As a follow up to the previous article let’s talk a little about what you need and some operating
procedures for PSK31 and the other digital modes.
• You can start off listening only using a microphone on your computer and one of the free
software packages like Digipan or FLdigi or Ham Radio Deluxe. See the previous article
and the video. PSK31 is undoubtedly the most popular mode, so you should start out
using it before you try making contacts with the other lessor used modes.
• You will need a sound card device to receive and transmit digital. Something like the
digital boxes the club is building or a commercial version like the “Signalink” or the
“Rigblaster” by Mountain Radio. Both of these are reasonably priced and can be found
used for even less money on qth.com or qrz.com classified ad websites. We paid $70 for
a good used Signalink. Of course you will also need a computer and an HF radio. Make
sure the antenna is tuned with the radio before you transmit.
• The sound adjustment in your computer is very important. You can easily splatter you
signal by setting the sound level up to high. Adjust your PC sound to about ¾ full volume
or slightly more; both commercial devices come with instructions for setting the sound
level. Also you should turn off any “Windows” or “MAC” audio event sounds so these
are not inadvertently transmitted. You don’t want the computer to make bings and bongs
while you are using PSK31 or other digital modes.
• You should use no more than about 40 watts to transmit. You can see the folks who
have their sound level too high or are using too much power by watching the waterfall
display. Their signal will be splattered across the screen interfering with other signals in
and around the frequency you have the radio set too. This can be very frustrating to other
hams who are trying to make contacts. Remember that a perfect signal is about 31 Hz
wide! Those 700 Hz wide signals WILL block others from receiving and transmitting.
• Needless to say you do not need an amplifier when doing digital communications due
to the narrow bandwidth. We usually run about 30 watts under most band conditions.
During noisy conditions maybe 40 watts or so.
• Make sure you learn about the MACRO ability of the software. This permits you to
transmit a lengthy message with one click of the mouse. There is no need to type the
same thing over and over again on the keyboard. We usually have a macro setup to
transmit our QTH, or equipment, our antenna and other general information. We also
have a sign-off type macro that thanks the person for the contact and wishes them 73.
• This is an excellent mode to introduce to new “young” General licensed hams who have
spent their life text messaging on the phone. They will be instantly familiar with the
communication methods, as they see the TEXT scroll across the screen just like on their
smart-phone! And the TEXT can come from very distant places.
73 to everyone and remember to GET DIGITAL!
Joe Lalumia W1XWX