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[Articles Home]  [Add Article]  

I'm On FT8! Now What?

from Andrew Ellis, NO6E on October 14, 2017
View comments about this article!

I'm On FT8! Now What?

By Andrew Ellis, NO6E

An ancient joke:
“Ask me what I do. Then ask me why I'm good at it.”
“What do you do?”
“I'm a comedian.”
“Why are you...
(Interrupting) “Timing!”

In FT8, as in every mode, there is a time to transmit, and a time NOT to. Figuring out which is which will let you make more contacts and prevent your fellow hams from cursing you under their breaths.

Given that Joe Taylor, W1JT, and Steve Franke, K9AN, only released the software for the new sound card mode FT8 on June 29th, 2017, the growth of FT8 on the air has been nothing short of astonishing. I've only been on it a few weeks, and I've already worked hundreds of unique stations.

How to get on FT8 has been written about frequently, though the best writeup is probably the original user manual, downloadable from the WSJT-X web page:

https://physics.princeton.edu/pulsar/k1jt/wsjtx.html

WSJT-X, the software that includes FT8, is available (free) for many computer platforms, including Windows, OSX, Linux and Raspbian.

Without going into all of the details, FT8 is similar to its elder siblings, JT9 and JT65-HF. Stations take “turns” sending and receiving. The big difference in FT8 is that the turns are only 15 seconds long instead of a minute, meaning that FT8 QSOs run at around four times the speed of the older modes'. The “Even” turns are the ones that start at :00 and :30 past each minute, while the “Odd” turns are the ones starting at :15 or :45 past the minute. This rigid schedule is one of the mode's powerful features: It mostly assures that you and the station you are contacting are using opposite time slots instead of transmitting at the same time! (This rigidity also means that you need to set your computer clock carefully: Aim for within 1 second of UTC time from WWV or GPS.)

So, now you're on, and you've even made a few contacts. In some ways it's very different from traditional ham radio: You don't need to listen, you don't need to type (or send) the call sign of the person you want, and you can do fine even if English is not your first language. In other ways, though, it's the same as always: The bands that work best at your QTH during the day and night are the same ones you've always used.

“Band,” by the way, has a special meaning in FT8. When we think of “Band,” we're usually talking about, say, the 40M band, or, at least, the cw, data or voice portions of it. But FT8 is an extremely narrowband mode, around 50 Hz wide. In the case of 40M, you set your radio to upper sideband (yes, upper, even on 40M and 80M) and tune it to 7074 kHz. After that, you never touch the tuning knob again. ALL FT8 activity (well, practically) happens in the 3 kHz or so bandwidth of a typical SSB QSO. In other words, a dozen or more FT8 QSOs can easily operate in the space occupied by one SSB signal. The WSJT-X software remembers the normal operating frequencies on 160M through 6M, so you can leave the radio dial set on each band if you like. My tuning knob is getting dusty!

WSJT-X does a lot of the job of being a good operator for you, but there are still things you need to do be effective and a good neighbor.

Look at the “Rx Frequency” window on this screenshot. CE0YHO called CQ, and I called him (three times, in fact.) A “Watchdog Timer” built into WSJT-X (it's shown in the lower-right corner of the screen) prevents my rig from continuing to call Jose forever: After 6 minutes, it will stop.

That's not nearly soon enough, though.

As you can see, my last call to Jose was at 15:42:00 UTC. I hoped to see his reply to me in his transmission at 15:42:15. I didn't get it, though. Instead, Jose called HK3JJH during that time slot. Hey, it happens! But look at the following time slot, 15:42:30. My rig is poised to call Jose again! That's bad, because he's not looking for a contact, he's in the middle of one.

Normally, one stops transmitting by clicking the “Enable TX” button to toggle it off. But doing that lets the radio continue to transmit until the current time slot ends. During that time, my call to Jose is nothing but interference as he tries to copy HK3JJH. Better, then, to click “Halt TX,” which stops my transmitting immediately.

I'm not really losing anything: Jose isn't looking for a call from me, and I'm only getting in the way. Better for me to wait until he finishes the present QSO before calling him again.

So, there's an example of when it's important NOT to transmit at the wrong time. On the other hand, there are times when you can choose to transmit that will make contacts more likely.

“Tail-Ending” is an old tradition among DX'ers. Instead of waiting for the DX station to call CQ again, you call him or her after the previous contact signs.

Because of the timing scheme built into FT8, there's a “wasted” time slot you can put to use.
Consider an ordinary QSO, using the Even (“E”) and Odd (“O”) time slots:

E: CQ NO6E CN73

O: NO6E W1ABC EM21

E: W1ABC NO6E -10

O: NO6E W1ABC R-12

E: W1ABC NO6E RRR

O: NO6E W1ABC 73

E: W1ABC NO6E 73

Now, let's say I want to keep calling CQ to find another QSO. I click “TX Enable,” which has turned off automatically at the end of the QSO. That means my next transmission will be:

E: CQ NO6E CN73.

But what happened to the odd time slot between my sending 73 and my calling CQ again? Nothing, of course: It went by without anybody transmitting. It happened because I've been transmitting on the even time slots, so my CQ will need to wait until the next even turn.

But if you've been following the QSO and you're dying for a contact with the exotic Oregon Coast, you could have clicked “Enable TX” on your radio to call me after I send the 73, but before I call CQ again. I'm receiving during the odd time slot, so, if I'm paying attention, I'll probably answer you and you'll have your contact. Lucky you!

Finally, here's a screenshot that illustrates how important it is to have your PC clock set correctly. I've been calling CQ in the odd time slots, 03:17:15, 03:17:45 and so forth. Now look at the “Waterfall” display at the top of my screen. (You can select different color palettes for it. The one I use is “Brown.”). As they usually would be, my transmit and receive frequencies are locked together. They're shown by the red and green brackets around the range of frequencies from roughly 1575 Hz to 1625 Hz. Now look at the even time slots below them. You'll see that someone has been trying to call me during all three of the last even slots. But their signal starts late, so there isn't time to get the call in, and I receive nothing. I'll never be able to work this person until they synchronize their clock!

There are a number of utilities to set your computer clock automatically. In Windows, the normal setting, once a week, is not often enough to keep your clock accurate for FT8. You can set it manually each time you operate, or use a utility that does it for you at specified intervals. When you're on-air the “DT” column in the “Band Activity” window shows the difference between other stations' clocks and yours. If it looks like most other people are wrong, it's probably YOU that is.

FT8 is a ton of fun. Many of us think it's great, though some will say it's “Not real ham radio.” No one will force you to give it a try. I think you'll enjoy it if you do.

The other night, I narrowly missed contacting Joe, W1JT, on FT8. It would have been like working Marconi on CW!

Member Comments:
Add A Comment
 
I'm On FT8! Now What? Reply
by KD4S on October 14, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
Andrew, excellent article. You mentioned using TX and RX frequencies locked together. Please consider another article describing SPLIT operation which is done by holding SHIFT and clicking on the waterfall at (hopefully) a clear frequency. This avoids a pileup on one frequency, but the tradeoff is it may cause QRM to another QSO. This technique has helped me to get QSOs after calling on same frequency. I'm sure you could write a better article than me.
 
RE: I'm On FT8! Now What? Reply
by K0UA on October 14, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
Good write up. You did a better job than I could have. Another one about using split, and how with split turned on the program will keep you audio frequency in the "sweet spot" of your transmitters audio frequency response would be good. Also other nuances like contest mode and free and general messages would be good. I think you made your description of operation, light and fun and interesting. I will await your FT8 number 2 writeup :)
 
RE: I'm On FT8! Now What? Reply
by AA4PB on October 14, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
For me, the worst issue with the "lock" function is this: If you call CQ and someone answers you off frequency then always your Rx frequency moves to his frequency. If you have "lock" checked then your transmitter will also move to his frequency.

It is my understanding that the decision has been made that the "lock" checkbox will be removed from the next release of WSJTx software.
 
RE: I'm On FT8! Now What? Reply
by N0YXB on October 14, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
Thanks for a great article!
 
RE: I'm On FT8! Now What? Reply
by NN2X on October 14, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
I tried FT8 through WSJT-X, amazing technology..And plenty of fun..

Today(Oct 14), every single band was dead (k Factor 6, no sunspots, and QRZ Page indicated all dead the bands)

While using the FT8mode, one can work the world, even with these conditions.

With the addition of the digital modes, this provides the needed granularity to make DX. Meaning when the bands are open, SSB...As the bands get worse, maybe BPSK31, or Olivia mode, and finally when all completely dead, one can always get through using JT65, JT 9, and now FT8 Mode...


Great times in Ham radio! More modes to experiment!
 
RE: I'm On FT8! Now What? Reply
by NO6E on October 14, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
Thanks! Point well taken. Article has been percolating through eHam for a while. I know some are now arguing for "always-split" operation on FT8. Not sure about that. Just as in other modes, split operation means two frequencies are occupied by one QSO. Totally justified for a rare station so you don't transmit on their frequency, but not sure as an everyday practice. Thanks for your kind words!
Andrew NO6E
 
RE: I'm On FT8! Now What? Reply
by NO6E on October 14, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
Thanks for your kind words!
Andrew NO6E
 
RE: I'm On FT8! Now What? Reply
by NO6E on October 14, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
Thanks for your kind words! Point well taken.
 
RE: I'm On FT8! Now What? Reply
by WO7R on October 15, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
This post contains a link to the NTP server I recommend.

It is basically a background service. You install it and forget it is there. But your Windows timekeeping is now always within a second of UTC.

Many built-in PC clocks are terrible! You can lose seconds of accuracy per day. Too much. You almost certainly will want this.

https://www.meinbergglobal.com/english/sw/ntp.htm

Beats the heck out of setting the thing by hand. Or, worse, forgetting you have to do it "yet again" and lose some QSOs.
 
RE: I'm On FT8! Now What? Reply
by AA4PB on October 15, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
Remember that having "lock" unchecked does not necessarily mean that you are operating split. If you double-click on a CQ call both your transmit and receive will move to his frequency and you will be simplex. You have to manually move the Tx to another frequency in order to operate split. The benefit of not checking "lock" is that someone can't drag your transmitter off to a new frequency.

Thanks for the good article.
 
I'm On FT8! Now What? Reply
by WM4RB on October 15, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
GREAT article! Help me understand what I was doing wrong.

Mike, WM4RB
 
RE: I'm On FT8! Now What? Reply
by NO6E on October 15, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
Thanks, everyone, for the kind words. I appreciate them very much. Seconding the importance of time setting. Whatever source you tell Windows to use, it doesn't check it often enough. On the other hand, we don't want to overload time servers, either. I set mine to check every couple of days, and that works fine on my pc.
 
RE: I'm On FT8! Now What? Reply
by WO7R on October 16, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
The advantage of the Meinberg server is that it checks against a set of internet sources. It would only make a change if your clock is off too far.

I believe the Dimension 4 server (which I don't think is quite as good) behaves in the same way.

With either, I don't believe you are in serious danger of overloading the timer services.
 
I'm On FT8! Now What? Reply
by KB1GKN on October 17, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
FT-8 has been a runaway hit! It's really got me excited about ham radio again. I can't tell you how many hours these past few months have been spent 15 seconds at a time.

XYL: "Honey, dinner is ready"
HAM: "Just fifteen more seconds.."

XYL: "Honey, it's late, are you coming to bed?"
HAM: "Just fifteen more seconds..."

Just. Fifteen. More. Seconds.
 
Great Mode…! Reply
by VE3CUI on October 18, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
What an absolutely GREAT mode this is for the new millennium…!

From what I've been able to glean, It fits --- right down to an absolute "T" --- our society's present infatuation with all things computerized, and steers individuals well away from actually getting to know who one's neighbours might be --- you know, that classic (but very dated & old-fashioned) thing called "…the human touch."

Just revel in the all of the excitement that it affords:

(1) A 90-second "QSO" is the "new" Rag Chewer's Club minimum entrance criteria...!

(2) Exchanges can all be pre-programmed now, as in, "...Hello-you're-5-by-9-73-QRZ"...!

(3) You have the option of automatically responding to CQ calls made by others (for those rare occasions, obviously, when you're just far too busy to enjoy the actual meat & potatoes of Ham radio)…!

(4) DXCC achievement is well-nigh instantaneous & effort-free (who has the time for searching & pouncing, calling strategy, timing, & to wait for all those QSL confirmations anyway, right?)…! and,

(5) The computer has finally found a prominent --- and dominant --- place for itself atop your shack table --- and NOT as a mere adjunct to your on-the-air activities, either! It's now become a critical necessity…!

All hale the new Ham radio! (just who needs any real people, anyway…?). Call me old-fashioned, call me anti-progressive, call me a dinosaur, call me "Mr. Spark Of The 2000's" --- just don't bother calling me on JT8, because --- and with all due respect to the author & the proponents of the mode --- there's simply nobody home here that will answer to that name...
 
I'm On FT8! Now What? Reply
by K5LCL on October 18, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
FT-8 is new, amazingly simple, fast, and a giant leap in weak signal communications. I have to ask though, is it useful for anything other than making "contacts"? What I mean is, in an emergency could you use it to tell someone "you need an ambulance at 1234 Main St, Anytown, USA"?
I'm not trying to start an argument, I'm really looking for information about how useful it MIGHT be.
Thanks!
 
RE: I'm On FT8! Now What? Reply
by AA4PB on October 18, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
FT8 would be pretty limited for emergency work. The free text is limited to 13 characters. In addition you need to have some way (Internet, GPS, WWV, etc) to sync your computer time.
 
RE: I'm On FT8! Now What? Reply
by N4KC on October 18, 2017 Mail this to a friend!

Some folks simply enjoy making quick contacts with lots of other folks. And especially when any other modes of communication--and especially a good, old-fashioned ragchew--would otherwise not be possible.

Not your cup of tea? Fine. Enjoy your particular flavor. Be thankful we have choices. And some pretty darn good ones. But please avoid that old attitude of, "If you like something I don't like then what you like is bad."

Shoot, I may just give this mode a try. Someday. When I get the time. Pun specifically intended.

The computer becoming more and more a part of our hobby was inevitable. We already hook them to our TVs, our cars, our home heating/cooling systems, our major appliances, and our telephones. I even have a clothes dryer that can download new firmware! But you don't have to. Do whatever yanks your crank.

PS: I can see some emergency use for FT8's cousin modes but not so much FT8 because of the character limit. But then, there is little emergency application for moonbounce, satellite, slow-scan TV or some other stuff that offers plenty of fun and challenges.

73,

Don N4KC
www.n4kc.com
www.donkeith.com


 
RE: I'm On FT8! Now What? Reply
by W4KVW on October 19, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
Only problem is only the computers are making any contacts not a person.It's like all digital modes it's a very impersonal mode.I'm sure many have their computers & radios set so that they operate without them even being present but none will ever admit it because it's against the rules & everybody knows that Ham Operators never break the rules.Before long nobody will be having a real QSO with a microphone other than on repeaters.I think the computers should be required too get a license since they are making all of the contacts & not any people.I don't see anything exciting about any digital mode & don't consider any of them as a QSO since the people with the license did NOT make any contact? BORING is the best word that describes it to me.On it's best day it's just a bunch of noise being made by computers & it's being labeled as Ham Radio Communications.I know this post will not be popular but the truth is not in many cases & I'm stating my opinion & you are not required too agree & it's why it's called an opinion & I did not state it so that anyone would agree with it just stating the other side of Now What & I suggest picking up a microphone for a change & actually communicate & stop letting your computers do all of the work & you just might be surprised how much FUN it still is.

Clayton
W4KVW
 
RE: I'm On FT8! Now What? Reply
by N4KC on October 19, 2017 Mail this to a friend!

I suggest we all chip in and buy W4KVW a "period" key for his computer keyboard. Could be, though, that since he is so opposed to computers in any shape or form, he simply has not located it yet.

Clayton, it's down there on the bottom row of small keys, on the same key as ">".

So it's not a contact unless you make it with a microphone. We CW guys might disagree. We use keys, paddles, or by touching two wires together. SSTV folks employ cameras. RTTY ops range from ancient model 15 teletype machines all the way up to your dreaded computer. And regardless your preference, there is plenty more involved than just a mic. Radio, digital interface, tuner, amp, feed line, antenna, maybe even a satellite in outer space or a repeater on a hilltop. And you might be shocked to know how many computers are involved in the process. Heck, even your precious Icom is probably now the biggest seller of software-defined radios in the world with the IC-7300 and the upcoming IC-7610!

But look: whatever hams enjoy and prefer is fine with me, whether it is a computer software program, a microphone, a key, or smoke signals. Why must everyone want to do it your way and your way alone?

The hobby and the spectrum is plenty big enough for all of us.

73,

Don N4KC
www.n4kc.com
www.donkeith.com


 
RE: I'm On FT8! Now What? Reply
by W4KVW on October 19, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
Donald-N4KC,I guess you can't read very well other than searching for a period.As I said,EVERYONE has an opinion just like that spot we all sit on.I don't like yours & you don't like mine & I'm OK with that & if you are not then it's you losing sleep not me.Here this is just for you so you will feel Special.......................... That's all PERIOD.....................................
Once again I have VOICED my Opinion. LOL hehe

Clayton
W4KVW
 
RE: I'm On FT8! Now What? Reply
by KF4HR on October 19, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
Each to their own but I have a tough time getting enthusiastic over our PC's exchanging short computer generated alpha-numeric strings.
 
RE: I'm On FT8! Now What? Reply
by N4KC on October 20, 2017 Mail this to a friend!

Then simple: don't be enthusiastic about it. But we can surely allow others to participate without criticism. Just make your personal choice not to join them. Quietly. Without denigrating or criticizing.

I don't care for SSTV, meteor scatter, microwaves, D-Star or...so far...FT8. But I think all are great for our hobby since they give old-timers, newcomers and potential hams exciting mode and operating choices that didn't exist only a few years ago. Get ready. There will be more!

And even if they weren't positive for ham radio, there is no way anyone could successfully argue that any of this is bad for the hobby. Think you can? Go ahead. (And Clayton, now that you've found the period, if you want to make a logical argument against new modes, see if you can locate the space bar on your keyboard. Be aware, though, that many ops had the same feelings a few years ago against...ready for it?...SSB!)

So bring on new, exciting modes and capabilities! New technology that allows us to make contacts that were previously impossible, to learn new things, and to attract new hams. Enjoy what you enjoy. But please, allow others to enjoy what they enjoy without disparagement!

Laissez faire! "Let (people) do (as they choose)." So long as that does not prevent me or you from enjoying my and your own choices, of course. And FT8 absolutely does not get in my...or your...way at all!

73,

Don N4KC
www.n4kc.com
www.donkeith.com


 
RE: I'm On FT8! Now What? Reply
by W4KVW on October 20, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
Don N4KC,at least with most of those modes it takes a person to complete the QSO & with CW the operator is doing the listening & the sending in most cases. With this digital crap it's computers talking to each other & I'd bet many are unmanned computers so no control operators present. There is ZERO interaction between humans being done. So again,why are they called QSO's or contacts when it does NOT require a human? No human can understand the noises coming from those computers no matter how smart they are. Amateur Radio is suppose to be contacts between Hams not computers? Don't tell me you actually believe these stations are actually all manned with a control operator. At this rate before long computers will take over the airwaves & humans won't have a say in it. LOL

Clayton
W4KVW
 
RE: I'm On FT8! Now What? Reply
by KF4HR on October 20, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
Don you are confusing denigrating or criticizing with a personal opinion. Did you note I started with "each to their own?" No need to attempt to squelch personal opinions here. If someone writes something you don't agree with, you are more than welcome not to read it.
 
RE: I'm On FT8! Now What? Reply
by W4KVW on October 20, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
Quote:KF4HR "Don you are confusing denigrating or criticizing with a personal opinion. Did you note I started with "each to their own?" No need to attempt to squelch personal opinions here. If someone writes something you don't agree with, you are more than welcome not to read it."

AMEN & AMEN!

Clayton
W4KVW
{:>) HEHE
 
RE: I'm On FT8! Now What? Reply
by ND6M on October 21, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
And just HOW does one know they do not agree with something BEFORE they read it,................. DUH!
(Unless you are Klayton).


BTW, there has NEVER been an FT 8 QSO without a human operator.

Bottom line: Good, informative, and well written article.
 
RE: I'm On FT8! Now What? Reply
by AA4PB on October 21, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
Personally, I don't believe there are any operators present in the majority of SSB contacts. They are all computer controlled recordings. Have you noticed that most of the QSOs consist only of call, name, location and a 59 signal report? :-)


 
RE: I'm On FT8! Now What? Reply
by N9AOP on October 21, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
Now what?? FT9--just wait a couple of months. Fully automated so that you leave your equipment on for a couple of weeks and at the end of that time have DXCC.
Art
 
I'm On FT8! Now What? Reply
by KL7FZ on October 21, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
Digital modes are a great innovation and have their place BUT...that said...it is the difference between making a contact OR actually COMMUNICATING.
 
RE: I'm On FT8! Now What? Reply
by N4KC on October 21, 2017 Mail this to a friend!


Don't know how I became the default defender of FT8, but...

According to the dictionary definition of "communicating:" to give or interchange thoughts, feelings, information, or the like, by writing, speaking, etc.

Guess FT8 falls under "etc." But you are certainly giving or interchanging information when you make a contact with the mode. Maybe more and more accurate info than with a typical SSB exchange with a totally subjective signal report.

I see no way anyone could go away and allow the computer to make FT8 contacts on its own. Or why someone would want to. But so long as he or she is in constant legal control of the station and its emissions, it's okay by me.

73,

Don N4KC
www.n4kc.com
www.donkeith.com


 
RE: I'm On FT8! Now What? Reply
by N9AOP on October 22, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
Don,
Just because it can is why it will be done by more than one operator. It is like passing someone on a busy street and just saying 'Hi'. Like you, I would rather have a conversation no matter what the mode.
Art
 
RE: I'm On FT8! Now What? Reply
by N4KC on October 22, 2017 Mail this to a friend!

Precisely, Art. I make plenty of "599 TU" contacts. And plenty more in which we chat for hours. I love 'em all!

But if there is a way for me to make a contact with a new DX entity on 6 meters or on a "dead" 10-meter band, a signal BELOW the noise level, even if it only involves clicking the mouse a time or two, bring it on.

I'll try to work 'em later, when the band is open, for that nice, long satisfying chat. Or not. There are still a few stations around the world I have not yet communicated with...by mouse click or ragchew...and I'll try to get those ops in the log any way I can, so long as it is legal and ethical.

73,

Don N4KC
www.donkeith.com
www.n4kc.com

(PS: If I have not worked YOU yet, it is not for lack of trying!)



 
RE: I'm On FT8! Now What? Reply
by AA4PB on October 22, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
1. WSJT-x will not run in "automatic QSO" on any mode. Someone would have to modify the software to do so.

2. There were automatic RTTY stations back in the day. A control operator does not need to be present as long as the automatic station only responds to stations that specifically call it (think WinLink). I don't think it is legal for a station with no control operator present (either locally or remote) to key up on its own and call CQ.
 
RE: I'm On FT8! Now What? Reply
by NE2B on October 23, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
I enjoy the impersonal nature of FT8. I like to make contacts but I'm not interested in rag chewing. Maybe I'm a little antisocial. For me the thrill is making the contact. I also don't really care if it's "real radio". I enjoy it a lot. It is not automatic. I am selecting who I want to contact or when I want to call CQ. I can call CQ to where I like. I choose how long I can try to make a difficult contact. I can modify the macros a little.
I enjoy QRP. Today I worked a station in France from my QTH in upstate NY using only 2.5W. My antenna doesn't erect or position itself. Some people build their own interfaces, that's not automatic. There is still plenty of ham things to do when doing FT8.
When I made my QSO with the French ham I chose the band and decided to try for DX because I saw an opening into Europe by checking pskreporter, that wasn't automatic.
I've never made a lot of QSO's in the past. I wasn't interested in going for numbers. Now I've made more contacts in the past 5 days than I have since upgrading to general a couple years ago. So this mode is encouraging activity on the bands. Now I'm half way to WAS and I am nearly at 50 counties in the last five days using digital modes only.
I enjoy CW too but am still building speed and it's not relaxing. I think FT8 is great for QRP.
At first glance it doesn't feel like radio. After a few days of it and learning to get better at it I saw that it was more than just point and click.
 
"Hello" & "Good-Bye," NE2B…! Reply
by VE3CUI on October 23, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
"NE2B UR 599 73"

There. We've just made our QSO --- now, if you ever hear me on the air, don't bother to call me…TNX!
 
RE: "Hello" & "Good-Bye," NE2B…! Reply
by NE2B on October 23, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
I think the only point you made here is that you're not friendly.
Have you never made a similar brief exchange during a contest on SSB? I could liken your SSB QSO's to talking on the phone. It proves nothing.
 
RE: "Hello" & "Good-Bye," NE2B…! Reply
by VE3CUI on October 24, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
Reality check here: the type of QSOs that apparently find favour with the "instant gratification" FT8 crowd --- which you, yourself, have stated that you favour --- are hardly "friendly."

DEFINITION OF "FRIENDLY": Characteristic of, or befitting, a friend.

"...I could liken your SSB QSO's to talking on the phone…" Dialing-up answering machines is hardly displaying any modicum of "friendship," per se.
 
RE: "Hello" & "Good-Bye," NE2B…! Reply
by NE2B on October 24, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
Perhaps I should have said unkind and trollish instead of unfriendly.
With FT8 there is someone on the other end unlike an answering machine. Just because something is easier doesn't mean it has no value. When I'm using FT8 I'm enjoying my hobby. There are plenty of aspects of our hobby that I am not interested in, I don't criticize those who are.
Just because I use FT8 doesn't mean that I'm only into instant gratification. I also practice building my code speed, hardly instantaneous gratification. I only have a few CW contacts because I'm still a bit timid. The SSB QSO's that I've had have been enjoyable but I am just not into talking a lot. I don't see how FT8 is much different than a typical field day ssb exchange or QSO party exchange. Maybe you think those aren't good enough either.
BTW, it would have been easier for me to stick with ssb because I'm not good with computers and learning Morse has been difficult for me. I have learned a lot.
When I started using digital modes a week ago it didn't feel like radio. Now that I'm getting into it and figuring it out and getting better at using it I see things differently.
 
I'm On FT8! Now What? Reply
by WA7KPK on October 24, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
Now see what happens when I leave HF for a while. I had to take down my HF station last Memorial Day because we were moving to a new house and I haven't figured how to hang the antenna yet. So while I'm stuck up on 2m & 440, Joe Taylor comes along and creates a brand new digital mode. Before I went QRT below 50 MHz I got my JT-65 Worked All States, I'd just discovered JT-9 and was on the way to digital DXCC; now I have the itch to get back on the air and get onto this brand new mode!

It's no surprise that there are people who don't care for digital modes like FT-8. Well, that's fine. Amateur radio is a big enough hobby to accommodate those of us who only want to ragchew on 75 meters, and those who want to see just how far they can push the abilities of their station with only a couple of watts, and everything in between. I'm interested in all of it, and if I'm not involved with SSTV or radio controlled vehicles or EME, it's only because I don't have the time and resources to do so.
 
RE: I'm On FT8! Now What? Reply
by WA7KPK on October 24, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
>>> "Don't know how I became the default defender of FT8, but... "

It's a dirty job Don, but somebody's got to do it, right?

I do remember an article about a guy who rigged his station to do automated QSOs for him. It ended with the guy getting locked out of his shack and his station carrying on QSOs with the guy's friends all by itself. I also remember that this article appeared in an April issue of QST, and April Fools' articles are about as close as we've gotten to completely automated stations.
 
WA7KPK, Don't Laugh…! Reply
by VE3CUI on October 24, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
Remember the old "Dr. DX" software that you could use on your Commodore 64 computer some 30 years ago…?

The "humanless QSO" is well nigh --- the on-the-air version was probably here YEARS ago, too.
 
RE: "Hello" & "Good-Bye," NE2B…! Reply
by K0UA on October 25, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
Well, I don't think FT8 really needs defending. as thousands of hams are on it now. They can speak for FT8 Let me attempt to clear up a few things. Lets start with a challenge to some of the more vocal "haters" of digital modes in general.

The first challenge is getting on the air with a clean signal. Lord knows a lot of them are not. Many folks have a hard time figuring out how to interface their radios and computer and solving problems. I have helped many. The next challenge is figuring out all of the nuances of the software. AND that is a moving target as the software is in rapid development. Now I challenge any "hater" :) to get on and work WAS on just ONE band. Lets say 40 meters or 30 if you prefer. It takes a lot of work and skill to track down and make that contact 50 times, especially to some or our less populated states. It takes some time to figure it all out. It is a learning experience.

Many of our newer and maybe real estate challenged hams will note that they can get by with much less antenna and power on these digital modes. Which fit's right in with what they have to live with. And lastly lets put to bed this The computers are just working each other. I have news for you, when you call someone down the block or in the next country on SSB, You radio is doing all the work, NOT YOU :) You didn't shout that far. And as others have pointed out, there is absolutely no difference in a contest QSO or field day QSO or even 99% of all DX QSO's than an FT8 QSO except the FT8 QSO gives you an accurate actual signal report. NOT 59 !

How many actual ragchews have most of us had with juicy DX stations? I am not talking about working G's or VK's here. But actual DX stations with a big pile up on them. You better darn well say ur 59 and 73 and get the heck off of the frequency. And the DX station is not going to talk with you anyway.

So to sum up, this "computer made the contact" is total BS. No more than you keyer made the contact or your radio made the contact, or your feedline and antenna made the contact. It all works in concert, and it is the humans skill, cunning, and effort that makes the contact. So you have been "challenged" in a friendly way to see just how well you will do. Let me know if you need any assistance and I will assist you. For real.
 
RE: "Hello" & "Good-Bye," NE2B…! Reply
by K7LRB on October 25, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
Well, alrighty then! I'm not one to "join in" on "peeing contests", however, there are apparently some 'misconceptions' and erroneous information about FT8.

First, I am a rag chewer at heart, primarily CW. Even though I have been a ham for about 57 years, I certainly am NOT opposed to trying new and 'innovative' modes. I started doing 'digital' modes back in the 80s with AMTOR and Pactor. It has been 'neat' to see new digital modes come along and I am most thankful to those with the talent to 'create' them. I have been having a blast trying many of them, including Olivia, Contestia, Thor, Throb, etc, etc. One of my favorite modes is ALE-400. It is about as close as you can come to a true 'handshaking', "linked" ARQ mode without the need for a TNC. With most digital modes you can find a 'setting' which will accommodate your typing skill (or lack thereof). I'm not 'knocking' voice modes, it just "seems to me" there is more 'civility' on the digi modes, as well as CW.

Along comes FT8. If you just want to make a 'contact' FT8 is the way to go. If you just want to 'chase paper', FT8 is hard to beat. Personally, and that's all it is, I don't consider a 'contest' type contact to be a QSO, it's a contact, nothing more, no 'conversation' takes place. Again, if you just want the 'contact' for award purposes or whatever, knock yourself out. I think it's GREAT to have FT8 available. Personally, I have zero interest in contests or wall paper, HOWEVER, I find FT8 to be GREAT for checking band conditions!

I find it 'discouraging' that so many posters, particularly on this forum, find the need to "bash" someone who expresses their OWN opinion (and again, that's ALL it is) or denigrate someone who does not share their particular interest(s). It would be good for ALL radio amateurs to read the "Ethics and Operating Procedures for the Radio Amateur" which can be found here: http://www.arrl.org/files/file/DXCC/Eth-operating-EN-ARRL-CORR-JAN-2011.pdf.

As to FT8, yes, you CAN 'automate' FT8 to call CQ and make "contacts" while you are away from your station, be it at the dinner table, watching TV, or ON A CRUISE! This is done by following this path in the WSJT-X main window: File->Settings->Behavior->Disable TX after sending 73; UNcheck that box. Then send CQ and go do whatever else you want. The program will send CQ, take calls AUTOMATICALLY and at the end of the "QSO" it will send CQ again and the process starts all over again, limited ONLY by the "watchdog timer" setting (default of 6 minutes). I use a specific logging program and manually log all my 'QSO's so I am not familiar with the 'automatic' logging feature of FT8, however, I am sure there IS one, I just don't use it. SO.... after a long (or short) absence from the shack, you can come back and 'see' all the "QSO"s you have made! Sure sounds like computer talking to computer to me, BUT, you decide.

IF, and I mean IF, I were to have a 'beef' with FT8, it would be that the mode seems to be gradually "creeping", or perhaps a better word is "expanding" farther and farther AWAY from, say, 7.074 (in the case of 40m). Thus, it is getting 'harder and harder' to find the 'space' to operate any of the other digital modes. Is this illegal? Of course not! But it is becoming 'annoying'.

I appeal to my fellow hams; let's try to dampen the vitriol, name-calling, belittling, et al, on these forums. If you want to post an 'opinion', it is certainly your right (privilege?) to do so. But in doing so, please consider whether your post is going to be constructive or beneficial to your fellow amateurs. There are some great posts on eHam, including the subject of FT8 and/or other modes. Then there are some that only incite confrontation and downright "mud slinging". AIN'T WE ABOVE THAT?

Hope to see you on the air, on ANY mode! The main thing is to HAVE FUN (but NOT at the expense of other's enjoyment).

73 all,
de Larry
 
RE: "Hello" & "Good-Bye," NE2B…! Reply
by K0UA on October 25, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
Well, alrighty then! I'm not one to "join in" on "peeing contests", however, there are apparently some 'misconceptions' and erroneous information about FT8.

Yes there most certainly is, and you are spreading them.

I know of no way to have 2 qso's in a row without human intervention. If you can do it, please tell me how. I know of no way to log a contact automatically and neither do you.

Unchecking the "disable transmit box after sending 73 only lets you send 73 again and again if the other station is still sending RRR. That is all that is good for. I will NOT take off and call CQ again, because you have to log the last station, and when you do so, it disables transmit. If you uncheck the call first box then it will automatically keep sending 73. It still requires human intervention to log the contact, then the enable transmit goes off, or you manually halt transmitter and it goes off. else it keeps on sending 73. NOT CQ again. unless you press the seq 6 button to make it send CQ. If you leave box disable transmitter after the 73 box checked, then it shuts down the transmitter after only one 73. And you have to start the 73 sequence manually in a big hurry if the guy keeps on sending RRR


Unless you have hacked the software. to make it work like you suggested.. Did you do that?

You are correct that you can start a CQ sequence with autosequence turned on, and go fix a sandwich in the kitchen and see if you "caught" a single QSO. If you did, you can then log it, manually, because there is NO automatic logging, and then you can MANUALLY start another CQ sequence. MSK 144 has also been like this from the beginning.
 
I'm On FT8! Now What? Reply
by WB7OND on October 28, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
I like to go to the park or other portable location with my KX3 station and do FT-8, LiPos everywhere!!. Usually there is no internet connectivity. For timekeeping I use a program called NMEATime. The older program has the ability to switch between NTP (internet) or NMEA (GPS). I have an inexpensive GPS puck about $14.00 US and it plugs into the USB and provides time data to the program.
73s
WB7OND
 
RE: I'm On FT8! Now What? Reply
by K8CMO on November 6, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
What's wrong with enjoying it all??? I admit I rarely ever operate SSB. I work mostly CW--contesting, DXing, and ragchewing. However, I switch between modes and enjoy them all for what they are. I work PSK-31, RTTY, and now some FT8. I don't think it is an either/or. They are all there to be enjoyed by all. I sometimes operate 3 or 4 modes all in the same day and have fun on all of them.
 
I'm On FT8! Now What? Reply
by KT4EP on November 7, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
The computer isn't making the contact anymore than the microphone or the CW key do it for you. You, the ham, are making the contact. I make my computer interact with the radio causing it to transmit down the feedline and on to the antenna.
 
I'm On FT8! Now What? Reply
by K2PAL on November 7, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
I would agree with you Mr. Clayton if not one thing.
The point is, no matter what signal we send via the air, it will be considered by any one as QSO SSB, CW or FT8.
Alex ,AG2T
 
Ft-8 is About as Fun as Watching Paint Dry! Reply
by WD9IDV on November 9, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
I have to say that within just a few minutes on FT-8 I was bored to death. Hey, great if you like it, fun to try, but about as boring as watching paint dry.
 
I'm On FT8! Now What? Reply
by W5GNB on November 12, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
FT8 is Almost as exciting as watching Paint Dry ~~~
 
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