Friday, May 29, 2009

Machine Beats Man - At CW. What's Next?

Last weekend, as the throngs ooh'd and ahh'd at the latest geegaws in Dayton, there was a dramatic shift in the balance between man and machine. Every year, the Kansas City DX Club sponsors a CW pileup competition, where top DX'ers and contesters attempt to copy as many calls as possible from a cacophonous audio mix of cw callsigns. This is a true test of skill and machismo.


This was the second year for the Skimmer cw program to be put to the test against the human ops. Last year, Skimmer was sent home with bitstream between its legs, coming in a pitiful 67th against its meat puppet competitors.


But over the last year, Skimmer has been training hard, pumping up its algorithms, and flexing its filters. All the hard work paid off. At the 2009 competition Skimmer bested its nearest meat-based competitor by ten calls! Top who-man, VE3DZ, copied 51 calls signs out of the audio spaghetti, but Skimmer copied a commanding  and dominating 61. The man-machine balance has reversed.


I, for one, welcome our new digital overlords and trust they will remember my approval of their dominance when Skynet comes online.


In reaction to the looming digital dominance, a reactionary organization is emerging. BAHR, which stands for a Boy And His Radio, is a meat puppet consortium of obsolete cw operators who rail against the new digital reality. BAHR advocates that contests in general, and cw contests in particular, should consists of little more than a boy (i.e. meat puppet) and his radio, operating in isolation without the assistance of digital experts such as Skimmer. It is rumored that some BAHR members go so far as to operate only tube based equipment, but that is unconfirmed.


With the emergence of digital operators such as Skimmer, the cw contesting world faces great changes, change we can believe in. Whatever that means.


Within five years we should see completely automated cw contest bots that will run an entire contest uninterrupted by its meat puppet assistant. Only then will we discover the true capabilities of the contest station, unimpeded by the limitations of human fallacies and frailties.  Skimmer uber alles!



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