[CQ-Contest] Blind Mode for N1MM Bandmap

Jack Haverty k3fiv at arrl.net
Fri Oct 22 12:03:55 PDT 2010

> > >It is disappointing that we keep having these conversations about how to
> > subvert the rules.
> > Sure is!
> > 
> > Me too.  It's not that I'm anti "technology", but it seems to me people
> > are missing a part of what makes contesting, or DXing for that matter,
> > enjoyable when they rely on tools such at these to make QSO's.  I've
> > always found it far more satisfying to uncover a multiplier, additional
> > QSO's, or work a new one on Topband when it's not aided by something that
> > replaces operator skill.
> And I consider learning new technology and how to integrate it into the
> station and operating practices as part of improving operator skill.

In all kinds of games, people try to go to the limits, staying just
within the boundaries.  To do that, it has to be easy to see where the
boundaries are - white lines in the grass, nets stretched tight,

People also try to use whatever new tools become available.  In sports,
that might be carbon fiber.  In radio, that might be DSP-based filters,
or new techniques - like SSB was to AM 40 years or so ago, or digital
processors are to discrete components today.

I think that the problem is that the rules now can be very unclear,
especially where they try to draw lines around new technologies.

Some people like to draw lines around what they're comfortable with.
It's not radio if it uses a computer.  Or, long ago, it's not radio if
it's not CW.  Maybe it's not CW unless you send it by hand, not by

CW Skimmer is a new tool.  Many contest rules draw a line around it.
But it's a very fuzzy line - "CW Skimmer or similar technologies".  What
does that mean?  How do you tell if this new tool I found is "similar".

I use a Flex-3000 with N1MM for contesting, and have a lot of fun.  The
Bandmap is very useful, even when not connected to the worldwide
spotting net.  But my Flex's panadapter display is also pretty useful.
In fact, I can look at 100 KHz or so of band, and actually recognize CW
stations, and see that they're calling CQ.  It's just a bunch of
"spikes" pulsing up and down, trailing ribbons of color down the
waterfall, but you learn how to read CW from the display.

So, ... is that a "similar technology" to CW Skimmer?

My station is just 100 watts and a wire antenna.  It takes some operator
skill to make contacts with that, which is challenging and therefore
fun.  I could use more tools to get a better score.  If I use CW
Skimmer, I'm branded as assisted.  If I put up a 120 foot tower with
stacked beams, no problem, I'm still single-op.  I bet I'd get more
contacts with the beams.  More fun?  Maybe not. 

I think it's important that each operator be able to choose whatever
tools they like.  Any tool removes the need for some part of operator
skill - but it demands new skill in using that new tool.  A purist might
go back to a sparkgap and a Marconi-type station - which might be fun.  

Better tools help you make more contacts, if you know how to use them.
Using all tools requires skills - ask any cabinetmaker, who probably has
old hand chisels sitting next to a computerized laser-assisted machine,
and uses them both with great skill.

But, the rules are trying to define "assisted", meaning something that
somehow helps you get more contacts.  Rules define lines.

But which tools are on which side of the line?  Is CW-Skimmer a tool
that helps so much that it makes you assisted?  How about my Flex
panadapter?  Or a DSP filter built inside that Eleyaecomwood rig that
helps separate signals 100 Hz apart?  Or that software that
automatically points the beam in the right direction, switches bands,
tunes the feed, and sends out your call, just by pushing a single
button?  Or that stacked array?  They all would assist me to get more

I think it's very hard to draw this line, and even harder to write it
down so people can tell when they're about to step over it.

My suggestion to the guys who write rules is to consider a different
approach to the definition of "assisted".  Instead of what tools you
use, it could be defined in terms of what *information* you use, and how
you got it.

We're Radio Amateurs - so Radio is important to us.  Radio is
electromagnetic waves traveling through the ether.  We use Radio to
communicate, and we're skilled at using all tools that we can find to
send and receive information by Radio.

I would define "assisted" as the use of any *information* which is
obtained by any means other than radio.

CW-Skimmer or "similar" tools are fine, as long as they only process
information coming into (or going out of) your station via your
station's antenna(s).  I can easily see that "line" around my station.

Any information coming from a telephone, Internet, or even a person
speaking over your shoulder is an assist.  If it didn't come over the
line by Radio, it's an assist.  If it did arrive by Radio, it's not.

For multi-op and team contesters, any information can be exchanged among
the team members, as long as it is carried by radio across the station
line.  So, if a 5-person team knows how to set up a private spotting
network over radio, go for it!  If you use spotting over the Internet,
or outside your team members, that's an assist.  If you use spotting on
a LAN within the area of the "station circle", that's not an assist.

(By the way, I'm not anti-technology or anti-Internet - I'm one of the
people who spent 30+ years building the Internet!)

The rulemakers might also think about where to possibly draw a line
around information that is not received by radio.  For example, if I
download a Super Check Partial file, or "similar technology" across the
Internet before a contest starts, does that make me "assisted".  Such
information arguably assists me in making valid contacts, by removing
some of the need to be able to copy the exchange correctly.  Perhaps
only information received during the contest period is considered.  Not
sure where I'd vote on that one.

Put the Radio back into Ham Radio...but use all the tools we can find to
do it.


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