How I got interested
PSK31 has always been a interest of mine even before I got my foundation licence, at the start I didn’t know much about the mode or how to decode its signals luckily David G0BQX, who lives just over the back did and said pop over and find out which I did.
On arrival David demonstrated PSK31 to me and also a few other modes SSTV, Packet later on I left with a handful of software on CD-ROM for me to try out.
Since then I’ve always been hooked on the mode trying different software even making my own receive program.
Then in February 2002 I finally got my foundation amateur radio licence and getting active on psk31 was a priority.
The equipment I used at the start 2002, radio was an ICOM IC-718, MFJ ATU and at the start the antenna was a half size g5rv with inductors for 80m.
To start off with I took the easy option and decided to by a ready made interface which I did at the Pickets lock amateur radio rally in 2002 from Water & Stanton PLC, the interface itself was a Watson WMM3 not only did it do soundcard digital modes it has the added plus of doing packet using a built in baycom modem although it did cost me �60.
All I had to do with the interface as make the lead which goes in between the rig and the interface using the ACC socket on the back of the IC-718 and a 9pin serial plug at the other end. These bits plus the 6core cable cost me about �4.
This cable was made by my dad (m3jfm) when we first tired it we didn’t seem to get any audio from the lead so Ted (G3LPU) came around the following day and checked it out for me about 30mins later it was up and running and Ted made sure it was all running probably and the ALC wasn’t moving giving me a nice clean signal.
At first I used the Hamscope application this was a nice piece of software with all the functions you need plus the macros so you don’t have to type things like your station setup every qso.
First contact was made on the 25/03/2002 at 13:07 with DL3DS on 20m I was then later to work Ted again once he had arrived home at 15:47 then at 19:00 I made my first PSK31 contact into the states with AA4IX I then carried on working a few Europeans and also later on that day I had a few more contacts a cross the pond into the states.
Since then the equipment has changed a little bit the WMM3 Watson unit is now using on 2m for doing aprs, so again myself and dad (m3jfm) decided to buy another commercial made interface, this time it being on made by G4ZLP model ?Digi-master standard multi connect? this was very similar to the Watson interface it just didn’t have the packet modem inside it.
Also in 2005 after the wind damage which we suffered we had to also change the antenna system this was changed into dipoles for 3.5mhz to 24mhz.
Although the dipole for 80m has been folded back on itself and its in a inverted V formation and leg goes to the bottom of the garden and attaches to the railings which stop anyone from falling into the river cherwell.
This new changes have made a big difference more so the antennas as the dipoles far outperform the G5RV which was up before it.
As psk31 is a digital mode the software plays a big part in the setup so your going to need a pc in the shack for this mode! There is thousands of computer applications available for this mode and it doesn’t matter what operating system your using from Microsoft windows, Apples OSX to Linux there will be an application that you can use.
The computer which I run in the shack is a old Pentium 400mhz, 200mb of ram and a small 10gb hard drive as space doesn’t matter for me my main computer has 2x 160GB hard drives so I’ve got around 320GB of storage anyways.
The operating system which I run on this computer is Microsoft windows 2000 professional connected to a wired network which has internet available so if the application I use has access to the web cluster I can make good use of it thanks to the network which the pcs connect on to.
Applications I’ve used of my time playing with psk31 are hamscope and mixw, hamscope is a freeware program so its free to use and it also supports a few other modes like rtty, packet, msfk and some other bits and bobs.
I used this program to start off with as it was free and I liked the look of the graphical user interface of the application it had the main features macro buttons and the waterfall which is a must if you want to see and decode people on the bands!
I used hamscope for about a year then decided to change to MixW although this isn’t a free program you get a free 16 day trial to see if you like it. The main things about MixW are that it has a excellent user interface everything is in front of you from the decoding windows to the logging screen for keeping track of who you have worked.
MixW also has the added bonus it doesn’t only support PSK31 it supports about 15 other modes with TX/RX functionality. Also a notice able difference is that it seemed to be able to decode the weaker psk31 signals much better then hamscope but I supposes this is what you would expect to get from an software application that you had to pay for.
- Hamscope – http://www.qsl.net/hamscope/HamScope.html
- MixW – http://www.mixw.net
- DigiPan – http://www.digipan.net
- MMvari – http://mmhamsoft.ham-radio.ch/MMvari/
Summary of contacts
Since I started operating PSK31 I’ve made 700 qsos in the mode, and have worked exactly 80 DXCC’s, notable contacts being
- Canada on 40m
- Columbia on 20m
- Japan on 20m & 15m
- Mexico on 20m
- Panama on 15m
- Philippines on 15m
PSK31 to me has got to be to be one of the funist modes which are currently being used this is because you can work loads of stations not just inside Europe but also DX stations using very little power and small antenna systems.
You know also if band conditions are poor at the present time you could at least make a contact using PSK31 and if you don’t hear a station it doesn’t mean one isn’t there make sure you check with the software application as some stations cannot be heard using ears!