There was a time when I believed that great CW operators could send and receive at least 30 wpm code. I don’t know why I thought that, but it seemed challenging enough to be a target, something to strive to achieve. I got there after a few years, but decades later I’ve come to enjoy lower speeds and that’s probably due to changes in the shack and the way I’ve come to operate.
We didn’t have the Internet or personal computers in the shack in 1977. When I sat down in front of my HW-16 and clamped on the cans all my attention was focused on the portal opened by the magic of radio without distractions because there was nothing else to do.
Today the radio is connected to a computer, that’s connected to the Internet while one or more programs run busily in the background. During a QSO I’m busy multi-tasking, checking out a QRZ bio, filling in log data, keeping one eye on the DX cluster and the other on the Twitter feed and somehow still manage to reply to text messages on my phone.
Yeah, it’s probably an attention deficit disorder.
I’m certain that’s why 13-18 wpm is a more enjoyable pace for me now. I can easily head copy at those speeds while doing all sorts of other things in the shack but at 30 wpm I must focus on the singular task of decoding what’s pouring out of the headphones.
While I appreciate 13-18 wpm for the reasons noted code sent much slower than that can be tough to enjoy. I’ve tried to copy very slow stations, understanding they may just be starting out and I want to encourage new CW enthusiasts. But too slow renders head copy impossible for me because it’s tough to remember the previous letters sent if it takes too long to spell one word - and that means I must write down every letter sent which prevents me from multi-tasking.
Like Goldilocks and the Three Bears I’ve come to believe that code can be “too fast” or “too slow” while I want it to be “just right”.