Author Archive

Waiting for Baudot

I just submitted my meager log from last weekend’s WAE RTTY test — just 45 QSOs and a whopping claimed score of 1,530. I only operated for a few morning hours (between 1125-1345 on Saturday and 1245-1700 on Sunday) in order to give DM780 a try at good ol’ fashioned 170/45 Baudot, a mode I haven’t worked since days of yore with the trusty old KAM and a terminal program. High time to give the new technologies a try, said I.

Some random thoughts and observations about RTTY operation with the K3 and DM780 follow…
The DM780 + HRD Logbook combination did fairly well, considering HB9DRV himself says “HRD/DM780 is not contest software.” As such, there is no easy provision for sending or receiving QTC info for extra multipliers, and it wasn’t clear at first how to get DM780 to increment serial numbers in the exchange field (put them in [brackets], I finally discovered). Using a fresh database file for the log (as I do for every contest) lets me use the logbook’s Awards Tracking and Worked Status functions to keep an eye on what stations and countries I’ve worked on each band, but I have to be careful to individually set the other databases (previous contest logs, plus my master logbook) to not figure into the worked status lookups (this is one in the Logbook Databases control panel).
Another limitation from a contesting perspective is HRD Logbook’s inability to output Cabrillo files for log submission after the test, a feature that was available in HRD v4. So I have to use another app (SP7DQR’S nice ADIF2CABR freeware app) to convert an ADIF export file into Cabrillo format, and that only after doing a search-and-replace on the ADIF file to change the tag to that the conversion app is looking for. No biggie, I mud-wrestle data for a living, so this is just another day at the office…
That said… I’m familiar and comfortable with DM780 and HRD Logbook so it all worked just fine for me.
I worked the first day with the K3 in DATA A mode before remembering that AFSK A mode allows DUAL PB filtering to peak the mark and space tones. The DM780 waterfall screenshots below illustrate the difference far better than words:
K3 set to DATA A mode. BW = 400 Hz, Fc = 1530 Hz

K3 set to AFSK A mode. BW = 400 Hz, Fc = 1530 Hz, DUAL PB enabled
Note that the overall bandwidth in AFSK A mode is quite a bit narrower, even though in both cases the K3 was set to 400 Hz, and the distinct notch between mark and space tones is indicative of how effective this filtering mode works. Back in the pre-DSP days with the TS-930S and JST-135/245 transceivers and NRD-525/535 receivers, I used to use a Datong FL-3 audio filter which had a RTTY mode that accomplished the same thing, albeit at the AF stage.
DATA A and AFSK A each have their advantages. In DATA A (or AFSK A with DUAL PB turned off), I can open the bandwidth up and see a good portion of the band (I generally set DM780 to display 3 kHz on the waterfall and set the K3 bandwidth to match) and all the signals on the air, then select the desired signals with a point-and-click like I do in PSK31 mode. If QRM is a problem, I can crank down the bandwidth and shift the passband center frequency to pass only the station I’m working; once the QSO is complete, a quick tap-twist of the K3’s shift control recalls my wide settings and I’m back on the hunt. I rarely touch the VFO dial, all tuning is done with the mouse.
In AFSK A mode with DUAL PB enabled, however, the K3’s center frequency is fixed at 1530 Hz so all tuning must be done with the VFO. Also, the bandwidth is limited to 500 Hz max (which as shown in the image above is a bit less in practice, more like 250 Hz or so) making VFO tuning very touchy and slow (the 1 Hz fine steps must be used) and renders the waterfall useless for spotting other signals. But the filtering advantage is huge, especially in a contest scenario.
For me, it’s a no brainer — in the latter stages of the WAE contest I found myself using DUAL PB almost exclusively, occasionally switching it off and opening up the bandwidth if the band was quiet or if I’ve already worked the majority of the stations I tune across, since clicking on a waterfall makes it far easier to hunt and pounce.
DM780 facilitates the switch from narrow DUAL PB to wideband waterfall tuning easily: I first activate the center frequency marker (Tools>Program Options>Waterfall menu, or F8) and set it to match the K3 DUAL PB center frequency (1530 Hz). After finding a signal on the waterfall and clicking on it, I can then click the C button just above the waterfall to center it at 1530 Hz (HRD offsets the K3 VFO frequency to do this), and then activate the DUAL PB (press/hold the #6 key on the K3 keypad). The bandwidth is narrowed to 500 Hz, and the mark and space tones are perfectly positioned for decoding. To switch back to wideband, press/hold DUAL PB, and tap XFIL a couple of times to select the 2.7 kHz filter or use one of the filter presets to select my standard wide data setting of 3 kHz. This can perhaps be simplified to a one-button process using the new macro feature Elecraft just added to the latest firmware version; I need to check into that…
Note to K3 users: when working RTTY in AFSK A mode, either the radio or DM780 needs to be set to reverse, as AFSK A demodulates the lower sideband while DM780 looks for the upper. DATA A, however, works in the upper sideband.

CQ WWDX SSB 1996: Lost Log Discovered!

Almost as much fun as finding a $20 bill in an old coat is finding an old contest log on an even older hard drive! Today I discovered my log data from the 1996 CQ WWDX SSB contest, which I must have exported from Log Windows before my erstwhile Toshiba laptop screwed the pooch back in the late 90’s.
After some data mud wrestling, I was able to convert to ADIF and import into HRD and saw my total DXCC worked count jump from 119 to 123 (the “new” ones are 3DA Swaziland; FS Saint Martin; V4 St. Kitts & Nevis; and GU Guernsey).
I then uploaded the new QSOs to LoTW and immediately had 13 new QSLs credited to my account, with a handful of new DXCC/bands confirmed: VP5 Turks & Caicos (80m); P4 Aruba (15m); 8P Barbados (15m); V2 Antigua & Barbuda (15m & 20m); and GI Northern Ireland (20m) — the latter two being all-time new ones confirmed, bringing my DXCC confirmed count to 80, and DXCC Challenge totals to 239 worked/123 confirmed.
God only knows how many of my other contest logs are gone forever — I must have worked at least another dozen contests back around that time, and all these logs got nuked along with the Toshiba. This is why I now keep separate paper logs as backup.
Also found this photo of the old N2HIE shack in Closter, New Jersey circa 1998.
Complete with that utterly dreadful JRC NVT-56 desk mic. Wish I held onto that, seeing how one just sold for over $1,300 on eBay. Please, stop laughing… I’m not kidding:
WTF is wrong with people? Clearly some hams have more money than sense…

CQ WWDX SSB 2009

My first major contest with the K3 — not a major effort, mind you, just a major contest, and it leaves me smiling. I could only squeeze in around 10.5 hours over the weekend, just enough to give the station a good shakedown under contest conditions and leave me hope for the future when I add an amp and a better antenna.
The K3 was a champ. With the latest DSP noise reduction tweaks I found it possible to run with RF Gain full throttle and not have the background noise kill me. Auto Notch took care of the tuner-uppers and the SWBC carriers on 40m. Left NB off most of the time as there was little QRN for a change, and the noise from the plasma TV was easily notched out with manual notch. All that was left was the DX.

Things started out rough Saturday morning (UTC) on 40m. Worked TO7M on my first call then spent a frustrating hour or so with no contacts. After a break things started to improve a little. Stayed at the mic until around 0600 UTC (2 am local) and landed 12 countries/7 zones on 40m, plus Canada (zone 3) on 80m. Worked 20m and 15m for about an hour and a half in the morning before going out and about, and again early Saturday evening (UTC Sunday) for about a half hour. Worked 13 countries/9 zones on 20m, and 3 countries/3 zones on 15m. Sunday saw fairly good conditions on 15m (14 countries/7 zones) and 20m (9 countries/7 zones).

Most of the DX I was able to work was in the Caribbean, Central and South America, but I managed to work D44AC (Cape Verde, an all-time new one on 20m), CN3A (Morocco), EA8/OH6CS (Canary Is.), three Hawaiians, and a few Europeans. 6W1RY (Senegal) was loud on 15m but I couldn’t break through the pile. Heard 4U1UN on 40m and 20m but only managed to work them on 15m.
It’s pretty frustrating to work a contest with 100 watts and a mobile antenna (without the benefit of an actual automobile underneath the antenna to provide a decent ground plane) but in the end, 10.5 hours at the mic netted me a bunch of new ones on 40m and 15m:
15m: 4U1UN (UN HQ), 8P (Barbados), CN (Morocco), EA (Spain), EA8 (Canary Is.), HI (Dominican Rep.), LU (Argentina), P4 (Aruba), PJ2 (Bonaire/Curacao), VP2V (British Virgin Is.), VP5 (Turks & Caicos Is.), and YV (Venezuela).
40m: FM (Martinique), HC8 (Galapagos Is.), HR (Honduras), KP2 (US Virgin Is.), PJ2 (Bonaire/Curacao), V3 (Belize), VP2V (British Virgin Is.), and XE (Mexico).
Totals:
Update 10/30: Was filling in some of the blanks in the HRD Logbook tonight and discovered one of the US stations I worked during the contest (K8PO) was in Maine. It didn’t immediately dawn on me because of the K8 prefix, but according to QRZ he’s in Union, ME. That’s #49 on my WAS tally sheet, just need Delaware now…

IOTA 2009 Contest Results – Seriously?

I have the highest USA score in my class (World Single-Op Assisted SSB Low Power)?!?!? LOL! Maybe next year I’ll stay at the mic for longer than 2 hours…

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  • Matt W1MST, Managing Editor