Gary L. Robinson WB8ROL in Ludlow Falls, OH U.S.A. About WB8ROL


About WB8ROL
See and Hear Olivia
Getting Started
Getting Started On Olivia
Olivia Tips
QST Article
Olivia Links
Contestia digital mode
WB8ROL xtra


Welcome to my Olivia digital mode information site! (Written June 2, 2009, updated November 19, 2013)

My name is Gary L. Robinson and I acquired my first ham radio call sign, WN8GIG, in 1963 at the age of 13. It expired a year later. In that year I operated mostly on 80mtrs CW and 2mtrs AM and MCW.  After a 9 year lapse I took the Novice test again and became WN8PMF. A year later I took the General class exam at the F.C.C. office in Detroit Michigan and was so excited about passing it that I forgot to include my current novice call sign on the appropriate form.  Henceforth I was issued the new call of WB8ROL which I still have.  I later passed the Advanced class in Detroit and in 1984 passed the Extra Class at a temporary F.C.C. administered examination site in a hotel north of Cincinnati, OH.

In the 1970's-1980's I operated mostly on 15mtrs SSB and CW though I tried all the HF bands to some extent. I also operated on 6, 2, and 1 1/4 mtrs on FM and SSB. 

Other than 2mtrs and 1 1/4mtrs FM, I was mostly inactive in the 1990's and up until 2003 at which time I decided to get back on the HF bands. The decision to use HF again was largely a result of reading an article on the internet about the PSK digital soundcard mode. It interested me greatly - especially since I did NOT have a tower, gain antennas, or even a good ham QTH. PSK sounded ideal for a low profile station and since I had become enamored by computers and programming it seemed like a natural thing to get into.

I purchased a rig at the 2003 Dayton Ohio hamfest and soon afterwards got an inexpensive interface. I operated on PSK quite a bit that year and also a little SSB.  Most of my activity was on 40, 20, 17, and 15mtrs.  By the middle part of 2004 I was somewhat discouraged with PSK31 operation.  I could make quite a few contacts and even a fair amount of DX but about 95% of the QSO's were very short - primarily signal report, Name, QTH, and QSL info and 73 bye bye.  Almost all were not perfect copy and QRN, QSB, and QRM killed off quite a few completely. I also found myself having to repeat information 2 and 3 times to get it through to the other station.

Part of the reason for the short QSO's was my mediocre antennas and lackluster QTH - but in addition to that most of the operators I talked to were not interested in actually chatting.  They seemed content to use macros and just pass minimal info for a complete QSO. By early Fall, in 2007, I was mostly inactive again and a little disenchanted with digital.  I had tried MFSK16 a few times and while it seemed to be a more robust mode than PSK31 there was little activity and it seemed very picky to tune in.  Luckily my brother, WB8PMG, who was a MARS operator told me about Olivia mode and how some of the MARS ops were getting real interested in it for message handling under weak and adverse signal conditions.

I did some online research and found some, BUT NOT tons, of information on Olivia - and decided to give it a try when I saw that Ham Radio Deluxe's DM780 program had added it to their list of supported modes.  I made my first Olivia QSO on Sept. 21, 2007 with WB2HTO in Reading MA and made about 8 more QSO's over the next 2 weeks.  I was impressed by how well the copy was on all of those QSO's even with weak signals and QSB. On December 12th 2007 I had my first "Ghost QSO" on Olivia with N5UNB in Winnsboro Texas.  It really impressed me since I NEVER heard his signal during the entire QSO but had over 90% copy. I also never saw it on the waterfall.  I was, however, on a "standard" suggested Olivia frequency and that is how we were able connect for the QSO - that and the fact that I, luckily, was also keeping an eye on the text printout and not just relying on my ears and the waterfall.  I dubbed it a "Ghost QSO" since I could NOT see it on the water fall and did NOT hear the signal which was a little eerie the first time it happened.

I've had many more of what I call "Ghost QSO" contacts since then and really started loving the mode for its ability to get solid copy though QRM, QRN, and QSB even with weak signals. I was disheartened, though, that many of the Olivia guys I talked to said the mode was dying out. I had finally found a mode that worked well for having REAL chats with a low profile station - even under poor conditions and it was dying out. I was actually depressed by that for several weeks but finally decided that IF it was going to go bye bye - it would NOT do so without me at least making an effort to spread the word about this great mode.  And I literally decided to go on a crusade to let a lot of hams know what they were missing out on.

I gave myself 2 goals to accomplish -

1. Make an average of 30 Olivia QSO's a month so others would hear Olivia signals on the band.  I put out a lot of Auto-CQ's with macros every day.  Just listening for other activity does NOT cut the mustard on a mode that is not utilized that much.

2. Write an article and either get it published in QST and/or publish it myself online.  I had never written an article before so that took me a little time and a lot of effort.

From Sept. 21, 2007 to this date (November 19th, 2013), I have had almost 4,000 QSO's on Olivia/Contestia digital modes - which includes 2000/32, 2000/16, 2000/8, 1000/32, 1000/16, 1000/8, 500/16, 500/8, 500/4, 250/8, 250/4, and 125/4 formats (and Contestia 125/4 and 250/8 formats).  And I have had a ball doing it.  Over 65% of those were ragchews - quite a few that were 1 hour on longer. Some that were over 2 hours and even a few over 3 hours.  Over 60% of all the QSO's were 100% copy and over 85% of the QSO's were 90% or better copy.  So far I have managed to work all 50 states, WAC, and 69 countries. 

I also wrote my article and was very surprised and elated that it was accepted and published by QST Magazine in their December 2008 issue. It appears to have stirred a lot of interest in Olivia and I am very gratified by that and grateful to the editors of QST for publishing it.

I am NOT an expert on anything and that includes Olivia. I am a "jack of many trades" but NOT the master of any - However, I hope this web site will inspire some of you to try Olivia and evaluate it for yourself.  There are more than a few hams who do NOT like Olivia - most of which have seldom OR never used it. And some who have used it that just don't like it.  Some think it is too wide or too slow. Try it yourself and I am sure that most of you, especially those who like real QSO's and not just contesting/DX type short exchanges, will see the value of Olivia digital mode AND feel the Magic!


In 2010 I also "discovered" Contestia digital mode, a digital mode derived directly from Olivia, and I have been using it also. Contestia has been around since 2005 but just recently has been added to more digital programs and is more readily available now.  It can best be described as "Olivia LITE" and additional information is available elsewhere on this site.  It is already my 2nd favorite mode and has a little magic of it's own too!



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This site was last updated 11/19/13

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