Technical Articles

Is PSK31 Still a Thing?

Who has used PSK31? More accurately, who has used it lately? And I don’t mean for any contests dedicated solely to PSK31, but as an actual mode of communication.

What is PSK31?

PSK31 (a.k.a. “Phase Shift Keying, 31 Baud,” BPSK31, or QPSK31) is a popular computer sound-card-generated radioteletype mode primarily used by hams to conduct real-time keyboard-to-keyboard chat, most often using frequencies in the high frequency bands (near-shortwave), per Wikipedia. Unlike other digital modes, it is specifically tuned to have a data rate close to typing speed. It also has an extremely narrow bandwidth, allowing many conversations in the same bandwidth as a single voice channel. This makes better use of the RF energy in a very narrow space, allowing relatively low-power equipment (5 watts) to communicate globally using the same skywave propagation used by shortwave radio stations.

The picture above was from when my QSL-loving club did Winter Field Day this year. It wasn’t crazy busy, but there were quite a few stations on and making contacts. I think I can almost entirely attribute the activity to there being no FT8 allowed on Winter Field Day.

However, as I sit here writing this article, I am scrolling through the various PSK31 frequencies and it is completely silent. I wonder why. Where are all those people who claim FT8 isn’t real radio? I mean on PSK31, you can have a “real” conversation. You can say as much as you want for as long as you want. It is actually a lot of fun…unless you are a slow typist. Then your contact wonders if you are ever going to come back at all!

Maybe I just missed the bandwagon. We do have a lot of great digital modes to try out with more being invented all the time. I get to try out a lot of different modes with EMCOMM. I’ve spent years with ARES Digital Nets and now I use different modes with AUXC. Never PSK31, though!

As I sat there creating a new macro set for Winter Field Day, I was hit with a round of giggles. People like to say FT8 is just the computer and people aren’t really interacting. Well, here I was taking PSK31, a conversational type of digital, and turning it into a series of buttons to press. When it comes down to it, every concept is a series of opinions. Enjoy whatever part of radio you enjoy doing. The point is that we are all licensed operators sharing a great hobby.

I really would like to make a regular PSK31 contact with my own callsign, though. If this is your mode, let me know!

Questions? Share them in the comments below or email me at

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