There is an interesting discussion going on QRP-L with regards to the RST system. Bruce Prior N7RR, who I respect tremendously, has come up with what he considers to be a new and better system - CSQ. This would relate to Copyability, Signal Strength, and Quality of Signal.
As a summary, this is his scale:
C or Copyability
N = no recoverable signal*
0 = discernible but not copyable*
1-9 ≈ 10% to 90% copy
G = Good 100% copy, but short of perfect
P = Perfect armchair 100% copy or full-quieting on FM
S-Meter or Signal Strength
0 = no S-meter reading
1-9 = S-1 to S-9
A = 1 dB to 10 dB over S-9
B = 11 dB to 20 dB over S-9
C = 21 dB to 30 dB over S-9
D = 31 dB to 40 dB over S-9
E = 41 dB to 50 dB over S-9
F = 51 dB or more over S-9
X = characteristic steadiness of crystal (Xtal) control or eXcellent quality
R = AC Ripple or buzz in transmission
C = Chirp or tail on make and/or break
K = key clicKs or other Keying transients
O = Overmodulation or Overdeviation in phone or digital modes
* For Copyability reports of N or 0, no Signal Strength or Quality reports are needed.
P6O = for a PSK-31 signal: perfect 100% copy at S-6, but overdeviated
93X = for a CW signal: 90% copy at S-3 with excellent quality
G7O = for an SSB signal: Good but less than perfect 100% copy at S-7, but overmodulated
PAX = for an RTTY signal: perfect 100% copy about 10 dB over S-9 with excellent quality
P6X = for an FM signal: full-quieting 100% copy at S-6 with excellent quality
I think Bruce is on to something as RST is abused more often than not. While I try my best to give accurate RST reports, how many times have YOU gotten a 599, only to be asked for repeats? One of the few reasons that I can think of asking for a repeat of a 599 signal is if the XYL asks you to pick up something from the grocery store while you're trying to copy! For those of us who can't walk and chew gum at the same time, that can be a difficult task. Other than that, if you have to repeat, you're NOT 599.
Bruce's system is more comprehensive; but also a lot more complicated. I think the average Ham prefers the KISS quality of RST. It's simple, easy and to the point. But the problem, as mentioned before, is that in a hot and heavy contest situation, RST is almost always abused. 599 in a regular contest or 559 in a QRP sprint is almost a given.
So what can be used instead of either? A serial number, ambient temperature of the operator's location, birth year of the operators? Or does it need to be changed at all, with the proviso that it be truthful? Have contesters (myself included at times) gotten so lazy that RST has lost its meaning? Or perhaps maybe the RST part should just be eliminated for all except rag chews?
It's very commendable that Bruce is trying to come up with something new, better and more meaningful. The bottom line, though, is that whatever system is devised, it has to be simple and easy enough to be used by a wide majority of Amateur Radio ops. If it doesn't have that appeal and acceptance, then we're just spinning our wheels.
72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!