Wednesday, June 10, 2020

6 Meter Antenna Results

Annnnnd IT WORKS!

Worked 12 stations in the SE and Lower Midwest on Single Sideband this morning and early afternoon. Signals weren't rock crushingly strong, but running "S7" to "S9" with a local noise level of around S4~S5, so they're well out of the noise, but with some fading.

Then I switched over to the "Digital" modes, running FT8, and made a bunch more contacts, including the guy up near Wellington with a HUGE 6 Meter station. The digital modes are nice for racking up an impressive body count, but they're very "sterile", and I'm not sure I care for them. It took me a few hours to get the SSB stations I worked, and about 30 minutes to get the same number of contacts with FT8.

It goes like this:

You look in the display pane for the callsigns of received stations, double-click on one, and then just use mouse clicks to send "macros" (canned messages that are dynamically altered for each contact), then send "73" with a mouse click, and move on looking in your list for the next callsign to double-click on and start the process all over.

That's it.

No manually tuning around the dial hunting down signals, no trying to get their callsign, and making sure the other operator has yours correct, no fighting interference from other close-in stations or static crashes, just looking at the list of received stations, and mouse-clicking on one. Some people don't care for fighting to dig out a contact, and they're drawn to these modes, and good for them. Variety is  a Good Thing, even in Ham radio, and the technology behind the software is solid, but it seems "artificial", and a bit boring to me.

It definitely proves you can put a signal into an area. How useful that is can be debated, because a large portion of the signals are at, or below, your threshold of hearing, meaning you couldn't talk to them using voice, but the software manages to dig them out and display the transmitted data. Yes, there are many, many other digital modes where you can have a live, keyboard-to-keyboard chat, like we did with Packet Radio in Ye Olden Dayes, and some of the digital modes are capable of staggeringly good performance in digging signals out of the noise, making them extremely valuable for sending data when conditions are marginal-to-bad.
I guess it just lacks the Human Touch of actually talking to someone. Even if it's just a contest exchange consisting of a few words and phrases, at least I talked to a person.

I must be getting old.....


  1. There are chat modes in the digital world, like PSK31 and RTTY. There are modes that are more robust like some of the MFSK modes or Olivia. There's even an extension to FT8 called JS8Call that aims for the sensitivity of FT8 but less structured and allowing more conversation. (Not sure extension to FT8 is the right wording.)

    Personally, I'm having a hoot with FT8 everywhere. Those QSOs are completely hands off once you double click on the guy you want to call. If he answers right away, the QSO lasts 60 seconds and you just watch. There's enough in there you have to do so that it's not the computer making the contact, but it's doing the hard stuff.

    As part of my setup for this weekend, I have a mid-'00s Icom 7000 for 2m and 432. To change radios, I switch HRD, and swap cables on my Signalink. 15 or 20 seconds at most. I don't have much of an antenna for 432 but I'll work the locals on 6, 2 and 70cm.

    1. I made brief mention of chat modes that aren't so artificial, and I probably should have gone further with that. I used to be extremely active on packet, and was friends with the guy who ran the LABBS. I had many hours of enjoyment in keyboard-to-keyboard connections with friends, "reading the mail", having the "for sale" lists, and all kinds of packet stuff.

      Make no doubt about it, I appreciate the technology behind Joe Taylor's work, and admire how easy it is to rack up contacts. I ran a lot of digital modes with FLDigi back on the Iowa and spearheaded getting a station computer or three, and digital interfaces for each radio. One of our guys turned into an FT8 guru, and excelled at getting the most out of the software, and our operating conditions. We had an S9+ noise level on some bands during the week when the port was running full-blast, and the digital modes made contacts possible on some bands.

      Maybe I'll warm up to it. I'm monitoring for any meteor scatter stuff, but I don't expect to snag anything as we're on the downside of the meteor shower that happened a day or so ago.

  2. Your posts remind me of my late uncle, Joe White, who was a major ham in Colorado. Among other things, he was one of the founders of what was called a rescue league, available on call for law enforcement, to provide communications in emergencies and searches. My sister and cousins still tell stories where, at family gatherings, they would be climbing trees to get his antennas where he wanted.

  3. Uncle JOe and his wife were very involved in the rescue & communication efforts during the 1976 big Thompson Flood that came down from Estes Park. He also won a Channel 7 "Everyday Hero Award" many years ago.

    1. He also climbed towers and changed the light bulbs. He worked for Salt Creek Freight. They would fly him and his tools by helicopter to broken down trucks.

    2. Emergency Communications has always been a big part of Amateur Radio. I did some back in SoCal, but it wasn't my main interest.

      Trees are good for many things besides shade! The hard part used to be getting a line up where you wanted it. I've used slingshots, bows and arrows, and had a friend with a homemade pneumatic launcher that would blast tennis balls with an attached line out of a big PVC pipe.


Keep it civil, please....