Learning Morse Code By the Koch Method

(Back to the Koch Method)

Using the SuperMorse Software Package
(Based on SuperMorse Version 4.04)

Copyright (C) 1994, Dave Finley, N1IRZ

(see the software page for a copy of SuperMorse)

The SuperMorse software package is an excellent tool for implementing the Koch Method of learning Morse Code. The prime attribute of SuperMorse for this lies in its tremendous versatility. Here is how to use SuperMorse to learn the code by the Koch Method.

When you get SuperMorse installed on your computer, take the time to print out the manual, read it, and become familiar with the features of the software. However, while reading the manual, remember that you are not going to follow SuperMorse's own training regimen but rather are going to use Koch's much more effective method.

Setting the Sending Speed

The Koch Method is based on teaching high-speed copying from the start. You must set the speed at which you want the software to send. There are two major considerations here. First, you want the characters sent at a rapid speed -- at least 18 wpm, and preferably at 20 wpm. Second, you want the overall sending and word speeds to be somewhat higher than those you will encounter in your exam, to give you a "buffer" against nervousness, unfamiliar surroundings, etc., on test day.

Set the speed in the following manner:

Testing and Adjusting the Actual Sending Speed

The software is supposed to automatically calibrate its sending speed to adjust for the clock speed of your computer. However, it doesn't always do this accurately. In order to avoid the nasty surprise of finding that you haven't been copying as fast as you thought, you must check the sending speed. Here's how:

Configuring the Character Set

This is where SuperMorse really makes itself invaluable for implementing the Koch Method. With this feature, you will tell the software exactly what characters from which it may choose when it sends. Initially, you'll start with only two characters, then add more as your copying accuracy increases. Here's how to do this:

After you can copy those first two characters at 90 percent accuracy, you will repeat this process to activate your third character, then again for your fourth, and so on.

Now, It's Down to Business

With your speed selected and calibrated and your character set defined, you now can start learning the code!

After you've learned a few characters, say five or six, in this manner, enter the Review menu and press the E key to look at your statistics. Because you're not using SuperMorse's own training technique, most of the statistics will be blank. What you're interested in, however, is the total elapsed time of all your sessions with SuperMorse. By dividing the elapsed time by the number of characters you currently are copying accurately, you will find out approximately how much time it is taking you to learn a character. This will give you a rough idea of how long it will take to learn all 43 characters on the amateur test.

Keep in mind, however, that you will have good and bad days, and some characters may be more troublesome than others. Still, you should see steady progress as you add characters at regular intervals. Remember that as you learn each character by the Koch method, you are learning it at full speed.

When completing a session with SuperMorse, always exit the software using its menu commands. This will save all your settings and update your user file so you can better evaluate your progress. If you simply turn off the computer, your settings and user statistics will not be saved.

When you've learned all the characters

Once you've learned all 43 characters, it's time to make the transition from copying random characters to copying words. This will require some time, because random groups and words have a different character mix and "rhythm." If you've been copying variable-length random groups, the transition should be easier than if you've been copying 5-character groups.

From SuperMorse's Build menu, you press the B key to have words sent to you. There are further choices to be made here, though. SuperMorse will send "regular" words, "ham" words or callsigns.

Start out with "regular" words. When you have made the transition from random groups and are copying the regular words at 90 percent or better, start doing some sessions using the "ham" words and callsigns. You may want to spend some extra time with callsigns prior to the final phase of your training.

That final phase is to have SuperMorse send you a sample amateur QSO, which is exactly the format of the amateur code test. This also is done from the Build menu. Simply press Q for QSO, and copy the QSO. When it's over, grade yourself, taking particular note to ensure you are copying the callsigns, names, QTHs, rigs, ages, and other facts on which you could be tested.

When you are consistently copying SuperMorse's QSOs accurately at the target speed, you're ready for the exam. When the exam comes, just relax and do what you're accustomed to doing -- copying correctly.

In what order should I learn the characters?

First, remember that, for amateur tests, you are responsible for knowing 43 characters -- all the letters of the alphabet, the numerals 0 through 9, period, comma, question mark, slash, and the prosigns BT, AR, and SK.

You don't want to start with E and T -- the two shortest characters will come at you so quickly you'll wonder if you ever will copy them!

Over the years, researchers have made lists ranking the Morse characters in order of their difficulty, based on errors in copy. Other researchers, however, have showed that the characters missed most in copy are those least used, and that the "difficult" ones are copied quite accurately when they receive as much attention in training as the others.

The Koch method seems to largely overcome this problem in that you spend the amount of time necessary to assimilate each character before adding another to your training sessions. Still, it appears useful to mix long, "hard" characters and short, frequently-used ones rather equally as you progress.

Based on this idea, here is a suggested sequence:

          K M R S U A P T L O
W I . N J E F 0 Y ,
V G 5 / Q 9 Z H 3 8
B ? 4 2 7 C 1 D 6 X
<BT> <SK> <AR>

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