Rufz CW Trainer: A Big Hit in Dayton
If you walked past the IARU booth in the ARRL EXPO at the Dayton Hamvention this year, you might have noticed a few amateurs sitting in front of PCs with headphones on typing intently, a serious look on their faces. They were in the middle of a session with RufzXP, the computer program CW pileup trainer. The ARRL, as part of IARU Region 2, hosted a competition to see who could score the most points using the simulator.
Rufz -- developed by Mathias Kolpe, DL4MM, and Alessandro Vitiello, IV3XYM -- is the abbreviation of the German word Rufzeichen-Hören, which means "listening to call signs." It is the program used by the IARU for their High Speed Telegraphy (HST) Championships. The software sends 50 amateur call signs in CW one at a time and participants type in the call. Rufz increases the speed if the call is entered correctly and decreases the speed if the call in entered incorrectly. Scoring is based on the accuracy of the typed call sign, how quickly the call sign is typed in and the speed of the CW.
The IARU-sponsored competition had two entry categories, one for the under-30 set and one for those older than 30; each category had two divisions -- one for those with Rufz experience and one for those without. Twenty-eight amateurs took part in the competition. Three hams -- Uli Ann, KK8I, Charles Wooten, NF4A, and Cal Darula, K0DXC -- were declared winners and took home headsets donated by Heil Sound; Paul Newberry, N4PN, received Honorable Mention.
With a high score of 37,209 points, Ann was declared the winner, copying CW at more than 70 words per minute. "Rufz keeps you right at the limit of your CW skill level which is the best way to improve," he said. "Through the top list of Rufz scores on the Internet, you compete against others -- many of them noted contesters, which is very motivating. Even if you do not make it to top levels, the speed training certainly helps you to be more relaxed and effective in CW contests because the other station's speed becomes less of an issue the better you become."
Darula, age 14, was happy to be declared the winner of the under-30 category. "It felt good winning the ARRL's Dayton Rufz competition," he told the ARRL. "For a while I was #1 overall with 33,000 points, but then Uli played and ended up beating me by a few thousand points. It was great competition -- I tried getting back into the #1 spot, but just couldn't focus. The funniest part was when I got home, I tried again and scored 38,000."
Uli was gracious to his opponent: "Cal was a terrific competitor at an incredibly young age. He will have a much bigger score next year if he keeps practicing Rufz."
Heil Sound's Vice-President for Amateur Sales and Marketing Chip Margelli, K7JA, said he was happy to see the participation in the event; the company donated two headsets as prizes to the winners of the competition. "Rufz is cool because it is a very intense code copying test that doesn't let the competitor use predictive methods," he said. "It places a premium on mental quickness and it is utterly unforgiving! Heil Sound encourages self-improvement on the part of all radio amateurs. Increasing our skill set as a group makes us as amateurs better prepared to serve our nation and our planet during emergencies. Rufz is one of many ways that we hams can improve our operating skill."
ARRL Membership and Volunteer Programs Manager Dave Patton, NN1N, said officials were considering having the event at next year's Dayton Hamvention. "People who tried Rufz became addicted to it, just like the rest of us!" he said. "It was fun to watch operators try to improve their score with the same level of intensity they would have in an actual on-air CW contest. Even experienced CW operators can improve their copying skills with Rufz."