I am a licenced Radio Amateur and have been for nearly twenty years – however there’s little more than a couple of thousand contacts in my logbook. I know, it’s shameful. I mostly operate on VHF (FM and SSB) and for a number of good reasons. Firstly, my garden is pitifully small, no room for a half decent antenna here, so a simple 20m vertical on a wind-up Tennamast has to suffice. They say your antenna is the most important part of your station, well mine ain’t that good. Secondly, I have a hearing deficiency which means I find it very difficult to hear stations on HF sideband – too much interference. So, you see, HF isn’t my favourite operating arena.
I do have a decent piece of HF kit mind, the Yaesu FT-1000MP – a massive hit in its day and still a worthy transceiver today despite its lack of IF DSP (digital filtering to you and me). So I thought it was time to start using it, or sell it to realise some much needed cash (could still work HF on the trusty IC-706 Mk II G but it wouldn’t be the same). Anyway, I wondered how to utilise my prize possession and still be able to have a meaningful conversation with someone thousands of miles away amongst all the pops and bangs the DX bands suffer.
PSK-31 – that’s it – the wonder mode. Several QSOs going on in one tiny segment of the band only a couple of thousand hertz wide. I can read better than I can hear so I thought it might be worth a punt. Out came the Buxcomm Rascal sound card interface that I bought many years ago for SSTV (slow scan television) on VHF (though I had been forward thinking enough to buy a cable for the FT-1000MP as well as the ‘706). I downloaded the latest copy of HRD (Ham Radio Deluxe) which I had been using for a couple of years now for my log (but it had seen little use due to the megre number of contacts I had made) for the DM780 digital comms software (it does PSK, SSTV, Morse, RTTY etc.) and off we went.
No jest, I had my first contact with SP4TXI (Marek) in Podlesna (Poland) within about 15 minutes of setting up. In a little under a week I have worked ten new countries located approximately 1400 – 1600 miles from here. Not bad given my limited time operating. My only problem with PSK is that the contacts seem to all follow the same pattern using contact macros built in to the software – there’s no real QSO taking place and I do miss a bit of a chat with the stations I work.
However, that aside, I am impressed with the mode and will continue to use it for the next few weeks to see if the novelty wears off. I’m hoping to be able to get the mast wound up in the next few days (the wind’s been a bit too high this last week) in the hope that moving it away from the house will reduce the interference and allow some of the more distant contacts to be made. As the solar conditions improve on the next couple of years I am sure that this mode will enable me to make contacts that I thought would be impossible for me – I’ll keep you posted.