WD8KVD, Valerie Brady, who had not had a CW QSO since making perhaps a half-dozen while a Novice about 18 years ago, completed a HSCW QSO at 8600 lpm (1720 wpm) on a schedule with KO0U during the Christmas holidays.

Val had never been interested in CW, but had managed to pass the 13 wpm test for her General Class license nearly two decades ago. She had always been very active, but only on 2-meter FM in emergency and public service work. (There was plenty of this in Mid-Michigan for the Genesee County Amateur Radio Emergency Service, Inc., with an average of 40 activations per year). But her copying of CW had been limited to identifying a repeater when traveling, as she simply had no interest in that mode of operation. But when she visited her father, W8WN, in EM77 for the Christmas holidays and heard the playback of saved WAV files from HSCW schedules, she found the mode to be interesting. She also discovered that she could still copy the code, at least to some extent.

W8WN then challenged her to take over his daily 15-minute HSCW sked with KO0U/1, FM42, and become the first YL in North America to make a HSCW QSO. She didn't think she could handle it. But after 15 minutes of playing with MSDSP, she found that she not only could handle the program but could also copy short meteor-scatter-type sequences at 15-20 wpm. So she agreed to try it if KO0U was willing.

Steve, KO0U, jumped at the chance. So the next day, 24 December, WD8KVD took over the morning 15-minute sked. But nil! Not a ping! Had Steve's alarm clock failed or had the big snow storm up there shut down his power? Finally, 3 minutes after the normal end of the sked, a good ping was received. It took another 20 minutes, plus an additional 5 minutes of "73" and "TNX" for final confirmation, and the 5000 lpm HSCW contact was complete. (KO0U was late because of a large build-up of snow on his antenna which had to be shaken off before the transmitter would load properly).

Val was happy and surprised that it was so easy. No, the OM didn't copy the CW for her. She copied her own code and also handled all the transmit functions herself. W8WN did copy along, wearing a second set of headphones. It was observed, comparing notes on what had been received on the pings, that each copied best during slightly different portions of the ping. W8WN, with more experience on CW, sometimes copied a little more. But at the beginning and end of a ping, as the signal was in the noise, WD8KVD often copied another letter or two. Even though W8WN thought his hearing had deteriorated very little (which would be a surprise, after 40 years of digging for VHF DX signals), Val's younger ears were slightly better at pulling the signal out of the noise.

Finding it that easy, but with a late start to the sked, Val and Steve were anxious to run again two days later. Again, at 5000 lpm, the HSCW QSO was complete in just over 15 minutes. And again, it was easy, in spite of very weak signals this time. So then the big challenge was thrown out - why not break, or at least tie, the world record for HSCW speed? (The record, so far as is known, was held by W8WN and KO0U, at 8500 lpm, the fastest that MSDSP will transmit). Val listened to some WAV files of 8500 lpm pings saved during that W8WN/KO0U contact. Even slowed down -60x, the maximum possible using MSDSP, the playback speed was still almost 30 wpm. This is rather fast for a Ham who does not work CW! But after a few minutes, letters started coming through. "Sure," she said. "Why not!" So the next day, 27 December 1997 (which happened to be the birthday of WD8LPN, Val's mother), a schedule was attempted with KO0U. Steve was transmitting at 8500 lpm. In order to squeeze the last bit of speed out of MSDSP, all spaces were removed from all sequences for transmitting by WD8KVD, making her transmit speed approximately 8600 lpm.

There were lots of pings that day, but the increase in speed also reduced the S/N ratio and made them much more difficult to copy by all operators. Complete calls were copied by Val on the very first receive period, but it took another 10 minutes before a report was received. Once again, in about 17 minutes, the QSO was complete and "73" and "TNX VAL CUL" exchanged. The 8600/8500 lpm QSO was over. The record for the highest known HSCW QSO speed in the world was now held by WD8KVD and KO0U - and WD8KVD was neither a CW nor a VHF DX operator! And she did not find it difficult to do.

When it was pointed out that it was a surprise that she could handle all of it so easily when some male-type operators were having major problems with CW at any speed, her reply was something to the effect of "What did you expect? I'm a girl! Of course it was easy!" (These may not have been her exact words, for W8WN's ears became slightly clogged by the steam rising out of them). And to set the records straight, all those involved see nothing special about running at that speed for a "record." With MSDSP, it is relatively easy (although above 6000 lpm it does become increasingly difficult). It was just done because it was a challenge and Val was interested in trying it. The actual speeds really aren't important. What matters is how easily she was able to handle it. (Val is a wetlands ecologist, a former EMT, is very computer literate, and an experienced phone operator, many times having been one of the people closest to a major fire or other type of emergency. She has gone into still-burning buildings with the County Fire Coordinator, had missiles from a burning gasoline tanker whiz past her head, and had to hit the ditch as a tornado appeared to be forming directly in front of her. But this was a completely new challenge, especially for a YL).

Well, don't bother requesting a sked from her, now that she's back at her EN36 QTH in MN. All she has up there are two ancient HT's and a mobile FM-only rig. But maybe, if she comes back down to KY next Christmas, you can talk her into a HSCW sked at that time. But that's up to her. I sure can't tell her what she should do any more!