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What is Slow Scan Television (SSTV) and how do I use it?

Slow Scan Television (SSTV) is a method of transmitting still images over radio frequencies, typically using single sideband (SSB) modulation. It is popular among amateur radio operators, who use it to exchange pictures, QSL cards, and other images. SSTV is called “slow scan” because it takes several seconds to transmit a single image, depending on the chosen mode and image resolution.

To get started with SSTV, follow these steps:

  • Acquire the necessary equipment: You’ll need an amateur radio transceiver with SSB capabilities and an interface to connect your radio to a computer, smartphone, or tablet. The interface can be a physical connection, like a sound card interface or a dedicated digital mode interface, or a virtual connection using a software application that can route audio between devices.
  • Choose SSTV software: To encode and decode SSTV images, you’ll need appropriate software. Several options are available for different platforms:
    • Windows: MMSSTV, EasyPal, QSSTV
    • macOS: Multiscan 3B, CocoaModem
    • Linux: QSSTV
    • iOS: SSTV Pad
    • Android: Robot36, DroidSSTV
  • Download and install the software that best suits your needs and your device.
  • Set up your station: Connect your computer, smartphone, or tablet to your radio using the interface you’ve chosen. Ensure your radio is set to the appropriate SSB mode (usually USB for SSTV) and configured correctly for digital modes. In your SSTV software, configure the input and output audio devices to match your interface.
  • Tune to an SSTV frequency: SSTV transmissions are typically found on specific frequencies within the amateur radio bands. Some common SSTV frequencies are:
    • 3.845 MHz (80 meters)
    • 7.171 MHz (40 meters)
    • 14.230 MHz (20 meters)
    • 21.340 MHz (15 meters)
    • 28.680 MHz (10 meters)
  • Tune your radio to one of these frequencies or a frequency where SSTV activity is known to occur in your area.
  • Monitor and transmit: With your station set up and tuned to an SSTV frequency, you can start monitoring for SSTV transmissions. When you receive an SSTV signal, your software should automatically decode the image. To transmit an image, load it into your SSTV software, select the desired SSTV mode (e.g., Martin M1, Scottie S1), and initiate transmission. Your software will modulate the image into an audio signal that your radio will transmit on the air.
  • Observe proper operating etiquette: When using SSTV, be mindful of other operators and follow standard amateur radio etiquette. Listen before transmitting to avoid interfering with ongoing conversations or other SSTV transmissions. Adjust your transmit power and audio levels to avoid overdriving your signal and causing interference.

By following these steps, you can begin using SSTV to exchange images with fellow amateur radio operators worldwide. SSTV is an enjoyable and rewarding aspect of amateur radio that allows you to explore the visual side of radio communication.

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