Sometimes, going backwards a bit can make you really appreciate the newer versions of communications methods. such has been my experience the last couple of days working with RTTY, or Radio Tele-Type on the digital modes.
Previously my only experience in the digital HF bands has been with FT8 and FT4 modes. While getting the radio setup with SignaLink was a little messy at first, the operation and decoding of signals in FT8 and FT4 is pretty clean.
And by clean, I mean that when you decode, or are heard by another station, pretty much what you sent is what gets heard.
Not so with RTTY!
OH MY GOSH! I have never waded through so much garbled, half heard, constant noise on FT8 or FT4 as I was treated to with today’s RTTY Roundup contest.
Pulling Teeth, Ow! Ow! Yes sir this is fun! Can’t You Tell from my Grimace?!
From butchered call signs, to CQs that come out as OQs, 599 signal reports that read as #599, and state locations I can’t identify. Wow that is tough to figure out what is going on!
Really makes you appreciate FT8’s clockwork accurate decoding, and understand why so many newer hams love it.
Can you believe FT8 has only been around since 2017?
But enough kvetching… I did learn some valuable things the last couple days while getting into RTTY (With the help of my favorite Elmer)
Eh? What did you Say? AGN? AGN?
With RTTY, there is a lot more customization of what you can say to another station. This is primarily done through the use of Macros, which let you save your own canned messages that can be of some length.
This is apparently one of the reasons why FT8, as popular as it is, is usually not deemed suitable for Field Day contests. Field Day is more about Emcomms, which though not impossible on FT8 is pretty darn difficult with a tiny character limit and 15 second alternating intervals to work with.
So to take advantage of the flexible messaging capabilities of RTTY, while coping with the extreme “garble factor”, most hams doing RTTY use repetition in their macros to try to make it so you can peer at it and figure out more or less what was said even with all the junk added.
For example, a CQ call might transmit CQ CQ RU de KJ7DJR de KJ7DJR AZ AZ RU.
At least one of the call signs in the message will usually decode properly, making it possible to get an answer back. Ditto with the CQ and the location.
(I’m guessing the skill and “spider sense” to figure it out will develop with more experience in this mode, kind of like seeing those images in stereograph dot pictures can be learned. But right now it’s a headache for a still rather green ham.)
And then, just when I’ve gotten used to RR73 and R-10, there are the new abbreviations I’ve never seen before, like QRZ? and AGN?
QRZ? I had to ask about? My first guess was it might be a request to confirm the QSO in QRZ! But apparently in RTTY that means, “did you copy me?”.
Now.. AGN? I got the gist of after seeing it just a couple times by different hams. And actually it spurred a 25-year-old memory and made me laugh.
My ex-father in-law had a little habit of pranking people in conversations anytime someone mentioned hearing, heard, or being deaf. He’d say “Eh?” and pretend not to hear you, making you repeat it till you caught on that he was smirking over there, and just waiting to see how many times it would take you. What a stinker!
“AGN? AGN? EH? EH? “
Funny how different parts of your life suddenly reach out and shake hands in ironic ways!
The Catapult Being Loaded For New Ham Adventures
One of the good things about getting over the RTTY entry hurdle today is that it will make it easier to move on to PSK31, and Olivia, which I had gotten disgusted with trying to understand for emmcomms, and taken a rather loooooong break from.
So today I’m a better, more versatile ham than I was yesterday, and I’ll get even better soon.
This is truly a deep hobby, with something else to learn all the time!
Can you believe I’ve been a ham for three years now already?
Hey, No time to get bored! I’m off to tumble down another rabbit hole after the white rabbit and his pocket watch! (For syncing up his FT8 clock no doubt!)
New ham adventures ahead! Cut the rope and Bombs away! Green hams are inbound, watch your head!