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A modest proposal

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  • Larry Meehan (WA8EJH)
    Greetings all! Although it may not sound like it at first, this really is about weak signal digital communication. I recently returned from visiting some of
    Message 1 of 6 , Nov 2, 2012
      Greetings all!

      Although it may not sound like it at first, this really is about weak
      signal digital communication.

      I recently returned from visiting some of our country's most amazing
      national parks in Utah. The land is mostly high desert (with deep
      canyons!) and the ground is either rocky or sandy. Off the paths, in
      the sandy areas, the ground looks like just a layer of crusty sand, with
      nothing going on except the occasional cactus or scrubby green thing.
      In short, it looks inert or dead.

      However in some parks there are signs posted warning people not to walk
      off the rocky surfaces or the designated paths onto the sand since,
      despite its appearance, this sandy area is full of life and the system
      that supports the life is very delicate. People sometimes tromp across
      the sand anyway either because they don't care, or they see only dead
      sand, or they didn't read the sign. Regardless of the reason, the harm
      is done.

      So, what does this have to do with weak signal work? Think about how
      the small sub-bands we use are viewed by hams who have no familiarity
      with what we're doing. If they don't look very closely, all they see is
      the noise level, similar to seeing that "dead" layer of sand. They have
      no awareness that just at the surface and even beneath the surface there
      is activity. Any of us who has tried to do weak-signal digital work
      during a CW or RTTY contest knows what it is like when a visitor to our
      delicate ecosystem "tromps across the sand".

      As with the park visitors, the owner of the invading signal may not
      care, but most likely simply doesn't see (or hear) anything there. Many
      have simply not "read the sign", meaning they haven't heard or read
      anything about our modes and where we hang out. I suspect most of the
      problem comes from lack of knowledge. I have asked a RTTY station to
      QSY from a jt65 sub-band before and received an immediate "I'm sorry"
      and the person moved. That person really did care.

      The real problem then is that there are too few "signs" posted. Every
      time there is a major contest that takes place in the parts of the bands
      that we use, we get tromped upon. The excitement of the contest takes
      over and people are constantly looking for what appears to be an open
      frequency. Our operation is not part of their awareness.

      I would like to propose that we ask the "park service", the ARRL and
      other organizations that sponsor contests and serve as information
      sources for hams, to post more "signs". In their online and print
      publications, they could regularly list the frequencies commonly used
      for various modes. This would help other hams avoid mistakes and
      increase awareness of, and possibly interest in, what we are doing.
      Additionally, they should put a list of vulnerable sub-bands to avoid in
      the rules for each contest that has the potential to adversely affect
      these sub-bands. There is no reason why this information cannot be
      included and it would help promote harmony and understanding among all
      of us who share the bands.

      I intend to ask the ARRL to do this. I intend to ask the same of other
      major sponsors of contests. It only takes a moment to send a polite
      email with this request. If we all write to them and request this it
      might actually happen!

      It shouldn't be too hard to find contact information for these
      organizations. Just start with the websites that list upcoming
      contests and their sponsors.

      73 and thanks for reading this.
      Larry (WA8EJH)
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