HOW TO WORK A RTTY PILEUP

Eddie Schneider, W6/G0AZT

At the IDRA dinner in Dayton,Glenn,W6OTC suggested that someone with some experience at the "sharp" end of Baudot pile-ups ought to write something about how to assist the DX station in achieving maximum efficiency and ensuring that you get in the log.

My credentials.

I have operated from VP5,C6A,ZF,V2,VP2M,VP9,P4, TY, 3V and 8R.

Modis Operandi

Like most DXpeditions, the idea is to try and work as many stations as possible in the time available. RTTY, being a somewhat slower mode than SSB and CW, requires a slightly different approach in operating habits by both the DX and the callers. Normally the DX will work contest style, "599 QRZ?" They will probably run "split" frequencies to enable the caller to have a chance of seeing his call come up on the screen and know that the report was for him. In some cases, if the DX has very good antennas and power, they may choose to run simplex, particularly in a contest, so as not to disrupt the rest of the band.

Why RY?

One of the frustrating things the DX station has to endure is that nasty string of RY's. WHY send RYRY? What useful purpose does it serve? In the time taken to send a line of them, you could have sent YOUR CALLSIGN three, four or even five times, depending on it's length.(Oh you lucky people with 1x2,or 2x1 callsigns!). In the days of "steam" RTTY and mechanical machines, the RY was sent to enable the receive station to tune-in, but with modern TNC's, the RY is no longer needed.

When you call the DX in CW, do you send a string of V's before you send your call? In SSB, do you shout "ola ola" or whistle in the microphone? Maybe, but don't call me, I'll call you, sometime never. Banish the RY's syndrome to some black hole in outer space, where it belongs.

Feet first

OK, you are tuning around and come across a big pile-up, spread all over the band. You find the DX station's transmit frequency and without even listening a while (and you should listen first!), you call on his frequency. Oops, your first big mistake! The inevitable policeman comes on, 20dB stronger than the DX, and proceeds to call you all sorts of unpleasant names, doubts that you had a father, wonders how you got your license, etc., etc. If you want to be a policeman, assist rather than disrupt. Tell the offender "QSX up 2" or whatever the DX is doing. Be short and to the point.

Getting in the log

Once you have figured out that the DX is listening up, try to work out the operator's operating habits, if he has any! Is he answering tail-enders? Does he move his VFO after each contact ? . . . and so on. Try and find a clear frequency and sit tight. The DX is bound to find you before the band folds, or before his QRT for a visit to the sand-box. Occasionally check your transmit frequency to make sure some big gun is not wiping you out.

Send only YOUR callsign. The DX knows HIS callsign (its written on his license, probably etched in stone above his operating position) but he needs to know your callsign for the log. Check out a pile up on SSB or CW, you rarely hear the DX chaser giving out the DX station's callsign, so why waste time doing it in RTTY?

Hooray, you got through the pile up. If the DX is running contest style, he is probably only interested in your callsign and a report. Drop your name in once or twice just to be friendly and possibly your State/Province abbreviation, just in case the DX is working for WAS. Forget about your city, county, the WX, what you had for lunch--and station equipment macros. Even if you know the operator personally let HIM decide whether he wants to have a QSO with you. Remember, there are probably many more stations wanting to get in the log, so please have a thought for those anxiously waiting in line. Keep the exchange short and sweet and you will not make too many enemies. Be verbose and you are sure to upset quite a few folks, believe me. I'll be one of them :-)

You are in the log.

After the usual exchange of reports and the DX signs "SK", do not go back for a super final. SK means, end of work or transmission to a particular callsign. In plain Queen's English, "I've finished with you, thanks very much, don't transmit again because I want to work someone else". Of course SK is also used for hams who have passed away. Beware, you may become one of them, if you attend the next RTTY dinner at Dayton and get beat about the head with cricket bats.

From the DX's point of view, sending KN after a callsign should make it clear to other callers that he wants ONLY that station to respond. In practice, most of the time, it appears that everyone EXCEPT the 'named' station, calls again. KN means "invitation to transmit, named station only", so please respect the DX station's wishes and give him a chance to work whoever he specifies. If the DX answers a non specified caller, then he has only himself to blame for the resulting alphabet soup that will appear on his screen.

Simplex

If the DX decides to work simplex, be on your guard and watch your screen closely. A good DX operator should put your call at the END of his transmission, with a couple of KN's for good measure. Be ready to hit the TX button, otherwise some eager beaver will jump in and mess things up for you. Do not 'break' during an exchange, it causes onfusion, disrupts the flow and is basically rude and inconsiderate.

Lists.

List operations on RTTY have been tried many times. To date I have not seen a successful one and doubt if I ever will. In this mode, the list master has no control whatsoever. Because of the nature of RTTY, longer transmissions are required than in CW or SSB. The resulting chaos, frustrates the list master, the incessant callers and most importantly, the DX operator, who then QRT's and thinks RTTY is not for him and then returns to those "other" modes, never to be seen on your screen again. Not a good idea, especially if you NEED him for a new one.

Lets all try and prove to the DX operator and future DXpedition organizers, that RTTY operators are a polite and considerate bunch of ladies and gentlemen.

To summarize:

EDDIE'S COMMANDMENTS for the DX STATION
(Not carved in stone)

1. Thou shalt not pick a transmit frequency below .082 mark, on the high bands.

2. Thou shalt not listen more than 2-5kH above or below your transmit frequency.

3. Thou shalt ensure that the callsign of the station you are working, appears at the END of your transmission.

4. Thou shalt, after each contact, inform the callers where you are listening.

5. Thou shalt not contact anyone on your transmit frequency.

6. Thou shalt not forget that there are many countries who wish to work you.

7. Thou shalt try to "predict" propagation paths to ALL those countries who are patiently waiting to get in your log.

8. Thou shalt periodically inform all stations of the QSL route.

9. Thou shalt not make skeds and then not keep your promise.(subject to unforeseen problems, like Murphy's Law)

10.Thou shalt make it clear to all parties, when you have ended one contact and wish to make a make a new one.

EDDIE'S COMMANDMENTS for the DX chaser
(Written on parchment)

1. Thou shalt not use RY.\'s, EVER.

2. Thou shalt adhere to the DX station's requests.

3. Thou shalt not send the DX station's callsign more than once.

4. Thou shalt send YOUR callsign only three or four times.

5. Thou shalt not transmit on the DX station's frequency if he is running a split operation.

6. Thou shalt not become abusive to other stations who occasionally transmit on the wrong frequency.

7. Thou shalt inform the transgressor in KISS (Keep It Short Stupid) mode, as to where the DX is listening.

8. Thou shalt not send more than your name and abbreviated State/Province letters in your exchange, unless the DX station begins a rag-chew with you first.

9. Thou shalt not transmit when the DX sends KN, unless YOUR callsign is seen.

10.Thou shalt not transmit once your report has been confirmed, unless invited to do so by the DX station.

11.Thou shalt not transmit after the DX signs SK, CL or QRZ?

These are my views of how to get in the DX station's log and how the DX station ought to maximize his time on the air.

Good luck and happy hunting,

de W6/G0AZT