What's wrong with Paul HB9DST today???

Over the past decade or so, chasers have become accustomed to hearing me run stations quickly, as if in a contest. During yesterday’s activations, though, they must have been asking themselves, “what’s his problem???” – it generally took me 30 seconds to a minute to pick up a new chaser and respond. So here is an explaination, and a request.

Over the past year I have been losing my eyesight, and I’m now down to between 5 and 10% visual acuity in both eyes. This makes logging a big challenge! I’ve tried various methods/solutions, and right now my approach is this: us a large tablet (Galaxy Tab) running VKporta-log, an audio announcing keypad (Blind Accessibility Keyboard), and the Android zooming function.

Sadly, from the time I hear a callsign until it is entered into VK is generally at least 30 seconds, and if I make an error, correcting it takes a long time. And unfortunately there might be some errors in my log, so my apologies. So sometimes it can be up to a minute before I enter the callsign and respond on the air. Meanwhile the calling stations continue to bombard me with their calls (something I used to enjoy!). Only if I recognize a familiar call can it go a bit faster. But to go between letters and numbers, I must switch versions of the blind keyboard with audio feedback, and then go back to letters again. Add to all this that I sometimes hit the wrong key and end up exiting the program or going somewhere else unintended.

`I have yet to find a better solution; I’ve tried having a friend do the loogin, making an audio recording, etc. I don’t want to give up SOTA if I don’t have to. But I might limit the number of contacts during an activation. Chasers, I ask your understanding and patience, and if I don’t get to you or seem to ignore you, please accept my apologies. I’ll try to stay QRV as long as I can and work you all, or as long as I don’t throw up my hands in frustration.



Many thanks for your explanation Paul. I will be more patient contacting you, I hope for many and many activations more. Sorry for your problem but happy you continue to make SOTA. Hope to contact you soon


Dear Paul,

I am very sorry to read your eye status report.

I still remember our only encounter on December 11, 2015 on HB/BE-156 Schwendelberg, when you unexpectedly appeared and took a seat next to me in a sheltered place.

So I really hope that you don’t lose your courage and keep trying to get the best out of your handicap.

73 gl,
Heinz HB9BCB



Thank you for the frank and honest explanation. We haven’t crossed paths for a long time but I would hope that we can have a QSO in the future. It would be super to have a logging assistant, it would be a positive experience for both operator and assistant I think. It’s something that I would be interested in if it weren’t for the distance between us!

Come on HB hams - is there anyone who can assist Paul to keep on activating?

73, Colin

Oops, I misread that - you’ve tried the logging assistant already!


Dear Paul,

Your courage is great :muscle:

We have fine memories like this one below on HB/GR-121:

or another on HB/SG-049:

But that is not all we could and can do together.

Keep strong and read my e-mail of today :wink:

73, Jarek


Dear all

Sometimes our life is taken in a different direction than we had originally imagined. I have a small sense of the difficulties that this disease brings. I wish it to Paul that he always finds a way to deal with it in an acceptable way.

It is difficult also for us as mountain radio friends of Paul to read about these difficulties. And even more difficult to find a good way to deal with it. Somehow it also hurts to see such things happen without us being able to do anything about it.

I had the idea a long time ago to have a beer with Paul after work. A few weeks ago, that took place. It turned into a nice dinner with Thai food. Paul told me more about his eye condition and how he deals with it. We also talked about many other things that are important to both of us and laughed a lot. I was impressed how much realism and wisdom he has used to change things in his everyday life and how he is in good spirits despite everything. Chapeau!

Paul and I have known each other for a long time. I have always appreciated his winning and helpful nature. We will probably meet less at a summit, more on other occasions. But I am looking forward to further encounters and wish him all the best!

Vy 73 de Markus, HB9DIZ


Hi Paul,
Just a quick thought from me. Would it be possible to use a 3rd party based in a shack. This 3rd party would only need to be able to hear yourself as you could repeat info back. For instance , I call in to your CQ/QRZ and you reply “G7ADF go ahead”, my response “HB9DST/P you are 59”, then “G7ADF thankyou for 59 you are also 59”.

The 3rd party would only need to hear yourself to have all the details needed for a valid log.

That way you would only need to take care of the audio side of things.

Granted , may be trickier on CW.

I am unsure of the rules and requirements of log keeping in Switzerland but I am sure something will be possible in order to keep you activating.



Dear Paul,
Thanks for your info today.

As any CW operator knows, we, activators, use to adapt our CW speed to reply to the incoming call if that one is slower than us.

This time is us, chasers, who should adapt to your pace and to the required breaking gaps while you are dealing with the log.

There is really nothing wrong with you, Paul. All the contrary, it is so great to know that you can still go and activate SOTA in your situation, that any possible qso with you gains interest for me. I would be pleased to get your reply,even with a few seconds delay from your side!

Thanks very much for your effort and courage.

I think recording the activation would be the easiest way to make it simpler with your logging.
Alternatively, as others suggested, I wouldn’t mind as well to assist you by logging your qsos at home as I receive them and sending you the CSV Log file for you to upload on your return home. Would you like to count with us? I’d be glad to do it.

Take care and wishing hearing from you on air soon.
73 Ignacio


OH Paul, i’m so sorry to read about your bad seeing and hope, you could find your helping hands.
Wish you all the best und hope to hear you furthermore.
Peter, HB9CMI

Hi Paul

I am sorry to hear about your eyesight. Is logging compulsory in Switzerland? If not a licence condition then you could still enjoy the activation without having to write down callsigns. You could also make use of the database’s “Show who chased me” feature to get most of the callsigns who worked you.

73 Richard


Dear Namensvetter Paul,
Thank you for your courageous report on the current situation. I wish you all the best you could think of. I especially wish you many more wonderful experiences with Sota. Thank you for many QSO’s and I hope to hear from you in the future. Markus(HB9DIZ) dedicated very nice words to you and I have nothing to add. All the best and see you soon,


Bad to hear this Paul.
You remember ?
You introduced me for SOTA.
It was on the H26 years ago.
We went from Rossberghof to the summit HB/SH-002 (Wannenberg).
You activated with an endfeed and a mag.Loop.
It was amazing for me as you had QSO to US with mag.Loop. Was a big impression for me and the reason to meet SOTA Groups.
Thank you.
Good luck with your healthy.
De Erich HB9FIH 73


hi Paul,

I’m sorry to read of your eyesight problem. Your enthusiasm for sota is impressive. It makes me count my blessings.

It prompted me to experiment with speech to text on my Samsung 8 inch tablet. I tried pressing the microphone button on the tablet screen while running VK Portalog to dictate a callsign. here are the results of some playing I did just now.

Well, some callsigns worked fine. I was able to say G4OBK and G3CWI and those callsigns appeared correctly within a second. with VK1AD it recorded VK1 8D, so my speech is clearly not clear enough. It got HB9DST correct. It made a mess of other callsigns but if I first said “spell” it got most right, so F4WBN was fine, also DJ5AV came up ok. OK2PDT came up as
OK TO PDT. it would only need to be corrected later and your log would be complete.

I don’t know if you use speech to text software on other devices, but it seems the speech encoder on the samsung (android 11) may be a good start.

As you only need callsigns and summit references, that would be the place to focus on. unfortunately it cannot use spell-correct until you have recorded the callsigns at least once.
You can leave the signal reports defaulted to 59 and they are not important for sota anyway.
It is good to have names recorded but if they are too difficult to read off the screen they are not of any value.

other input formats: there is a drawing option on the samsung, I did a finger drawing of some callsigns in free form writing and they were decoded ok into text for the callsign field. so if you can see the lower section of the screen well enough to draw the letters with your finger that could be a good option. i was drawing in letters that were about 50mm high and they were decoded well by the software.

Alternative keyboards: most android devices will accept an external keyboard via bluetooth, and perhaps a slightly larger and more tactile keyboard would be easier to use?

one of the samsung keyboard options is high contrast keyboard. while it’s still a soft keyboard it brings up the letters as black lettering on a yellow background and they seem to be much more visible. you may already be using that kind of option on your device.

I also thought of extending the “pileup” concept of vk portalog. with a library of say 100 commonly used callsigns as GIF images, you could select the right one by finding it in a sorted list, and tapping on the image of the callsign you want.

Maybe this is a useful line of experimentation.

wishing you well,

Andrew Vk1DA/vk2da

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The high contrast keyboard option. the microphone icon can be seen above the keyboard and that triggers the text to speech option.

The T symbol with the pencil at the foot of the T is the free form text option.

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Hi Andrew, I’m surprised and encouraged that you had luck with entering some callsigns with the microphone. And on a Samsung, which I also have. Maybe success is determined by which keyboard you select from the system settings.
Like you, I had success with some calls. But with others, well…
Can you try an experiment? See what happens when you try to voice enter the callsign YU1CA. I get “why you want to see a”. So I’m clearly far from my goal, and maybe I’m not doing something correctly.
Please let me know which keyboard you are using. The “Blind Accessibility Keyboard” is quite large with good contrast, better than most others I’ve tried.

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I’ve put the samsung down for tonight (it’s midnight here now) but will try that in the morning.

I would try saying “SPELL Y U 1 C A” and see what gets recorded. If you are working in French or German, maybe you have to use the appropriate sounds for letters in that language, but also use the prefix equivalent for “Spell”.

If it is good enough to edit later to remove the SPELL prefix it is good enough.

I’ll look at the settings to see which keyboard is in use and let you know.

73 Andrew VK1DA/VK2DA

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Hi there. Is there any mileage in using a Dictaphone to make quick notes of time, call sign and band? Then enter into your log when back home?

Regards, Tom, M7MCQ.

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Hi Paul,

I tried your experiment and my dictated text came out as Why You one CA. Fail!

Then I tried the handwriting option and it came out perfectly. I’m warming to that option!

What did work with dictation, was to tap the Name field (notes would also do this if you set it to be displayed) and dictated Yankee Uniform One Charlie Alpha. It recorded it perfectly as those words. To save the QSO you have to have some callsign in the callsign field but perhaps you could enter a standard placeholder there and replace it later with the correct actual callsign.

I find that the samsung has a good memory of what callsigns I’ve typed before, so if you could work out a simple callsign that would dictate well, you only have to start dictating it and the samsung will offer close options. Then put the actual callsign into the name or notes field using phonetics, you would have the job done.

Hope this is useful.

73 Andrew VK1DA/VK2DA

I looked at what keyboard option i have enabled, it is the samsung keyboard except when I try dictation.

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Hi Tom,
Previously, I tried recording the entire CW session on an audio device. But it took longer to do the logging than it did the activation! I also found that I too often forgot to send a time stamp, and even worse, didn’t keep track of band changes.
I will have to reconsider, using your system, but I first need an audio recorder that is extremely easy to use, I don’t need to go about fumbling withan array of small buttons.
73 Paul

Hi Andrew,
More good info for me to look into. Funny how voice input reacts differently depending on the input field. Certainly worth exploring.