This Changes Everything?

On the Elecraft mailing list, there’s been a discussion of a new program called CW Skimmer, which the website describes as a “multi-channel CW decoder and analyzer.”

Its features include:

  • a very sensitive CW decoding algorithm based on the methods of Bayesian statistics;
  • simulatneous decoding of ALL cw signals in the receiver passband – up to 700 signals can be decoded in parallel on a 3-GHz P4 if a wideband receiver is used;
  • a fast waterfall display, with a resolution sufficient for reading Morse Code dots and dashes visually;
  • the callsigns are extracted from the decoded messages, and the traces on the waterfall are labeled with stations’ callsigns;
  • a DSP processor with a noise blanker, AGC, and a sharp, variable-bandwidth CW filter;
  • an I/Q Recorder and player.

Most of the folks taking part in the discussion bemoaned the loss of yet another skill, mostly referring to contests and DX pileups, I guess. One guy even went so far as to say, “This changes everything.”

It might change contesting a bit, but I can’t get too excited about it. If it does really give someone an advantage in a contest, then everyone will soon have it, so at that point it’s not an advantage. And in a DX pileup, anything is fair, if you ask me.

All in all, I rather like it. The ability to scan 10 kHz of spectrum for signals is very cool, if you ask me, and the CW decoding seems to work really well. What do you think?


  1. David N8SRE says:

    I think it’s really cool. It’s quite a clever use of technology. It also, once again, demonstrates CW’s uniqueness as a mode that can be decoded with equal ease by both humans and computers. It’s the only directly human-readable digital mode. (I’m told there are people who claim to be able to decode RTTY by ear, but I don’t believe it.)

    I don’t see this program as game-changing, though, at least not for real CW addicts. People who currently use CW don’t use it because they have to, they use it because they like the challenge. They won’t use this software, except maybe as a quick way to scan a band, because it won’t interest them. If it changes anything, it’ll be by getting a new strain of techno-geeks interested in CW, and that can only be good for the hobby.

  2. Personally I like the CW filter/decoder God built in my head. But each to his own.

    Good post.


  3. ED K8OT says:

    Contesting is like Racing, First its’s skill then Cubic dollars.
    skimmer is like cubic pennys
    Skimmer can’t make a 30 Ft tower into a 150 ft tower with 3 over two monobanders

  4. Heh, ED God has never been consistent.

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