CW Skimmer

CW Ops Using Winkeyer and a Decoder

Ira (KC1EMJ) and I helped set up the IC-7300 80, 15, and 10m CW station. We were short a CW operator.  Having my license for only 8 months with over 1000 SSB QSOs and zero CW contacts in the log I wasn’t a CW op but the station was available and the field day clock was running. My ability to copy is improving but very limited. On the run up to Field Day I had some experience with N1MM, Fred (AB1OC) added a WinKeyer and loaded his macros, and I had CW Skimmer already installed on the laptop. What more could I need?

It only took a few minutes to get the ICOM IC-7300 and CW Skimmer setup for reliable decoding. It was exciting when the decoder finally started displaying “CQ CQ FD DE CALL-SIGN” for each station I tuned in. I have included a simulated display showing a decoded message.image001 I was in business! Or so I thought.

With Search and Pounce selected, the WinKeyer was setup so the laptop keyboard’s F1 key was QRL?, F2 the exchange (class and section), F3 TU for “thank you” and so on through F9.  I assumed one would start with F1, and progress to F2, and then F3, what is QRL anyway? After decoding a “CQ FD call-sign” and entering the call into N1MM I hit F1, and then decoded a “don’t say you do not hear me”.

I moved up the band and tried it again with the same result. It was great I was making contacts, but not so great they was throwing bricks. A quick check with Mike (K1WVO) I found QRL is “Are you busy?”. As a Phone op I had never used QRL, we just ask “is the frequency is in use”. Soon I was responding with N1FD instead of QRL? The Caller returned his class and section.

With his call entered into N1MM it was easy to send his call sign with a tap of the F5 key, F2 for 7A and NH, and after his TU I would send a TU and QSY to the next station and repeat the process. It had transitioned from real exciting (meaning a bit stressful)  to real fun fairly quickly.  The lesson I learned is to take the time to understand the message stored behind each “F” key even when time is short and the contest or Field Day has started.

The experienced CW operators were using the same process that I was using with WinKeyer, N1MM, and the keyboard. The one difference  is they were decoding CW with their ears, and not a decoder.

It wasn’t long before I ran out of new stations to work. I switched from searching for stations in “Search and Pounce” mode  to “Run” meaning I stayed on one frequency and called CQ. The F1 key became CQ. It wasn’t long before I had a short run of 5-6 QSOs one right after another, but it quickly came to an end. There are few targets on 80m in the early evening and I worked them all. I was headed home just as the band was heating up at midnight… Next year I’ll take the midnight to daylight shift and plan to copy code with my ears…and not a decoder.

With a little practice, this form of operating is effective for contests and Field Day where the exchange is simple. The high rate you can add new stations to the log definitely makes it fun.

Hamilton (K1HMS)

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3 thoughts on “CW Ops Using Winkeyer and a Decoder”

  1. Hi Gary,

    I’m not sure it is the best approach but with CW selected I set the BW to the max 2kHz during search so I could see the band. Once I “pounced” on a signal I would reduce the bandwidth to ~200Hz to get the most reliable decode. On weak signals tuning (RIT) slightly off frequency sometimes helped. I found I got better decodes if noise reduction was set to near minimum.

    Overal the decodes were very good. The WinKeyer marcos Fred provided a lot of options like “again?” and “QSL” for the few times the decoder missed it. FD was unique since the exchange was limited to a Call, exchange, followed by TU and often sent with a keyer.
    I haven’t had much success with the decoder for general contacts, often the character and word spacing is so bad the decoder does stand a chance.


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