This contest, as with many radio contests, has a section for those who don’t have an amateur radio license (yet!) to participate by logging the contacts they do hear between stations. This can actually be harder than operating as an amateur as you only get one chance to hear the transmissions and can’t ask the other party to repeat something they said if it was unclear! However here are some tips that may help
Choosing a receiver
This will depend on what radio you have at home. You’ll want a radio that can receive the 2 meter amateur band in FM mode. Scanners, some two way radios, and some airband or marine radios may be able to recieve on the amateur frequencies. These, typically, will be FM only and so you will only be able to listen to the FM part of the contest.
Alternatively if you have a Software Defined Radio you can use that. If you don’t you should consider getting one! https://www.rtl-sdr.com/ has details on the RTL-SDR usb radios that you can use with your computer. These devices can be bought for €10-€15 on ebay and there are plenty of youtube videos on how to get them to work. These devices can receive Upper Side Band (USB) which is necessary to listen to the FT8 contest.
The FM contest will be held between 145.225 – 145.475 MHz. If your radio supports “narrow FM” you should use that.
This band is split into channels that are 25kHz apart. So you may hear stations on 145.225, 145.250, 145.275 etc. you don’t need to scan for stations between these.
Antenna & improving reception
The 2m band is pretty much a line-of-sight band, the radio waves at this frequency do not bounce off the atmosphere or bend around the earth like longer wavelenghts can. So to stand the best chance of hearing stations you should put your antenna as high as possible outside. Leaning out an upstairs window will do fine if that’s the best you can do! Our 2m resources page has some links to building antennas.
Listening to FT8
To listen to FT8 you will need a radio that can listen in Upper Side Band (USB) and have a way to get that audio to your computer.
You’ll need to install WSJT-X. After installing it you will be able to select the sound input device. You can connect the radio to your computer via a regular audio cable, or even turn up the volume and use the computer micrphone. If using an RTL-SDR you’ll need to use something like a Virtual Audio Cable so that you can direct the output of one program (probably something like SDR# ) to the input of WSJT-X. https://maker.pro/microsoft-azure/projects/receive-ft8-with-wsjt-x-and-rtl-sdr-windows has a good write up on one approach for doing this.
Ideally you should report the information required for both sides of the contact. However as you may only be able to hear one side you can report that. We still need to figure out exactly how to award points for contacts for this section so please report what you can.
CQ? QSO? QSL? QTH? 73?
Amateur radio operators use a few ‘codewords’ to exchange information. This is done to ease communication where it may not always be easy to hear the other person clearly. For example if you are dealing with someone with a strong accent or whos English is not fluent you may not be able to understand them asking “Where do you live?” “Where are you based?” “What is the location of your station?” – but there is little room for ambiguity with “Your QTH? Your QTH?”. A full list of these Q codes is at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Q_code#Amateur_radio but here’s the main ones:
QTH – My location is/ What is your location?
QSL – I acknowledge report/ Did you get my report?
QSO – communicating with / Can you communicate with
QRP – I am using low power
Other codes come from wire signals and morse code.
For example 73 means ‘Best Regards’. IT has a distinctive sound in Morse Code of dah dah dit dit dit, dit dit dit dah dah. Another is “CQ” which is used when putting out a call to make contact with other stations.