Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Celestial contacts

Paul, PC4T alerted me to the fact that a new piece of Windows digimode software has just been released: JT65-HF. I downloaded it, installed it, and then spent about two hours trying to figure out why it would not key my Elecraft K3 into transmit. The short answer: it works only with a real serial port, not LP-Bridge nor a virtual serial port.

Having sorted that out I quickly figured out what to do. Since it was by now late evening I tuned to 80m, 3.576MHz, and heard the musical tones of JT65A signals. Both EA3AQS and WD4KPD were calling CQ. I don't think I have ever worked Stateside on 80m, but in my haste and myopia I double-clicked on EA3AQS's CQ and the software immediately began calling the Spanish station. After my call I decoded a report from him, to which I replied with my report. His RRR confirmation followed, and the contact concluded by sending 73. Flushed with success, I responded to PA0BWL who was calling CQ, and another contact quickly followed.

JT65A is one of Joe Taylor K1JT's modes that were developed for meteor scatter work to allow contacts to be made with weaker signals than would be needed using ear-decoded CW. For some reason it has become quite popular on HF, but this new program by another Joe, W6CQZ, is much easier to use than the original WSJT program. Another nice feature of this new program is that it can spot stations heard to the website. Originally W6CQZ ran his own reverse beacon site but I think that combining this with the popular PSK Reporter is a much better idea. The screengrab below shows the JT65A stations I'd heard after a couple of hours of operating this evening. Remember, I'm using a shortened multiband dipole crammed into a very small attic, so Eastern USA and Asiatic Russia are DX for me on 80m.

JT65-HF probably won't appeal to a lot of people. Only a signal report and locator are exchanged during a typical six minute QSO, so it is not a chat mode and many will probably consider it rather too much like watching paint dry. But I actually find it a very pleasant, relaxing mode to use. The tinkling tones of the JT65A transmissions sound like a tune being played on a celeste (a musical instrument) which I find very therapeutic.

I don't think I'll be deserting PSK31 for JT65A, but I'll certainly be spending more time with this wonderful addition to the range of digimode software, and I'll be leaving the rig on receive overnight to see what comes on the air while I'm sleeping.
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