Category Archives: FT8

Some Further FT8 Thoughts

Okay what is FT8 like after a bunch of QSOs?

Personally I cannot see FT8 being “my radio experience” by itself. The QSOs are fairly soulless and while technically fulfilling every aspect of a recordable QSO they lack the gravitas of a human-to-human QSO.

As we all use some aids to our radio efforts, whether Spots, Keyers, Memories, Macros and other QSO-flow-aids there is no point in getting self righteous about the highly automated FT8 QSO experience.

The hobby and regulatory consensus of what is a “true QSO” is easily met by FT8.

What does seem unusual is how absolutely minimalist the FT8 QSO experience is.

There doesn’t seem to be much that could be removed from an FT8 QSO if we keep to the consensus of what is need for a QSO. Perhaps the second confirm and sign-off steps could be eliminated, though that would be at the expense of reducing the two-way assurances that a QSO was completed.

Pretty much is bare bones even with the confirmation and sign-off portions. Not much to strip off.

And while FT8 has a “free text” opportunity I’ve seen it used twice in the last five hundred FT8 QSOs I’ve completed and I tried it but once. Realistically between “twitteresque” character limitations and the generalized lack of free text usage, there isn’t much to add either.

So is running FT8 “tasty” in terms of QSOs being “rich experiences” – not at all.

Kind of liken these FT8 QSOs as the “Ramen Noodles” of ham radio QSOs – better than not eating at all, but about as basic as basic can be.

All this said and I think I will be running FT8 regularly for some time.

Why? Because running FT8 QSOs is a satisfying background QSO-making activity when I would otherwise not be on my radio at all.

Presently I’m running remote to a Flex-6700 located at my old home QTH’s station.

Running SmartSDR for Windows and WSJT-X 2.0 on the desktop PC quietly in the background. The local PC is a bit marginal for this use, so I do lose connectivity periodically when the system runs out of resources.

All that said I’ve worked eight QSOs while typing this post – SP7AID, DL7XU, G3UAS, 6W7/ON4AVT, MI0NWA, DF1DN, DF8XR, and E76C. Those are eight entries in my logs that I would have never made using a less automated mode from by work desk.

I have to confess to being not such a great ham as if I am completely busy I disable the transmit and disappear off the band until another stretch of time where I can keep one eye open letting WSJT-X run again.

Using this background strategy, if a person could pick up say 40 QSOs a day for say four days each work week that quickly tally to more than 7500 extra QSOs a year that operator wouldn’t have made at all.

So on that basis I figure I’ll have FT-8 running in the background.

By the way that 7500 extra QSOs could easily be much more if one’s remote resources allowed running several bands at the same time. I’m guessing I could run more like 20,000 extra QSOs yearly if I wanted to tweak my setup a bit.

73

Steve
K9ZW

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Okay, FT8 is a notch above watching paint dry after all…

After sorting Windows 10 update induced DAX troubles I ran the home station running FT8 QSOs for a bit.

Not the best use for a 4K 40 inch monitor and a Flex-6700

Not super exciting but was a way to make QSOs while doing other shack chores.

Without the computer helping facilitate FT8 QSOs the reality is my QSO count for this period of time would be exactly Zero.

In several instances their was nothing to be seen on the waterfall but WJST-X pulled out minimalistic QSOs from the seemingly empty ether.

I cant help thinking FT8 isn’t much more than what happens when one fax machine negotiates a connection with another fax machine, excepting of course that FT8 does it on the air.

Heard that MacLoggerDX will have FT8 integration in the next release which could mean that I could run FT8 QSOs while I’m doing other work on my iMac at home.

I’ll also take a look at how to run QSOs from my work PC.  Might be a way to log more QSOs by doing someth8ng with some of those dead moments during the day.

Can sure say the radio gear isn’t exactly overtasked doing FT8.

Almost bordering on embarrassing the level of investment behind my FT8 efforts.

73

Steve
K9ZW

A bit of FT8 – first runs

At my Island QTH I set up a Flex-6700 to run FT8 and ran about 30 QSOs.

My first FT8 QSO was W3BZT

My first FT8 DX QSO was F1RUK

Wasn’t exactly wowed by the experience.

Software setup was fiddly. Like really fiddly.

In many ways the GUI was a 1980’s dial-up modem connection sort of thing, and the experience was somewhat the same as dialing into a BBS to do an email exchange & run routine.

Seemed my operator’s input was pretty much limited to confirming completed QSOs for logging and then re-enabling TX.

I’m not quite certain whether the experience was productive or not.

In the past I’ve always held back making my mind up until I have a couple hundred QSOs in a new digital mode.

I’ll wait until the same couple hundred QSO point to solidify my thoughts on FT8.

But again I can relate it sure wasn’t “Wowzy, how did I miss out doing FT8 until now” as my response to the first 30 QSOs.

73

Steve
K9ZW

Can I get into FT8?

Can I get into FT8?  Technically for sure, but as an intellectual engagement I’m stuck in a quandary.

It is not that I lack the gear or the experience to run another digital mode – I’ve tons of contacts on PSK31/PSK63, Hellschreiber, and most of that wave of modes including Throb.  Then I played with some Olivia/Contessa type modes.  I’ve only dabbled with the semi-automated modes which include FT8.

In the day I even completed the ARRL’s online classes for digital, and ever took first place in one obscure digital contest – most likely because I was the only one who read the rules realizing that the multipliers were too generous compared to pure raw numbers of QSOs.

A lot of my digital radio time was through necessity.  While my voice is not a “radio voice” it would travel through the house if I went on the air SSB once our young children were put to bed, the majority of the time I had available for radio was late after the bands shut down for SBB, and I didn’t have very good antennas available – so digital was my solution.  I even bought a “no-click keyboard” keep from disturbing the house when I was operating, as I’d learned our small children would grasp at the noise as an excuse from their evening routines and sleep.

But over time the kids got older – they became the evening/night noise makers keep us from our sleep!  The bands became marginally better.  And I invested in a tower and decent antennas.  Oh, and I figure out how to use the equipment & later software better so my voice worked as a “radio voice.”

And I found I preferred talking over typing.  Actually more accurately I found I could do a voice QSO at the same time as doing emails or other typing.

When I started working PSK it was hand-typing everything.  Avoided Macros and used the typing as a way to keep my keyboard skills up.  I even ran some PSK63 events hand typing, but started using Macros to run faster versions of PSK and because I wasn’t all that satisfied with my PSK QSOs.

It is hard to get your personality to come over typing.

I started running more Hellschreiber largely because I thought the mode was cool & retro, and different enough to be interesting.  Not the best mode to run though as unless there is a published event few hams monitor for a Hellschreiber CQ.

Staring into the increasingly automated modes didn’t last long for me.

While I was technically fascinated the QSO’s became more about Macro’s, computer clock timing, and then even character limited.  FT8 is of course just a flavor in the continuum.

While I have a Twitter account I never spend any time on Twitter, though I do let announcements of my radio postings “tweet” automatically.  Have to admit that part of the account is to “control” the user name that matches my call sign.  A good hacker or any other technical glitch could end that of course.

So back to FT8 – while I have had the software up and running, done a few QSOs and figured out how to get all the software I’d like to run playing well with each other, I didn’t get “the buzz.”

Letting the machine manage a series of FT8 contacts feeling like pushing the graph command back in Lotus 1-2-3 days – the “gee-wiz” fades to a “meh” after a few repetitions.

Wonder if I am alone on this or if I’m just missing something?

Thinking I will set everything up to run FT8 again and maybe set a quick goal of an FT8 WAS (Work All States) or take a stab at a  FT8 DXCC to see if I’ve stopped running FT8 too quickly and before the “bug sets in?”

Or I may find that already know the answer – that I need to do QSOs on modes where more personality is shared.

73

Steve
K9ZW

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