[CQ-Contest] PSK is to RTTY what SSB was to AM

Randy Thompson thompson at pcsoftintl.com
Tue Apr 20 21:24:37 EDT 1999

I witnessed the "birth" of a new mode last weekend.  You can quote me on

"PSK is to RTTY what SSB was to AM."

Three things got me going:

I read WB8IMY's gushing article about PSK in this month's QST.  I thought he
was a bit overboard, but after experiencing the mode, he actually
understated the case.

WriteLog has PSK support already built into it.  You can't keep DSP wizard
W5XD away from sound cards and digital modes.  It works!

The TARA Sprint provided the motivation to try the new mode.  Hey, a

My experience:

When I first wired things up, I was having trouble figuring out how to tune
stations in.  So I decided to call CQ and see what would answer.  The first
guy that called me was printing 100% copy on the screen, and I could see his
signal on the tuning scope, but I COULD NOT HEAR HIM!!!! Whoa, this isn't

I worked about 25 guys in the next 40 minutes or so.  It was simply amazing
how perfectly you could print stations who were puny weak or covered in QRM.
Even when more than one called at a time, it was usually possible to get
solid print on one of them.

Once I knew what stations sounded like, it wasn't that difficult to tune
them in.  You do need to be more precise than RTTY, but not much.  Since PSK
is narrower than RTTY, I could crank in all the filters I had and narrow the
width control and still get usable signals.

I am not an RTTY expert.  I have done a few contests over the past 18 months
- enough to see what the good and bad of RTTY is.  I do see where PSK will
have its unique issues.  But the analogy of RTTY being like AM is real.


The conversion won't be instantaneous.  Just like AM gave ground slowly to
SSB.  But everyone has a sound card and the PSK software is available on the
web for free.  Not much barrier to entry.

At least one of the major RTTY contests should consider switching to PSK or
at least include it as a mode (maybe even a separate category).  I would
like to see the ARRL get ahead of the curve on this one and make the year
2000 ARRL RTTY Roundup include (or even be) as PSK event.

Something to think about...


Randy, K5ZD

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