TS-590SG MP3 Manual recorded by Ian DJ0HF

An unabridged MP3 recording of the Kenwood TS-590SG operating manual has been added to the Active Elements site. You can find the manual in the Recordings/Manuals section or at the foot of the TS-590 accessibility review under the Related Documents Heading. The recording has been narrated and produced by Ian DJ0HF, and each chapter has its own individual MP3 track. Just download the Zipped archive and listen to the tracks using your favourite MP3 player.

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Recent Additions

Thanks to Curtis Delzer K6VFO, we have recently added a fully indexed version of the Kenwood TM-V71A/E manual. The DAISY conversion has added over 600 index markers, and allows easy navigation at 3 levels, Section, Sub Section, and Steps.

The above DAISY recording can be found on the TM-V71E Evaluation page, and from the Manuals page, accessed from Recordings.

You can also use the Search field at the top of each page to find items of interest!

Yagi Multiple Element Comparison

Yagi Multiple Element Comparison

By Kelvin Marsh, M0AID

November 2013

Back in October, following a discussion on the Active Elements reflector, I thought I would try an experiment gradually reducing the number of elements on my beam, and recording the results. I looked for the most distant station I could find, and it happened to be V6P in Micronesia on 20 metres.

The bearing was 22 degrees, and the distance was 8000 miles. Also, this was in the middle of the afternoon, and I would expect him to perhaps be stronger at other times.

The recording starts with the SteppIR antenna using 3 elements, and this is marked on the recording with 3 beeps. I then fully retract the Director, and the result has 2 beeps. Finally, I pull in the Reflector and this has one beep. I then repeat the sequence, but this time pull in the reflector first, followed by the Director. The final 3 beeps indicates a return to 3 elements.

I have to say, the difference is not huge between each retraction, but the difference between 1 and 3 elements is probably the difference between making a successful contact within a reasonable time, or spending significant time calling him without making yourself heard.

By the way, the signal strength on 3 elements was 7, and the signal strength on a single element was about 4. You can judge the readability for yourself!

The MP3 recording can be heard by clicking the following link:
V6P on 20 metres

The following day, I conducted a similar test with KH0M, but this time on 12 metres. The bearing was 30 degrees, and the distance 7500 miles. The entity is the Mariana Islands.

This time I worked him quite comfortably using 400 watts before making the recording. The difference between 1 and 3 elements is much more noticeable. Again, you will hear 3 beeps for the 3 elements, and so on. In the first few seconds you will also hear how I reduce the HF hiss by turning back the RF Gain, and during the two and single element recording you can distantly hear a Brazilian station calling on the frequency from behind me. Using the Director and Reflector dramatically reduces any signal from the back of the beam. Whilst KH0M was actually working split in the recording, attenuating unwanted signals from behind you can be extremely useful.

The MP3 recording can be heard by clicking the following link:

KH0M on 12 metres

Recent Additions

Thanks to the recording skills of Ian DJ0HF and Bill Laurie, we have recently added MP3 manuals for both the Kenwood R5000 and MFJ-998 auto tuner.  We have also added the TS-440S manual in Word document format.

The above MP3 audio and TS-440 document can be found on the Manuals page, accessed from Recordings.

You can also use the Search field at the top of each page to find items of interest!

Accessibility Review of Amateur Contact Log 4.2

Accessibility Evaluation and Demonstration of Amateur Contact Log 4.2

By Kelvin Marsh M0AID

Updated Decemmber 2013

I have been using Amateur Contact Log version 3, better known as A C Log, for about 5 years. The three great features that make AC Log stand out for me, are the integrated Cluster spots, the seamless Log Book of The World transfers, and the automatic callbook lookup.

Scott N3FJP has rewritten A C Log using C#, pronounced as C Sharp, and added several new features. Thus, Amateur Contact Log version 4 was born. In A C Log 4.2, Scott has added vital short-cut commands for blind amateurs using screen readers, and made many changes to greatly enhance the experience for those relying on speech output. Whilst I normally just comment on Ham accessibility on the Active Elements site, it was a privilege to work with Scott, and actively contribute to the AC Log accessibility project.

The Short-Cuts

AC Log is a Windows program, and a screen reader user will now be very comfortable moving through the Menu Bar, and navigating the setup dialogs. In addition, Scott has added several short-cut keys to enhance the operation of the logging area itself.

To access the Main List, use control+Q. This places the focus in the listview, and you can move through the previously logged QSOs with the use of the arrow keys. The Main List speaks perfectly, with column headings ahead of each item, and as a bonus, will read the complete line, even beyond the visible screen. While in the Main List, press the tab key to be shown various options for the selected QSO, including editing and Deletion. Again all of the options have dedicated short-cut keys. Important note, if you are a Window-Eyes screen reader user, you must have version 8.4 or later to read the Main List information in the correct order.

To access the Cluster area, use control+Z. This places the focus in the listview, and you can use the arrow up and down keys to move through the incoming cluster spots. Even though the spots are continually scrolling visually, the keyboard focus remains on the selected spot, even though it may disappear from the display. Again, all of the information for each spot is announced by the screen reader, with column headings. Simply press Enter to move the spot to your logging form, and have your radio automatically change to the frequency and mode.

There are many other accessibility benefits of the V4 rewrite, including the easy access to the Awards tables, and the ability to ‘Tab’ into the Help text in the setup dialogs. These are covered in the Overview recording below.

Usage overview

So far, we have had positive results testing A C Log with Window-Eyes, NVDA, System Access, JAWS, and ZoomText. I usually got a lockup using System Access when Calculating my Award totals, in September 2013, but I think more testing is needed by more experienced SA users.

As always, I would recommend that every user sets up a short-cut from the Desktop, to automatically run A C Log as Maximised. There may still be a need to re-label some fields, depending on the screen reader, and I think we are pushing some of the screen reader boundaries, but I have no doubt any issues can be addressed.

The one thing I’ve seen with my testing, Is that all the screen readers handle the same situation slightly differently. Scott actually installed NVDA to help with his testing, so if you are getting unexpected results, try it with NVDA to figure out what is happening.

Below, you will find three recordings. The first is an Overview looking at the screen reader accessibility of AC Log ‘out of the box’. The second shows some of the basic configuration options offered by AC Log, and how I personally use Window-Eyes to monitor areas of the screen with User Windows and Hot Spots. The third dips a bit further into how you setup User Windows and Hot Spots in the Window-Eyes screen reader.

Although I have used some advanced functions of my screen reader in the third demo, you may find the recordings give you ideas of how to customise your own access software.

Scott also offers many N3FJP contesting programs. These are being rewritten in C# at the moment, and Scott is currently incorporating many of the accessibility changes developed in AC Log.

Finally, if you want to use the integrated Voice Navigation feature offered by AC Log, Scott recommends the latest Wave files are downloaded for the C# programs. There is a link to the files in Related Downloads below.

Amateur Contact Log can be downloaded from:

http://www.n3fjp.com/aclog.html

Related Downloads

AC Log 4.2 Voice Navigation Wave Files (zipped archive)
AC Log 4.2 Overview MP3
AC Log 4.2 Configuration MP3

AC Log 4.2 Window-Eyes Extra MP3

Kenwood TM-V71E Accessibility Review

Image of TMV71E with detached head and microphone on top of radio.
Accessibility Evaluation of the Kenwood TM-V71E

By Kelvin Marsh M0AID

June 2013

The Kenwood TM-V71E is a mobile VHF and UHF transceiver for FM communication. There is not a terrific choice available for a blind amateur in this market with accessibility, and if you want a multi-mode radio, your best bet is probably one of the so called ‘shack in a box’ transceivers that also covers HF.

The TM-V71E has been around for several years, and is considered to be near or at the top of the shopping list for blind amateurs wanting a 2m and 70cm FM radio. Although generally accepted as one of the most accessible radios in this market, I thought it would be worth evaluating the TM-V71E, and I thought it was useful to jot down some of my findings.

I don’t intend to write a full review, and I am delighted that there are so many accessible resources available to get you started. Under the Related Documents section on this page are an MP3 review and demo by David 2M0TSR, the full manual recorded in MP3, and the full manual in HTML format. Each describes the layout and operation, and I would encourage any owner to check them out.

I have evaluated the TM-V71E, and this is the European version. I believe the other versions are very similar in operation, but with frequency allocations more appropriate to their region.

As I am almost entirely an HF operator, I was initially surprised by the small size of the TM-V71E! I’ve approximately measured the width to be 140mm, the depth 190mm plus front controls, and the height about 40mm.

The radio has one N type antenna socket, computer and TNC sockets, and will support two external speakers, one for each VFO. It transmits on 2m and 70cm, and has three power levels. Low is 5 watts, Medium is 10 watts, and High is 50 watts. There is no numeric keypad on the front panel, but the chunky microphone has a keypad, and 4 additional programmable buttons. The radio can also be used to receive frequencies outside of the amateur bands in FM and AM modes.

The front panel controls are very well defined, and the buttons are a hard plastic giving no finger drag as you move from control to control. There is a small tuning knob at the bottom left of the facia, And this clicks as you tune through the frequency steps. This knob is also used for selecting memory channels and moving through the Menu. The bottom right has two Volume and Squelch knobs, for independent VFO a and VFO B control. These knobs and the Tuning knob can also be pressed for additional functions.

The test radio was fitted with the optional VGS-1 voice guide. This gives spoken access to the majority of button presses, but I must stress that there is still a need to read and understand the operating guide, as the radio is surprisingly complex in use, and there are several potential pitfalls just waiting to trap the casual blind operator .

The Memories are spoken, giving accessibility to the storage of repeater programming, and the Menu system can be navigated with speech output. In line with other Kenwood radios I have tested, the Menu channels are not fully described as you move from item to item, and it is necessary to have an external reference list at hand.

Menu access is achieved by pressing the Function key followed by the Tuning knob. You are given the spoken prompt ‘Menu 001’, and further turns of the Tuning knob click through to ‘Menu 002’ and so on. As you move through the menu, the selected parameters are not automatically spoken for each menu. I found I had to press the Tuning knob to be placed into a talking list of the parameters. A further press of the Tuning knob saved the setting, and returned me to the menu list.

Using the microphone keypad, it is very straightforward to enter a direct frequency, but first, one of the Programmable Function (PF) buttons must be designated as Enter. I found that it was ideal to use one of the four PF buttons on the mic for this purpose, and menus 509 to 512 can be used to set these buttons. I found the PF keys seem to be programmed in the reverse order to my expectation. For example, 512 is the top PF button on the mike, and 509 is the bottom button.

The tone key cycles through Tone, CTCSS, or DCS, and Off. These functions are not initially spoken, and each setting has the same higher pitched beep, with the Off position having a lower beep. I also found that when on the CTCss and DCS positions, the radio usefully became silent, as only signals with the appropriate coding are allowed through. I guess this might cause some head scratching if the tone button is pressed accidentally.

If I needed to set the CTCSS, I pressed the Tone button until I heard the lower pitched beep of the Off position, pressed a further two times, and pressed function. Now, a further press of the Tone button would speak ‘CTCSS frequency 88.5’. The tuning knob is then used to make the selection, and a further press of the Tone button saved the setting.
In its simplest operation, I found the Rev key worked by switching the input and output frequencies when listening to a repeater. I briefly investigated the more advanced Rev functions, and I could change the plus or minus offset frequency. Pressing Function followed by Rev toggled the settings between Off, minus, and plus. The Off position, where there is no offset, gave a low pitched tone, and plus and minus gave a higher pitched tone. At each stage I pressed VFO A volume control to read the frequency, in conjunction with the Rev key, to find out what I had changed. There is plenty of scope for confusion using this function, and I suspect there will seldom be a need to use it beyond initial setup, and possibly never.

Here in the UK, the 2m repeater outputs are in the frequency range 145.600 to 145.800. I found that entering a frequency in the repeater block automatically set the correct offset for the transmit. It is then just a matter of selecting the right CTCSS tone and saving to memory.

As we have come to expect from Kenwood, the memory channels are fully accessible. The channel numbers are spoken and their status is announced. If you have lots of repeaters in your area, it would be useful to maintain a list of frequencies and the memory channels used. There is a facility to label memory channels, and while the actual labelling process was inaccessible, I did add one label, with sighted help, to see what happened. Unfortunately, only the channel and frequency were spoken, the tag was ignored.

Since I started to evaluate the radio, I was intrigued by the voice announcing ‘PM2’ at the power on. Investigating further, the radio has 5 Programmable Memory states. This allows a single user to setup the radio for several types of operating or for use in different localities. It also means that several different users can tailor the functions to their particular preference, and store the individual setup.

This system is again accessible, but I think could cause a degree of confusion if the wrong buttons are pressed. Imagine setting up the PF keys on the microphone in PM1, and then accidentally moving to PM2. All the settings still reside in PM1, but appear to be lost.

With this scenario in mind, the way of changing the PM status is as follows. Simply press the PM button until ‘PM’ is heard, and then press one of the keys running along the bottom of the front panel. The Call key turns PM mode off, the Function key moves you to PM1, the tone key to PM2, and so on.

The memo and conversation functions of the VGS-1 work as described in the manual, and can be easily used.

Unfortunately, I could find no way of having the VGS-1 tell me the incoming signal strength.

Overall the Kenwood TM-V71E is highly accessible, but there are still some areas where the blind operator has to infer the information, rather than being told it explicitly. I am personally surprised at the complexity and rich feature set of this small VHF and UHF radio, and it is certainly a unit where the manual needs to be read thoroughly. Once again, Kenwood have worked extremely hard to make the TM-V71E very accessible through the VGS-1 voice guidance system.

Related Downloads

Kenwood TM-V71E MP3 Audio Review by David 2M0TSR
TM-V71E Full MP3 Manual (Please Right click and Save Target As:
TM-V71E Full DAISY Manual (Please Right click and Save Target As:
Rob K6DQ has prepared a fully accessible HTML manual, and related files
Kenwood TM-V71E full HTML Manual (This is a truely excellent web page with indexed links to the text and descriptions of the user manual)
Kenwood TM-V71E HTML Menus
Kenwood TM-V71E TXT Microphone Keypad Description
Kenwood TM-V71E TXT Front Panel Description
Handihams have the following files and audio tutorials in their Manuals section:
tmv71_layout.mp3
tmv71a.mp3
tmv71a_brochure.txt

Take Another Stab at CW G4FON Accessibility Review

Take another Stab AT CW

By Deborah Armstrong, KF6BKR

June 2013

Are you one of those who waited to get your general or extra after the code requirements were dropped? Or are you like me,an advanced who plateaued somewhere around 15WPM and just couldn’t seem to get beyond that speed?

Or perhaps you used to copy fairly fast, but now the skill is rusty.

Of course, many of us have no desire to learn CW and that’s just fine. There is a place in ham radio for a variety of avocations.

But suppose being a high-speed CW OP appeals to you. Noticing all the noise on the bands lately, I wanted to grab a pee-wee antenna and climb a mountain to get away from it. But phone QRP is not as exciting as using code, and CW is the only thing that’s really going to punch through all that noise. Those of us plagued with local antenna restrictions might view CW as a way to enjoy operating under the radar.

Besides, I wanted to understand beacons or even a repeater ID without struggling to copy the faster transmissions. And sometimes, hearing a strong CW QSO on my shortwave, I was just so curious about what those two hams were ragchewing about. And of course, I’d love to expertly operate those accessible rigs with CW frequency and menu readouts!

To master CW, we’ve been told that all we need to do is practice, and surfing the web, we discover that multiple learning ideas and tutorial software abounds. We can purchase or run free applications on most any computer, including our smartphones. We can buy the pocket Morse code trainer from MFJ, or use old-fashioned tapes. I even bought a set of old Morse code training records for a buck at a swap meet.

I attempted to practice with many offerings, and was still stuck on my plateau. As a blind ham, I felt kind of embarrassed, as many of my other visually impaired friends took to code like a duck to water. I also found much of the tutorial software inaccessible; I memorized the tapes and records and even though I walked around silently repeating dits and dahs to myself, as soon as the speed of others’ code shot up, I was five or more letters behind trying to copy.

Ray Goff, G4FON, and Dave Finley, N1IRZ had the same problem. Though accomplished tinkerers and communicators, they too had despaired of learning the code, despite attempts to practice using a variety of methods. When I discovered how they’d succeeded, I knew I’d found my solution.

Many methods are based on having you build a look-up table in your head; three dits is an S, 4 dits is an H. Farnsworth spacing gives you enough time to rapidly search that table to copy each character, before the next is sent.

Lugwig Koch, a German psychologist in the 1930s, felt that learning code this way was all wrong. He suggested we learn CW at the high speed in which we ultimately intend to copy so we never develop the limiting habit of searching that mental look-up table. His Koch method trains your reflexes by starting first with just two characters, and after you’re able to copy them with 90% accuracy, you then add a third character. Progressing at your own pace,you can copy characters, digits and prosigns, whole words, and eventually entire conversations in your head. And you learn this all at rapid-fire speed!

The Koch method is rewarding because you are always copying fast code. It motivates practice, because success is immediate. You work at a pace that is individualized for just you, learning what you can, when you find the time. The only real requirement is that the practice should be regular.

It doesn’t take talent or a good ear, or any special ability except the willingness to drill. Dave was so taken with the Koch method he wrote several articles on, and single-handedly revived the technique. Back in the 1930s, Koch’s research had been a curiosity as it was impractical to implement. To achieve his successes of teaching volunteers in 12 hours to copy all characters at high speeds, Koch needed human operators who could repeatedly drill his subjects. Dave realized today computers can do that, so he wrote “Morse Code: Breaking The Barrier” which was published by MFJ. In this book, Dave explains how to configure Morse tutor software for the Koch method. And of course, the MFJ-418, their pocket tutor can also be configured for Koch.

But I find the MFJ-418 mostly inaccessible, because its layered menus are difficult to memorize. When I asked on the blind-hams Internet list for thoughts about accessible software, the clear recommendation was to use the Koch trainer written by Ray, G4FON.

Ray’s Windows software works with JAWS, NVDA, Window-Eyes, System Access and SuperNova. I’ve tried it with them all. I also tried it under both Windows XP and 64-bit Windows 7 and Ray claims it works all the way back to Windows 95. And because it’s already set up for the Koch method, you don’t need to change the number of characters, or the order in which they are presented. Best of all it’s free.

The Koch trainer screen’s layout keeps most options in view. There are only two items on its menu bar, file and About. Under about, there’s a single help screen. Under file, you can choose to record the audio it sends in MP3; you can exit help or call up a single dialog box for Setup. It’s really not necessary to fool with the setup at all.

Under the menu bar, there are clearly labeled icons, toolbar buttons for Start, Stop, Setup and Finish. Setup takes you to the same configuration dialog you could access from the File menu. Start and stop begin and halt a training session. Finish exits the program. You can click directly on the graphics or on their corresponding labels below them. You can use a screen reader’s graphics labeler to label the graphics too, though that’s not necessary, since clicking on the onscreen label also activates the button.

Though there is no keyboard access to these buttons, a helper program, discussed below, will give you all the keyboard access you need. If you hover over one of the toolbar icons with the mouse, its corresponding label is also highlighted, making it very easy to use even for those who are not computer whizzes.

The remainder of the screen is a grid filled with controls, which can be clicked on or accept focus by repeatedly pressing TAB or SHIFT-Tab. These are spin boxes, radio buttons or check boxes. They are not in any logical tab order unfortunately, and I’ve emailed Ray suggesting that would be a simple change to improve their ease of access. The spacebar toggles a check box, arrows change the selected radio button or spin the value up or down in a spin control. These are labeled in a way that a screen reader can correctly identify, but will not be read automatically; you must use the screen reader’s keystroke to read the current control or object to determine its current state. If you are an advanced user of a screen reader you can also tell it to “re-class” the controls so it can better read them interactively.

Mostly these settings can be left alone, but a few require some explanation.

I was initially frustrated that no obvious setting appeared for creating pauses between characters. Working at the default 20 words per minute, I couldn’t keep up, even with just two characters. Searching forums, I found sighted people complained they couldn’t write that fast either. I realized it wasn’t a question of typing or writing fast, but reacting fast, which I had made yet no effort to train myself to do. You can set “actual” and “effective” code speed. By default, both were at 20 WPM, and I had to experiment with each of them until I got it to send fast enough to be challenging but slow enough I had time to react. Pauses occur when “effective” is faster than “actual”. Of course as I progress, I’ll keep increasing these values. Depending on your tolerance for frustration and your proficiency, you’ll definitely want to experiment with both these settings. Sometimes when changing one, the other changes as well, so it takes a bit of fiddling to get them to work for your current skill level. And because your progress will be rapid, you’ll find you have to keep fiddling with them every few sessions. Admittedly, this is a bit quicker to do with a mouse, but though cumbersome for a keyboard user, it’s accessible and easy to do.

The characters spin box selects the number of characters you’ll be drilled on. A beginner starts with 2, and after mastering them, moves on to 3, 4 and then 5. Eventually, you spin that setting up to 40, which is the highest it goes. The order in which new characters is presented can be changed in Setup, but I figured Koch knew more than I, so I didn’t touch that setting.

The “display delay” controls how long the program waits before presenting the “answer” onscreen after sending a character. Because I am not copying with focus staying in the Koch Trainer window, the delay doesn’t really matter, but if you want your screen reader to read, in real-time, the characters as they appear onscreen, you can give the delay a try. In general a screen reader will simply repeat the entire text as it’s rewritten to the screen, so I believe that keeping your focus in the Koch trainer window while it is sending is more confusing than helpful. People who see the screen should also experiment with whether they like watching the answers appear, or would rather minimize the program while it’s sending.

When I turn off speech and work with a Braille display, having the characters appear just a quarter second after I copy them is very useful. This is how I practice copying in my head, and for my needs I alternate copying in my head with typing in my copy so I’ll be equally proficient at both.

The remainder of the settings onscreen are best avoided by the beginner, but very useful for ops who need to practice under band conditions. You can turn on QRM and adjust a simulated noise level. You can reduce the signal strength, enable QSB, and even put a chirp on the signal, or have it simulate code sent by a straight key. You can also toggle variable weight, speed and pitch dither , and truly force it to send you Morse that’s not at all easy to decipher!

I’ve describe settings which are always available in this onscreen grid. They are automatically saved as soon as you change them, and when you run the program again, they’ll be configured just as you left them. There is no way I’ve found to return to the program defaults.

If you pull up the setup dialog under the file menu, you can adjust more advanced parameters. You can tell the simulated straight key OP to send with a bad fist. You can control some rigs. You can type in text for it to send.

The only setting I find in this dialog to be useful for the beginner is “session length” which defaults to five minutes. For me, five minutes is tiring and a 2-minute session is plenty. I set “session length” to 2 and have multiple 2-minute practice periods throughout the day. You could also increase the session length, record the output and keep troublesome practice sessions on your music player. (To record within the trainer program, you’ll need to install the Lame MP3 Encoder.)

This setup dialog has no cancel button, so you have to click OK to dismiss it. It also has the effect of saving your settings, so be careful about making changes.

Using the trainer is easy. Click its toolbar Start button, and it will begin randomly sending groups of the letters K and M. Some groups are five characters, some are only 1 or 2.

Most people copy using a pencil and paper. I first switched to a new window and simply typed the results in to Notepad. At the end of a session, which will stop automatically, you are supposed to manually compare your results with the characters that appear in the trainer’s window.

But looking further on Ray’s site, I discovered the helper program KOCH-RX, which must be unzipped and copied to the same directory where the Koch trainer resides. Koch-Rx gives you an edit box where you can type in your copy and a button to compare your results with the text that was sent. You can quickly learn if you are up to the 90% accuracy you need before adding another character. And, Koch-RX adds keyboard control, so you simply tab to a Start and Stop button. Once you click or press Space on Start, your focus is automatically redirected to the edit field where you type in your copy. KOCH-RX therefore is perfect for the screen reader user or anyone who doesn’t want to manually compare their results and calculate percentages!

In the Koch trainer, the results are in an ordinary read-only edit box, which is sandwiched in tab order between the many other check boxes, spin boxes and radio buttons on the grid. Note that screen readers will see it as an unlabeled edit field. Visually, it appears near the bottom of the screen, making it easy to magnify just that results box. It’s also possible to simply park your Braille display in that box, so you can easily view the text after it’s been sent.

And if you are a rank beginner, this is how to learn. Simply focus on the results and watch the characters appear without attempting to copy. You will soon be hearing the difference between the K and M characters and want to start trying to copy them.

Because I already knew the characters, my goal was to learn to copy faster. I first tried setting it to all 40 characters, but found it was like copying off the air. I wasn’t very good. I set it back to 2 characters, and kept increasing the speeds, until I could tell the difference between K and M at 35 words per minute. Then I spun the characters box to 3, and the software added the letter R. I quickly discovered my reflexes weren’t fast enough and I had to drop down to 15 WPM until I could accurately respond to the letter R sent among a forest of Ks and Ms.

I also tried copying in Braille, quickly realizing that though I now could copy some characters at 35WPM, and I can certainly write Braille quickly as well, that combining those two abilities was going to require additional practice. Were I not already a proficient typist, I well might have decided to either stick with writing Braille or simply copying in my head. For now, Braille goes on the back burner, because I’m rarely going to use it in the field.

Though it isn’t mentioned in the literature on Koch, I personally found that knowing when a random group ended and it was time to type a space in my copy was even more difficult than recognizing the individual characters. I tended to type in long strings of characters without spaces. When copying a real QSO it’s pretty easy to insert spaces later, and pick missing characters from context. But having to pay attention to the spacing to know when a random group ends really sharpens your listening!

As you develop speed using Koch, you realize that it’s a lot like jumping rope, dancing, throwing a ball, touch typing, or even handwriting. Though a small child may need to think about how to write the letter W, and might confuse it with M, an adult writes automatically, with no conscious thought. As a fast typist, I can quickly hit the letters Z and X without making mistakes, and without thinking about which finger to use or where to reach. My reflexes have been honed for rapid typing by years of practice.

My CW reflexes still have a way to go, but the plateau has melted and I’ve made more progress in just a few days than I’ve experienced over the years.

As you become yet more advanced, the program, and the G4FON site, also contain files containing over 300 sample test QSOS. Though the code requirement isn’t part of today’s licensing, the original tests are still quite useful for skill-building. You can also download code practice MP3 files at various speeds from the ARRL site.

The Koch trainer gives you that chance to build the reflexes you’ll need to copy real on-the-air QSOS. And once your reflexes take over, you can relax and free your brain to enjoy the conversation.

If you aren’t at a Windows computer the iPhone app, HamMorse, is known to work well with Voice Over, the screen access solution for Apple products. There are also several other Koch training apps for Mac, Android and iOS. You can continue to improve those reflexes while you are out and about.

If you doubt the power of reflexes, just watch a teenager message her friends on her cellphone. She may balk at practicing the piano, and fail to do kitchen chores with the speed and efficiency of her mom, but I bet she can outpace her parents when it comes to texting! If we all view CW practice in the same playful light, we will have our reflexes trained in no time!

(Deborah Armstrong, KF6BKR)