5 July 2002
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Short Notes: Don AA5AU, who says he has nothing to do but 'watch TV, read
Email, surf the web and work RTTY--all at the same time,' now wants to share
that awesome knowledge with one and all. Never one to perform at a half-baked
clip, Don developed a complete tutorial for RTTY tyros, and it includes a
full treatment MMTTY, the free RTTY sound-card program. This may be a school
for all of us, veteran or newcomer. Just go to www.aa5au.com/rtty. You
will even have a chance to hear the sounds of RTTY! Many thanks to Don for a
splendid addition to the beginner's arsenal of knowledge.
The sounds of RTTY, I said. Yes, you can hear it at Don's website, but it's
not described in the esoteric terms that cropped up during various Internet
discussions this past week. John WA9ALS penned these immortal words--RTTY is
music, PSK31 is QRM. MFSK16 is somewhere in between. Chen
W7AY, who can't ever leave well enough alone, enhanced his reputation as a
colorful observer by the following: MFSK16 most resembles music, PSK is
like fingernails scratching on chalkboard, except the torture doesn't stop.
Given these comments, neither one of these folks has many friends left in the
digital world any more. But Chen wasn't through yet. He went on, in his
inimitable poetic style, by writing: I used to think that 45 baud FSK sounded
like an old bicycle with very loose chains periodically banging against the
metal plate which protects your legs from the chain!
Oh, brother! Well, we must ask, what is music to Chen's ears? A CW pileup,
says he!! No wonder he doesn't understand that you look at not listen to the
digital modes. With the waterfall tuning, who needs the good or the bad sound
of PSK? I've never had the AF up high enough to hear more than a very tiny
chirp, just enough to remind me that, yes, the radio is really working. Hi!
Bill W5EC may be a typical digital convert. He wrote: In 45 years of radio I
never had the slightest interest in RTTY. Then, along came PSK and I knew I
could do that. I soon earned my DXCC in PSK31 (the pin says RTTY J). Then P5
came on the air and I had to switch to RTTY to work him. Got him! Now I
enjoy RTTY also. But I still like PSK for it is more relaxed and not as
stressful to me. Probably it is that way to a lot of others, one reason
exchanges are slower. Everybody wants to put in his or her brag file.
Thanks, Bill. Your note is interesting and it also introduces a much broader
discussion on the subject of the attitudes and prejudices rising out of the
ARRL Field Day 2002 digital experience.
Field Day--the facts, based on published reports and personal observation: 1)
RTTY signals were as scarce as water in Wyoming, 2) the few RTTY
signals clustered on 20 meters, 3) PSK31 signals were thick as fleas on all
bands, 4) PSK operators demonstrated their lack of knowledge about the
sacred lore of contest exchanges while, 5) also demonstrated their lack of
interest in learning or caring anything about said lore, 6) had it not been
PSK, the ARRL would probably drop the digital modes from Field Day 2003, 7)
all of which, predictably, produced a remarkable response from the 'old
guard,' the keepers of the RTTY contesting flame.
Let's look at some extracts: 'If all the PSK ops would work RTTY on FD, they
would be surprised at the number of Q's they could achieve in a short time .
. and then they might want to try RTTY contests, too!'
'I was very disappointed in that there was very little RTTY activity on any
band but 20M, yet there was PSK on almost every band and a lot more of it!
worst thing about PSK was not the time per QSO but the really clueless and
rude operators that abound on the mode. Every time I get on PSK (and it's not
very often) I swear I'll never do it again.'
'Still a nasty contest mode!'
'These ops have no etiquette, no form, and especially no idea how to
efficiently transmit information across a less-than-perfect connection.'
And, so on. In general, the attitude reflects a belief that RTTY is the only
way to go, that current practices are the only acceptable method of operation
therefore, all who do not believe it are aliens not worthy of even their 31
kHz bandwidth! All were highly critical of these naive newcomers who start
calling on top of another signal (perhaps an act detected only by a stacked
array of monobanders!), or answer your call and give the exchange at the
same time, or start calling before an exchange ends. Gee, I've never seen
that kind of behavior in RTTY contests or DX pileups!
I'm sorry, but all these comments lead me to conclude the obvious. The
old-time contesters think Field Day is just another RTTY contest, one on
crowded calendar, one in which more radios, higher antennas and faster
exchanges make the difference. They seem to forget that FD is, by design, a
training session in emergency communications, an exercise that proves ham
radio's capacity to operate without the support of the local electrical
the perfect antenna farms and so on. Many others have forgotten as well. FD
is an experiment, an operation devoted to training, to luring new recruits,
portable operation . . . to hot dogs, sodas and fun!
Tom WX4TM said it best when he expressed his concern about the FD trends . .
. 'the tremendous number of 1D contacts (home, commercial power),
indicates a growing trend of more and more hams staying home instead of
getting out and supporting their local radio club. All of which indicates a
declining interest in participation and commitment to amateur radio in
general. I hope I'm wrong!'
And, to end the discussion, Jerry W4UK says, 'Was there much RTTY activity
this FD? Over at our club's site, some of the guys asked me if our club
should try RTTY next year."
PSK may have saved the day . . . and received nothing less than insults in
A note from Joe EI4FV confirms that the Lee de Forest special event generated
an excellent turnout. There will be a bigger show next year, the 100th
anniversary! He also told of the Blind Amateur Radio Group (EI5HAM). Modeled
after and helped by the US Handi-Ham and Canada's CBN1B programs,
these 9-to-16 year kids learn radio the hard way. But the system works and
after an average two year stint, they are ready for their special license
What a great program!
Of course, he also mentioned that the Irish soccer team did remarkably well
in the World Cup tourney. The team was welcomed home as heroes, even
though they finally lost. But their effort proved that even a small country
can make it to a place very near the top rung. Maybe next time around, Joe!
73 de Jim N2HOS: GAZETTE at www.n2hos.com/digital