Precision CW Fistcheck Help

by Ernst F. Schroeder DJ7HS

Welcome to the Precision CW Fistcheck help page.
I sincerely hope that the information herein will help you to make better use of PCW Fistcheck.

Here you can get information on the following items:

 

Precision CW Fistcheck. What is it and what is it not?

Precision CW Fistcheck or PCW Fistcheck is a piece of software, written for PCs running the Windows operating system. It allows you to train your ability to send International Morse Code, also named Continental Code with a straight key or semi-automatic key.
You may use Precision CW Fistcheck as a Morse decoder or as a Morse keyer, although it has not been specially designed for that purpose.

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How can I obtain this software?

You can download the most recent version of this software in a zipped archive from here. Save the archive file on your computer and remember the location.

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How do I install it?

Double-click on the saved archive file. The archive should open and display a single file:

Start the installation by double-clicking on the executable file.
A welcome window will open. Click "Next" and the license agreement will be displayed. If you agree to the terms of the license agreement then you should check the "I agree ..." box and click on the "Next" button. Then installation will start.
The installation process is simple, there are no new DLLs, no additions to the registry file, and no changes to your operating system. An entry will be added to the startup menu and an icon will be placed on your desktop. The installation can be reversed without a trace left.

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Do I need a license?

As long as you utilize Precision CW Fistcheck for your private and personal use, you are granted a personal, non-exclusive and indefinite license, completely free of charge. Any commercial use of this software without a written license agreement is prohibited. If you would like to conclude such a license agreement, then please contact the author.

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How do I start the program?

You either double-click on the PCW-Fistcheck icon on your desktop or you go to "Start" - "Programs" and locate the "PCW-Fistcheck" entry. Double-click on "PCW-Fistcheck", the program will start.

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How do I start working?

First you will see the main operating window. Here is how it looks like.

PCW Fistcheck Main Window

Try to press a few keys on your computer's keyboard. You will probably hear Morse code from your loudspeakers. At the same time you will see the characters you typed in the lower window. If you see letters in the window but you don't hear anything, then a few things need to be adjusted (see below).

Next you need a Morse key and a buzzer. Connect the key to the buzzer, then find a way to connect the buzzer's output the the audio input of the PC. There are a number of ways to do that, depending on your PC or laptop.

The buzzer probably has an output jack for headphones. Try to obtain a cable to connect this output jack to an audio input jack on your PC or laptop. If you have a choice, take the "line" input on the PC. If you only have a "microphone" input jack, try this, although in this case some more preparations may be needed.

In addition you should make sure that you can still hear the buzzer's output. So you probably need a 'Y' adapter that lets you connect the cable and your headphones to the buzzer's output jack simultaneously.

A different solution is to connect a microphone to your PC and put the microphone near to the buzzer's speaker. This may work, although there will be disturbances by room noise.

Now operate the key and produce a Morse character, say "c". The buzzer should sound and with some luck you will see something like this:

first decoded character

If you don't see something like this, some parameters have to be adjusted (see below).

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How do I adjust parameters?

There are many ways to influence how the program behaves.

The actual speed of the Morse code generator, which is also the target speed of the Morse decoder, is shown on the main window. By default, speed is given in cpm, characters per minute.
You can change speed by clicking on the small (+) and (-) buttons to the right of the speed display. Furthermore, you can increase and decrease speed in increments of 1 cpm with the up and down cursor keys. If you additionally press the CTRL key, the increment value changes to 10 cpm. When you press SHIFT and CTRL together, the increment value is 100 cpm.

Many more items can be adjusted in the parameter window. You reach this by clicking on the Set Parameters button or by simply pressing F2. The parameter window is separated into left and right panel.

Let's first look at the right hand panel.

Right panel of Parameter Window

On this panel you have control over the Transmit Parameters. These settings have influence on what you hear when you press a key on your keyboard.

First of all you can choose whether to support the standard or the extended Morse character set

Furthermore, you can change the Morse output sound frequency from the nominal 800Hz to a value that pleases you. The attack and decay slopes of the audio signal are smoothed a bit. The slope is given as a number of audio samples. You can experiment with that value, but better leave it as pre-set.
You also can change the volume of the signal output with the Output Level control. This control adjusts the output level before the settings of the PC's output mixer are applied.

With the Show Output Mixer button you can call the PC's standard mixer for audio output.

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Now let's look at the left hand panel. Here you have control over the Receiver and Morse Decoder Parameters and the Display Parameters.

Left panel of Parameter Window

Let's start with the Display Parameters below. Here you can change the display of Morse speed from cpm (characters per minute) to wpm (words per minute). Between them there is a constant factor of 5, 12 wpm correspond to 60 cpm.

Above, you first of all have control over the audio Input Level as it is applied to the Morse decoder. To the right of the level control is a level gauge that tells you whether there is an input signal at all when the morse buzzer sounds, and also gives you a rough indication of its level.

On the left you can choose, whether the Morse decoder accepts the extended character set or the standard set only. And you can switch the filter against Contact Bounce on and off.

Below that you can choose between Broadband or Bandpass input to the Morse decoder. When bandpass is chosen, you can select the center frequency. Its default value is 800 Hz.

Finally you can call the PC's standard audio Input Mixer or the list of Input Devices.

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How do I best start training my Morse keying abilities?

Training by ear is usually considered the best way for learning Morse code, both for reading and for sending. So start by setting your target speed, which is recommend at 60 cpm or 12 wpm respectively. Then hit a character on the keyboard and listen to the corresponding sound. Now try to reproduce that exact sound with your Morse key and buzzer.

This may work fine, but PCW Fistcheck now gives you additional information by showing a graphical representation of what you did with that Morse key. You can see and then correct a number of things:

At the same time as the graphical representation is displayed, the received sound is decoded and the decoded character is displayed in the lower window, if decoding is possible. If decoding is not possible, a representation of detected dots and dashes is displayed instead, like e.g.: <....-.>

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Are there examples of certain deviations from perfect keying?

Here are a few examples of more or less strong deviations from the correct Morse characters:

Speed

It is not very difficult to produce Morse characters with speed equal to the target speed, but it is also not very important to hit the right speed. Small deviations in either direction or not important for readability.

Speed deviation

above: perfectly formed character and speed just right (60 cpm)
mid:   perfect, but speed a bit too fast (65 cpm)
below: perfect, but speed a bit too slow (55 cpm)

Weight

A dot (Mark) of certain length should be followed by a space of exactly the same length. The ratio of mark to space length in a dot is called "Weight" and is usually given as a % value. While a weight lower than 100% is considered to reduce readability, a weight larger than 100% may increase readability at higher Morse speeds.

Weight deviation

above: perfectly formed character and weight just right (100%)
mid:   perfect, but lower weight (50%)
below: perfect, but higher weight (200%)

Ratio

In a standard Morse character with 100% weight the ratio between dash and dot mark length should be exactly 3:1. While automatic keyers normally do not deviate from this value, it is typical for keying with a straight key to produce stronger deviations. A ratio lower than 3:1 can drastically reduce readability, while a ratio larger than 3:1 normally is not harmful and may even increases readability, but at the cost of over-all reduced Morse speed.

Ratio deviation

above: perfectly formed character and ratio just right (3:1)
mid:   perfect, but lower ratio (2:1)
below: perfect, but higher ratio (4:1)

Emphasis on last Dash

When sending with a straight key, a typical deviation is the emphasis on the last dash in characters like "q". This can indeed be part of a personal "Fist" that can increase readability.

Last Dash too long

Transition between Dots and Dashes

When sending with a semiautomatic "Bug" key, a typical deviation is the relatively larger time interval needed for transition between dots and dashes. This can be seen in the following picture. Also typical is the slightly diminishing length of dots. Both effects are responsible for the typical sound of a bug as compared to a straight key or even a fully automatic key.

sent with semiautomatic key

Character spacing and word spacing

PCW Fistcheck even helps you to train the correct spacing between characters within a word and spacing between words. When you send a longer string of characters, blank spaces are added to the decoded text in the lower window, everytime the spacing is longer than the correct spacing within a word.
Depending on your keying you will get different displays like the following, and only the first one is correct:

Summary

It is certainly advantageous to try to first learn the correct timing of continental Morse characters. But in the end all what counts is a successful exchange of information. So if exaggerations of ratio or emphasis on last dashes actually help to increase readability there is not much to say against it.
PCW Fistcheck will support you to get a good timing and produce Morse characters with high readability. Then you will probably develop your individual "fist" and do not sound like a perfect machine keyer.

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I don't hear any Morse characters. What can I do?

Did you ever hear a sound from your PC or laptop? Do you hear the sound of Windows messages? Are headphones or something else plugged into the headphone jack?
If at all possible, try to use a different program for any audio playback. Why not listen to a good piece of mp3 music for a moment?

If you still can't hear the sound of any Morse characters, then either go to the parameters window (hit F2), then click on the Get Output Mixer button, or select Parameter, then Output Mixer from the main menu. This will bring up something that belongs to the Windows operating system and may look different on your PC, e.g. this one shown is from the German version of Windows XP.

Audio Output Mixer

On the left you have the total audio output level Sum, and somewhere to the right there should be the level slider for Wave output. Both sliders should not be way down and neither of the small check boxes should be checked. Get the sliders up and uncheck any suspicious checkbox. Now you should here the Morse output.

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I don't see any decoded Morse characters. What can I do?

Did you connect your Morse buzzer to the PC's audio input or did you connect a microphone?
Then hit F2 and click on the button labeled Show Input Mixer or Show Input Devices. This will give you something like the following picture.

Audio Input Mixer

This audio input mixer belongs to the Windows operating system and may look different on your PC. Again, this one is from the German version of Windows XP.
By checking one of the boxes in the lower part, you must choose the input channel to which you have connected the cable from your buzzer or to which you connected your microphone. Also, the level slider of that channel should not be set too low.

In case you are using the Windows 7 operating system, you will see something like this:

Audio Input Devices

Here you can double-click the input device you want to use. Another menu will open, where you can find the level control for this device.

Audio Input Level Control

Turn the level up and make sure that the loudspeaker button is released.

Now close the key, let the buzzer do its work, and watch the level gauge in the parameters window. Still nothing to be seen? The buzzer's frequency may not be near to 800 Hz, so select the broadband mode for the moment. Now at last the level gauge should show some action and the display should react when you open and close the key.

Try to adjust the display on the level gauge with the appropriate slider of the input mixer to a good value like shown in the following picture.

Audio Input Levels

Indication of input level (from left): too low, low but OK, just OK, too high

If the level stays too high even when you pull down the slider in the input mixer to near zero, the PC's audio input may be overdriven. This may happen when you connect the buzzer's output to the microphone input on your PC. In that case external measures are needed to reduce the audio signal level at the input.

If you had selected broadband mode, you should now return to passband mode and change the passband frequency until you get a level indication similar to the one in broadband mode.

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Which Morse characters are supported?

The Morse standard character set as supported by PCW Fistcheck is:
(in versions older than 1.3 there was a slight difference with regard to - and = characters.
The "= key optim" option was always on, see below.)

On some of the PC keyboards used in different parts of the world, two keystrokes are needed to produce the frequently needed equal sign: <shift> and <0>. Therefore an optimization is provided: if you check the "= key optim" checkbox on the F2 parameter window, the following relation between keyboard and morse characters is in effect:

On keyboards used in Germany, two keystrokes are needed to produce the question mark (?): <shift> and the 'ß' key. Therefore another optimization is provided: the '?' character can be reached even without pressing the shift key, only the 'ß' key.

If you select the extended character set, then the following characters are supported in addition:

Some of these characters are only available on foreign keyboards.

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How is Morse speed defined?

When Samuel Finley Breeze Morse in 1837 invented the code system that is named after him (see e.g. US patent 1647), he actually devised a variable-length code. With such codes the concept of speed measured in codewords per time instant is difficult to handle, as speed actually depends on the information sent.

The International or Continental Morse Code, as opposed to the Landline or American Morse Code, is also named after Samuel F.B. Morse, but it has actually been devised in 1848 by a German named Friedrich Clemens Gerke. He was a musician and journalist in Hamburg, where he worked for telegraph companies.
His code works according to simple and strict rules and was later standardized by the ITU for use in wireless transmissions.

Gerke's code follows these rules:

Now, take the word "Paris", a word containing 5 characters. If you count all time elements you need for encoding this word, you end up with 50 time elements totally. When you send this word 12 times in 60 seconds, you have sent 12 words per minute or 60 characters per minute. And you will have used 600 time elements in 60 seconds. It's easy to calculate that then a single time element must have a duration of 0.1 seconds or 100 ms.

This calculation is the basis for adjusting the speed of any Morse code generator. Of course, as you do not only want to send the word PARIS, any other text will take less or more than one minute for 12 words or 60 characters. Therefore the true speed can only be calculated after the message has been sent.

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How do I get further help?

If you encounter a problem not covered on this help page, then please send an EMail with a clear description of your problem.
Please allow for a reasonable response time.

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How can I give feedback?

Any feedback is highly appreciated. Please send an EMail and describe what is missing or what you have found out.

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I have received a new version. What shall I do?

If you want to install a newer version of PCW Fistcheck, then you do not have to uninstall any older version. Just install the new version over the older version.

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How do I get rid of it all?

That's easy: select "Start" - "Programs" from your task panel, then identify the entry for PCW-Fistcheck. Within this folder you will find a shortcut with the name Uninstall. Double-click and follow any instructions. Voilá, Precision CW Fistcheck is removed from your system, very probably without a trace.

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