Olivia — the Magic Mode

I have to give credit to Gary L. Robinson, WB8ROL, for the title of this post. I met him on the air tonight using Olivia 500/16, and pretty soon I was reading his article about this mode . . . but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Olivia 500/16. Image obtained from http://www.oliviamode.com.

My introduction to Olivia took place yesterday afternoon at a meeting in a little coffee-shop in Marshall between the MN ARES® ASEC, Section 5 DEC, Lyon Co. EC, and myself (at which I accepted the position of Yellow Medicine Co. EC, but that’s another story). They explained that FLDIGI is the software they are training people on, that every Thursday evening at 8:00 P.M. there is a MN ARES® digital net on 80 meters, and that they are using Olivia 500/16 for this net.

Well, my power of recall being what it is, I’d forgotten all about it till I heard the clock chime 8:00 while I was doing the dishes (after dining on my wife’s fabulous slow-cooked chicken). “Honey,” I asked, “would you mind if I left the rest of the dishes to you? I’d like to go check out a net on the radio.” I sure am blessed with a sweet wife — she took over without batting an eye while I dashed downstairs and started hooking up my laptop to the interface while firing up FLDIGI.

Sure enough, there was the net. I “listened” (How do you say it? Read?) for nearly an hour, and finally checked in right as the net was closing.

Well, tonight before going to bed I decided to try it again. This time I went up to 20 meters where I had a nice ragchew with Gary, WB8ROL (my first “real” QSO). We hit it off right away — his career path took him from law enforcement to programming just like mine did, we both have bad backs, and we both like cats and penny-whistles — but what really got my attention was his website: www.oliviamode.com. This fellow is a veritable evangelist for this mode! If you haven’t read his QST article about Olivia, click here and enjoy “Ghost QSOs — Olivia Returns from the Noise.”

I can attest to what Gary writes about in that article. As the band began to fade, his signal dropped until I couldn’t hear it at all. All I could hear was static; I assumed I’d lost him. Not only couldn’t I hear him, I couldn’t see anything on the waterfall display. But incredibly, letter after letter appeared on the screen as Gary typed his last message!

Olivia really is “the Magic Mode!”

Todd Mitchell, NØIP, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from Minnesota, USA. He can be contacted at [email protected].

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