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1140The New Radio - an audio and visual approach to Contesting

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  • ct1boh
    Nov 3, 2008
      I just posted this small note in CQ-Contest Reflector:

      >>>>The New Radio – an audio and visual approach to contesting

      There is a trend in the new SDR radios that incorporates spectrum
      scopes (panadapter, waterfall, etc). This trend will change the way
      we operate and will impact the way we do Contesting.

      The new way of operating is:

      completely eliminate the VFO knob and tune with a mouse and keyboard
      use both ears and eyes to identify stations
      have visual information of the totality of the signals on a band

      "The new radio" offers the visual element, along side the audio
      element and the ability to tune from one signal into the next signal
      without having to listen to the empty band space in between stations.

      This will have a tremendous impact in the way we Contest, and will
      accelerate activity, i.e. more QSOs in the time frame of the contest,
      because tuning is many orders of magnitude faster. In a way we can
      say that with the "new radio" there is no more Search&Pounce but only

      >>>>Contesting with "the old radio"

      Before starting a run, the operator dials the band up and down,
      turning the VFO knob, in a continuous way, looking for a clear
      frequency. Once he finds and holds the frequency he is able to start
      a Run. While on the frequency he is only aware of a few Khz,
      depending on his passband filter (500Hz in a CW contest). He has no
      information whatsoever of what is adjacent to his frequency and up
      and down the band.

      If the operator stops the Run and goes into S&P mode, he has to dial
      the VFO knob in a continuous way, going from one station into the
      other station. While doing this, he will listen to the bands (empty
      space) in between the stations.

      >>>>Contesting with "the new radio"

      Before starting a Run, the operator looks at a spectrum scope that
      shows him the entire band at once. He visually identifies an empty
      spot and with a mouse click is taken right to the frequency of
      choice. Once he finds and holds the frequency he is able to start a
      Run. While on the frequency he is aware of a few Khz, depending on
      his passband filter (500Hz in a CW contest), AND to the all the
      signals present on the band. He not only has an audio element (the
      passband of the radio) but a visual element (all the signals on the

      If the operator stops the run and goes into "S&P" mode, he can click
      and go zero beat with each signal present on the band. There is no
      tuning anymore, there in no more listening to the empty band space in
      between each station. The visual element of the new radio will
      provide the operator the information to go directly zero beat to each

      Sprectrum scopes have been around for more than 20 years. Radios like
      ICOM 781 have sprectrum scopes that have been used by Single
      Operators in the Non Assisted categories. All the ICOM PRO series and
      ICOM 7800 radios have scopes, as well as Yaesu FT2000 and FT9000
      (with DMU units). We can say that these scopes are very crude, but
      they already provide the visual element.

      >>>>Blind Skimmer

      When Alex, VE3NEA released CW Skimmer I sent him an e-mail and told
      him that CW Contesting would be very different in the future.

      CW Skimmer attracted my attention not because of the decoding element
      of call signs, but for the very powerful and fast waterfall display,
      with a resolution sufficient for reading Morse Code dots and dashes

      Note that CQWW Rules prohibit CW decoding of call signs in the Single
      Operator Non Assisted categories, but it does not prohibit scopes.

      With this in mind, I contacted again Alex, VE3NEA, and asked him if
      he could release a version of his waterfall display, that provide a
      visual representation of the dots and dashes, with the CW decoding
      disabled, therefore suitable for the Single Operator Non Assisted
      class. He was very receptive and we came up with Blind Skimmer.

      In "Blind Mode", no call sign list is produced, none of the waterfall
      dots and dashes are annotated with the text of the call sign and the
      up/down arrows of the keyboard enable the operator to move the
      frequency of the radio from one signal into the next (once again Alex
      was very receptive to my suggestion of implementing this very
      efficient way of "zero beat tuning").

      >>>>What's next?

      Contesting is a technological game, and because of this an evolving

      The new generation scopes, with enough resolution to separate one
      signal from the other will indeed accelerate the way we contest and
      this means more QSOs

      In the end its still one guy, his ability to make QSOs and winning
      the Contest

      José Nunes