As mentioned in previous blogs, this summer's Es season on 50MHz has seen a huge increase in the number of stations using the weak-signal JT65 mode.
Although this mode has been around for a few years, for some reason, it really took off this season. I witnessed many long-time, 'CW-forever' operators (myself included), gingerly move up the band to see what this mode could offer.
At first I thought the activity I was seeing was probably mostly from magic-band regulars, who like me, were also curious ... but I now think this is not the case.
Normally, my 6m summertime Es activities result in just one or two stations requesting a QSL to confirm the contact. These are usually guys that either need a VE7 card or are looking to confirm my grid-square ... just a few cards arrive, in spite of many dozens of contacts over the summer months. This summer I noticed a much different pattern.
This summer saw a tenfold increase in the number of QSL requests and every single one was for a JT65 or JT9 digital mode contact! It soon became apparent that these were not 6m diehards that had just moved up the band, but rather, very enthusiastic newcomers to the band ... what an exciting thing to see! Many of the cards did not have any grid-square information ... the telltale sign of all VHF operators. They had discovered the magicband, using JT65.
Perhaps these were mostly 'no-code' amateurs or those living in antenna-challenged situations such as condos or apartments. Whatever the reason, it really is interesting to see such a profound change in 6m operating tactics, by both the veteran ops and by the newcomers ... all happening so quickly. Hopefully some of the new arrivals will venture down the band to try CW or SSB where contacts can be made much more quickly than on the digital modes but all of this new activity is wonderful to see.