About

NASA photo Kepler. Morse code over long distances.

   

Morse code telegraphy has accumulated a fascinating history, starting about 170 years ago.* Many teaching techniques were developed from its inception, some of which have survived to this day.

MorseFusion grew out of the frustration expressed by many individuals who tried to learn Morse code using methods developed before the advent of current technologies. Undoubtedly, many trained successfully using these methods but not without considerable effort and wasted time. And quite a large number give up after several attempts.

Unfortunately, antiquated methods persist that to this day advise learning at a very low speed, say, 5 wpm (words per minute), copying each character onto paper. Without doubt, this is the worst possible way to learn. Not only does it force the brain to count individual dots and dashes, but it instills a subconscious need to write down each character instead of storing it in a buffer within the brain.

Progress to higher speeds with these conventional techniques is slow and arduous and a limit of about 13 wpm is eventually reached. Beyond this point, the average human brain can no longer count individual dots and dashes and the human hand finds it difficult to write comfortably. Because of this, legions of radio amateurs got stuck at about this speed.

Ever wonder why for decades the FCC placed the code requirement for the General and Advanced Classes of Amateur Radio licenses at the rather odd 13 wpm? Now you know!

To move on beyond 13 wpm using conventional techniques requires, in effect, a restart of the learning process. This is because a fundamental mental shift needs to be made to be able to recognize a Morse character not as a string of discrete dots and dashes but as a distinct sound packet.

Crutches exist to help the transition process. Probably the one best known is the Farnsworth method, which temporarily adds more spacing between characters. Unfortunately, it unintentionally hampers effective learning because it gives the brain more time to think instead of decoding on reflex.

Despite these drawbacks, individuals who were successful at clearing the difficult hurdle of 13 wpm found that moving on to speeds considerably faster than 20 and 30 wpm was relatively easy.

MorseFusion takes a radically different approach.** It is based on the recognition that it is necessary to learn to store a serial stream of letters before we are able to form words, sentences, and complete thoughts.  This process is fundamentally different from reading visually, where the eye-brain combination decodes meaning in parallel fashion.***

The underlying philosophy behind the development of MorseFusion was that learning code had to be a gradual, subconscious, background process built on top of the ability to form thoughts from spelled English letters. Primary attention is focused on listening and deriving meaning and entertainment from a novel, not on learning code. The fact that Morse characters gradually replace English becomes virtually unnoticed.

Modern digital processing techniques, availability of high-speed processors, and the deployment of broadband Internet services now permit implementation of effective Web-based teaching methods that were not economically feasible even just a few years ago.


* See Wiki for a thorough history of the evolution of Morse code.

** Motivation for the development of MorseFusion came from The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy. This fascinating book by William G. Pierpont (N0HFF) is highly recommended. You can read it as a pdf file here.

*** A very interesting book on how we read: Dehaene, Stanislas, Reading in the Brain: The New Science of How We Read, New York, Penguin Group, 2009, Print (Paperback)

[Top image courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech]

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