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Amateur Radio Contesting

"The Sport of Amateur Radio"

While there are many contests, one ... "The California QSO Party" or CQP is my favorite, and is covered in detail at the link in the navigation panel. The remainder of this page describes amateur contesting in general for those who have never tried it.

Contesting is one of the major operating activities in amateur radio. Contests vary widely -- by region, objective, operating mode, and band, to name a few. In general, however, they all involve the goal of contacting as many stations that meet the contest requirements as possible. Contests are sponsored by many organizations year round (but nearly always on weekends). The number of contests scheduled tends to increase in the winter months (northern hemisphere) when HF propagation is best and atmospheric noise tends to be be lowest. While contests differ, they do have some common attributes:

Contest Operating

Operating in contests means "Quickly!" Each contact will take only enough time to identify the other station, transmit the information exchange, receive acknowlegement and the information from the other station, and acknowlege it ... often ten seconds or less if no repeats are required. Operating modes (other than in the Sprints):

Logging Software

Obviously, one must maintain a written log of each contact in order to calculate a final score, and also for submittal to the contest sponsors. It wasn't many years ago that such logs were kept with pencil and paper, using a variety of manual methods to quickly determine if a given station was a duplicate contact. With the advent of personal computers, it's not surprising that programs were written to automate this process. As these programs evolved, they included the capability to account for multipliers, key your transmitter for the standard information exchanges, and even control your transmitter's frequency, band, mode, etc.

I have used "TR-Log" by N6TR for several years (actually when my CQP Team decided to switch to it), and prior to that, I used "CT" by K1EA. Both have extensive information facilities such as identifying the country a station is in, computing a beam heading and range to the station, and providing other information from a database containing previous contacts you have made with a station. They track your multipliers, spot duplicate contacts, compute your score in real time, and display your current and recent QSO rates. This latter display helps determine if you should sacrifice some time going to S&P mode to find some new multipliers. They will both control your transmitter, and will key it with a set of standard messages. For me, TR-Log seems to be somewhat better supported, which is why I've stuck with it. Both CT and TR are DOS programs, which wasn't much of a liability since most hams used an older, DOS-only computer for their station system. In time, however, we all have accumulated old computers, and some are now Windows machines. As a result, the number of Windows-based loggers is on the increase.

There are other logging programs, of course. NA is another common DOS program. I have no experience with it, but I do know several hams who use it and think it's the greatest. Log Windows is a windows based program that is popular, however it is not as contest-intensive as many of the DOS programs. Possibly the fastest rising Windows-based logger is WriteLog.

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