This FAQ is an attempt to answer some of the more common technical questions about HSCW - questions not covered in the general FAQ. However, this will not go deeply into any one method of generating HSCW, such as MS_DSP or CoolEdit, as they have their own sections, either on this or another Web site.
The shaping circuits prevent most modern transmitters from being keyed this way at speeds above 80-100 wpm (400-500 lpm) without the keying becoming very bad and even completely unreadable. While it is possible to modify many rigs so that they will transmit at higher speeds, the keying is then not usable for normal speed CW. This is why nearly everyone, both in North America and in Europe, uses an injected audio tone.
Usually. However, some modern rigs have a "data in" or "AFSK in" jack which may be more suitable. Check your rig's manual or try out both, if available.
This varies with what program or device is being used. More details can be found in other sections covering the specific programs or devices. But here is a summary.
MSDSP uses the Sound Blaster audio card to generate a tone. For the transmit-capable versions, a two-line stereo cable is plugged into the SB board's Line Out. This is because one channel is used for the transmit tone, while the other channel is used to simultaneously carry the playback audio. From the line going to the right channel, a shielded cable is run to the mike (or AFSK In) jack. But there should be a small capacitor in series with this line at the mike jack. This is to block any DC voltage that may be present the at the mike jack, to drop the level slightly, and to pass only the higher audio tones. The exact value will probably be small, several hundred pF, up to .01 uF. Use the smallest that gives approximately the same amount of audio to the mike jack as you get from your mike. This, like many other things, will have to be determined empirically ("cut and try"). (See the section on MSDSP for more information on MSDSP's transmit audio. An R-C shaping circuit should soon be on the N1BUG Web site).
Several programs have a keyed output on the RS-232 port (e.g., CWKey, PCKEY, or the keyer in MSSOFT. These require a simple transistor or opto-isolator as an interface between the computer and a separate audio oscillator. The output of the audio oscillator is then fed into the transmitter's mike input, again using a shielded cable and a series capacitor. Diagrams for some of these can be found on the N1BUG Web pages
K7CACW uses the computer's speaker output, which can be tapped.
A programmable keyer, such as the CMOS Super Keyer 3, simply keys a separate audio oscillator, which then feeds the mike jack. Note, however, that with at least the standard XR-2206 circuit, there MUST NOT be ANY capacitor across the output of the keyer or the input of the XR-2206 circuit. Anything more than a few pF will cause all of the elements to completely run together. (See the circuit section of the N1BUG Web site for more, as well as for several other usable oscillator circuits).
Probably. But most HSCW operators who use this keyer put the audio oscillator into the same box. The capacitor across the output of the keyer (C1, a 0.01 uF, across the C & E of Q2) is removed. Since it makes good sense to also be able to use this very versatile keyer for regular CW, they put a switch on the front panel of the keyer to switch the output of the keyer between the audio oscillator and a jack on the back panel. You can then put a capacitor across this jack, since it is switched out of the circuit when the audio oscillator is being used. This arrangement has worked fine for use with 1.5 kW finals on 144 MHz.
When you slow MSDSP's transmissions down to 20 wpm and play them
through a speaker, there are some pops. This is because of the way the tone
is being generated and the timing involved (this is especially true of
V. 0.51). Using the small cap in series with the audio line will
remove much of the low-frequency component (and the 60 Hz hum that may be
present). The pops generated by the computer are primarily high frequency,
and are filtered out by the circuits in the rig itself. (In actual use,
this program is not run at 20 wpm, but rather at a much higher speed.
An injection tone of 2000 Hz also helps keep the unwanted components in the
range where they will most easily be filtered out). Also, be sure that the
audio compressor is turned OFF to cut down any white noise from the audio
board or any other extraneous signal on the audio line.
The newest version, V. 0.70, uses a different method of generating
the tones. The "pops" are not as strong, but there is some distortion.
Again, this is caused by the method of generating the tones. The distortion
becomes less as the SampleRate (in the .INI file) is
increased. Use 44100 if your computer will allow it.
If not, use 22050. The higher the SampleRate, the less the
distortion you will have on both transmit and receive. While this
distortion is obvious when a steady tone is transmitted, at HSCW speeds the
distortion is covered by the very high speed of the transmissions.
(The same is also true on receive. If you record a tone or voice and then
play it back at normal speed, the distortion is apparent. But you will not
hear it at all when slowing down a HSCW signal).
For more, see the separate "Tips" on MSDSP.
When you slow MSDSP's transmissions down to 20 wpm and play them through a speaker, they are some pops. This is because of the way the tone is being generated and the timing involved. Using the small cap in series with the audio line will remove most of the low-frequency component (and the 60 Hz hum that may be present). The pops generated by the computer are primarily high-frequency, and are filtered out by the circuits in the rig itself. (In actual use, this program is not run at 20 wpm, but rather at a much higher speed. An injection tone of 2000 Hz also helps keep the unwanted components in the range where they will most easily be filtered out). Also, be sure that the audio compressor is turned OFF to cut down any white noise from the audio board or any other extraneous signal on the audio line. For more, see the separate technical notes on MSDSP. NOTE - After this had been typed (01/98), 9A4GL announced that he was working on an upgraded DOS version (V 0.6), which generates the audio d ifferently. See the 9A4GL Web Site for updates on this, as it is expected to be released in February 1998.
Set it up as you would for USB operation, but turn the Speech Processor OFF.
But first, some checks and adjustments must be made.
Put the rig into CW mode, close the key, take meter readings.
Put the rig into USB mode, hook up the computer's audio line, set the HSCW program to send a Test signal (TEST DE YOURCALL) at 4000-5000 lpm, 2000 Hz tone. Adjust the input to the mike jack (using the DOS MIXERSET or equivalent, and changing the value of the series cap if necessary) so that the audio level is about the same as when you use a mike. Your Power Out and similar meters should read approximately 40%-50% of the key-down CW reading. This should give you basic settings, from which final adjustments can be made, if necessary. (Note that this nearly 50% duty cycle may put too much of a strain on your rig, and many cannot be run this hard without danger of damage. You may have to reduce power somewhat. See your rig's manual for more).
If you plan to run at the higher HSCW speeds, you will need to inject a tone higher than 2000 Hz. Set up as before, transmit a test signal, preferably at the higher speed. While transmitting, slowly increase the injected tone (with MSDSP, click the left mouse button one click at a time. If you hold the button down, the speed doesn't change until you let up on the button). Note the frequency at which the power begins to decrease slightly. Depending upon the filter in your particular radio, this will probably be between 2400-2800 Hz. The highest tone that you can safely run is just below the frequency at which the power drops off, probably about 2500 Hz.
2000 Hz is a good tone to use for most HSCW operation, and it's a simple, round number for figuring your transmit frequency. However, if you are planning to run faster than about 6000 lpm, you must increase your injected tone frequency. The reason is that at the higher speeds, it is possible for your dots to become shorter than one cycle of the injected tone frequency! This is why several of the stations who are doing the most experimenting with HSCW are now using 2400 or 2500 Hz as their standard tone frequency. (This is another reason they prefer the Zero Beat method of stating frequencies).
For any speeds above about 5000 lpm, make sure both stations know the approximate speed that is to be used. It has been found that if you try to decode HSCW and you are set up very much too fast or too slow, not only will not be able to copy the code, you will not even be able to tell whether they are sending much faster or much slower than you are trying to receive!
Hook a shielded line from an audio output of the receiver and feed it to the input of the Sound Blaster board. You can use the speaker or headphones output, or a separate audio output, depending upon your rig and your preferences. Since you will be working primarily with tones in the 1500-2500 Hz range, you may want a small series capacitor in this line, also. You may need some bypassing, ferrite beads, etc., for keeping your transmitter's signal out of the audio board. Also, the power supplies of high-power amplifiers have been known to put a considerable 60-Hz hum on this line. The series cap will help with this; but also consider where your cables run and where your amp's power supply is located, if you're using a tube-type amplifier.
Most computers use an external audio amplifier and speaker. Most operators put a stereo jack in the amplifier/speaker enclosure to disable the speakers and drive a pair of headphones. (K6STI says that you need a 100-Ohm resistor in the lead to each of the pair of earphones). The $3.00 lightweight phones sold in any drugstore for use with a portable "Walkman"-type unit have been found to be good for HSCW. They do need to have a good frequency response, for you're dealing with both low and high pitches. And don't forget that the headphone cable can be a major source of RF pickup, which will tend to mess up your audio amplifier if you're running high power and are using MSDSP for transmitting and playback at the same time.
The formula given for the bandwidth of a standard CW signal, Bn=B*K, is based on make-break ICW, the on-off keying of a carrier, with the leading and trailing edge of the individual characters shaped by the keying circuits, the bias of the following stages, etc. Thus the formula is usable at the lowest HSCW speeds when make-break keying is used.
But today nearly all HSCW is done by keying an injected audio tone. This means that if the transmitter is set up properly (i.e., processor off, nothing overdriven, a proper tone frequency, etc.), the keying is not shaped by keying circuit components or adjustments of the transmitter. Rather, the shape of the rise and fall of the individual characters closely approximates the shape of the injected sine wave audio tone. Thus, the above formula does not apply for tone-injection HSCW operation.
This is the reason that even the very-high-speed HSCW will fit in the passband of a standard SSB filter. Of course, misadjusted or overdriven audio or RF stages may cause spurious signals outside of the intended range. But it has proved to be quite easy to generate a good-quality HSCW signal by tone injection within the approximate bandwidth of a standard SSB filter.
HSCW is definitely a weak-signal mode. But the bandwidth is much wider than the optimum for EME work. At this time, the use of an audio filter is controversial, as not enough tests have been run to produce any agreement on this question. You will have to experiment with this yourself.
You need to receive in the USB position of the receiver, using a 2.4 kHz or so filter. Several feel that putting a DSP audio filter, in bandpass position, between the receiver and the computer does not help and probably makes copy more difficult; others disagree. When the signal has been slowed down and heterodyned to a more comfortable level, it appears that this is where the audio filter would really help. Some have found that it does improve the S/N ratio, others have not seen much difference. All agree, however, that it is tricky to get the filter's frequency and width set just right. At this time (01/98), this is a matter that is still being tested. But since everybody's "between-the-ears filter" is somewhat different, your results may not be the same as others. Try it, and please let us know your results.
For a start - put it in USB, AGC to Fast or OFF, Squelch open, Audio Gain about normal, USB filter, RIT to zero (or maybe +0.5 kHz), Pre-amp on, IF Shift rotated to near the maximum for giving a high pitched no-signal white noise from the speaker, Main Tuning 2 kHz below the ZeroBeat frequency of the schedule (more on this under the "Procedures" paper). Some rigs handle HSCW fine with the Noise Blanker on, some cannot receive HSCW at all unless it is turned off. These are general settings. You will have to experiment to see what is best for your equipment, especially the NB and AGC. You MUST experiment and learn the characteristics of your receiver. What works well for someone else on their receiver may not be usable at all on yours.
You need for the received pitch to be as high as you and your equipment can handle. The amount you slow down the keying is also the amount that you will reduce the pitch of the tone. It is quite difficult to copy a tone below about 200 Hz. MSDSP allows you to heterodyne it higher in pitch, but with a loss of intelligibility. SBMS does not have the heterodyne function. Either way, if you are running at low or medium speed HSCW and can receive at a high pitch, then you should still be able to copy the slowed-down low pitch tone. A received tone between 1500-2200 Hz seems optimum for most rigs and operators. Again, you will have to find out what best suits your rig and hearing.
This has to do with the difference in transmit speeds, and (probably) the fact that modern rigs operated in CW mode usually offset the signal by about 800 Hz.
The higher the speed, the higher the tone needs to be. An even higher tone, such as 2500 Hz, may be better (so long as it passes easily through the rig's filters). At the lower tones and higher speeds, it is possible that a dot will be shorter than one cycle at the tone frequency! There is nothing "magic" or even necessary about 2000 Hz. It needs to be high, but low enough to pass through the transmitter's circuits. And having it an even 2 kHz simply makes it easier to figure the dial reading offset. 1000 Hz has proved to be OK up to 4000 lpm. Nearly all North American HSCW operators use tone injection and run most schedules at 4000-6000 lpm, so an injection tone of 2000 Hz has simply become the standard. And as noted above, it is necessary to use the highest tone possible when operating at speeds above 6000 Hz or so.
If your rig is capable of working SSB or CW MS, aurora, or tropo, it is probably capable of HSCW MS. So even a simple SSB rig should be usable. There are several additional "bells and whistles" that are especially useful for HSCW. For the receiver, the most important would be an IF Shift Control, a RIT with a range of +/- 5 kHz or more, and for calling CQ a 2nd VFO or 2nd receiver can be a big help.
For the transmitter, the more power the better. Unlike other modes, doubling the power on HSCW seems to give a 1.4-times increase in the * number* of underdense pings (while the number of overdense bursts stays relatively constant, the signal simply being stronger). This is another reason why smaller 144 MHz SSB stations have tended to operate primarily during the peaks of showers, trying to catch the overdense bursts, where they have a much better chance of completing. An amplifier in the 150-watt range is adequate for much HSCW operation, tho more power, of course, is better. But if you don't have an amp, try it anyway. HSCW contacts have been made with as little as 5 watts!
On VHF, the antenna system is usually the most important piece of equipment. For MS work it does not have to be large - in fact, an array large enough for EME operation is really TOO sharp for optimum MS work. You need gain, but not at the expense of having a very sharp front lobe. The old-timers swore by the 16- and 32-element collinears or a quad array of 5- to 10-element Yagis. These are still hard to beat for MS! A single medium-size Yagi (Ca. 14 elements) is a good "modern" choice.
There are three caveats that must be made here, however. The first is to use an efficient Yagi design. Do NOT be misled by "gain" figures as published in some ads and catalogs. (Catch an old-time VHF Dxer and get them to tell you about the major name-brand Long John Yagi that worked better and better as you took off the directors). Many of the antenna companies, of all sizes, play the "Gainsmanship Game", as it has been called, trying to lure the less-knowledgeable operator to buy their products. So as not to recommend specific brands, if you are buying an antenna (for 2 meters) larger than 10 elements, be sure to get one that is advertised for the LOW end of the band, rather than for FM work. The gains on these tend to be more honest, for the operators who usually purchase these (especially the large ones) already know their capabilities and will shun those with inflated gain figures. Second, get it just as high as possible. Then put it 10 feet (3 M) higher! A high 7-element Yagi will outperform a low huge Yagi array on MS! And you need this height for everything except EME. So, before you plan a new installation, consider making it yet a little higher! And third, use good feedline. Height means distance from the rig. For a low Yagi, Belden 8214 foam coax is OK. But this really is a weak-signal mode. Consider one of the even better types of coax for longer runs. (Cable TV coax is often available, in throw-away tails. You make a 50-to-75-Ohm transformer, and these can also be purchased ready-made. Or you can make the run a multiple of a half-wavelength. See the N1BUG Web site for more). And if you have a really long run, consider a mast-mounted preamp. However, do NOT install this until you know what you're doing, or you will fry the preamp. This requires an extra run of coax AND a sequencer, which we can't go into here. (All EME operators use this).
And one more note. While you can't operate HSCW without a method of generating it and slowing it down, don't forget the one absolutely vital piece - the OPERATOR. A good operator, who has had the patience to teach himself what to do and who has practiced it, can work stations that others can't even hear! Ultimately, the "nut behind the wheel" is the final bit in the equation of how well a rig will work!
Because on HSCW, the duty cycle is nearly 50%. On SSB, a trained announcer's voice will produce a similar duty cycle. But for the average voice, it's more like 20%-30%. So if you have been trying to squeeze that last watt out on SSB, you may have to back off or add supplementary cooling for HSCW. Check your rig's manual to see how much power it can handle
At this time, all of them require a '386 or better (the faster the better,
of course, but a '486 seems to be adequate for all but CoolEdit which really
needs a Pentium for on-air use), VGA monitor, and the usual items. Most
important for HSCW, and for all the other programs that are of the "DSP"
variety, is a true Creative Labs Sound Blaster audio card. An SB
clone will often NOT work. This is because all of these HSCW and the
other DSP programs (FFTDSP, DSP Blaster, etc.) use the SB audio board
for much of the actual processing. (A late note - the ESS Technologies 1888
chip set also seems to work well. No more details are available at this time).
These are all DOS programs; and while some will run in a
full-screen DOS window under Windows, some will not.
It has been noted that several of the Windows wave file audio programs
allow a "stretch" function of up to ten times. While not recommended for
serious HSCW operation, this would at least allow receiving of signals of
up to about 1000-1500 lpm. See the K0SM Web site for more ideas.
For more on MSDSP, see the MSDSP section on this Web site.
The older, non-Plug and Play cards are not very expensive, but hard to find. The new Wave Table cards are expensive and add nothing for these (radio) uses. Remember that not only these HSCW programs, but many others widely used by Amateur Radio Operators for EME, SETI, audio filtering, etc all require the Creative Labs Sound Blaster card. It primarily depends upon your interests.
Answer: Any and all that will run on your computer! First, check the various Web sites. By the time you read this, it may be greatly out of date and several other versions or even completely new programs may be available. So check the links to the various Web sites to see what is new. But here is a summary as of 01/98.
SBMS, by DL3JIN. This is a receive-only program that requires a true Sound Blaster board. (However, it has been known to run under at least one clone. So it should be tried if MSDSP will not work). It is simple to use, but a powerful program and is the one that started HSCW work in North America. It runs under DOS or Windows 3.1x. It is freeware but copyrighted (so that you can't sell it for a profit). More on setting it up below.
MS_DSP (or MSDSP), available from the 9A4GL Web page, the W6/PA0ZN Web page, and other places, is currently the main program in use in North America and is becoming popular in Europe. Shareware. The later versions both receive and transmit, require the true Sound Blaster board (some clones will work partially, though few work properly), run under DOS, work very well for most. If you have problems with the latest version, try older version 0.51, as it uses different methods of generating the transmit code. Also, check on V. 0.34, a receive-only program that runs more easily. Note, too, that 9A4GL plans to have a W95/NT-only version out late in 1998 or 1999. Watch his Web site or the HSCW reflector for more. (An entire section on MSDSP is found on the W6/PA0ZN Web site. The program itself, the MSDSP Manual, and Operating Tips are available there, plus yet other helps).
Cool Edit, a shareware WAV file editing program, from Syntrillium Software, was never designed for this purpose. It is a powerful audio wave file editing program. But, with practice, it can be used for both transmitting and receiving HSCW. In fact, it was discovered by two European operators who could not work CW but wanted to operate HSCW MS! They used this program to read it off the screen. For a full tutorial of this program, see K0SM's Web site. (There may be other, similar wave-file editors that would also work. If you have one, try it). CoolEdit is slow to use and inflexible compared with the other programs, and the version for Windows 95 is the only one capable of being used for on-air operation. But even the version for Windows 3.1x is a powerful tool for analyzing HSCW wave files.
MSSOFT, by OH5IY. This is a multi-featured MS program, capable of predicting shower peaks, showing the best effectivity for most showers, and with the ZHR histories of many. It also has a scheduling and transmit portion, which has been in use in Europe for a number of years. (It does not have a receive section). The transmit portion uses the RS-232 output. It's documentation is worth reading, even without using the program.
K7CACW. This is a relatively new transmit-only program by K7CA. Originally designed for EME and similar work, recently modified for HSCW. In its current version, V. 2.2, it has a maximum speed of 2000 lpm. It sends its audio to the PC speaker, which is then tapped off for the transmitter. It is freeware, available at one of the Web sites.
PCKEY is a simple transmit-only program that runs under DOS or a DOS window of W3.1. It's documentation is not in English, but the help screen is. It has some very interesting features, including being able to use a set of paddles with it. Its keying is via the com port. If MSDSP cannot be used, this one should be checked out for transmitting. It should be available on the KD5BUR Web site.
CWKey, by W5UN, is used by many EME operators. The current version goes up to only about 90 wpm, but W5UN has promised to increase its capabilities to HSCW speeds. Its keying is via the com port. See his Web site for more.
KB0VUK is attempting to translate the data on a French program. See his Web page for further.
There probably are more MS and/or transmit/receive programs available. If not, no doubt there soon will be. Most of the above, except OH5IY's multi-feature program, are small and don't take up a lot of hard drive space. (Unless you use MSDSP or CoolEdit and save a lot of WAV files, that is).
There probably are several more MSDSP transmit programs available. If not, no doubt there soon will be. Check the Web sites for further notes and links. (A listing of these and other Web sites can be found on nearly all of the HSCW Web sites).
Two possibilities. The first is that you do not have a Sound Blaster audio board.
A second problem that many have run into is this program's need of a virtual ramdisk. This is not really a problem, but it is not adequately explained in the program's instructions. So you have two choices. If you already have a ramdisk set up, use it. Edit the second line of the SBMS.INI file to point to it. (For more on ramdisks and the commands necessary to create one, see your DOS manual).
Many have found that there is a better method. You simply set up a directory named RMDSK, and the program will use this in place of a ramdisk. (It takes up almost no hard drive space, for anything in it is erased when the program is terminated). To do this, first change to the root directory of your hard drive (probably C:\). Then, using the MKDIR command, make a new directory there named RMDSK. This directory will function as a "simulated" ramdisk. (On slower computers it may cause some hesitations in playback, but has worked satisfactorily for most). Then edit SBMS.INI as follows: On line 1, put the correct path to the program. Line two should read C:\RMDSK\. If it does not, change it as necessary (or change it to reflect where your "simulated" ramdisk directory is located). SBMS should now run. You will also need to edit the line to give the proper delay for your reaction time, and the line for slowing down the received material to the correct speed. But these can be changed later.
No! Not if you are willing to spend a little time in the workshop. HSMS was popular in Europe for many years before computers were in any ham shack. The use of high speed keyers like the CMOS Super Keyer 3 is discussed below. For receiving, an ordinary (and inexpensive) cassette tape recorder can be modified to record the CW at high speed and play it back at a slower speed. The exact modifications and operating procedures vary from unit to unit, and it is not possible to give exact details here. See N1BUG's Web site for further information. The basic technique is to add a motor speed control, which can be as simple as half a dozen components. The motor is then run as fast as possible while recording, and slowed down to play back the HSCW at slow speed. The speed reduction possible varies from unit to unit and depends also on the motor speed control methods employed. However, you should be able to handle 1200 LPM, and some machines will handle 2000 LPM and beyond. These speeds may be somewhat slower than typical for North American skeds. Don't worry. Other operators will run with you at these speeds. Not having a computer is no reason to give up the idea of working HSMS!
It is believed that several can be modified to run at lower HSCW speeds, but no information is currently available on any of then, nor any easy way to calibrate the speed control. If you have a good one, it might be well to contact the company for information. Unfortunately, they most likely will not have any idea what you are talking about! (The MFJ keyers cannot be modified, according to their technicians).
The one keyer known to work well is the CMOS Super Keyer 3, described in QST for August 1995. (Kits are still available from Idiom Press, Box 1025, Geyserville, CA 95441 for $55 + $3 S&H US [$5 S&H surface foreign]). It is capable of 4950 lpm and must drive a separate audio oscillator for HSCW (see previous questions on that). It is not as convenient to program in real time as MSDSP, but is much easier than CoolEdit. Also, it is an excellent general-purpose programmable keyer with up to 18 memories available in 3 banks. See the QST article for more.
Because of its cost and the fact that it was designed for European style HSCW, none are in use over here yet, although several operators have been considering a purchase. The Europeans say that it is great. However, its speeds, tones, and filters seem to be designed for European HSCW, in the 1000-3000 lpm range. Since most of the experienced North American operators are running skeds at 4000-6000 lpm, it may require a firmware upgrade before it is really suitable for use over here at the higher speeds. But until one or more have actually been tried, nothing more can be stated at this time. Obviously, everyone is anxiously awaiting an actual hands-on test report when used under North American speeds and procedures! More information and technical data can be found on the W6/PA0ZN Web site.
Sure. After the usual playing with the functions and some practice, do this for easier HSCW operation. Make a little card showing the /U codes for the various HSCW speeds (1000 lpm - /U20, 4000 lpm - /U80, etc.). Then put a piece of masking tape or a slip of paper in front of the 6 memory buttons for labels. (For HSCW, here's mine - #1, calls. #2, calls, report. #3, R, report. #4, RRR. #5, 73. #6, open). Also, on your sked sheet, put the Bank (and, if different, the memories) to use for each station. Since you can't tell for sure what you are sending, you *must* use some memory aids for this or any similar memory keyer. Even so, you will occasionally find yourself sending the wrong data, for we ALL have done this. Use all 3 banks, one bank for each sked. Or, if you are running several skeds at the same speed, memories #4 & #5 would be the same, so you could have even more skeds set up ahead of time. #3, the report, can probably be set up ahead of time. Unless it is near the peak of a shower, the chances are that your report will be "26". You can pre-load this, changing it if necessary.
Since the keyer is programmed via the paddles, and since you are going to have to put a function code at the beginning and end of each message, there are two possible ways to set up the first two memory positions:
Method 1 - In memory #1, put /Uxx (xx = the HSCW speed code), his call, your call, /1 (to repeat memory #1). In memory #2 put /Uxx, his call, your call, report, /2. This is the simplest. But then you may have to reprogram it if you get a major burst very early in the sked and the report already loaded is not correct. (Depending upon what he is sending, it equally well may be memory #3 that has to be reloaded).
Method 2 - In memory #1, put /Uxx (speed), his call, your call, /2 (to go to memory #2). In memory #2 put ONLY /1 (to go back immediately to memory #1). If you need to send calls and report, reprogram memory #2 with /Uxx, report, report, /1 (to go back to memory #1).
Any of these two (actually, 3) methods work equally well, but all take a number of seconds to program. It's a matter of personal preference, the number of skeds and how close they are together, whether you can make a good guess of the report you will send to him, etc.
ility of perhaps +/- 100 Hz is more than adequate for HSCW. More important is whether or not it generates good sine waves, AND how well it will key. (Some audio oscillator circuits are stable and clean enough, but only after they have run for a cycle or two. When you try to key them - well, you wouldn't believe what I've seen on a scope! So you MUST check it out).
It sure does for me! I have a strip of paper reminding me what the first 6 number keys transmit. That way I don't have to look at the screen to remind me. HSCW operation can move fast if you get many pings!
This can be difficult. But it is necessary, for several stations have found that their keying was completely unreadable when they first tired to transmit.
If you have a separate receiver, separate computer, and oscilloscope, it should be rather easy.
Lacking all that, but having a separate receiver, there are several tests you can make. Transmit (into a dummy load) and record a snatch of your signal onto audio tape. A simple hand-held audio cassette recorder is adequate. Re-cable and play the output of the recorder into the computer using one of the HSCW receiving programs. Slow it down, play it back, and listen carefully. But it has been found that the ear can copy code which really is not keying well. So record a snatch of this playback and look at using CoolEdit, Wave Studio, or other audio wave program. Select several characters and zoom in. Zoom in and out, looking at the beginning and ending of each dot and dash, and, if using an outboard audio oscillator, see if the space between elements is very close to being the same as the length of a dot. Do this with several different speeds, especially the higher ones.
If you do not have a separate receiver, about all that you can check is the keying from your keyer or computer. Again (if using a computer), use a tape recorder to record the tones directly from the speaker.
If there is another Amateur not too far away with an all-mode rig, ask him to record a little bit and play it back, perhaps on FM, over the telephone, or send you a short wave file over the Internet. Then "receive" this and study it.
Once you have the obvious problems solved, try to run an "easy" sked with another HSCW operator. Request him to send you a wave file of at least one strong ping on you, then load this into your two programs and study them.
Occasionally check the quality of your signals! You may have developed excessive hum or other problems as cables have been moved, etc.
If you hear a problem on another HSCW signal, try to save a wave file of it and send it to him, along with a description of what you heard. Remember, other operators also have no method of knowing that problems may have developed! (Note in the "Procedures" that the "U" signal means "Ur keying is defective". Once you have seen the difficulty of properly checking your own signals, you will appreciate having this signal in your arsenal of HSCW techniques).
You probably do. Record a snatch of a high-speed ping or your own high-speed HSCW signal into a playback buffer, then play it back at many different speeds. (Practice pings and pings of various speeds are also available as wave files on several of the Web sites). You may find that there are certain speed ranges where the slowed-down speed seems to be very much different than what it should be, and the keying is gibberish. But when you get the speed into the correct range, it suddenly becomes readable. You must slow it down the proper amount - neither too fast nor too slow.
In the morning hours, around 0600 local time, that part of the earth is
facing the same direction as the direction of travel of the earth in its
orbit around the sun. Thus, not only are meteors swept up which are
heading toward the earth, but the movement of the earth around the sun
allows it to catch up with some of the slower meteors and pull them in,
On the evening side (facing away from the direction of the earth's orbit), the only meteors reaching the earth are those which can overtake it.
The best time for visual observing is considered to be between 2 and 4 am local time. This is because during the season when the sporadics are at their peak (summer), the sky brightness is increasing after 4 am.
It must be remembered, however, that many or probably most "sporadic" meteors are actually the remains of long-gone showers. Thus, on a given day, there could be meteors 5 or 6 of these "extinct" showers hitting the atmosphere, causing an enhancement at an unexpected time.
There is a considerable seasonal variation of sporadics, also, with February being the low month and July being the highest. (KB0VUK has graphs of this on his Web page, I believe). Take a look at the number of major and minor showers in the June-September period and the reason for this will be obvious.
There are also several other factors that influence the number of sporadics, and also the ratio of morning to evening. But these are not that important.
The best reference for MS operation is still the second article by W4LTU, reprinted in "Beyond Line of Sight" (ARRL). This is NECESSARY reading for anyone thinking of MS operation.
Yes, HSCW is possible any time. But there are 4 to 6 times the average number of sporadics at 6 a.m. local time than at 6 p.m. But on a good path, evening operation is quite possible. (On a difficult path, unless there's a shower peak, I wouldn't try evenings. Just not enough sporadics).
In general, the direct path is used. There are, however, some special circumstances which would make it desirable to offset the antenna from the direct path. This may be because of the position of the meteor shower's radiant (and thus, the angle of the arriving meteors) at the time of the sked. Or, because the other station is less than about 500 miles from you, or there is a major obstruction in the way of the direct path. Yet another reason is when a really big antenna array (EME-size) is used, which would have a very narrow front lobe. (In theory, there is a "dead" spot of a few degrees wide in the exact direction of the other station at the optimum sked time). Since the ionization of the typical trail is about the height of the E layer, it is difficult to work stations closer than 500-600 miles without using side scatter (that is, each station aiming their antennas at a common area of space about 400 miles distance from each).
This subject is too large to cover further in this FAQ. This might be addressed at greater length if we ever get a major work on MS itself ready for the Web pages (which is doubtful, since a number of very good articles have already been printed). The most important article is the second one by W4LTU, published in QST for May 1974, and reprinted in "Beyond Line of Sight", available from the ARRL. It is strongly recommended that this article, the one by W9IP, and the one by W1JR be studied. By the way - the original article by W4LTU, published in the April, 1957, QST, has some fascinating material that has been overlooked in recent years.
Probably, if you can do so. The exact amount depends upon the distance of the other station and the amount of offset in azimuth you are using. Only the first can be covered here.
For a direct heading, the approximate elevations and distances are:
400 miles, 15 degrees elevation. 600 miles, 10 degrees elevation. 800 miles, 5 degrees elevation. 1000 miles or beyond, 0 degrees elevation.
When running many daily skeds from central KY to central FL with large antennas on each end, a very definite peak was found at about 7 degrees elevation. Above 10 degrees or below 5 degrees, the number of pings dropped off considerably. (Offsets in azimuth were less definite). On daily skeds from central KY to FN42, there seems to be a peak at about 5 degrees; but it is less definite than the peak on the FL skeds, possibly because of the difference in local terrain in the two different directions.
For more information on the elevation for various offsets in azimuth, see the W4LTU article and the OH5IY MSSOFT program.
The exact answer depends upon what you mean by your question. An overdense burn requires a larger meteor, produces a much more densely ionized trail, and produces a much stronger, specular reflection than an underdense burn.
More specifically, "Underdense trails are those wherein the electron density is low enough so that the incident wave passes through the trail and the trail can be considered as an array of independent scatterers. Overdense trails are those wherein the electron density is high enough to prevent complete penetration of the incident wave and to cause reflection of waves in the same sense that the ordinary ionospheric reflections occur. A rough sorting of trails into these two categories can be done on the basis of trail lifetime or duration." (Ionospheric Radio Propagation, U. S. Department of Commerce Monograph 80, 1965, p. 356). Cf. The W4LTU article, above.
Speed, speed, speed. For a small fraction of a second, an underdense "ping" may produce a signal which has been reflected from the very head of the trail (where the ionization is most dense) that is quite strong. These are many, many, times more frequent than overdense bursts, except near the peak of a shower. Since SSB requires a ping nearly 1 second long to propagate even a small amount of useful data but HSCW can move a large amount of data in only a fraction of a second, and since there are usually hundreds (thousands?) of fractional-second underdense pings for every overdense burst, HSCW is set up to use these very short pings instead of waiting and hoping to catch that once-per-day "blue whizzer".
Nope. Like everything else, there is a trade-off. HSCW is far better than SSB most of the time; that is, during non-shower periods. But near the peak of a major shower, SSB may be more effective. This is because during a shower peak, there usually are more overdense bursts of 5 seconds or more, allowing SSB to sometimes complete an entire QSO exchange during one overdense burst. HSCW is not a "break-in" mode, and, in fact, HSCW operators find long overdense bursts to be exciting but unnecessary and even a nuisance!
Here are some more references on meteor scatter, as contributed by a number of people. They are by NO means complete. But start with the ones by W4LTU, W9IP, and W1JR (below):
Many issues of the old VHF Horizons magazines.
A number of the VHF columns in QST and CQ magazines.
J. Reisert, W1JR has an article on MS with a good reference list in Ham Radio, June 1984.
Handbook of Visual Meteor Observations, the International Meteor Organization.
Ionospheric Radio Propagation, published by the National Bureau of Standards, 1965.
Diurnal variations in forward-scattered meteor signals, C.O.Hines, Journ. of Atmospheric and Terrestrial Physics, 1956, vol. 9, pp. 229-232
Proceedings of the IRE, December 1957, p. 1642-1743. This is 100 pages on MS! The old bible on MS and highly recommended for the MS operator, if you can locate it.
Radio Propagation by Reflection from Meteor Trails, George R. Sugar, Proceedings of the IEEE, February 1961, p. 116-136.
AGARD Conference Proceedings No. 382, NATO 1985-86: Propagation Effects on Military Systems in the High Latitude Region: Paper 9.1 and 9.2 on Meteor Burst Communications.
AGARD Conference Proceedings No. 419, NATO 1988: Scattering and Propagation in Random Media: Paper 44.1
AGARD Conference Proceedings No. 486, ISBN 92-835-0601-4
AGARD Conference Proceedings No. 244, 1978, ISBN 92-835-0219-1
(Hughes Aircraft Co. did research meteor scatter around 1957-61. They have built a 2x3 stack of 8 el yagis for 50 MHz, 48 elements! Quite impressive picture of this monster in above references. Guess some hams can tell their experience 40 years ago).