Tuesday, October 19, 2010

C'mon people, listen!

A lot has been written recently (including by me) about the general conduct of hams on the airwaves. Over the last few days, I've seen something that has just been so absurd that I had to vent here. 

I've discussed operating in pileups before, and how it's important to listen to the operator's instructions to understand where they are listening. It's frustrating when an operator doesn't listen and calls right on top of the DX station instead of on his split frequency. While there's really no excuse, the occasional call or two can be understood by operators who just send 5NN TU (on CW) or just "Thanks" on phone without giving the split often. The same can be said for those operators who don't ID often.

What I cannot understand, and to me what's totally inexcusable was the behavior that I've seen on RTTY in the pileups for the folks operating from the new PJ entities recently. The vast majority of operators at the DX end seem to be really top-notch operators and are doing their best to control the pileup. They leave nothing to chance when, at the end of a contact, they send something like "K2DBK TU DE PJ7E UP 2-4". You know who the station is, and you know that they are listening for your transmission 2-4 up. In spite of this, operators repeatedly (and I don't mean once or twice, but dozens of times) continue to call on the operators transmit frequency, not where he's listening.

I believe in Heinlein's Razor: Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity. I don't believe that most of these operators are calling just to QRM (create noise) on the DX station. For one thing, they are all using their callsigns, so we know who they are. (There is a chance that they are using someone else's callsign to intentionally make them look bad, but I don't think that's the case.) I think that either they don't have a good enough copy on on the DX station to be able to understand that he's listening on a different frequency, or they don't understand what "UP" means. In the former case, they shouldn't be calling at all. If you don't have a good enough copy on a station to receive what they are sending, how on earth are you going to know if you've worked them? If it's the latter, and you don't know that "UP" means that the operator is working stations using split operation, then ask someone what it means, don't just ignore it.

Incidentally, I want to mention that I've looked up a number of callsigns that are guilty of this behavior. There is a mix of stations, but a significant number of stations seem to be US Amateur Extra class, and, as best I can tell, they have been Extras for quite some time. This isn't a case of "no-coders" not knowing how to operate. It may well be that RTTY, which has increased in popularity recently, is new to these operators, but like any mode you need to learn how to use it.

When in doubt, refer to the DX Code of Conduct


  1. I'm a "no-coder" and I know how to operate split or simplex.

    It was nice this past weekend with a couple of the PJ stations in the JARTS RTTY contest. They were workable without any pileups when I wanted to work them.

    I've seen some bad spots which doesn't help because there are many people that will transmit before they listen. I treat cluster spots like I treat info on the internet - wrong until verified.

  2. I heard some of the PJ stations working split on RTTY this weekend. I have not yet figured out how to get that all set up properly with my configuration (Yaesu FT-857 and HRD/DM780) so I simply did not transmit. The last thing I wanted to do was behave like a lid because I didn't take the time to test into a dummy load and make SURE I understood.

    I've been licensed nearly 20 years now (finally upgraded to Extra about a year ago) but that doesn't mean I don't have more to learn. With age comes wisdom, not the license to act before acquiring the necessary wisdom.

    73 de KB7QOA

  3. I hate to admit this but I've been guilty of the same thing on at least one occassion. I listened and knew where the DX was listening, put my B VFO there and start calling. What I'd forgotten to do was hit the SPLIT button, so when people would send "Up" I "knew" they were talking to some other lid. Finally, one guy sent "AE5X UP" and I immediately fixed the problem while feeling pretty idiotic.

    Yep - confession is good for the soul...

  4. As the DX Code of Conduct says, you need to listen, listen, then listen again. I too treat spots suspiciously, and don't call unless I know who I'm calling and where they are listening. This isn't rocket science, it's common sense which to me, makes the fact that so many "old-timers" don't seem to understand how to operate split all the more astounding. This isn't to say that any particular group of users is good or bad, but rather that it's bad that anyone, regardless of their tenure in this hobby, is operating that badly.

  5. John: A mistake is unfortunate, but understandable. We've all done it (though I'll say that I've been extra careful regarding this operation!) but what isn't OK is ignoring a directed comment, which I've seen happen on a couple of occasions. If I see or hear "he's working split!" I'll check my radio to make sure that it's not me making the mistake. For at least one operator, several "band police" repeatedly gave his callsign and told him to call split. I just don't know what the story is there. (Of course, the band cops weren't right either, but that's another story.)

    Jeremy: What I do is to get set up for AFSK on the main VFO (running LSB), then just turn on split on the 2nd VFO and go up the right amount. Email me and I'll try to help you out if I can.

  6. Jeremy - Your operator manual is online at http://www.yaesu.com/downloadFile.cfm?FileID=6105&FileCatID=158&FileName=FT%2D857D%5FOM%5FENG%5FEH007M102%5FV2.pdf&FileContentType=application%2Fpdf and on page 67 it explains the steps to operate split. If the DX station says they are listening up 10 to 20 (as an example) then look at the frequency you are on (lets say it was 14.240) and then pick a frequency that is +10 to +20 from that (14.250 to 14.260). Your VFO-A is set to 14.240 which is where the DX station is transmitting and you can hear him and you set VFO-B (following the steps on page 67 in your manual) to 14.255 which is where you will transmit and the DX station will try and listen for you.

    It might seem complex the first time or two that you do it, but I can do it on my Kenwood TS-2000 in no time and it seems to be about the same process. Practice setting it up. When you transmit my radio shows that I'm xmiting on the VFO-B frequency and when it stops xmiting I'm back on VFO-A.

    Ham Radio Deluxe/DM780 doesn't need to be touched if you use your radio to do the split. DM780 by default has the xmit and receive markers in the waterfall tied together so when you move, it is moving both xmit and receive. If the waterfall window is wide enough that you can receive in one part and transmit in the other (depends how far up or down he is working split) you can tell DM780 to split it for you. There's a lock icon in the button section between where you decode and where you type what you want to send. If you mouse over the lock icon it will say something like TX Lock Split Mode. If you enable it by clicking the lock you'll see the single decode bar in the waterfall now shows T & R. You can move them independently to change where you receive and transmit. You cannot move it outside the waterfall display (as far as I know) so the station working split would need to be up just a very small amount. If you do this method, make sure you click the lock again when you are done to make the TX and RX the same.

    Good luck making those contacts!

  7. Though it doesn't apply to the PJ's because of their proximity to the US, it's always a big wake-up call when you're trying to dig out a weak station to see who he came back to and you get an earful from someone transmitting on the DX's frequency. To make matters worse, this always sets the frequency cops off. Hard to say which is worse at times.

    This past weekend I heard an exchange that really took the cake. On 20m SSB a fellow starts calling on top of one of the PJ's. He gets a few "gentle" reminders, "He's listening UP" and "Split! Split!". He keeps on calling. Finally someone tells him, "He's listening up, not here."

    Then the clown asks, "Where's he listening?" and someone replies, "Up 10". Then the 'kicker'..."What's his callsign?". Are you kidding?

    That made me think. I know folks have strong opinions on the DX Clusters, and heaven knows that I make good use of them. But I think they also lend themselves to the "point and click" mentality and if the split isn't part of the entry or the logging program doesn't pick up on it, that might be causing much of the QRM. I know I've caught myself more than once starting to transmit and then suddenly realize, oh gosh, I need to be split.

    73 Ed

  8. Anonymous10:51 PM

    Very nice post!! I guess I'm one of those guys, except I err on the side of caution. If a guy comes back with an exact number (like say "up20") I know were to send. I always worry about QRMing someone else when the dx guy gives a spread, so I usually don't call. I'm not sure if it's being considerate or being lazy - heh. Don't help me here! :)