HF Weak Signal

November 2019
Kevin Sherwood
Culver City ARES

High Frequency Operations in the CCARES EOC Radio Room

With Solar-Terrestrial conditions getting so dismal over the last several years, you may have thought to yourself “why do we even have HF when there is almost no activity?”.  I thought the same thing myself, going to PSK31, a digital mode, to find where other Hams had gone.  This was effective for a time but, as conditions got worse, activity dwindled to a crawl, so I just gave up on HF except for very limited applications.

Then, in late September I began thinking about weak signal HF modes.  There is a gentleman named Joseph Taylor, K1JT, in New Jersey that is well known for his work promoting weak signal HF modes.  He wrote the now-famous JT65 protocol that really took the HF weak signal world by storm.  He is an Ivy League Astrophysicist and Nobel Laureate and his bio can be found here.  I began using WSJT-X and the FT8 protocol and have worked more stations in the last couple of months than I had in the previous 3-4 years!  The QSOs are short and sweet and are semi-automatic.  This is where the real HF Hams have gone to continue our hobby, on HF, until conditions improve for voice communications.

Joe Taylor, I am not sure whether to call him Doctor or Professor at this point, has been a Ham since his teens and, being involved professionally with Radio Astronomy, naturally wanted to share his talents with the Amateur Radio community.  His latest work is a free software application called WSJT-X, which stands for Weak Signal Joe Taylor Experimental.  It can send and receive in ten different HF weak signal modes if you have the proper HF radio equipment.  You can find out more about it and  download it here.

To use these weak signal HF digital modes, you will need an HF transceiver and a sound card interface, such as a Tigertronics SignaLink or West Mountain Radio RigBlaster, as well as your Windows or Linux computer, sorry Mac users.  If you have a transceiver such at the Kenwood TS-590S(G) or Icom IC-7300, both of which have the “Sound card interface” built in, you will not need the external interface.

After installing and correctly configuring the WSJT-X software, you can then enter the world of weak signal HF communications!  Our Radio Room at Fire Station 1 is fully equipped for the ten modes included in WSJT-X.  It will not take long for an experienced HF Operator to get up to speed on FT8 and work the world!

I hope to see you at an HF Day at the Fire Station so that you can enjoy this Ham Radio activity as much as I have.

Kevin Sherwood, AJ7C
President, Culver City ARES (CCARES)