Having just returned from Ascension Island and a 36-hour stint in the WPX
code soiree, I confess I'm amused to read about the trauma induced by
so-called "cut numbers". Since the first dots and dashes were sent over
the wires a 100+ years ago, CW operators have been trying ways to take
short-cuts and to maximize data sent with minimum keystrokes. Comparing
on how we all had to do it before memory keyers and computers, I think it
ironic that now that the sending part is soooo much easier, we suddenly
can't handle the receiving end.
At ZD8Z two weeks ago, I spent the first half sending serial numbers in a
conventional sense. Most of the weekend, I sent at 38 wpm with the
signal report (5NN, of course) at 10 wpm faster, and then QRS (that means
send slower for those having trouble with "cut English") back to 38 wpm
for the serial number. For the second half of the contest I switched to
"cut serial numbers" and felt, at least psychologically, that the rate
really took off. As anyone who worked me will attest, I was all too
willing to re-transmit the serial number until the recipient had it 100%,
and to QRS to whatever speed required to get my call right. By the way,
after many contests and several hundred thousand QSO's with ZD8Z, it's not
hit the airwaves with some really tricky call like we've all had to
endure in the past. (A couple of my all-time favorites were 6E5EBE and
Also, 99.9% of my 4000 QSO's resulted from my CQing, and anyone calling
me had the advantage of hearing sequential serial numbers before, and
(hopefully) after, theirs. I had one shot at hearing the serial number
sent, probably with a significant portion of the pile-up still QRMing,
and I'm not complaining about cut numbers. It's not that many weren't
received with some difficulty, or that I didn't have to ask periodically
for repeats, I for one liked the challenge, and enjoy the WPX because
you're supposed to actually "copy" something. What a unique idea that is!
I've read occasionally about some trying to find a better headset. Let
me please tell you what I've been using for the past 10 years. (Also it
may be of interest to know that my friends W6YA, CT1BOH, and OH2BH, when
they saw what I was using had to have some too).
The headphones are FOSTEX Model T20, available at many stereo/music stores.
I've also seen them used in recording studios. I like them because
they're quite comfortable, and I have no trouble wearing them for
48-hours straight, as required. Price is about $80. A machinist friend
made me a small threaded stud that I simply epoxy to the side of the
earpiece. I then attach the Heil boom mike (HC-4 cartridge, of course),
and away you go. At ZD8 I operate in a room so noisy it's impossible to
carry-on a conversation without shouting, yet the T20's do a pretty good
job in shutting out the noise. If any of you try these phones, I'd be
interested in knowing your reaction.
And finally, on the subject of how to do 48-straight in a contest without
sleep, I'm sure I do all the wrong things, but still managing to do the
48 at the age of 58 (that has a nice ring to it):
1. Big, hot satisfying meals are definitely out. I eat nothing more
than handsfull of M & M candy and Oreo cookies (NO I don't own stock in
2. I drink only Gatorade and orange juice. Lots. Especially on phone.
3. I don't like coffee, so I take an occasional No-Doz when things start
falling apart. In the recent WPX I had to take two of them Sunday
afternoon, a I've got to tell you, I felt I was operating on another
level, when usually by then everything starts falling apart. It was
great, and I finished my alloted 36-hours at 1938Z feeling more-or-less
rested and ready to go for another 10 to 12 hours, if required.
Anyway, just a few opinions, for what they're worth.
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