Extra Class question of the day: Digital signals and communications modes

September 02, 2012 Dan KB6NU

Morse Code is arguably the original digital mode. Morse code is a digital code consists of elements having unequal length. (E8C01) One advantage of using Morse Code is that it is very narrow bandwidth. The bandwidth necessary for a 13-WPM international Morse code transmission is approximately 52 Hz. (E8C05)

The next oldest digital mode is radioteletype, or RTTY. RTTY uses a five-bit code called Baudot. Most modern digital devices these days use ASCII, which is a 7-bit or 8-bit code. Some of the differences between the Baudot digital code and ASCII are that Baudot uses five data bits per character, ASCII uses seven or eight; Baudot uses two characters as shift codes, ASCII has no shift code. (E8C02) One advantage of using the ASCII code for data communications is that it is possible to transmit both upper and lower case text. (E8C03)

The reason that some ASCII transmissions have only seven bits, while others use eight bits is that the eighth bit is a parity bit. The advantage of including a parity bit with an ASCII character stream is that some types of errors can be detected. (E8C12)

The bandwidth needed for ASCII digital transmissions increases as the data rate increases. The bandwidth necessary for a 170-hertz shift, 300-baud ASCII transmission is 0.5 kHz. (E8C06) The bandwidth necessary for a 4800-Hz frequency shift, 9600-baud ASCII FM transmission is 15.36 kHz. (E8C07)

PSK has become a very popular digital mode. One reason for this is that it occupies a very narrow bandwidth – only 31 Hz. One technique used to minimize the bandwidth requirements of a PSK31 signal is the use of sinusoidal data pulses. (E8C04)

An up-and-coming digital mode is JT-65, named after its inventor, Nobel Prize winner and amateur radio operator, Joe Taylor, K1JT. It uses 65 different tones spread over a bandwidth of 175 Hz. One advantage of using JT-65 coding is the ability to decode signals which have a very low signal to noise ratio. (E8C13)

Spread-spectrum communication is a wide-bandwidth communications system in which the transmitted carrier frequency varies according to some predetermined sequence. (E8C08) Direct sequence is a spread-spectrum communications technique uses a high speed binary bit stream to shift the phase of an RF carrier. (E8C11) Frequency hopping is a spread-spectrum communications technique alters the center frequency of a conventional carrier many times per second in accordance with a pseudo-random list of channels. (E8C10) Spread-spectrum techniques causes a digital signal to appear as wide-band noise to a conventional receiver. (E8C09)

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