My introduction to WSJT
John Geiger, NE0P
In August 2001 my wife and I moved from Davenport, IA to Lawton, OK. Moving is a chore for anyone, but for Hams it is especially difficult and time consuming. Having to take down and reinstall antennas, setting up a new shack, and getting used to new propagation all add to the difficulty. Our move seemed to be one challenge after another, but within three weeks, I had all of my antennas up and was ready to start tearing up the airwaves.
My first big operating event from the new QTH was the September VHF contest, which would occur less than a week after getting the 2-meter Yagi up. I was excited to see what VHF activity would be like in the southwest. I would also have to start on my grid chase for VUCC all over again and knew that in Oklahoma I would not be able to rely on aurora for some long distance contacts as I had in Iowa. Fortunately, I discovered something else that is a worthy replacement -- high speed meteor scatter.
From the QTH in Iowa I had made a handful of meteor scatter contacts on 6 Meters, and had been thinking about getting into high speed CW ever since I purchased a RIGblaster in July of 2001 (best $50 1 ever spent, but that is another story). At the same time I kept seeing postings on the Internet about WSJT (Weak Signal communications by K1JT) mode, but knew nothing about it. Something happened to me while waiting for the VHF contest, and I felt drawn to learn more about this WSJT thing that everyone was raving about. I learned that WSJT is actually- a program, which uses high speed four tone RTTY. The mode is technically FSK441, but almost everyone refers to it as WSJT. I had the Thursday afternoon before the contest off from work, so I down-loaded the WSJT software and manual, and started my excursion into high speed RTTY. The best thing is that the software is free, just visit http.//pulsar.princeton.edu/~joe/k1jt to down-load it.
After installing the software, it was time to test it out. Fortunately it is very simple to learn and I felt ready to arrange WSJT skeds for the contest. A call over the Internet yielded a sked with Shelby, W8WN, at the start of the contest. This was going to be exciting! I was finally going to be on High Speed Meteor Scatter (HSMS). I had worked Shelby on 6-meter SSB meteor scatter before from Iowa, but this was really going to be a challenge.
HSMS is mainly used to take advantage of the random meteors that are always striking the earth. Most these meteors are small, and their burns through the atmosphere are so quick that they support propagation on 2-Meters for only a fraction of a second. By speeding up the information that is sent, and exchange can be included in this fraction of a second. Now the VHF operator does not have to wait around for a meteor shower to be able to communicate via the rocks. WSJT sends information at a rate of 1800 WPM, so a lot can be sent during a very short ping. All you need is a computer sound card/transceiver interface like one that is used for PSK or RTTY.
Contest day arrived and the sked was underway. I got a couple of nice pings from Shelby and got both my call and his call being sent, but not enough for a completed contact. It was very thrilling to hear his signal burst out from an otherwise dead band for a second or two. This was not bad for 1 p.m. in the afternoon on 2 Meters. The distance between us was approximately 750 miles. During the contest I discovered the "Ping Jockey" page where skeds are made dally between stations using HSMS (www.pingjockey.net). I did make one WSJT contact during the contest with W7FG, but it was on tropo.
The Monday night after the contest I once again tried with W8WN and completed a 750 -mile QSO on 2 Meters during a routine Monday night-- not a bad deal. One problem that came up during my QSO with Shelby was the I did not know the transmitting sequences well enough. It is very important to know what to send based on what you have received from the other station. This tells the other station what you have picked up, and what they Still need to send. The Ping Jockey page does a great job explaining these sequences. Make sure you know them before attempting HSMS!
On Thursday of that week I completed a QSO with John, K0PW, in EN34, also at a distance of around 750 miles. Later in the week I had HSMS QSOs with K0AZ in EM27 (both 6 and 2 Meters), N5OSK in EM25, and W8PAT in EN81, which is over 900 miles from my QTH. The next couple of weeks brought more WSJT contacts, and on the morning of 22 September I completed with N8OC in Michigan, and a distance of just under 1,000 miles. I knew that I had found a valuable mode for collecting grids on 2 Meters, and unlike aurora, this mode was almost always accessible. It did not require some special solar event. Also, the weather does not play a role as it does in tropo. Random meteors are almost always available.
In the first month I was on WSJT I worked 11 states on 2 Meters, ranging from Colorado and Arizona, to Florida and Georgia, to Michigan and Ohio. I also learned some valuable information about HSMS, mainly:
1. A large station is not required. I am running an Icom 746 barefoot, which puts out 100watts. My antenna is a Cushcraft A148 10S, which has 10 elements on a 12-foot boom. It is only mounted on the roof of my house, at about 22 feet. I do hope to raise it up higher in the near future.
2. Meteor scatter contacts can take a long time. Most QSOs took around 30 minutes to complete, and two took almost an hour. However, I would not have been able to make these contacts any other way, and the time is worth it for a new state on 2 Meters.
3. Meteor scatter works almost any time of day. Most of these contact's were made in the evening, and a couple were in the afternoon. Meteors may be better in the morning but MS contacts are not limited to that time,
4. HSMS is a lot of fun.
Discovering WSJT has greatly added to my station capabilities. If you have a computer, a VHF rig and some patience, I urge you to give it a try also. You will be surprised with what you can work on 2 Meters. It is still a thrill to hear a signal burst through the quiet band for a fraction of a second, and then to see your call sign come up on the computer screen from that burst.
I hope this story helps to demonstrate how easy and fun it is to get on WSJT mode. The Leonids Meteor shower/storm is over and hopefully more VHFers will have had their introduction to meteor scatter. Join us on HSMS using WSJT!
Owen Williamson, AC5OE
Few present-day radio amateurs know about the essential contribution made by two Amateur Radio operators, “Bob” Tanna, VU2LK, and Nariman Abarbad Printer, VU2FU, who risked their own personal safety and freedom to help Mahatma Gandhi win India’s struggle for independence. While Gandhi’s life and work have long been admired in America and around the world, almost nothing has yet been published about the important role Amateur Radio operators played at a crucial moment in his struggle. Since his death in 1947, Gandhi’s philosophy of homespun self-reliance has often been espoused by those who mistrust high technology. However, when Gandhian leaders were being jailed and shut out of the media, it was Ham operators who stepped forward and offered their expertise with the highest available technology of the day to provide crucial radio communications equipment and know-how for the Mahatma’s nonviolent freedom movement.
At the outbreak of World War II in Europe in 1939, all Amateur Radio licenses were suspended “for the duration” throughout the British Empire. In that era, India had less than fifty licensed amateur operators, the majority British nationals involved with the colonial administration. All received written orders to turn in their transmitting equipment to the police, both for possible use in the war effort and to prevent transmitters from falling into the hands of Axis collaborators and spies.
However, Tanna, the owner and operator of Bombay’s Tanna Radio Acoustics, and Printer, a freelance inventor and Principal of a Bombay technical institute, opted to hide or disassemble their rigs rather than turn them in to British colonial authorities. Printer later claimed in court that he intended to use the components of his transmitter for classroom teaching purposes only. Tanna, an active member of Bombay’s nonviolent Gandhian underground , found a more immediate and urgent use for his equipment: working for the freedom of his country.
By the time of the Second World War, British imperial rule over India was thoroughly unpopular, and its future prospects after the war were in serious question. From the first outbreak of hostilities, Gandhi and his leadership were determined to take every possible advantage of world events to promote Indian independence and neutrality from both Allies and Axis. In 1940, young Tanna spontaneously seized the spirit of the moment to put “Azad Hind Radio” (Free India Radio) on the air, briefly using his 40-meter AM transmitter to broadcast Gandhian protest music and uncensored economic news from his former Ham shack, loading his wife’s clothesline as an antenna. However, he was quickly arrested, briefly jailed, and his transmitting equipment seized.
In mid-1942, the situation facing the British in India had become critical, with domestic popular discontent at a boiling-point, and Japanese air-raids battering the deep-water port of Chittagong and elsewhere along India’s eastern border. A land- or sea-based invasion of the Indian subcontinent was now an imminent military threat. On the home front, a dissident faction of Gandhi’s movement had broken with the Mahatma and his nonviolent philosophy, and was engaged in active material sabotage against the British “raj,” cutting phone and telegraph lines, stoning troop-trains, and pulling up railway tracks.
One popular former Gandhian leader, “Netaji” Subhash Chandra Bose, had even gone to Berlin, and there received Adolph Hitler’s help to establish a totally different, Axis-sponsored “Radio Azad Hind” network, which bombarded India with violent anti-British propaganda from Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan, and Japanese-held Singapore, Rangoon and Saigon. Within India, popular support for “Netaji” (Hindi for “the dear Fuehrer”) was growing. Under his command, a puppet “Free Indian Army” was being recruited and trained in Japanese-occupied Southeast Asia, and would soon join Imperial Japanese forces in a joint attack on British India’s remote and vulnerable northeastern Manipur front.
On 9 August 1942, after Gandhi’s “Quit India” campaign brought yet another strong wave of nonviolent pro-independence protest, frantic British colonial authorities ordered sweeping arrests, including that of Mahatma Gandhi himself and his top leadership. All news of the Indian National Congress (Gandhi’s umbrella-organization) was summarily banned from India’s press and (state-monopoly) broadcast media.
On 9 August 1942, after Gandhi’s “Quit India” campaign brought yet another strong wave of nonviolent pro-independence protest, frantic British colonial authorities ordered sweeping arrests, including that of Mahatma Gandhi himself and his top leadership.
Congress (Gandhi’s umbrella-organization) was summarily banned from India’s press and (state-monopoly) broadcast media. Gandhian activists who remained free saw a real danger that their movement could soon end up splintered and derailed into violent anarchy and terror, or else fall by default into the Axis orbit, unless something was done quickly to reestablish broken communication links between underground Congress leadership and the movement’s grass-roots supporters.
In Bombay, clandestine Congress leader Vitalbhai Javeri and student activist Usha Mehta decided to secretly sound out the few ethnic Indians in the Bombay area who were Amateur Radio operators, among them Tanna and Printer, with a view toward establishing an underground Gandhian broadcasting station. Both Hams readily agreed, but Tanna was immediately betrayed to colonial authorities by a still-unidentified, pro-British radio engineer, whom he had quietly approached to construct the transmitter. On 31 October 1942, a fully-working HF transmitter was delivered to Tanna, but only to serve as “bait” in a British sting-operation. The Tanna family home was searched, unearthing two old, non-working UHF transceivers, and Tanna was promptly re-arrested and charged with possession of wireless telegraphy apparatus. He was held briefly, but then set free on bail.
Printer, who a colonial judge later described “a mainstay of the conspiracy,” succeeded in reconstructing his old homebrew 40-meter amateur transmitter, after replacing several parts including a microphone. Though not a member of the Gandhian movement, he immediately agreed to sell the working transmitter, a 50-watt AM unit with microphone and “electrically driven gramophone pick-up,” to activists. This was to become “Congress Radio,” which began broadcasting 2 September 1942 on 7.12 MHz. With Printer’s ongoing technical assistance, the station broadcast messages of nonviolent resistance at 8:30 a.m. and 8:45 p.m. daily through the high point of Mahatma Gandhi’s “Quit India Movement,” in October, and November of 1942.
Despite sporadic British jamming, the crystal-controlled signal of Congress Radio was audible on the then-unoccupied 40-meter band throughout the Indian subcontinent, and as far away as Japanese-occupied Burma. The station transmitted recordings of the Mahatma’s sermons and his calls for nonviolence, uncensored news, pro-independence music, instructions for Gandhian activists, and political declarations by the movement’s underground leadership. For security, programs were recorded on 78 rpm disks at a remote location and then played at the transmitting site, which was shifted randomly between apartments rented for the purpose in different areas of Bombay. Leaflets were secretly distributed by neighborhood-level Congress activists, with times and frequencies of transmissions.
The station was detected by colonial authorities almost immediately, and Printer and the Gandhian activists involved with the clandestine broadcasts had several “close calls” when British direction-finders nearly succeeded in triangulating the location of the transmitter. On 11 November 1942, Tanna and one of his employees were arrested once again, even though no evidence could be found to directly connect them to the clandestine Congress Radio broadcasts. On November 12, Printer was arrested, and subsequently agreed to cooperate fully with colonial authorities.
It is unclear what caused his sudden change of heart, but court documents of the time show that Printer was heavily in debt, and may have been threatened with serious fraud charges connected with alleged mismanagement of his technical school. In a 1988 interview with German journalist Peter Ruhe, former Congress Radio announcer Usha Mehta suggested she still strongly lamented Printer’s “betrayal,” even though contemporary court records show that his cooperation with prosecutors, though complete, may not have been fully voluntary. Other Congress Radio defendants allegedly received harsh treatment at the hands of colonial jailers (including being forced to sleep lightly-clothed on blocks of ice), so Printer’s decision to turn “Crown’s evidence” may have been extracted by external factors.
On 12 November 1942, Printer led colonial police to Javeri’s office, where the underground Gandhian leader was arrested, and later to the Congress Radio transmitting site, where Mehta and another nonviolent activist were also taken into custody. On 14 May 1943, after a secret trial in a “Special Court,” Mehta was sentenced by a “Special Judge” to five years “rigorous imprisonment.” Two other Congress Radio defendants were sentenced to shorter prison terms, while Javeri was acquitted, thanks to strong efforts by his defense attorney. Prosecution efforts to link Tanna to Congress Radio were unsuccessful, and he also walked free.
Nariman Printer was offered and accepted full immunity from prosecution in return for his testimony for the Crown. Printer dropped from sight after the Congress Radio trial, and his expired call sign, VU2FU, was re-issued to a different Indian amateur operator after the war.
Today, even elder members of Bombay’s small and tightly-knit Parsi community, to which Printer belonged, profess to remember neither his name nor his story, and no further records of his life or activities after 1943 have been located.
Usha Mehta was freed, along with all other Gandhian activists convicted of pro-independence activities, when independent India finally achieved its freedom in 1947. She later earned her PhD, and received numerous honors as a national hero and noted Gandhian scholar. She passed away from natural causes on 11 August 2000.
After independence, Bob (as he is still known on the air), VU2LK, was once again licensed as an Amateur Radio operator. He received official recognition as a nonviolent Freedom Fighter and was named a national hero for his underground radio work in the Gandhian movement. As of this writing he is, at 86 years of age, the oldest active licensed radio amateur in India (and one of the most honored). He is currently in seclusion following the death of his beloved wife of 67 years, but he has not given up on either Ham radio or the ideals that led him to risk his life and freedom a half-century ago, when he offered his technical know-how to aid the Mahatma’s nonviolent struggle for his country’s freedom.
GRUMMAN AMATEUR RADIO CLUB
MINUTES OF GENERAL MEETING – 3/18/03
By Pete, N2PYV
The meeting was called to order by Pat at 5:40 p.m.
All present introduced themselves.
Finances continue to be in good shape.
REPEATER REPORT –
Pat & Gordon went to the roof of Plant 14 and installed the hard-line in the repeater antenna tower. Unfortunately when they checked the SWR, it turned out to be too high. They will have to go back and troubleshoot it.
Gordon reported that he had correspondence from the organization that is supposed to coordinate repeaters in the NYC area. They state that they are backed up with applications and ours is still considered "pending". They assured Gordon that there would be no problem.
NET REPORT –
Zack reported that the Sunday 40-Meter Net was good this week. The Wednesday 20-Meter Net had 4 check-ins.
VE REPORT –
There were 6 VE’s present, but no applicants. Bob stated that the advertisement for VE sessions was not adequate and that it will be corrected.
HOUSE REPORT –
Pat reported that he had a conversation with the N/G Recreation Department. They stated that they were considering purchasing a generator for use by the various clubs. They told Pat to submit the specifications for the desired generator, they would purchase it and let us use it for field day.
There were two applicants approved for membership:
Pat Palmer, AB2OL, Extra, for Full Membership
Harry Schrader, WB2H, Extra, For Sustaining Membership
Bob, W2ILP, continued his series of presentations on digital modes. This session was about the Hellschreiber mode.