Wednesday, 24 April 2013

To squeeze or not to squeeze.....

The link below convinced me that the iambic or squeeze keying is not as beneficial as we like to believe it to be.

Iambic Keying - Debunking the Myth
by Marshall G. Emm, N1FN

The letters that can be ‘squeezed’ are: C, F, K, L, Y, Q, R
The most common letter used in the English language: E,T,A,O,I,N,S,H,R,D,L,U
So the only squeezable character in that list is the above list is the letter “L

I think we were conned, the theoretical benefit of iambic keying is negligible.

Then there is the mechanical aspects not discussed anywhere as far as I know. With a dual paddle two independent levers must be moved in the same direction (most of the time) and they must act as if it was one solid lever and at other times they must act independently from each other. If one considers the tiny gap between the contacts and the miniscule rotational movement the light return forces (springs or magnets) the light contact forces then one might appreciate that a single lever must be better suited at this task. IMHO the chances of a mechanical hick cup due: to friction, non-return to neutral, poor contact resistance or tracking errors (non-existent) and inertia etc. must be halved when using a single lever paddle.

Let us be honest. Most or many of these errors may only be evident or be unacceptably bothersome at very high speeds. I am not a high speed operator, but a key that works for a QRQ speed freak will simply be perfect when used at normal operating speeds. I would like to be competent (comfortable) at 35 WPM for working in contests and with DX style exchanges.

The only problem with the transition to a single lever paddle I foresee is that I will no longer have a reason or an excuse for my sloppy sending errors.

I am now looking forward to receiving my Begali HST single lever paddle so that I can try and confirm or dispel my theories.


  1. Hi, I own a Begali HST for about 9 months now. Before that, I used iambic keys (like the Bencher Hex key). At the same time as receiving the Begali, I have started daily CW practice sessions. My keying is now much much better than it used to be, and my sending speed has increased (previously, above 22 WPM I started to make more errors. Now, I'm very comfortable up to 27 WPM...) I can't say which part of the improvement was because of the change to a single-lever key, and which part because of the practice. But together they were very helpful.

    The practice session consisted of sending a 5-minute piece of English text from a magazine, while a software CW decoder program was running alongside. Afterwards, counting the number of errors (categorized in a number of groups: a dot missing, an extra dot sent, running letters together, running words togethers, other errors)

    Hope this helps.

    Have good fun with your Begali HST, and hope to work you with it once!

    73 de Frank PA4N

  2. Interesting comparison. A little reading brought home the message also that almost all competitors in the High Speed Telegraphy competition use single levers. Perhaps it is time for me to try one also? I am curious to hear how you will do with your Begali.



  3. It all depends who you squeeze Pierre. Your XYL is FB !-)

    Seeing as my XYL is friendly to the idea, I might have an HST soon. Fingers crossed.


  4. In the bit that you quoted from the article, the author obviously missed the fact that "R" is squeezable and is in the list of most frequently used letters.

    Also, the author's point that the timing becomes more critical as the speed goes up is a point which is true of any keying method, single paddle, iambic, ultimatic, straight key, whatever. That's not something to hold against iambic.

    But yeah, those are minor points. The big point is that a count of the number of presses isn't the only thing that matters when deciding how easy a keying method is. The fact that the finger and thumb have to work individually for squeeze keying may make it harder at high speed, even if it involves fewer total key presses.

    73 de Rich, AG6QR