ALASKA VHF-UP GROUP

DIGITAL MODES


From the PNWVHFS e-mail reflector: pnwvhfs@googlegroups.com - Sept. 23, 2008

I just wanted to get a word in for digital. I still love CW and SSB and rank them far above digital as 
far as enjoyment goes, but...

I know. It's sad. But, it just makes sense to use FSK441 for meteor scatter work. Let's say you run a 
sked with someone on SSB and it takes 45 minutes to complete. By the time the QSO is done, you're 
exhausted from calling into the microphone for 1350 of the last 2700 seconds. Not only that, but the 
big meteor showers don't produce like they used to, with a lot of big burns. Nowadays you get a good 
burn only once in a while, but you get a lot of pings. Yes, it's still possible to make contacts, but 
it's not as easy as before. The August Perseids have died way back and the November Leonids only got 
an expected temporary boost a few years ago. They are now back to normal. So, available meteors 
aren't what they used to be. 

Not even on 50 MHz. Lately, folks have been mistaking normal meteor bursts as being "sporadic-E enhanced" 
or "short sporadic-E openings". Decades ago, it was like 6m was open during the Perseids peak. Those 
short pings that you now hear on 6m are now becoming the usual. The burns you encounter on 144 MHz are 
also of lesser duration and weaker. The last good SSB/CW meteor scatter that we've experienced was during 
the Leonids enhancement several years ago. Since then SSB/CW has become essentially ineffective for 
productive meteor scatter work. Contacts can still be made, but it isn't like before. 
The introduction of WSJT is not the reason few people are using CW/SSB for meteor scatter. 

I know that people are reluctant to change, but WSJT, especially for meteor scatter, really does make 
sense. Using FSK441, a guy can decode a set of calls in just a short ping. It's true that the decoding 
is no longer done in your brain as with SSB or CW. For some, this takes the fun out of it. For others, 
it's just not ham radio any more. Well, of course, it's ham radio, just like television was ham radio, 
RTTY was ham radio and repeaters were ham radio when they were introduced. The fact of the matter is 
that WSJT and other softwares are making it easier to communicate with weak signals. This is an 
IMPROVEMENT over what had been considered the state of the art. Now, it's no longer necessary to have 
the biggest antennas to work EME, or the lowest noise figure. Of course, you could combine those things 
with WSJT and have the most effective station on the block!

If ham radio goes away, it's because people won't allow themselves to accept new ways of doing things. 
Unfortunately, the main corps of hams is a bunch of old guys who are set in their ways. Fortunately, 
there are some who demonstrate that change can be beneficial. W7PUA, W7LHL, KD7TS, K1JT, W5UN, K6MYC, 
W7GJ, to name a few.

Bottom line for me: FSK441 contacts are fun in their own way. 50 MHz EME contacts using JT65A are still 
a challenge to make. It's always a kick to work a new station on 6m EME. Yes, it's easier to use WSJT 
instead of the "traditional" modes, but that's no reason to not use it. Rather, it's a good reason TO 
use it. So I do. I hope many will consider change as being good before it's too late for them and for 
ham radio in general. SSB and CW are necessary and enjoyable modes, but digital modes have introduced 
themselves and are now becoming mainstream. They should be utilized and improved upon, not rejected.


CU at the conference!


73,
Paul, K7CW


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