[CQ-Contest] Use of CW decoders in contests - a contrarian opinion

Ryan Jairam rjairam at gmail.com
Sat May 29 09:46:10 PDT 2010

I think you hit on what this is really about:

On Fri, May 28, 2010 at 7:15 PM, John W <xnewyorka at hotmail.com> wrote:

> Bottom line: If you are single op with only one VFO, the machine decoder is a crutch to "help" you copy code you otherwise couldn't copy due to lack of CW skill.

So what is a contest really testing? Is it testing the ability to make
as many contacts as possible or is it testing CW skill?

It seems to me like the former. Competitions like HST test the latter.

If we ban decoders we might as well ban all station automation,
including computers while we are at it.

The computer ban may sound illogical but think of it this way - you
equate CW decoding to a second op.  What if I equate CAT sending the
frequency from your radio to your logging software as a second op?
After all, it's something you aren't doing and a machine is doing for

Computer CW keyers? Sorry, that's assistance. Computer is keying out
CQs and responses for you.

Logging software that pre-fills exchanges and checks for dupes
automatically? Sorry, assistance too. Remember that most contest rules
say that single op category means that one person is doing all
operating and logging functions.  So if you equate the computer as
assistance in one way, it's definitely assistance here.

Now, in reality I am not in favor of banning any of the above. But I
do think that we're headed down a slippery slope in categorizing what
is assisted and what is not.

As for leveling the playing field, sorry but that is not realistically
possible (literally and figuratively). The human behind the
key/mic/keyboard is but one part of an entire system that encompasses
everything from terrain to propagation to just pure luck.

The other issue is how to enforce it. There is virtually NO way the CW
decoder ban can be enforced, other than the honor system or inspectors
going to supervise. And as we all know, the big guns use head copy for
the most part. Contest sponsors aren't going to waste resources on the
casual op who makes a few dozen contacts - the guy who is most likely
to be using CW decoding software, many of whom don't even submit a log

Ryan, N2RJ

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