A print shop teacher at my high school who was an amateur radio operator was one of my first mentors in the hobby. Together we built digital readout frequency counters from an article series in QST which was no easy feat in the mid-70s. Bob took me with him on the two-hour journey to Mendlesons in Dayton one Saturday to find parts for that project.

At the time his primary interest in the hobby was RTTY. The odd thing (to me) was that he used it exclusively on two-meters. He had a friend in a town 25 miles away and they traded messages on nearly a nightly basis.

If that wasn’t unique enough, Bob had a tape punch machine in his classroom that he used on his lunch hour to compose long letters to his friend and then punch that out on the tape. He’d take the tape home and send the message via his Model 28 hardware to his friend. The hardware made use of an auto-start feature that permitted the machines to be switched into an idle mode until a specific tone was received which would turn the remote machine on and print out the decoded message.

The reply would come later and the entire asynchronous form of communication continued for many years.

This came to mind agin for some reason a few days ago and it got me wondering if anyone uses RTTY like this. Probably not as it’s now considered an old, inefficient mode and there are much easier ways to exchange messages like this in the 21st century.

Still, I’m curious if anyone uses RTTY for normal QSOs or has it become exclusively a much loved, but antique radio contest only mode?

I asked that question online and received several replies though none recalled ever hearing RTTY used for anything other than contesting. A few said they use PSK31 for casual QSOs though I contend even that has become rare to find on HF and none who replied had ever copied RTTY on VHF and above.

Packet seems an obvious alternative to RTTY in a similar fashion, but as modes go, it’s ancient now too. I used to have a terminal node controller connected to a dedicated two meter radio that was left running 24/7. In those days I’d arrive home from work and see the message light blinking indicating someone had left messages for me while I wasn’t home. That’s probably as close to doing what my old mentor used to do as I’ll ever get - and I last did that 20-30 years ago.

Still, I wouldn’t mind recreating that scenario (using software instead of big iron) using RTTY on VHF to exchange messages with a local ham.

For no other reason than it can be done…