WB8VMN at work

Understanding Rate Displays in NA

Dave Pruett, K8CC

Contest scores are almost always based on a combination of QSOs and multipliers. Many successful contesters strive for the maximum QSO rate, hoping that many multipliers will call in. But rate is a fickle thing, and its important to be aware of how you’re progressing versus the goals set prior to the contest if you’re going to meet your expectations. And how about those multipliers that don’t call in by themselves - how to you decide whether to abandon mediocre CQing and go hunting? These are tricky decisions, but NA has some specially designed tools to help you along the way.

NA Rate & Time Summary

If the Ctrl-F9 key combination is pressed while operating, you will see the RATE AND TIME SUMMARY on the screen. This is a graph showing QSOs per hour up to the present, and is pretty typical of what most contesters are used to seeing. This screen also shows in tabular form the minimum, maximum and average QSO rate, as well as the total off time taken. Note: this is off time taken since the first QSO - if off time was taken prior to the first QSO, it is not included.

While the Rate And Time Summary is useful for illustrating the history of what has occured so far, something different is needed for guiding the operator in real time. Directly above the logsheet window on the main logging screen is a red bar which we refer to as the COMMAND BAR which when the program first loads several status indicators like keyboard mode, transmitter number, CW keying speed, etc. However, by pressing the Alt-R key combination, the Command Bar will switch to showing rate information.

NA Command Bar

There are four rate-related displays on the alternate Command Bar. Starting from the left, the first three displays show the equivalent hourly rates at which a certain number of contacts were made. In the example shown above, the ten most recent QSOs were made at a rate of 29 per hour (Last10), the ten QSOs before that at a rate of 25 per hour (Past10), and the one hundred most recent QSOs were made at a rate of 40 per hour (Last100). These numbers are updated every time a QSO is logged, and are also updated when scrolling back through the log. It can be entertaining and occasionally useful to watch how the rate varies when reviewing a log.

What do these three rate values tell us? Last10 reflects the most recent QSO rate, while Past10 is the most recent prior history. By comparing Last10 and Past10, the operator can judge whether things are improving or worsening. For example, you make a band change and make ten QSOs - a Last10 that is bigger than Past10 indicates that the band change was probably a good idea. Last100 reflects a longer interval, and again comparing this to the Last10 and Past10 numbers allows the operator to judge the effects of recent decisions. It should be noted that off times are not removed from these calculations which will distort the numbers until the off time passes out of the period.

The last display, Mins/Mlt or MINUTES PER MULTIPLIER, perhaps requires some explaining. This is defined as the number of minutes spent making non-multiplier QSOs at the current QSO rate that would produce the same amount of points as a single QSO with a new multiplier. To put it another way, if a multiplier pileup can be cracked in less time than what Minutes Per Multiplier indicates, more points would be generated than if you keep making non-multiplier QSOs. If the pileup would take too long, then you should keep on making those QSOs.

There are a lot of other factors that go into the decision to dive into a multiplier pileup, such as the rarity of the multiplier and the likeliness of encountering it later. Most operators know intuitively that when the rate is high, you don’t go spinning the VFO dial (unless you have two radios!). Nonetheless, Minutes Per Multiplier is a useful tool. Note the SS example above showing 29.6 minutes per multiplier. This is not surprising in a contest like SS with a very high ratio of QSOs to multipliers. Minutes Per Multiplier is also effected by the relatively low Last10 QSO rate (after all, it was at the end of the contest!). One more section would certainly have done the score more good than a couple more QSOs (just where was that KP2?).

In conclusion, NA has a number of tools to help the operator monitor rate and judge multiplier tradeoffs in real time. Proper use of these tools will help you to better informed during the contest and to make better decisions that WILL impact your score.

Good Contesting!

DATOM Tech Notes:

DATOM TECH NOTES is a feature of the DATOM Online Web Page, covering technical topics applicable to the NA Contest Logging or Contest Voice Blaster programs. We would welcome your comments, and suggestions for topics to be covered in future editions.

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