Saturday, May 13, 2023


I got a phone call from a friend who reminded me about the K1USN Slow-Speed-(con)Test

This post started out as a reminder about the K1USB contest, but it evolved in to a How-To document.  That was not the original intent, but it happened.  So to keep the information in one place and perhaps help someone else who is in a similar situation, I'll leave it.

  1. You can copy slow speed (below 20 wpm, but above 13-15 wpm?)  In that fuzzy area between "fast and really slow".   I'm around 16-17.
  2. You want to do CW
  3. You want to practice CW Contesting
  4. You have an radio that can do CAT (like Elecraft K3) and a Windows PC with N1MM
  5. You want to have fun learning how to use CW and do so in a Contest.

If this sounds like you, then read on!

I have my station setup with the following:

1. N1MM Logging and I applied the K1USN SST Contest profile  (the instructions on their page are quite simple)
    Download the UDC (User Defined Contest) file.   Then place the file where your N1MM stores UserDefinedContest files.  (it'll be in the installation directory of your N1MM).  For example if you installed N1MM in C:\Foo   then the directory will be C:\Foo\UserDefinedContests   N1MM when installed using all the default settings will put it somewhere else on your PC.   

   After putting the file for the UDC, restart N1MM.   From the File menu, select New Log in Database.

   You'll be presented with a list of choices of which Contest profile to use.  

You will find it under the name "K1USN CW Slow Speed (con)Test"

Once selected the rest of the fields will apply to how you will operate (low power, high power and so on).  

One advice:  In the Exchange field, put "YOURNAME STATE/Province/DX"

Bill from Oregon enters:


If you are Tom in Vancouver, BC:


If you are Rene in France

"Rene DX"


Do this before finalizing the establishment of your Log for this Contest profile.

2.  Once in N1MM the other thing to get configured is the Macro settings.   The Function keys are really helpful in N1MM to send "canned" messages through the Radio.  The configuration of the N1MM logging software being aware of your radio and your connection to the radio is really not the subject of this post, but for me, I use an Elecraft K3 and these are the settings.  I'm confident that the settings may work with other Elecraft radios, but I am not sure.   

Under Config menu, choose "Configure Ports, Mode Control, Winkey, etc.."

Once there under the Hardware tab:   Choose the Port (COM Port) to which your K3 is attached.  I use the Serial to USB cable so this presents to the Windows system a virtual COM port.  Pick the COM port.

Then choose the Radio (I have an Elecraft K3).  I checked the box "CW/Other"

Then click the "Set" button to further configure:

I set the K3 baud rate to 38400 (do so with the Radio, you cannot set the baud rate of the radio via N1MM, but I think perhaps you could if N1MM can send CAT commands to do so.. We won't do that. Just set the baud rate of your radio from your radio.  On the K3, it's in the deep config (hold down MENU on the K3.  The menu setting is RS232.)

Just make the N1MM serial port speed the same.
No parity.
8 data, 1 stop bit

The next part is where I had to do some research/experimenting.

If the setup you have is like mine -- Just a PC (Windows, whatever, it doesn't really matter as long as the CAT is via the "Serial-to-USB" interface to your "PC") then set:

RTS to Always On.

On the K3 find the Config PTT-KEY and set it to:  OFF - dtr

Leave the rest of the N1MM Port settings as shown, as is.  (I believe this is the simplest configuration that gives N1MM the capabilities it needs to control the radio and let you use the Function Keys and ESC key as intended.)

There are some pages floating around the net where the next step might differ from what I'm going to suggest.   This should work for you on an Elecraft K3 and typical N1MM setup.  I'd be interested if this is NOT the correct way -- even though it works.

I'm suggesting this way below because it works AND it preserves the capability of the N1MM to honor the ESC key to "stop transmitting" immediately.

Alright, just to test that your Radio can be keyed by the N1MM (We will get to the Macros soon)

Put the K3 in Test Mode (Hold down TEST).  Put the radio in CW mode, and turn the volume down and turn the Monitor up so you can hear.

Now press F2.  If your Monitor should blast out the CW for whatever the macro F2 does. (which is I believe the Exchange sent to the caller).

3.  The Macros to define for the SST contest are sort of unique because in this SST contest we don't send signal reports.  We send First name and State/Prov/EX and a little message each way.  If you look at the link to the K1USN page (scroll back to top of this post), the sample exchange is:

Let's look at a sample exchange.     Alice W1ALC is from Washington State (WA) and  is calling CQ.

Bob W2BOB  is from California and he answers Alice's call.

This is what it we hear:

W1ALC sends:  CQ SST W1ALC
W2BOB answers: W2BOB

That's a fairly simple exchange.  In N1MM we can use the Macro Function keys to speed this along.

First, the F1 key, that's usually reserved (but not required) to be the "Call CQ button".   Check with your local ham friends, but typically from what I've seen "F1" is going to hold the macro to "Call CQ"

So Alice presses F1 to call CQ...

Then Bob hearing this in California, presses F4 (which is by default in N1MM going to send the Callsign of the Operator.. in this case, Bob is the Operator of Bob's station, so when Bob presses F4 "his own call" is sent.

Upon hearing Bob answer, Alice types in Bob's call sign and depending if she setup Call History (which we will get to in a minute), Alice replies to Bob by pressing F5 (sending their callsign -- whatever callsign Alice typed in to HER N1MM field for the callsign calling her).

When Alice presses F5, Alice's radio transmits the callsign she entered into HER N1MM (we hope she typed in W2BOB before pressing F5 !)

OK but Alice needs to send more than Bob's call.  She also sends THE ECHANGE -- which is HER name and HER state.

So the text you entered when you created the new Log ("exchange" ?)  That comes to be important.  F2 is the key Alice presses to send her Exchange to Bob.  F2 will send "ALICE WA"

(Let's pause here.  Alice pressed F5 to send Bob's callsign.  Alice also pressed F2 to send HER name and HER state per the SST rules. Alice should press F5 then F2 in order, without delay between themN1MM will know what to do -- N1MM will chain the messages in due time.   F5 F2  in order without delay.)

Now Bob received Alice's Exchange and so per the SST rules, Bob sends Alice an exchange "GE ALICE BOB CA"  -- this is the first time Alice actually heard Bob send his exchange with HIS name and HIS State.   But if Alice configured her N1MM to use a Call History database AND Bob was in that database, this name/state information would probably be in there to help her auto-complete the fields BEFORE she even pressed F2.

Upon hearing Bob give her his name (Bob) and his state (CA), Alice can now send the final message of this whole QSO:

Alice sends "GL BOB TU W1ALC SST"

Here, Alice is acknowledging Bob's name (just his name) in a friendly message "Good Luck", and uses his name and then adds "TU" -- which is effectively the end of the QSO.

The suffix at the end "W1ALC SST" is part ending the last QSO and part calling CQ -- without actually calling CQ.  -- Other stations may be listening and they are waiting for Alice to "wrap things up" with the TU and her call.   So, that's what she does -- sends "W1ALC SST" after she sends the TU.

All of this is exactly what is on the K1USN web site.  I'm just re-interpreting it.  You might interpret it differently.

At any rate -- I mentioned four Function Key Presses:

F1 - Causes N1MM to send whatever the "CQ Message" is
F4 - Causes N1MM to send OWN CALL (the callsign of whomever is operating the station)
F2 - Causes N1MM to send the Exchange (Name State/Prov/DX)
F5 - Causes N1MM to send the OTHER CALL - the call sign of the station calling YOU -- as long as you entered it in the N1MM after hearing it.

That's the basics of the keys so far.   The other keys do other things --- F12 for instance completely clears out the QSO data in the fields as if it never happened.

The ESC key (not  Function key) will make N1MM stop the radio from keying ANYTHING.  It just stops transmission immediately.

But, as I looked at the Exchange example from K1USN and I read through the documentation of N1MM I found that one could re-define the Function keys to make the whole exchange automated.

I know this is probably NOT the point of the SST -- to automate everything, but for me what is important is copying callsigns correctly.  I personally do not have trouble sending, I have trouble copying callsigns.  So I could do the whole GE, GL exchange manually.. Or I could do something different.  Here's what I did:

I mapped the F7 key to do this:

In this example, I am W7BRS (Jeff) and the station that called me is W6OAT (Rusty)

If the NAME of the operator of that station is in the field, then when I press F7 my radio sends:


How did N1MM know to send Rusty's name?  The Macro for that is added to the sequence sent by the F7 key.

I'm going to list now all of the settings I use for the Function keys:

To see this list, right-click your mouse pointer in the region of N1MM where the Function Keys are displayed (below the QSO in progress fields)

This is my configuration of the Function Keys.  The rows that are bold are what I modified from the generic defaults:

# sends:  CQ SST W7BRS W7BRS

# sends: JEFF WA
F2 Exch,{EXCH}

F5 His Call,!
F6 Repeat,{EXCH} {EXCH}

# If I'm Jeff and they are Bob 
# and I sent the CQ,
# sends:  GL BOB TU W7BRS SST

F8 Agn?,Agn?
F9 Nr?,Nr?
F10 Call?,Call?

# If I'm Jeff, and they are Bob from CA, 
# and Bob is answering my CQ
# sends:  GE JEFF BOB CA

F12 Wipe,{WIPE}

F1, F2, F5 and F4 are all standard except that F1 is sending the word "SST" after CQ.  You can edit that yourself.

I suggested using two un-used Function keys:  F7 and F11.

If Alice is calling CQ, then Alice can use F7 (as suggested) to send this message:

N1MM gets the value of the macro {NAME} from the name you entered in the current-QSO fields (before you actually log the QSO)

The other key I modified was the unused F11 key. It was unused so I apply it to when I am calling one of the stations that are sending CQ.

Mapping the keys back to the example exchange of K1USN SST, if Alice and Bob were using these mappings, then this is what might be possible then:

W1ALC sends:  CQ SST W1ALC  (Alice uses F1)
(Bob should have typed in Alice's call by now)

W2BOB answers: W2BOB (Bob uses F4)
(Alice has to type in Bob's callsign now)

W1ALC replies: W2BOB ALICE WA (Alice uses F5 followed by F2)
(Alice may have learned Bob's name from Call History or not)

W2BOB replies: GE ALICE BOB CA   (Bob uses F11)
(Alice has to type in Bob's NAME unless she already did, now)

W1ALC finishes: GL BOB TU W1ALC SST  (Alice uses F7)
(The QSO is over -- it was over when Alice sent TU.  She would have pressed ENTER to log it).

Alice  could have manually keyed out just GL BOB and then used a Function key for the TU W1ALC SST,  but that's a lot of movement on the keyboard and paddle.   Likewise, Bob could have manually keyed out his personalized response.  That's up to each person.

Does this violate the spirit of the SST?  Perhaps it's not ideal, but the point is to have fun and if you want to manually send the GE/GL exchange, then PLEASE DO SO.   From the limited amount of CW contesting I've done, I'd say so far the real challenge is not in the sending, but in the copying of the other station's call accurately and quickly.  

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