Going DigitalBy Jose B Rivera - N2LRB
May 26, 2015 - This past April I took the plunge and tried my hand at working some of the digital modes on HF and VHF. But first I had to purchase an external sound card like device that would work with one of my HF radios. I found that the SignLink USB the best priced option. When ordering the device on the phone I found that the pin set up would be the same for all of my Yaesu Radios, my FT-950, FT-857D, FT-897D. So I could use it with either. I only purchased one cable so I will have to move that cable from rig to rig if I want to use one of the other radios.
The SignaLink arrived on the 20th of April and I opened it up and inserted the pre-wired wire box. The SignaLink has two cables that go into it. One goes to the radio and the other goes into my computer’s USB port. I guess it gets it power from the computer USB port. I then read the instructions and set my FT-950 up to work digital. The funny thing is that one has to set it to Upper Sideband to work digital. Who Knew?!
I fired up my computer, and it automatically added the correct USB drivers. I then opened up fldigi and started to try to listen in on BPSK-31 on 14.070 Mhz. I was surprised by the amount of activity on that mode. FLdigi picked up about 8 BPSK-31 QSOs. I responded to a QSO and was working N8XAH at 4/22/2015 00:24Z. I was a nice experience!
I have since been modifying the macros so as to have better and more natural responses when in contact with a station. I do find that I can not always contact someone even if they hit me with a strong signal.
I have also played with WSPR and have been seen by stations around the world. It is a little more difficult than BPSK-31, but it is nice to see how far a 5 watt signal can travel. I did try WSPR on 2M and 70CM. There just were no stations close enough to hear me. There were only three on the air at the time I made the VHF attempt. And none on the air when I made my UHF attempt.
I was able to work BPSK-31 during the 5 Boro Bike Tour. I took my Yaesu FT-897D and used it to work the Bike Tour and to talk on HF, Digital and 2 meter ssb. For some reason there were a bunch of stations parked on 144.205 the morning of the race. I heard them the whole time I was there. One BPSK-31 contact was all I made as my Lenovo laptop ran out of power. This suprised me because I had recharge the batter for a half a day (just in case) to ensure that it was fully powered. I later learned that working digital modes uses more power and that my Lenovo’s battery is only good for about 2 hours at most. I need to get a tablet or something longer lasting if I am to do digital modes while in portable modes. ARECS wanted us to try BPSK-31 during the race in case some child got lost and we could upload the photo to all the hams working the race.
All in all digital is a pretty good mode to work, especially portable.