- Amateur Radio (Ham Radio) Community

Call Search

New to Ham Radio?
My Profile

Friends Remembered
Survey Question

DX Cluster Spots

Ham Exams
Ham Links
List Archives
News Articles
Product Reviews
QSL Managers

Site Info
eHam Help (FAQ)
Support the site
The eHam Team
Advertising Info
Vision Statement

[Articles Home]  [Add Article]  

RTTY is not dead, but I still remember ..

Rev Fr Johnny Shepherd (KD5LWU) on November 8, 2000
View comments about this article!

RTTY is not dead but I still remember.....

10 Years ago as WA6ZEA I ran a model 19 with my amateur station. There was a certain magic about the model 19, the clatter sounds, the RTTY sound coming from your rig's speaker, the dancing double circle on your scope used to align the signal for reception, the pile of paper all over the floor, The wonderful and ageless ASCII Pictures (my favorite was the Lords Supper),  the local RTTY net on 10 meters that lasted half the night, the brotherhood between hams that understood your love and frustration with the "art" of RTTY! And most of all someone there to help (another ham) when things went wrong.

Today as KD5LWU I use a computer interface

(I still listen with yesterdays ears!) - the magic is still there but it's not quite the same without the clatter and no more paper to deal with. The brotherhood has never changed but at times it seems a little more distant (now we communicate with email instead of the eye-to-eye gatherings) than the "good ole days". None the less RTTY is still fun and hopefully, like cw, it will never fade into just memories in the mind's of old timers. I once heard someone say "any idiot can type on a keyboard", well it took, and still takes, much more than that! Like packet, or SSTV, it takes technology and patience. It takes camaraderie with other Hams and it take dedication.

If you have memories, stories or technology to share on my RTTY Internet page please email them to me and I'll post them. 

Johnny Shepherd - KD5LWU (ex-WA6ZEA)

Member Comments:
This article has expired. No more comments may be added.
RTTY is not dead, but Istill remember ..  
by N2WSO on November 8, 2000 Mail this to a friend!
I use email every day at my work and at home to communicate all around the world, but I'm looking into RTTY as a new and exciting way to communicate via Ham radio. I don't have all the pieces in place yet, but I have enough now to listen around a bit. I'm really quite fastinated by it and it rekindles my early interest in radio. I think some people tend to forget our hobby is Amateur Radio, not Amateur Communications. It's the radio part that really interests me. So far I've been able to copy RTTY stations all around the world with a modest vertical antenna and, quite frankly, there is no comparison to email or the Internet. I consider the Internet just another tool, like the telephone, in that there is really no challenge to it. But RTTY is a challenge and does require a bit of operating skill. I certainly hope it remains popular for quite a while longer as I am quite anxious to get my station on the air soon. DE N2WSO

RTTY is not dead, but Istill remember ..  
by K4BX on November 8, 2000 Mail this to a friend!
If you think RTTY is dead just listen this weekend to the Worked All Europe contest. If one wants to try RTTY, there is now software from Mako - JE3HHT that will let you do RTTY with your computer's soundcard.

I'm sorry I missed seeing and hearing the old mechanical monsters spitting paper all over the floor.
RTTY is not dead, but Istill remember ..  
by KD5LWU on November 9, 2000 Mail this to a friend!
N2WSO welcome to the world of RTTY. It's still there just the old machines are gone (and a few of the old elmers - I keep oiling the old joints here to keep going!) but what an incredible day that was. Still today there's nothing quite like rtty so enjoy hope someday to work you on 10 mtrs. 73~
RTTY is not dead, but Istill remember ..  
by KL0QQ on November 9, 2000 Mail this to a friend!
Perhaps someone should create some software that recreates the old sound on your computer. A repeating .wav file on winamp is a good brute force solution. I don't mean this as a joke either, thanks to computer tech. my telephone has a very nice 1960 era ring to it again.
RTTY is not dead, but I still remember ..  
by K3AN on November 9, 2000 Mail this to a friend!
In the late '60s, I was in the U.S. Army. I had spent almost 8 months at Ft. Monmouth learning to maintain crypto gear, and when I arrived at my new overseas assignment, there was no such gear yet to maintain (SNAFU!). So in order to avoid long-term KP, I signed up for a two week in-country TTY maintenance school. I learned then that electronic and logical aptitude doesn't necessarily carry over to mechanical aptitude, because those old Model 15s and Model 19s were mechanical monsters that I never did master. However, watching the rotating shafts and the cams, clutches, gears and solenoids (plus the sound and the smell of those well-oiled machines) was absolutely fascinating. The inventors of that system were either truly brilliant or truly mad. Thankfully the gear I was originally trained on started arriving, so I was saved from that long-term KP assignment.

My hat is off to those who are still using and maintaining those wonderful old relics.
RTTY is not dead, but I still remember ..  
by W5UX on November 9, 2000 Mail this to a friend!
I used to operate the old mechanical monsters in the Navy. Now I use my comnputer for rtty. They are not that outdated. They will still get through when ssb won't.
RE: RTTY is not dead, but I still remember ..  
by KD5LWU on November 9, 2000 Mail this to a friend!
Hi - The title is RTTY is not dead but I remember...
I never suggested that RTTY is outdated. I am just recalling the days of the old machines on RTTY. I listen to RTTY everyday on the bands, and yes I also use my computer to RTTY QSO today. 73~
Do I ryryryryryremember??  
by K5IQ on November 9, 2000 Mail this to a friend!
Suddenly I sound older than I really am, but...boy, this article sure brought back memories!

I remember the marvelous thrummmmmm as my old Model 19 sprang into life, the clackity-clack-ding, and the distinctive ozone'n'oil smell as mostly readable words appeared on the coarse yellow paper. When the ARRL bulletin was coming in, that old beast made my ham shack seem like a newsroom ("...this just in!").

With no scope in the shack, I learned to tune by ear. Some claimed they could actually copy RTTY in their heads! I couldn't do that, but I got pretty good at discerning a properly tuned RTTY signal.

Station ID via the keyboard wasn't allowed; you had to identify with CW (FSK was okay and the peculiar deedle-dee characters still echo in some recess of my brain). I kept an old straight key next to the Model 19 just for that purpose.

Hitting the LTRS and FIGS shift keys became second nature while typing. Seasoned ops added a bunch of extra LTRS lest a fade or static crash knock out the shift back to text, leaving the receiving station with a string of $(12&##85.. Likewise it was common practice to send a long RYRYRYRYRYRY string to allow the receiving station to properly tune you in (you still hear some OT's doing this one).

Eventually I lusted after, and bought a three-speed Model 28KSR--oh, so much quieter and sexier than the WWII vintage Model 19. RTTY was still fun, but it wasn't quite the mystical experience it had been with the oily old beast. I also dreamed of having a tape perforator and reader, RTTY interest waned and, after a few years home computers began popping up, rendering the electromechanical monsters sadly obsolete.

Speaking of computers, remember those early RTTY bulletin boards? There was one on 40M which was popular 24 hours a day. With the Internet we take e-mail and rapid information transfer for granted, but it was waaaay cool to be able to log on to a pre-packet radio bulletin board and leave messages or download text. Think your 56 kilobaud modem is slow? Try dropping the "kilo" and then some!

An interesting sidelight of my RTTY experience was my proficiency on the "Green Keys" (they really were, y'know!) went hand-in-hand with my work at the time: I worked for a large oil-exploration company as a radio operator and much of my time was spent NOT talking on the radio, but typing long telexes and TTY messages. I discovered that our office in Belgium was run by hams and we'd spend long hours in "QSO" over the company TTY lines!

I still get on RTTY from time to time, and it's still a lot of fun, but reading text off the screen and using the type-ahead buffer to respond just doesn't quite have the romance, the immediacy that pounding the Green Keys did. But, then again, computers don't drip oil onto the carpets!

Thanks for the memoryryryries!

RE: RTTY is not dead, but Istill remember ..  
by K0FG on November 9, 2000 Mail this to a friend!
I remember the old model 19. After an hour I had to go get some aspirin cuz the darned thing was really loud in the small basement room with the cement block walls. I loved to leave the door off the back of the power supply section so I could look at the lovely purple haze emitted by the recitifer tubes. And the peg board hanging on the wall with all those little loops of paper with pictures and stories and other treasures encoded in them. Nostalgia is great, but with the computer I don't go thru nearly so many aspirins. RYRYRY de Fred
RTTY is not dead, but I still remember ..  
by KZ1X on November 9, 2000 Mail this to a friend!
I have a working Model 19 setup, exactly like in the picture.

Does anyone want it? Free. Come and get it in RTP, NC, or, ship at your cost.

Steve kz1x
RTTY is not dead, but I still remember ..  
by AI2Q on November 10, 2000 Mail this to a friend!
Those bygone days of RTTY were truly memorable for me. I recall lugging home a Model 26 page printer as a kid in 1959, and a year later travelling to Atlantic Surplus Sales in Brooklyn, NY with K2YGL to pick up an FRXD3-EL "climbing monkey" non-typing reperforator.

The ever-present 30-weight motor oil, and the little yellow chads overflowing onto the floor is a memory I'll never forget.

I still have my homebrew (largely built from old TV parts) W2JAV terminal unit with W0HZR phase shift oscilloscope (isn't it funny how I remember those callsigns). The little magnet I used to put the scope's trace in the middle of the screen is still attached!

I've operated today's digital modes, and my favorite is AMTOR, but none of this processor-based operation even remotely approaches the magic, the mystery, and the wonderful signts, sounds, and smells of RTTY with "green keys," selector magnets, polar relays, and motors!
RTTY is not dead, but I still remember ..  
by GIANT_BRASSBALLS on November 10, 2000 Mail this to a friend!
Great article. Reminds me of my old 28ASR. Wow did I love that machine. Computers can never replace the sounds and smells that came out of those machines. Worked lots of DX using that old machine with a ST6 TU.
RTTY is not dead, but I still remember ..  
by WB3CTC on November 11, 2000 Mail this to a friend!
Got into mechanical RTTY in the late 70's on the Harrisburg Pa. RTTY repeater. That was a very good time! Then packet killed that. And went on hf with
it. A few years ago someone locally wanted to get rid
of a 28asr and I put that on hf thru the T-386 I had at the time. But it was too late. Everyone was using computers and wouldn't insert carrage returns and line feeds. It was a royal pain to sit there and try to hit the local cr and lf buttons at the right time. When I would ask the other stations to add the cr's and lf's
they didn't know what I was talking about. Digatal modes today are great. But they can't compare with the fun of watching that machine do it's thing.
RTTY is not dead, but I still remember ..  
by WF0H on November 11, 2000 Mail this to a friend!
Mechanical "steam RTTY" as it is often called was another of those miracles of radio. The idea that pushing a key on that Model 19 on this side of the world and having it print a character on a roll of paper on the other side of the world was pretty magical stuff. I used to hang out almost every night on 80 meters - that seemed to be the right place for a model 19. I wonder whatever happened to my ST-5? The model 19 gave way to a VIC-20 computer and some software that let me run RTTY and AMTOR. The computers kept getting better and faster, and the radios kept getting smaller. Now, I can do most digital modes from my PC and an IC-706. My family complains about the noise now - I wonder what they'd do if I was still using that Model 19. And how would I have ever moved it to the basement? Here's one area where Amateurs have definitely made major advances in the last few decades. I haven't tried PSK31 yet - I'm waiting on a new computer that is intended for that use, however. 73
RTTY is not dead, but I still remember ..  
by W8RY on November 13, 2000 Mail this to a friend!
I was in a USAF unit that used Model 28's, about a dozen of them, in our comm room. we had an adjoining room called the 'poke shop' where messages would be typed offline onto perf tape, and then the guys in the comm room would send the tapes, and also cut off received tapes. That's where i learned how to wrap the tapes around my thumb and little finger to make a 'bowtie' of the tape. if things were dull on the midnight shift, we'd link two 28's together, start poking a tape on the perf, get about a foot of slack in the tape, and feed it into the TD and turn on the TD, which ran at 100wpm. to keep from tearing your tape, you had to type at 100 wpm or faster. Arthritis has taken its toll, and now i can't do that any more, but i used to be able to; of course the last time i tried that trick was 1969. i did this after a couple of years as a ditty-bop (morse intercept op). banging away on a manual typewriter with 6 carbon paper sets really built up your finger muscles!
Mike Brame, W8RY, ex-DL4RY, former R29251, USAF Security Service, former 20251 also.
RE: that you all!  
by KD5LWU on November 14, 2000 Mail this to a friend!
Thanks to all the great hams and old timers who responded to my article. You all have brought even more great memories back to the surface. I hang out on 28.350.0 and perhaps someday we can work RTTY together on 10 mtr
RTTY is not dead, but I still remember ..  
by AF4RZ on November 15, 2000 Mail this to a friend!
I too was in the US Army, in the late 70's/early 80's and was assigned to a communications unit in Germany. Although I have seen some of the older TTY machines (19's 25's etc), the ones we used were a bit more modern, (Model 33). Even those were only used occasionally however since the facility was a state of the art (at the time) automated communications center. We used a mainframe computer with magnetic tape, disk drives and high speed printers to pass traffic. Outgoing traffic was typed on a typewriter (on paper) and "read" by an optical character reader as well as CRT terminals. But the old equipment was still there and occasionally we would fire it up to make sure it still worked and to keep in practice. We had to know how to use it just in case, and we did have to call it back to active duty on several occasions. That new fangled electronic stuff just wasn't quite as sturdy and reliable although it did make the job a whole lot easier when it was working correctly.
RE: RTTY is not dead, but Istill remember ..  
by AD8K on November 16, 2000 Mail this to a friend!
Remember Byron Kreitsman? His name was on the front of a little rtty book I known. I could not get all the mechanical juck to work. So I went all electronic except for the printer, KB, perf reader and punch. Everything else was tubes. One of my circuits ended up in a Drake manual. Funny story about that. I was W8VST back then. I ended up with a one watt rtty station and did well over a hundred twenty five countries. I sure would be fun talking to you guys, ecpecially you old guys who carry and oily rag and a screwdriver in you back pocket. Damn we had fun.

The house I was living in was resonant to the blumb, blumb, blump of the model 15. Shook the whole house.

What would be a good digital mode? Don't say PSK-31. been there, did it. Is there something like Amtor?

Vic AD8K
RTTY is not dead, but I still remember ..  
by K5LAD on November 17, 2000 Mail this to a friend!
I too enjoyed the clanking walk back through memory lane. I was running a MARS model 19 at home, back in the 60s, and the thing I remember, with a smile, is talking with someone on 80 meter RTTY who was also running tape and trying to keep up with cutting a tape at my keyboard while the station I was talking to was answering. You couldn't see what you were typing, while cutting the tape, so you had to guess at your errors and try to blindly correct them. It was always a blessing when the other station did not have tape and was a slow typist since I could finally stay (almost) caught up.

Even the current political discussions coming from Florida have talked about chads and hanging chads and that had brought back more memories to me. The chadless machine kept things a lot cleaner around the shack since it didn't drop its little yellow circles, but those tapes were sure harder to wind up in a neat roll. I also had to learn that bow-tie rollup operation.

Ah, the memories.............
RE: RTTY is not dead, but I still remember ..  
by WA6RZW on December 4, 2000 Mail this to a friend!
Yes I had great fun with the Model 28's and the RAL program from Irv Hoff. Most of all I miss those great intellectual debates with W6FFC (SK). Great memories in RTTY...

RTTY is not dead, but I still remember ..  
by N9ACQ on February 12, 2003 Mail this to a friend!
Had a 15 page printer/keyboard. Now have klienschmidts one 60wpm loop and another setup for 100wpm. Using an old TTL TU with LAB quality audio filters 25 cycles wide 1275 and 1445. I can copy with a CW signal between the mark and space. Don't know of any modern TU/computer patch/ sound card systems that can manage that trick. Yes I have a bit bucket for the paper tape chad. Will be seting up using a TS-2000 which can use low tones with FSK input from the loop.
RE: RTTY is not dead, but I still remember ..  
by NOT-YET on May 6, 2005 Mail this to a friend!
Can anyone tell me anymore about Irv Hoff's RAL program mentioned a couple of messages above? I'm putting together a '60s RTTY shack and would be interested in learning about any early computer-based RTTY info ("early" means CP/M or earlier).

Email Subscription
You are not subscribed to discussions on this article.

My Subscriptions
Subscriptions Help

Other Opinion Articles
Our Own Methods are Stifling Technology
WAS, One Net, One Frequency, 100 Watts