I have a backlog of contacts to which I owe cards. I’ll be dropping them in the mail soon.
I’ve really been enjoying PSK31 over the last couple weeks, even more so since I added a Signalink USB interface to the mix. My home-brew FT-857D Soundcard Cable was working, but I had two issues with it. First, was impossible to set the audio in such a way that the radio’s VOX triggered consistently while keeping the ALC level at zero. The best I could do was keep the ALC to a minimum. Second, I’m pretty sure I was getting some RFI in the computer.
While I had the parts available to trigger the radio’s transmitter via software, I didn’t have the necessary parts to deal with the RFI issue. Since the Signalink interface is so widely recommended, I went ahead and purchased one. So far, I’m very happy with it.
A note to fellow Mac users, I had to increase the receive audio level in the USB Signalink by closing jumper 2 on the board. Prior to doing that, the receive audio was too low, even with the RX level turned all the way up. The jumper instructions are in the Signalink manual, you might want to check your audio levels and/or go ahead and close the jumper when you have the case open if you are using a Mac.
To date, all of my radio contacts have been voice contacts, mostly SSB with a little bit of FM on 2 meters. I’m still amazed that a little Superantenna MP1 antenna clamped to the rail on my deck allows me any contacts at all. However, making voice contacts isn’t always easy here, so I decided to try a digital mode last week.
The connection from my Yaesu FT-857D to my Mac was straightforward, and the software was readily available. Plus, there is a lot of helpful information on the internet. I was able to fashion an interface cable out of spare parts, get everything connected and make a few PSK31 contacts in an evening.
The short story is that I’ve really enjoyed PSK31. It reminds me of the days when my friend Mike and I would call each other with our Commodore 64 modems and “chat”. Sure, the bandwidth was much less than if we had just used that same phone connection to talk, but it was fun. In the case of amateur radio, not only is it fun, but it allows for contacts that probably wouldn’t be possible with SSB voice.
If you’re interested in the longer story, including the resources I found helpful, keep reading.
Jezen documents his all DIY air variable capacitor, shown here as part of a DIY crystal shortwave receiver. The capacitor is made entirely from scrap with very common tools. This is a nice build of a not so easy to find part, and it’s well documented. Nice work!
Photo from Instructables
I fired up the radio last night to see if I could make any contacts. From what I could hear, 20 meters was fairly quiet. I heard a couple DX stations in Europe, and was hesitant to attempt an answer given my modest setup. But, you never know until you try, so try I did.
My first attempt was with SP5AUB in Poland, who had a very nice signal. I was absolutely floored when he returned my call. He even got my call sign right on the first go. That’s much better than my first contacts stateside. Either the conditions were better, or tuning up my antenna helped. While it’s probably a combination of both, I suspect he latter had the most impact.
I made two more contacts last night (Lithuania and Sweden) and one this evening (Croatia). These contacts have eased the frustration I had with HF earlier. I’m really excited now–so much so that I’m working on some QSL cards.