[ ARRL PSK for Beginners ] [ PSK Frequencies ] [ PSK 31 Information ] [ DigiPan Free Software ] [ Digital Map ]

Here is a cheat sheet I put together

With PSK, you use your home computer with your radio to send and receive digital signals with other hams. The signals come through the radio, are fed into the computer and are decoded by software as the words being sent appear on the screen. The computer then turns the words you type into a signal that is sent through your radio to the ham you're talking to. It all works amazingly well, and pretty simply at that.

If you want to get started using PSK31, I suggest that you begin by listening (and watching) some PSK signals. First, go on the Internet and download the latest version of the Digipan program to your computer (just follow the links and instructions).Digipan is free and simple, so it's a good place to start.

You'll want to run a cable from the headphone or speaker jack of your radio to the "line in" jack on the back of your computer (next to this jack will probably be a drawing of an arrow pointing to the center of a circle). Keep in mind that not all computers have a LINE input (most laptops don't). If yours does not, you'll have to use the microphone input.

Next, adjust your sound card controls (double click the little "speaker" icon at the bottom of your computer screen) so the "line in" volume is at about 75 percent and is not muted. When you double click the tiny speaker, you'll see the VOLUME controls, which control transmit audio, not the RECORD controls that you need to adjust for receiving. To get the RECORDING window, you have to click on OPTIONS in the upper left corner of the VOLUME window, then click OPTIONS, then PROPERTIES, then RECORDING, then OK.

Next, open Digipan, tune the radio to about 14.070 MHz, adjust the radio volume until the program's computer screen shows a neutral dark color and maybe some noticeable trails of signals that stand out clearly from the background. You are now looking at the "waterfall display." You also can try listening on or around 7.070 or 21.070 MHz.

You may need to tune the radio a few kHz either way to get a good signal to read. I find it best to tune the rig so the signal you're monitoring is around the "1000" marker on the waterfall display. PSK signals sound like high-pitched warbling, and they appear very thin and individual on the display. Use your mouse to double click on a trail, and the words being sent should appear on the larger receiving box on Digipan. You are now reading PSK signals, which should keep you busy for a while. Notice the friendly tone that the operators use and the relaxed feeling of most exchanges. This is something most PSK ops seem to enjoy a lot.

You'll want to send some signals and talk to other operators. Do a dry run practice session first. Connect the speakers (or a headset) to your computer and adjust your sound card to make sure you have moderate volume coming out of them. Then type some text in the smaller "transmitting" box and click the "T/R" button at the top of Digipan. You will hear a signal coming out of the speakers and see the text you would be transmitting scroll across the screen. If you again click the "T/R" button at the top while this is happening, the program will automatically finish sending the whole text before going back to receive (this trick will come in handy later). Play around with this for a bit and see how it feels. In fact, spend some time getting used to using the program in this "practice" mode.