Imagine a passband scanning Automaton robotically able to listen to the contest traffic just Your Station can receive, presenting its results in realtime on a computer screen with callsigns?
Welcome to the world of CW Skimmer
CW Skimmer has moved the bar significantly in CW contesting – perhaps more so than packet, auto-keyers and panadaptors combined, by offering the CW operator a comprehensive, real-time station-customized band analysis useable in a point-shoot-and-forget fashion.
Pretty Cool stuff!
Of course it does change the dynamics of CW contesting from being operator skill, location, and station design confined, to being influenced to a greater extent by CW Skimmer use & integration.
The CW Contests usually have several classes of operation – operator number (going solo or team), assisted/unassisted (station helpers and data feeds) and power levels.
In the assisted/unassisted separation the use of external data feeds – packet & internet spots – customarily moved a station to the Assisted Category.
There is a huge debate as to whether the use of CW Skimmer is Assisted Operations, the same as packet & internet spots, or as it locally generated without additional human intervention if it is better described as Unassisted.
The strongest argument for remaining as Unassisted is that everything CW Skimmer presents is what your station heard and no other human hands touched anything to do it.
CW Skimmer is a major slide down the slippery slope to automatic station contesting.
In the case of CW Skimmer it may be a ham shack “Robby the Robot” only carrying out a finite set of computerized calculations.
But it does more than a team of dozens assisting a contester could ever do.
I’ve suggested elsewhere that the Unassisted category be split into a “Traditional Unassisted” and “Automated Unassisted” categories to more accurately reflect the actual percentage of the contest done by the operator and by the shack computers.
These TU and AU (“Traditional Unassisted” and “Automated Unassisted”) classes would be defined by whether a station is running an agreed level of station automation.
The AU class might be a better place for remote operations, spread-antenna location diversity operations, and the other very cool experiments some stations are working at.
The TU class would be an operator, his conventional station and his keyer.
Of course the exact division between the two would take some working out – there is a continuum being divided up between the classes – but the contest community can work it out.