[CQ-Contest] What Skimmer is!

Joe Subich, W4TV w4tv at subich.com
Tue Jun 3 20:47:48 EDT 2008

Richard and many others continue to raise the specter of "robot wars" 
as a result of Skimmer technology.  I do not believe that is - or needs 
to be - the end result of skimmer evolution.  Instead, consider a set 
of principles defining the required minimum level of involvement by 
the [human] operator in ANY contest ... 

1) all QSOs must be initiated by the operator - either by manually 
   calling CQ/answering a CQ or by some overt physical action to 
   cause a memory keyer, logging computer, voice keyer, tape loop, 
   etc. to call/answer. 

2) the operator must determine the operating frequency/band and manually

   select the station to be answered - whether by "turning the knob,"  
   clicking up/down with a mouse, pressing arrow keys on a keyboard,  
   by clicking on a call in a "bandmap" display or by entering a
   frequency in a logging program.  

3) the operator must satisfy him/herself that the received callsign and 
   exchange is correct - either by copying by ear or by use of locally 
   operate technology (CW decoder, voice recognition, RTTY decoder,
   of sufficient reliability

4) the operator must acknowledge all received callsigns and exchanges - 
   either manually or by specifically causing the acknowledgement to be 
   transmitted (e.g., memory keyer, voice keyer, preset function in a 
   logging program, etc.) 

Any appropriate technology may be used in transmitting, receiving and/or

logging but the hardware/software may not make any transmission on an 
automatic or autonomous basis - that is initiate or acknowledge a QSO 
without overt operator involvement.  

Appropriate technology - under the present state of the art - includes 
but is not limited to:  memory keyers, computer logging, digital voice 
keyers, multiple receivers capable of simultaneous operation on multiple

frequencies and multiple bands (e.g. SO#R), scanning receivers,
CW Decoders, Computer Aided/Computer controlled transmitters and
digital (e.g., RTTY,PSK31, etc.) decoding software, dedicated beacon and

WWV receivers, grayline maps/software displays, propagation prediction 
software, history files, SCP databases, etc. 

"Assistance" is defined specifically as any information concerning 
other stations (including calls, frequencies and operating schedules), 
pre-arranged QSOs, or participation in station operation (including 
equipment repair, modification or configuration during the contest) 
provided by any person other than the station operator whether provided 
locally (at the transmitting site) or remotely (via telephone, internet,

packet, VHF/UHF voice, wireless LAN, WiFi, or any other means of 


   ... Joe, W4TV 

> -----Original Message-----
> From: cq-contest-bounces at contesting.com 
> [mailto:cq-contest-bounces at contesting.com] On Behalf Of 
> Richard L. King
> Sent: Tuesday, June 03, 2008 11:11 AM
> To: cq-contest at contesting.com
> Subject: [CQ-Contest] What Skimmer is!
> Hello all.
> I have watched and read the debate about Skimmer.
> I admit that my prejudices are against it. But I have to admit that 
> both sides make a strong argument for whether it should or should not 
> be allowed or whether it should or should not be limited to assisted 
> or multi-op categories.
> But thinking about Skimmer brings me to what it really is. It is the 
> beginning of robotics used by contesters. Think about this and 
> consider that all the past technology advancements still had your 
> brain or your fingers involved in the copying, identifying, and 
> completing QSOs.
> Many complained about SO2R, but it still requires your ears, brains, 
> and fingers to do anything with it. A skill for your brain to 
> be learned.
> Memory keyers required that you make the decision of what button to 
> push and when to push it.
> Computer logging requires your brain to identify the data and your 
> fingers to enter the data.
> But Skimmer is a robot!
> Not a complete robot yet, but the first step of what could eventually 
> be be a totally robotic contesting station. Currently it decodes and 
> presents to you a band map of workable stations without any operator 
> skill needed. At this stage of development you still need to look at 
> the Skimmer list and select who you want to work in a manner similar 
> to using packet.
> The technology is there now for full robotics as we move in that 
> direction. It will soon be possible to have your station call and 
> work another station without your presence in the ham shack. It will 
> just require a lot of programming and the proper algorithms to 
> identify what needs to copied, entered, and replied to.
> If we allow Skimmer for the single-operator category now we will set 
> the precedent for allowing a full robotic contest station to compete 
> in the single-op category later. The single-op winners in the future 
> may no longer be the best operators but, instead will be those with 
> the best automated stations.
> Years ago, N6TR set up a "KL7 sniffer" for SS CW. It was supposed to 
> find a KL7 and ring an alarm. I don't think it found a KL7 that 
> weekend, but it was a glimpse into the future.
> I would really like to continue contesting with my own brain doing 
> most of the copying and decision making. But I have always loved 
> contesting and will likely do what is necessary to remain 
> competitive. I think a lot of contesters are like me. They don't 
> really want this, but they will have to do it to stay in the game.
> 73 to you all.
> Richard - K5NA

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