally awkward, but the sound was pretty much right & no worse than my right hand was a year ago at that speed.

Then I discovered that, if I thought about the mechanics, I lost it.  I did a lot better when I just thought about the sound of the characters.  So ... the right & left hand seem to be "cross-wired" better than I expected, but apparently not through the concious parts of the brain!

It is close enough that practice might actually be worth the time.  If I could operate the key left handed, then I could keep my log right handed, etc.  No need for delay on the net while I picked up or put down my pen.  For the future ... As I said once before, it's interesting watching the brain bitch & moan while it learns.

Meanwhile, I cannot "cruise" at 21 WPM every day.  Some days it's easy & some days it's hard.  Some days I have to slow down.  I make errors at any speed (but different ones, having to do with timing & lack of coordination, mostly).  Some days I can hardly do anything right.

I think this has to do with stress (from any source).  I cannot send well, or run a net well, for that matter, if I'm having an anxiety attack.  Nets themselves can be very stressful, depending on who's checked into them & on what the ionosphere is doing.  If something doesn't go well, the stress gets into a positive feedback cycle with the sending errors or other confusion & it's all downhill from there.

I think this is the key (so to speak) of why this activity reminds me of "Zen & the Art of Archery" or whatever that title was.  It's really a mind game, within my own head.  I do have to remember how to spell a word conciously, if it's a long one, but beyond that, there needs to be no concious thought between the visualized letters & the sound that comes out of the monitor (& if live, the signal that goes out to the antenna).

I know the antidotes to this, just have to use them more.  One is practice. One involves visualization & another involves a zafu.

Maybe there is a reason why I catch myself expecting certain people to address me as "Grasshopper"!

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