JT65 on HF. Exciting? Or Watching Paint Dry?

It's about 3:00 on a Sunday afternoon, and I'm sitting in my shack in a pair of shorts watching dots crawl down a waterfall display. I can feel the aftereffects of the migraine I woke up with and the medication I took to feel almost normal. Sunday is my day for household chores, and I should be doing them, but I'm not. I've got post-convention work I have to do for ApolloCon, the science fiction convention I ran this year while y'all were having fun at Field Day, (lucky bastards,) but I'm not doing that, either. Instead, I'm watching dots crawl down a waterfall display.

The display that is so fascinating is the WSJT waterfall display, and I'm watching it because I'm running JT65A on 20 meters. For that mode, a lot of guys run an HF-specific program called JT65-HF, but it's Windows-only and I'm in Linux now (although I was in Windows last night for my first JT65 contact) so I'm running the "old-school" version from the old man Joe Taylor K1JT himself. It's a little more involved to use the WSJT software, but not a whole heck of a lot. There's just not a lot to JT65 QSO's.

The ostensible reason for running this mode is to test the Unified Microsystems SCI-6 sound card interface that I'm giving to my XYL, KD5SBI, for her birthday in a few weeks. JT65 is a good mode for testing things like that because the computer does all the work except pick which QSO's to try for. It receives the signal, decodes it, keys the transmitter, and generates the signal. The queries and responses are all formulaic, based upon the EME QSO's that JT65 was invented to permit. That gives all of the sections of the SCI-6 a good workout, but the SCI-6 proved itself out last night so I don't even have that excuse any more.

I've read articles on JT65-hf and the comments compare the mode to watching paint dry, and I've criticized AX-25 packet because watching computers talk to each other is dreadfully dull, and by all rights JT65 should be just as dull because the computer seems to be doing all the work. I can't explain why I'm so fascinated with attempting these strange automated QSO's with Ohio and Arizona and Nebraska, the farthest places I can reach with my IC-706 running 20W and an attic antenna. I keep telling myself that I need to turn the radio off, log off the computer, and go do chores, but it's the top of the minute and there's another column of dots.

It's about 3:30 on a Sunday afternoon, and I'm sitting in my shack in a pair of shorts watching dots crawl down a waterfall display.