Sunday, December 29, 2019

2019 in review

The New Year has me thinking a lot about the future of ham radio and of how I derive enjoyment from it.
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With the exception of 60 meters, FT8 has gradually become more and more boring and serves mostly as an indication of band conditions with "QSO's" being little more than by-products.

I consider 60m an exception to that - since the band is channelized, it is a perfect fit for a channelized mode. And the band is relatively new to me so it's fun to see if propagation is more 40-meterish in nature or 80 meterish (new word).

Further evidence of my gradual disillusion with the mode came 2 weeks ago when I worked China on 80 meters. Normally, a new country on 80m has me doing a fist pump - working China on 80m FT8 prompted little more than the automated log entry. With no operator skill required for the mode, how could it elicit anything more?

Blog-wise, my second most popular postings on 2019 were those regarding automated FT8. Does operating automated make the mode less "human" in nature? No - it makes it more honest.


My most popular posting of the year was the review of the SW-3B QRP transceiver.

I continue to think of it as a very good rig hampered only by the fact that the suggestions for improvement haven't been implemented almost 5 months after the designer said he would.

Nor will they be, if you want my opinion.


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Usually, an end of year reflection on my enjoyment in the hobby revolves mostly around DX results. This year it is about a specific radio - the RGO One. The ability to test, use and operate this radio has reminded me of something forgotten: that sometimes, the original way of navigating around a band is better than what I had come to think of as the perfect way.



For the past 6 years, my main radios have been a Flex 6300 and an Apache Labs 10e. Both are SDR rigs that are tuned by pointing and clicking a mouse on the desired signal or frequency. Their main advantage is the ability to see all the activity on an entire band at once and this, for me, disguised the fact that point-and-click tuning is an ergonomic straight-jacket in a contest. Consequently, my participation in contests has dwindled in recent years.

Then I received the RGO One - and fittingly, just a few weeks before the CQ-WPX (CW) contest. It was then that I saw what I'd been missing. I ended the contest looking very much forward to CQWW (CW). Operating both contests was enjoyable in a way that contesting hadn't been since I sold my K3 and was due both to the ability to navigate the bands with more dexterity and less fuss and also for the performance the RGO One offers on crowded CW bands with many strong signals.

Additionally, it doesn't have to "boot up" and connect to a PC like my Flex and Apache Labs rigs.

I also activated a few parks with the RGO One and, in an age of lethargic propagation, its 50-watt output is much noticed in how easily contacts go into the log. It is smaller and less cumbersome than my other 50-watt solution - a QRP rig and the HR-50 amp - yet it lacks the autotuner provided by the HR50.

You may be thinking "What about an FT-891 or similar rig - smaller still and 100 watts of power?" Two reasons: current draw (even on receive) and poor receiver performance (compared to the RGO).

I look forward to a full review of this fantastic little radio by the ARRL. Hopefully we'll see that in 2020.

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DXing results in 2019 were nothing spectacular, however I did manage DXCC on both 20 and 40 meters for the year. This is mainly due to the RGO One inspiring me to emulate a contester:



Spain and Venezuela as new band-countries surprised me - I thought I had all the common entities on all bands but I guess not. 39 Zones on FT8 was a surprise as well. Macau was my one ATNO for the whole year.

Hopefully 2020 will have more DX-appeal.

Happy New Year to all - see you in 2020.

5 comments:

  1. Great to read an overview of 2019. I guess I missed some posts. Especially the one explaining WSJT-Z in August. WSJT-Z is not perfect but it does a good job when I'm not available behind the radio. These days I use it primairely on 10m since activity and propagation is very sporadic, no one will ever tell if I made it myself or my robot ;-). You did a nice job DXCC wise, especially in this low sunspot time. As you know I'm almost exclusively on 60m FT8 this past year, I think I will continue for 2020. I've tried other bands but FT8 is not interesting if propagation is too good. Well wishing you and yours a very good new year. 73, Bas

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    1. Hello Bas - I think I'll focus my digital activity on 60m in the coming year. One of its main assets is that it shows band conditions in real time and, for a newbie on 60m, that's fun and interesting regardless of the mode. I also use WSJT-Z, mainly for its filtering and the 'Pounce' feature.

      HNY to you & family - 73,
      John

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  2. John, did you find a solution for the "calling CQ reply after worked station" in auto call mode? Regardless how I set the filter, it will reply again on a stations CQ after I worked it. 73, Bas

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    1. Hi Bas,

      Check the comment from SQ9FVE here:
      https://ae5x.blogspot.com/2019/08/using-bot-for-full-auto-ft8.html

      I honestly haven't tried since then so I don't know how effective his solution is. It sounds like you are already doing what he suggests. I emailed him a question a few weeks ago regarding another issue with WSJT-Z but no answer. It appears he is no longer developing -Z any further.

      73 - John

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    2. John, I read that comment of course. I do exactly what he suggests. Still that doesn't help. If the station does call CQ on the exact frequency you have your RX marker on it will reply to that CQ again. SQ9FVE might not answer his e-mail but he does answer questions via the WSJT-Z io group. 73, Bas

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