In a recent article, I lamented my distaste for carrying on the classic amateur radio conversation — calling CQ, having someone from far away or around the block call back, exchange call signs and signal reports and perhaps a few pleasantries. I think the idle chit-chat is a big turn-off to a lot of folks who would otherwise be interested in the World’s Greatest Hobby™, but thankfully there are plenty of ways for the mic-shy to get on the air. So as a public service I’d like to go over some of the many digital modes amateur radio offers as a way to avoid talking while still communicating.
Of Modes and Modulations
Hams speak in terms of modes and modulations when describing their radio transmissions. The difference between the two terms is mostly not important to our discussion, though, and in practice a lot of hams use the terms interchangeably. But for completeness, modulation is a way of impressing information on a radio wave, and a mode is a way of using a modulation to communicate. Modulation schemes include amplitude modulation (AM), frequency modulation (FM), and single sideband modulation (SSB). Modes include continuous wave (CW), analog voice, digital voice, images, and data.