I've been a ham for 49 years now (since I was 12 years old). See my bio for an extended ham radio biography. In late 2000, after being "equipment-less" for several years, Santa brought a Sierra QRP rig and I built it during the winter, then later a PSK20 kit arrived at my birthday! Until spring 2003, I was active only QRP CW on 40, 30, 20 and 15 meters plus 20 meter PSK31. In late May 2003, I bought a Yaesu FT-897, my first new commercial rig in almost 20 years. What a great radio! I use it both at home and in the car. I also have a working PSK80 Warbler, but until recently, I've been "antenna challenged" because I was living in a condominium and using an indoor 40M dipole in the attic. In Jan 2006, I built an Elecraft KX1 "ultra-portable" CW transceiver and have been having a great time making contacts with it, often operating portable near my building at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. In Dec 2007, I completed a basic Elecraft K2 and not only is it the best rig and best receiver I've ever used, but now I'm hooked on building Elecraft kits for sure! I'm a member of the Falmouth Amateur Radio Association in Falmouth, MA on Cape Cod. In mid-August 2008, I moved to a house in Waquoit (East Falmouth), MA and am back on the air with outdoor antennas! Latest addition to my Elecraft lineup in 2012 was a KX3 - wow! Great rig!
I like to get on during the various contests (ARRL DX, CQ WPX, June VHF QSO Party, the monthly QRP Spartan Sprints and NAQCC Sprints) and make a few contacts. Most of my contacts are CW, but if it's a SSB contest, I'll get on for a few phone contacts also. With an indoor antenna, CW is a bit more effective, but SSB works. Contesters have GOOD ears and they need even the weak ones - a contact is a contact, regardless of the signal strength!
For PSK31 with the FT-897 or the PSK-20 I currently use a Dell notebook PC running Digipan v2.0 software. I don't use a special interface to the sound card, just a couple of patch cables and a serial cable. The FT-897 even has digital VOX, so all you need are the 2 audio cables. Setting the TX level with the Windows control is a bit touchy and would probably benefit from a trimpot of some sort in the audio line, but it's NOT necessary to spend money for a special interface (i.e Rigblaster or MFJ) for either of my current rigs. The PSK-20 puts out several watts to my dipole and contacts with North America and Europe are not difficult at this power level.
I've also briefly experimented with a couple of RTTY and SSTV software packages (MM-TTY and MM-SSTV) and both appear to work fine - also tried JT-65HF - now all I need is more free time!
Oh, and check out ARRL's Logbook of the World - a great way to get confirmations! Got my C5Z (Gambia) contact confirmed this way, for example. Everybody should add LOTW to their "bag of tricks"! I use N3FJP's ACLog 3.0 software and can upload new log info directly.
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