Digital Modes : Introduction

What are Digital Modes?
Digital Modes in Ham Radio rely on using a computer to send data through the transmitter’s audio. Usually, a Computer or Radio will take text and convert it to a series of pitches, and then send them using SSB.

Digital modes have a few significant advantages over other modes.  It is somewhat hard to generalize, so remember that these are only true of some modes.


Digital Modes have a flexible variety of bandwidths.  QRP modes like PSK31 have small bandwidths which enable them to be heard from a long distance, and have a high concentration of power.   Alternatively, some digital modes, like OLIVIA and MFSK have a high bandwidth, so noise does not easily interfere with the signal, and they send a much higher data speed.


Digital modes allow for the use of function keys (Macros) to automatically send common messages (like CQ or Signal Reports).  In addition, they can send data at a much higher speed than CW, anywhere from 13 Characters per Minute (CPM) to 512 CPM.  All without any mistakes.

Data Types

Digital Modes can send different types of Data.  Digital Fax, Internet and E-Mail as well as Amateur TV (SSTV and FSTV) and even automated position data (APRS)  make digital modes very flexible.

Identifying Digital Modes

One of the hardest things to do in working Digital Modes is identifying what type of signal you see on the waterfall.  An easy way to figure out is to listen for an RSID (Reed-Solomon ID), which identifies the type of signal being received, and will create a dialog box in many popular Digital Mode Softwares.  If you have no clue, you can use the Guide Below.

Ready to get started? Use our guide below: