[CQ-Contest] The History of automated voice for SSB Contesting

David Thompson thompson at mindspring.com
Fri Mar 8 16:23:32 EST 2013

The discussion on improving voice recordings for phone got me to thinking 
about where we have come and where we might go.

Long before digital voice recorders (DVK's) the astute SSB contester 
discovered the voice loop tape for diskette players.  These loops ran from a 
few seconds to as long as 16 seconds and were designed as telephone 
answering devices.  I used one for years to call CQ and the last time I used 
one extensively was in the CQ WW SSB in 1979 to win the USA 40 meter Single 
Band.  I tried to use it in the 1984 ARRL DX SSB on QRP but found that only 
on 10 meters could I get answers to be worth the effort.

In 1985 I found Nel-Tech designed by the fellows who designed the Wang DVX
and I laid out good dollars and brought the Nel-Tech 100 home.  I used it in 
a few contests and N5KO was living in Atlanta at the time took it to N4RJ to 
use for Single Operator in the ARRL SSB SS.
It did appear in a voice monitor that there was some hum so he stopped using 
it and lost his voice on the second day.

Next I bought a MFJ 432 and found that you could cascade a pair for more 
options.  This worked well for me in the CQ 160 SSB in 1994 as I won the 
Zone 5 Plaque.  You had to watch as it you pressed a button wrong you wound 
up sending an extra first letter.  I wonder how many logged KK4JRB.  When 
they were first introduced they worked fine on what you had recorded but 
would not let you send straight through.  Tom, W8JI came up with a fix to 
correct and those of us with early MFJ 432's got Rev 1 which corrected the 

A number of hams experimented with the text to speech programs but as 
several pointed out using a different voice to send the report caused all 
sorts of problems.

Jamie Dupree NS3T, who uses his voice as the Washington reporter for WSB 
radio decided that he would take the DVK to the next step and program .wav 
files so he could run an entire contest without speaking except for a few 
corrections.  He published an article in CQ on the subject.

Digital voice could be the future.  But so far the steps have been stumbles. 
Henry Radio sold the 300 but you had have one at the other end to work 
correctly.  AOR tried two models several years ago but again you had to have 
a unit at both ends.  D-Star from ICOM so far is just a VHF device.  The 
problem is that there needs to be a standard decoding so the various 
interfaces can make digital voice be just another digital mode.  This can 
help with the QRM on the amateur bands but you still need a way to have a 
set of exchanges to send.

We have come along way from flipping a toggle switch or using PTT for phone 
contests.  I went straight to VOX when I went on SSB on Jan 1, 1960 and have 
not looked back.

73 Dave K4JRB


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