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Digital communications methods

KB6NU noted Yaesu’s A Digital Communications Guide for Amateur Radio Operators as a good introduction into digital radio communications.

The ‘white paper’ does provide a good rundown on the benefits and drawbacks of digital communications. Many have seen those first hand when TV changed from analog to digital and they were trying to get off-air broadcast signals for their TV.

The paper does promote Yaesu’s four level FSK digital mode as a contrast to Icom’s D-STAR but, to me, that is more of a compare and contrast rather than a bash and trash.

What is in the paper is that the traditional analog systems that Amateur Radio operators have always used have their place and will likely continue to be popular. Digital modes will remain mostly experimental and of limited utility in the hobby.

The paper features the three levels involved in digital communications. There is the modulation type like GMSK or C4FM, the communications type such as frequency or time domain multiple access, and the protocol that is how data is encapsulated for transmission. In analog systems, the modulation type is the only concern.

The fact is that digital modes have long been a part of Amateur Radio. RTTY was one of the first (after CW). Packet showed up something like forty years ago. Since then, there have been so many digital modes that keeping track of which one you are hearing can be a job. That was why software like fldigi was developed. Then there is the weak signal digital effort exemplified by WSJT.

Note that this discussion of digital is about communicating digital information. It is not about digitizing radio signals so they can be mathematically processed. That distinction is between digital outside of the radio and digital inside it. They are two entirely different technologies.

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