[VHFcontesting] Picking a Bone With Gene

Les Rayburn les at highnoonfilm.com
Mon May 4 10:07:11 PDT 2009

With all due respect to Gene Zimmerman, W3ZZ, I have to disagree with some statements that he made in the May 2009 Issue of QST. In his column, "The World Above 50Mhz" Gene writes;

"we must consider FSK441 digital contacts that, while sometimes more difficult to set up, technically utilize the skill of Joe Taylor, K1JT, as a software author to complete". 

Sorry Gene, but using that logic, you're technically using the skills of Icom engineers, or TE Systems design to complete your SSB or CW contacts. There is certainly skill involved in making FSK441 meteor scatter contacts, especially those on the fringe areas of possible propagation range. 

Predicting optimum paths, time of day, and time of year are a big part of the equation. To get good at it takes a fair amount of study on the part of the operator. Also, station designed must be optimized for meteor scatter work. And manipulating the software to pull out really distant contacts has a pretty step learning curve. Please explain how that differs from similar skill sets used in other areas of contesting. 

If your experience with the mode is limited to working a few super stations with high power, large gain antennas, and optimum paths on 6 Meters, then yes, perhaps the contacts could be considered almost "automatic". But try those modest station contacts on 222 or 432 and see how easy it is. 

Gene goes on to say, "Given even a modest station-100W to a small beam- most of your WSJT contacts are guaranteed if the other station shows up."

Again, I'm not sure how active Gene is on WSJT, but contacts, even with stations much better equipped than he describes are hardly guaranteed. In fact, the majority of contacts attempted during contests or any other period are not completed. Even when coordinated using resources like Ping Jockey. At least not on 2 Meters. During last year's contests I had WSJT skeds with a number of stations, and completed only two of those. Some of these were with powerhouse contests stations, who were multi-op. 

After contest correspondence revealed that they did indeed "show up" but the rox simply didn't allow the contact to be completed before one or both of us had to move on to another attempt.  

These remarks reveal a basis than many VHF men have toward the digital modes. Since it's new and unfamiliar to them, they dismiss it as being somehow "less than" the older modes. I think this is very contrary to the pioneering spirit of the bands. In the 1940's and 50's, don't you think that anyone in the ranks of VHF/UHF work would have given their eye teeth for a mode that would offer several db of improvement over CW? 

All that being said, Zimmerman's logic about adding distance scoring to the September contest makes a lot of sense. I believe that it would encourage VHF men to give WSJT more of their operating time, which I think would be healthy for all of us. For some of us who have compromised stations, WSJT represents the best chance for awards like VUCC on 2 Meters, but the lack of stations using the mode makes that difficult. I think a distance scoring based contest would increase the usage of WSJT, and further development of the software would advance the state of the art. 


Les Rayburn, N1LF
121 Mayfair Park
Maylene, AL 35114

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