Wednesday, September 5, 2007
JT65A-HF, we hardly knew ye...
A while back I wrote about JT65A, the amateur radio weak signal digital mode being used on HF bands. My best contact was just before Field Day 2007 when I logged ZS6WN in South Africa; over 10,500 miles using 50 watts and an antenna made of speaker wire at the bottom of the sunspot cycle. It was a very interesting and powerful mode. And yet I haven't heard anyone on the bands in over a month. Which leaves me to ponder; why?
WSJT (the software for JT65A) was originally written for weak signal paths such as Earth-Moon-Earth. As with most weak signal modes, a trade-off is made where the amount of information transmitted is intentionally limited in order to pull weak signals up out of the noise floor. In JT65A, the total transmission cycle was one minute (actually, about 48 seconds plus 12 seconds for the recipient to react and respond) and in this minute only 13 ASCII characters could be sent. Not exactly a rag-chewing mode. So once I'd worked a station and logged them, I was basically done. I'd see someone calling CQ, note that I'd already logged them, and so wouldn't respond. And once I'd worked ZS6WN in South Africa, working non-DX contacts was (to be blunt) boring.
So my theory on the premature demise of JT65A on HF is this; everyone worked everyone and once they were done there was no point in continuing. Radio amateurs like to rag-chew, talk about stuff, brag about their rigs and such. Hard to do at 13 characters per minute. And without a conversation, it's hard to make friends. Sure, you could always get to know folks by hanging out in the Ping Jockey web chat, and there's certainly a core group of people who do just that, but if you're going to chat in a chat room then why bother with a radio? So I think JT65A on HF has turned into the one-hit-wonder of amateur radio.