Saturday, March 3, 2012 and the bands are alive with contest stations taking part in the ARRL SSB DX contest. Contests are really not everyone's cup of tea and many people dread the weekends when they are taking place. It's basically because all but the WARC bands are taken up by guys taking part in the contest and believe me when the conditions are good there is very little space anywhere on the bands. There's nothing stopping you from going on the band when the contest is taking place, but you've got to put up with people constantly asking you for a number, or whatever details they need for the contest, so really it's just not worth bothering, if you got antennas for the 17 and 12 m band then most people just stay on there over the weekend.
I've never really been one for contests, I have nothing against them personally but like other people, I'm really not interested in just exchanging a signal and number. However, I thought I would give this weekend contest a bash and see what it's all about. I'm certainly not taking it seriously and I won't submit my logbook because it's just not worth it, not when you've got guys out there who are sitting behind the radio for nearly 48 hours without any sleep. No, I'll do an hour here and there, give a few points away and maybe do some calling myself, but I'm really not overexcited about the whole thing.
So in the last few days I decided that I should set myself up with a proper contest logging program. Unfortunately Ham Radio Deluxe hasn't got a dedicated contest log included. So after some advice I decided to download N1MM's free software which includes a very good contest log. It took me a couple of days to set it up as it is quite complicated, believe me you will need to read the instructions properly as there are various files that need to be downloaded. You also need to create both a database for your log, and also make sure that you install the correct contest log. Thankfully, nearly everything has been done for you, it's just basically a case of downloading files and making sure that you put them in the right place. However, once you've done it the first time, you should be able to set everything up perfectly okay without any problems the next time. After I set the N1MM program up, I must say I was rather impressed, I can't say I've delved into all that it does, but the basic stuff which I have been using works extremely well. If you have got an interface or means of connecting the computer to your PC then the logging program will track your radio, which is quite important if you are taking part in the contest. There probably is a way of adding things manually, but if you are constantly changing frequency you don't really want to be doing that, you want the computer and software to do it for you automatically. Ironically, N1MM was one of the contesters who I managed to work.
Anyway, I haven't done any calling myself today, I just floating around the bands listening and giving a few points to various guys calling. I made a quick video of me operating on the 15 m band this afternoon, the signals were extremely strong although there was quite a lot of QRM. Believe me, contesting isn't exactly exciting, is nothing like putting a callout on hearing that exotic station coming back to you, contesting is hard work if you take it seriously, if you want to win any trophies then you've got to put a lot of work into it and you'll probably suffer from sleep deprivation at the end of the contest, especially if it's a long one. But hey, some guys like having that trophy or plaque on the wall. Most people who aren't serious contesters take part because quite often a lot of rare stations can be heard calling, it's a good time to get these calls in your logbook.
So, check my little video out, try not to fall asleep whilst you're watching it, I promise you it's far from exciting.