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[Articles Home]  [Add Article]  

The 'F' is for 'Fun'

from Andrew Ellis, NO6E on November 28, 2017
View comments about this article!

The “F” is for “Fun!”
by Andrew Ellis, NO6E

If one is looking for something to deplore, the new FT8 mode from Joe Taylor, K1JT and Steve Franke, K9AN is a likely target: It makes it easier for small stations to work DX and for those with limited English to compete evenly. That's certainly subversive! Feel free to complain, too, that it's not “Real” ham radio, though that charge has been leveled ever since the advent of CW vs spark and phone vs CW. Good luck with that.

For the open-minded, though, FT8 is an absolute joy.

Standing for “Franke-Taylor 8-FSK,” FT8 is a sound card mode. All you need is an ssb radio, a computer and a way to connect them.

Like its siblings JT9 and JT65-HF, FT8 relies on stations taking “turns” calling one another. (Your PC clock needs to be set correctly!) Unlike the other modes, each “turn” is 15 seconds (instead of a minute) long. You're either transmitting on the “Even” turns (:00 and :30 past each minute), or the “Odd” turns (:15 and :45 past each minute). The software keeps track of this for you: If you answer a CQ from someone transmitting in the “Odd” time slots, it will automatically assign you to call them on the “Even” time slots.

FT8 has a colorful display. It's pretty easy to use, but there are things shown that you may not need to worry about, so keep it simple at first:

This screenshot shows TWO windows. The wide one at the top is “waterfall” display that lets you see what's on the band, and the lower one is the “Main” FT8 window.

One of the things that will seem new to people just starting with sound card modes is the concept of “Band.” As shown in the lower-right of the main window, I'm operating here on the 40M band. But the left window (“Band Activity”) refers not to all of 40M, but to a range of audio tones on my SSB radio. In other words, all of the activity shown is happening on ONE frequency, as SSB users would consider it. The program remembers the standard FT8 frequencies on each band, so when you select, say, 40M, it will suggest 7.074 mHz. You set your radio for upper sideband (yes, it's always upper sideband, even on 80 and 40 meters), and tune it to 7.074. After that, everything happens without your touching the tuning knob on the radio. When you double-click on a signal, the software automatically selects the right audio tones to put you on the same frequency. Slick, eh?

Look at the bottom line of the “Band Activity” window. It's green, which means I might want to respond to it. “CQ VA3TPS” is pretty clear: Steve McEdwards in Ontario is looking for a contact! “FN04” is his location in the Maidenhead Locator system. You enter your own when you set up the program. You can find it with the calculator at http://www.levinecentral.com/ham/grid_square.php .

The other stuff: “044145” (04:41:45 UTC) is the time, which shows that Steve is transmitting in the “Odd” time slots. Steve's signal here in Oregon rates a “-7,” a pretty good signal. Really strong signals may be above 0, while those closer to “-20” are too weak to work. “DT” shows the difference between your clock and Steve's. If it looks as if everyone is sending the wrong time, it's probably you, not them! “FREQ” shows the audio frequency Steve is using on 7.074 : 1925 Hz. You probably don't need to worry about that, though: As long as you have the “LOCK TX-RX” button checked, (which you should), you'll automatically answer Steve on his frequency. While you're clicking, I also suggest you also click the AUTO SEQ box, which will ensure that you send the right transmissions in the right order.

The right-hand window (“RX FREQUENCY”) shows what's happening just on the frequency you have selected. When you've finished a contact, you can erase the window contents with the ERASE button. Leaving Steve aside now, what's shown in this window is a contact between me and VE3RSP, Ronald Poaps in amusingly-named Ompah, Ontario.

Ronald has just finished a contact (shown in white) with WB0NAV. (“WB0NAV VE3RSP 73”). I start calling him (shown in yellow): “VE3RSP NO6E CN73” (While I wish EVERYONE “Best Wishes,” it's just a coincidence that my locator has a “73” in it!)

After the third call, Ronald responds to me (in red): “NO6E VE3RSP -13”. He already knows my call and my locator, and “-13” means my signal strength at his QTH is OK, but not great. I respond to him (automatically): “VE3RSP NO6E R-07.” I'm hearing him better than he's hearing me, and the “R” means I acknowledge receiving his signal report to me (-13). He sends back “NO6E VE3RSP RRR,” meaning that we've each acknowledged each other's signal reports. I send him “VE3RSP NO6E 73” and he answers with “NO6E VE3RSP 73.” We're done. The program pops up a window asking if I want to log the contact, and I click it.

Getting comfortable with sound card modes is like learning foreign languages: Once you figure out the first one, the next ones are easier.

You'll need an interface to connect the audio in and out of your computer to your radio. You can build or buy one. I use the popular “SignaLink USB” from Tigertronics, about $115 from several vendors. It's nice because it has a built-in computer sound card, so you don't need to mess with your computer's internal sound card that you use for watching YouTube videos and such.

The SignaLink plugs into a USB port on my computer, and a cable (which I bought) connects it to the DATA jack on my Yaesu FT-450D. The details vary with the rig, so my advice is to buy the cable ready-made for your particular radio. You can also build it yourself, of course.

Here's my modest station, housed in half of a closet in Bandon, Oregon:

See, it really IS modest! It seems to me as it hams often feel that their shack is not big enough, not expensive enough, not modern enough or whatever. I believe FT8 is a valuable tool to let LPCA (“Low Power, Crummy Antenna”) stations like mine have lots of fun on the air. That, after all is what the hobby is about.

The computing in my shack is handled by a (not shown) refurbished Dell desktop, upgraded to Windows 10. The wire antennas are modest, too: On 20M, I use an Extended Double Zepp (“EDZ”), on other bands, a 135' flat-top fed with open-wire line. Both are home brew.

Making a transition from “Traditional” to sound card modes requires a little equipment and a willingness to accept that things in the digital world are not always done in the same way as they are IRL (“In Real Life,” in Internet-speak).

Modest as it is, my 40-watt peanut-whistle station has provided me with DX I've never been able to work before now that I use FT8. Among other countries, Cuba, France, Spain and both the Canary and Balearic Islands are all in the log. That doesn't count Fiji and the rest of the Pacific, which are the easier ones from the U.S. west coast.

My advice to you: Give FT8 a try. It's not hard to get on. If you decide you don't like it, then try something else. Ham radio has plenty of “Something Else,” so it shouldn't be hard to find an activity that's satisfying to you. FT8 software, part of the WSJT-X package, is available for whatever computer operating system you like best: Windows, Linux, OSX and Raspbian versions can each be downloaded (free!) from http://physics.princeton.edu/pulsar/k1jt/ .

I narrowly missed contacting W1JT the other day on FT8. It'd be like working Marconi on CW!

73,

Andrew Ellis, NO6E
email: no6e@no6e.org
blog: www.no6e.org
Rogue River (and Bandon) Oregon

Member Comments:
Add A Comment
 
The 'F' is for 'Fun' Reply
by N5LXI on November 28, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
Nice intro to FT8. I'm also having Fun! I'm still learning. Other software bits to consider are the JT
Alert add-on. I'm also using AC Log. I can work a station and have it automatically logged. LoTW is also important to get confirmations for me. You work way too many stations to send out paper QSL cards.

Hardware I'm using is a Kenwood TS=590SG and a homebrew 43' vertical fed with ladder line. A MFJ-929 matches the mess. I'm mostly working 40-meters and run 25 watts. After a few weeks I have 650 contacts in 48 states and over 30 countries (way more than I had with SSB).

It is different, but fun. I can get let if run, go get a glass of wine, and I've logged a new country when I was gone. I do wish it was a little more conversational though.
 
RE: The 'F' is for 'Fun' Reply
by NN2X on November 28, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
These digital modes, like FT8 and Olivia (And other like it) offers more granularity and dynamic range to play on the Ham radio

It used to be, when the K Factor was 4 or 5 and the sunspot was low, just turn off Ham radio, go ahead and get a cup a tea, beer, or whatever floats your boat. But with these digital modes offer the ability to work DX despite the very poor conditions.

My rule of thumb is the following

If Band conditions

• Horrible (No sun spots) K factor through the roof, FT8 all the way (Can decode -24db below the noise floor)

• If slightly better conditions, but still can’t support SSB, Olivia mode! (Or other like it) (Can decode -13 dB the noise floor)

• Condition OK, CW…RTTY

• Fair Conditions SSB with Amplifier

• Good conditions SSB 100 Watts

• Great conditions 10 Meters all the way!

In Summary the digital modes give the ability to have fun (Work DX), even when band conditions are poor and humble set up (More granularity and dynamic operating ability to work DX!)


C U Band!, NN2X, Tom
 
RE: The 'F' is for 'Fun' Reply
by AF6AU on November 28, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
Nice Intro. I'm interested...

2 Questions...

1. Is it fair to say that to run this, the computer needs T/R frequency control over the transceiver?

2. Since I read that it works well below the noise floor and I have a LOT or QRM in suburbia, it works well with a lot of QRM? And I mean S8+ QRM.

Thanks for the teaser!!
JML AF6AU
 
RE: The 'F' is for 'Fun' Reply
by AC7CW on November 28, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
FT8 is a game changer for sure. It is incentive enough to build a station even in these low sunspot times.
 
RE: The 'F' is for 'Fun' Reply
by AA4PB on November 28, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
1. Is it fair to say that to run this, the computer needs T/R frequency control over the transceiver?

A. Not an absolute requirement, but it certainly makes things easier.

2. Since I read that it works well below the noise floor and I have a LOT or QRM in suburbia, it works well with a lot of QRM? And I mean S8+ QRM.

A. I've recently been getting a lot (S7+) power line noise with the antenna in some directions. I'm surprised at how well it works through that.
 
The 'F' is for 'Fun' Reply
by NY7Q on November 28, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
I DO NOT AGREE IT IS HAM RADIO. IT IS COMPUTER SYSTEMS
 
RE: The 'F' is for 'Fun' Reply
by KF4HR on November 28, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
If filling up your log with call signs is your idea of hamming fun, FT8 is for you. If you're looking for meaningful QSO's, use a different mode.
 
RE: The 'F' is for 'Fun' Reply
by W8FA on November 28, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
FT8 is computer fun which is great. Love it. But how is this ham radio?
 
The 'F' is for 'Fun' Reply
by AK4YH on November 29, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
To each his own I guess. I won't criticize chat-less digital modes, because again, amateur radio has something for everyone. So this is my opinion, pertaining to me only, and not a condemnation of FT8.

I find FT8 to be utterly useless because you can't use it for conversations, or hardly so, and nobody does. For me, it's like watching paint dry. I believe that radio is about communicating, not collecting.

The only chat-less digital mode I'll ever use is WSPR, and that's just to test antennas.

I find very unfortunate that these days it's not so easy to find people willing to chat a bit instead of giving me a fake report and goodbye.

But hey, that's me, and if it bolsters radio sales, so much the better. At least it's not a contest mode that takes all the bands... Oops, be nice, self-reminder... I'm trying...

Gil.
 
RE: The 'F' is for 'Fun' Reply
by NN2X on November 29, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
For those who criticize there is no conversation on FT8 mode and others like it, I have to ask, what does a Ham operator do when the conditions are horrible and you live in an apartment, with a Magnetic loop antenna in his/ her balcony and desires to work DX? I guess the Ham operator has to wait another 6 years or so..

Or maybe, the Ham operator uses FT8, to at least have a DX contact..

Most Ham operators today don't have mono banders with 1.5KW Amplifiers.

From a survey taken by QRZ, they asked what is the typical Ham set up..Nearly 70% of the Ham operators have a dipole with 100 watts...If you desire to work DX, this works (FT8)


Yes, there is CW, but does not work at -24dB below the noise floor. (No matter the speed)


Believe me, if 10 Meters was open, I would suspect that there would be plenty of activity there (Using SSB) and having a QSO..

Olivia works at -12 to -13dB below the noise floor and this is more of a conversational digital mode, but still this is less than 10dB as efficient as FT8.

In summary, at least FT8 offers DX contact for the nearly 70% of Ham operators with modest set up.


CU on the bands

NN2X , Tom
 
RE: The 'F' is for 'Fun' Reply
by KG4RUL on November 29, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
And watching paint dry is also fun for some.
 
RE: The 'F' is for 'Fun' Reply
by KB2SMS on November 29, 2017 Mail this to a friend!

To NY7Q:
It uses a ham radio and antenna. You make contacts. That's ham radio.

Now to me anything that uses the internet to help make contacts isn't ham radio.
 
RE: The 'F' is for 'Fun' Reply
by KB2SMS on November 29, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
To W8FA:

It uses a ham radio and antenna. You make contacts. That's ham radio.

Now to me anything that uses the internet to help make contacts isn't ham radio.
 
The 'F' is for 'Fun' Reply
by N6AFV on November 29, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
Very nice intro to FT-8. My experience is very similar to yours; I also have a "half closet" station! I had an IC-718, and I made a homebrew audio/C-IV interface, but recently got an IC-7300, which has a built-in USB interface, so it plugs right in. I use an OCF dipole (66 ft length) and with an antenna tuner, can work 40,30,20,17,15,12 and 10. The only band on which I have made no contacts is 10m - for some reason, 10 has been totally dead around here.
I'd also say that one big advantage of FT-8 (and other digital modes) is that in areas where noise levels are high (around here, noise runs S7-S9 much of the time) one can still make contacts that would be difficult or impossible via SSB. I, too, have worked many new "political entities" with FT-8, and look forward to working some additional DX in the future.'
BTW, we vacationed in Bandon a number of years ago, and loved the area!
 
RE: The 'F' is for 'Fun' Reply
by K0UA on November 29, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
Now to me anything that uses the internet to help make contacts isn't ham radio.


Ok, tell me how FT8 uses the internet to make contacts? Other than using an internet time server to keep your PC on time. None of the WSJT modes require an internet connection to make contacts. If you have a GPS disciplined oscillator hooked to your PC you can forgo the NTP time server. Or if you PC clock runs accurately you can sync it and use it as is. Do you think that if you don't have an internet connection you cannot make FT8 contacts? How do you think portable stations out in the woods make contacts on WSJT modes?
 
RE: The 'F' is for 'Fun' Reply
by KB2SMS on November 29, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
"Ok, tell me how FT8 uses the internet to make contacts?"


I didn't say it did use the internet to make contacts. I said Dstar and the like did.
 
RE: The 'F' is for 'Fun' Reply
by NY7Q on November 29, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
typical new york answer. donald trump advise you to post that reply???
 
RE: The 'F' is for 'Fun' Reply
by HB0PET on November 29, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
No, the advice came from his wife, when she was in New York yesterday.
 
RE: The 'F' is for 'Fun' Reply
by NN2X on November 29, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
About President Trump & FT8

I am all about stats,,

Well, lets see..

GDP growth in the last 10 months, greater then the last 5 years combined

Stock market broke 61 records..(Increased the Value by 5.4 Trillion)

Unemployment at a 17 year low...next quarter predicted to be 30 year low.


87% Of ISIS has been destroyed


Consumer confidence is the highest in 17 years


And if he passes the tax reform, a $50K earner will have 4K more in their pocket / Per year


Well, if President Trump said to use FT8 mode, it most be very efficient!

CU all on the bands!

DE NN2X

Tom


 
RE: The 'F' is for 'Fun' Reply
by W8FA on November 29, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
To: KB2SMS

Concerning your post #61 (?) in the Misc. forum - EQSL thread today I see you wrote the following. Is this another one of your ideas of what ham radio is all about? I apologize in advance if your account was hacked.

KB2SMS wrote: "My advise to anyone who wants to raise a happy, mentally healthy child is: Keep him or her as far away from a church as you can." - Frank Zappa
 
The 'F' is for 'Fun' Reply
by IZ1FKS on November 30, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
anyone can use the preferred digital mode but FT8 is occuping on 17meter the frequency reserved for psk activity and this no good at all! no more signal in psk31/63 on 18.100 due to ft8 band occupation.
also the nice pskreporters has been impacted, very few station reporting psk signals, only ft8...
 
The 'F' is for 'Fun' Reply
by W3HR on November 30, 2017 Mail this to a friend!

I'm worried about what happened to FTs 1 through 7.
 
What Else Is "F" For…? Reply
by VE3CUI on November 30, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
I can think of a few more words that the letter "F" can stand for, but I shall keep them all to myself…

Suffice it to say, to each his own.
 
RE: The 'F' is for 'Fun' Reply
by HB0PET on November 30, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
Don't worry, they're fine, the FTs 1 through 4 were sold to Russia, the rest is now in China to improve the US credit rating.
 
RE: The 'F' is for 'Fun' Reply
by NI0C on November 30, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
I've been almost 100 pct. CW for years, but I've been trying out the new FT8 mode and have found it a lot of fun. The new mode has about a 10 dB advantage over a good CW operator in decoding signals buried in the noise. Thumbs up from me!
 
The 'F' is for 'Fun' Reply
by W0BBB on November 30, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
Some folks are all about collecting paper - FT8 is a fantastic mode for them. Others prefer ragchewing - Phone, CW, conversational digital modes satisfy them. I fall somewhere in-between, sometimes just putting a few quick ones in the log is fun, other times one or two long winded chats in an evening is what I need.
 
RE: The 'F' is for 'Fun' Reply
by AE4X on November 30, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
So, if I get an IC 7300 (or 7651 I'd assume), all I need is the free software and a USB cable, correct? I used to really enjoy PSK 31 a few years back but haven't had the chance to set it back up. I wasn't crazy about using external interface (RigBlaster) though...
Does this hold true for other modes like PSK 31 too with the IC 7300? With a built in USB .. no Rigblaster etc?
Tnx es 73.
 
RE: The 'F' is for 'Fun' Reply
by W6UV on November 30, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
@AF6AU:

No, the computer doesn't need T/R control over the transceiver. Just turn on VOX and the audio generated by the computer's sound card will key the transmitter.

If your noise floor is already high, then FT8 won't be able to dig weak signals out of the noise as well as it is able to do in quieter locations.
 
RE: The 'F' is for 'Fun' Reply
by AA4PB on November 30, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
AE4X:You are correct. The radio has a built-in sound card so you simply tell the software to use that sound card in lieu of the computer's sound card. Other software that needs to use the computer speakers remains set for the (default) computer sound card.

In addition, Icom has virtual serial port drivers available for free that will permit you to use ci-v rig control over the same USB cable.

No external interfaces required.
 
The 'F' is for 'Fun' Reply
by KK6HUY on November 30, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
Great article (thanks for posting it, informative!) -
true shame about most of the comments.
 
RE: The 'F' is for 'Fun' Reply
by AE4X on November 30, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
Thanks for the reply. So this would pertain to both the 7300 and 7610? Both require no external interface? I might just grab a 7300 then!
 
RE: The 'F' is for 'Fun' Reply
by AA4PB on November 30, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
"So this would pertain to both the 7300 and 7610?"

The 7300 does. I assume the 7610 does as well (it has a USB port).
 
The 'F' is for 'Fun' Reply
by G8ADD on December 1, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
FT8? Is that a new Yaesu rig?
 
The 'F' is for 'Fun' Reply
by KK9H on December 1, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
I am an avid DXer and even in these low sunspot periods, there is still DX to be found on the bands with the commonly used modes like phone and CW. However, I think FT-8 is a very clever and intriguing new mode. I consider it to be another “arrow in my qivver” of modes that I can use to add to my DXCC band totals and it is very good at that. There may come a day when an “All Time New One” comes along using FT-8 and I would certainly want to be set up and ready to try to work it. That being said, it is a fun mode to use and I enjoy playing with it from time to time. Just for fun I have been using it on 160 and 6 meters. You would be surprised how much activity, including DX, can be found on 160 almost any evening. On 6 meters I have been totally amazed by seeing the activity screen display stations hundreds of miles or more away that you can’t really hear on your radio’s speaker. If you like to chase grid squares for VUCC, FT-8 gives you a really neat way to do it. No, it is not a conversational mode, but it is a very clever and effective mode that can be used along with the others.

73, Don KK9H
 
RE: The 'F' is for 'Fun' Reply
by K0UA on December 1, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
Yes,on a 7300 or a 7610, you will only need a single standard A to B USB cable that will pass the "audio" both ways and the rig control signals. Since I like to unplug the radio from the computer after each session for lightning protection, I installed and A male to A female extension cable also so that I could break the connectin each day in the middle of that cable junction. That way I would not be wearing out the USB connection on the rig or the computer port for that matter. The cables are very cheap and if they wear out, I will simply throw them away and get a couple of new ones.
 
RE: The 'F' is for 'Fun' Reply
by GM1FLQ on December 1, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
"FT8 is computer fun which is great. Love it. But how is this ham radio?"

.......it's just another flash in the pan for the hobbyists as opposed to hams - the hobbyists are the ones that would struggle to understand the difference......
 
RE: The 'F' is for 'Fun' Reply
by AA4PB on December 1, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
I guess I'm just a hobbyist in lieu of a real ham. Since I was first licensed in 1958 I've always been more interested in the technology than rag chewing. I started out building my own 6M AM transmitter and receiver primarily from the ARRL Handbook. I've always been interested in trying different modes. I was there when 2M repeaters and autopatches came along. I was there for Packet Radio, Amtor, Pactor, Clover, Gtor, PSK31, and now FT modes. FT8 and MSK144 has given new life to 6M for me. I find it really exciting to work stations thousands of miles away fairly routinely on 6M with 100W.
 
The 'F' is for 'Fun' Reply
by K3FHP on December 1, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
Great for radio science and experimenting. Tell me another way to get an honest signal report from a DX, contest or expedition station?
 
RE: The 'F' is for 'Fun' Reply
by K5TED on December 1, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
How is it different from CW?

CW requires humans manually or electronically enter the characters and a human to decode the characters using a trained response or a computer or other mechanical or digital device.

FT8 requires a human to program the computer to enter the characters and decode the characters that are subsequently read by a human..

Either way, human intervention is required. HAM radio. Human Assisted Messaging.
 
RE: The 'F' is for 'Fun' Reply
by N4KC on December 2, 2017 Mail this to a friend!

I'm really struggling to understand why anyone would have a negative comment about this or any other legal mode of operation. Especially one that requires so little bandwidth and still offers such a positive experience on the air for so many with less-than-big-gun-contest-station setups.

I like the "arrow in my quiver" metaphor. I love the ability to go to a second or third antenna if a contact is difficult on the first one, and that often results in an otherwise impossible contact--DX, contest, ragchew, whatever. Why not have the capability to do the same with various modes?

My only frustration so far with FT-8--besides trying to understand why anyone would knock it--is seeing a country spotted that I need, getting all palpitated, and then noticing it was on FT-8...which I so far have not set up.

Guess I'll get cracking right dang now! Thanks for the impetus, Andrew!

73,

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


 
RE: The 'F' is for 'Fun' Reply
by GM1FLQ on December 2, 2017 Mail this to a friend!

"How is it different from CW?" => aw bless, struggling to see it => hobbyist......
 
RE: The 'F' is for 'Fun' Reply
by GM1FLQ on December 2, 2017 Mail this to a friend!

"I'm really struggling to understand" => of course => hobbyist......

 
The 'F' is for 'Fun' Reply
by K7EXJ on December 2, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
If I use a radio and have to identify myself with my ham radio call sign then, as far as I'm concerned, it's ham radio.

The digital HF modes are interesting technical accomplishments but not "interesting" to me for operating.

My first impressions of the JT-modes were "I'll have to bring a book." Which sums it up.

YMMV :)

73 de K7EXJ
 
RE: The 'F' is for 'Fun' Reply
by N4KC on December 2, 2017 Mail this to a friend!

I don't know why I bother, but here goes.

hobby: (noun) an activity or interest pursued for pleasure or relaxation and not as a main occupation.

A "hobbyist" is someone who pursues a hobby.

You got me. I'm a hobbyist. I don't yet know if I will gain pleasure or relaxation from FT-8, but I can assure you it will not become my main occupation. Probably not even my main mode.

But what if it does? I don't care if you prefer CW. Or if your main source of pleasure or relaxation is building radios from baling wire and aluminum foil. Do that from which you do gain pleasure or relaxation so long as it does not impede me from doing likewise.

Then all hobbyists are happy. Including you, sir.

73,

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


 
RE: The 'F' is for 'Fun' Reply
by NN2X on December 2, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
For Don N4KC

My set up is what you might call a pistol set up, with 3 Mono Banders, (10, 15 and 20 Meters), (In a Christmas Tree Set up), and for the WARC bands Hex Beam..And I have a 5KW Amplifier (Emtron Amplifier DX 3SP)

I am by nature a "Rag Chewer" (SSB / Olivia Mode)

Having the above, you would think I would not go to FT8, well, try it you will love it.

FT8 is really fun and far faster than JT65..which makes the experience far better.

Actually, I did connect with many Ham operators just like my set (And much larger). The "Big Guns" are 100% active on FT8!

I am willing to bet in the future FT8 will be able to have a normal QSO..If you can have a QSO with CW at 5 WPM, I am sure there will be a modification, or revision to allow FT8 to have a normal QSO.


There is Olivia, which is a rag chew mode, however, only works at -13dB, while FT8 -24dB below the noise floor

C U On the bands

NN2X
Tom



 
RE: The 'F' is for 'Fun' Reply
by GM1FLQ on December 3, 2017 Mail this to a friend!

"The "Big Guns" are 100% active on FT8!" => a hobbyist subset => the "professional" hobbyist......
 
RE: The 'F' is for 'Fun' Reply
by GM1FLQ on December 3, 2017 Mail this to a friend!

Strange that the author of a book entitled "EXPLORING THE MAGIC OF AMATEUR RADIO" doesn't appear to get it.


Seemingly not much "magic" in his amateur radio when he chooses to link it to the dictionary definition of "hobby" - hams as opposed to hobbyists may now be in the minority but would at least "get" that ham radio is something more than a hobby, they typically would assume a broadly similar understanding of the inferred nuances of what a true ham is without it having to be stated/explained - ham radio is in their blood/DNA, a lifestyle. Typically these are not your computer mode junkies that need their perpetual fix of the latest/next to hold their interest, they typically don't need their interest maintained/rebooted by audio racks or contests and the likes.

Of course, like others this is only an opinion - unfortunately I have to add this for the benefit of the snowflakes that tend to get all upset with alternative views.

 
RE: The 'F' is for 'Fun' & ARRL Reply
by N3HKN on December 3, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
ARRL has become a radio contest promoter. If contests were magically stopped what portion of the Amateur Radio community would remain. Certainly not the ARRL. Read the descriptions for the new rigs. They all tout how you need THEM to WIN! FT8 allows a quick count and move on. It will not be long before some contest structure is created for the mode and the ARRL will devote a section to that and the advertisers will also respond with wonderful rigs that are "necessary for you to remain Competitive!" As a former politician is fond of saying SAD.
N3HKN
 
RE: The 'F' is for 'Fun' Reply
by W2CBK on December 3, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
If it requires an amateur radio license, it's ham radio.
 
RE: The 'F' is for 'Fun' Reply
by GM1FLQ on December 3, 2017 Mail this to a friend!

"If it requires an amateur radio license, it's ham radio."

.....yeah, just like the millions that hold a driving license.....it may legally entitle them to drive on a public highway - what can be seen daily would suggest it doesn't make them drivers......




 
RE: The 'F' is for 'Fun' Reply
by K4DPK on December 3, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
It'd be simpler to just begin QSLing e-mail contacts. And cheaper.

Phil C. Sr.
k4dpk 1955
 
RE: The 'F' is for 'Fun' Reply
by N4KC on December 4, 2017 Mail this to a friend!

GM1FLQ:

I really don't have the time or inclination to argue semantics with you, but being able to copy radio signals that arrive at my receiver at considerably below my noise level is pretty "magical" to me. And if that is the only way I am able to complete the contact, it makes me happy.

I can also make SSB contacts when AM won't cut it. And CW contacts when SSB won't do it. In each case, I am using whatever tools are available to me in order to accomplish my goal: making an RF contact with someone I want to reach out to. And they all continue to make me happy, just as the hobby has for better that 55 years.

That would include contacting you. Hope to work you...on SSB, AM, CW, PSK31, RTTY, FT-8 or over a pint of Guinness at your favored spot, assuming you communicate on RF and not just that keyboard of yours. (Just missed my chance for the pint. I was in your beautiful country...and my family's land of origin in the 14th century...a couple of months ago.)

73,

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


 
RE: The 'F' is for 'Fun' Reply
by GM1FLQ on December 4, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
"but being able to copy radio signals that arrive at my receiver at considerably below my noise level is pretty "magical" to me"

Whereas to me the drive (whether it be via digital modes, ever bigger towers/beams and KWs of power) towards almost certain copy makes ham radio about as magical as the certainty of copy when picking up the phone or sending an email.

Just like Formula One racing the drive towards digital technology aids is making it clinical, increasingly predictable to the point of being dull rather than a spectacle of excitement via the unpredictability of (the now) ever decreasing analogue human input at the sharp end. The whole dynamics have changed and once hard-core enthusiasts are drifting away in huge numbers - they can see more magic/excitement in a pub car park.

Happy to have a pint with you anytime you're over here or QSO, but hf wires are down for remake at present.....

 
RE: The 'F' is for 'Fun' Reply
by N4KC on December 4, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
GM1FLQ:

So handicap yourself any way you wish to make it more difficult! Do QRPp. Forget getting those HF antennas back up and load to any handy hunk of conductive medium.

Many of us prefer improving our stations as much as we can, and especially antennas, though I hardly have a monster tower or multiple beams...all wires, including a 5-band hexbeam for me. And, again, employing whatever medium makes it possible for me to contact other stations. And for me "contact" can mean anything from a "599 TU"--less, actually, than the typical FT-8 "chat"--all the way up to a long, long ragchew.

I also disagree that using modern technology to do things we were previously unable to do is what is running hams and would-be hams away. I've never heard anybody say making contacts is so lacking in challenges that they gave up the hobby. Especially at this point in the sunspot cycle!

In my own research for the book GET ON THE AIR...NOW, I found Luddite curmudgeons to be a far bigger factor in giving folks the impression that the hobby is unwelcoming or not eclectic.

73,

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

 
RE: The 'F' is for 'Fun' Reply
by GM1FLQ on December 5, 2017 Mail this to a friend!

"In my own research for the book GET ON THE AIR...NOW, I found Luddite curmudgeons to be a far bigger factor in giving folks the impression that the hobby is unwelcoming or not eclectic."

Yeah, yeah, heard it all before - same luddite curmudgeons that get labelled racists & such like over here - it's a cardinal sin to now say that you prefer quality rather than quantity & can see what the wonders of eclectic/diversity & all the rest of the PC guff pedaled by the TV luvvies, MSM and lefties are doing to the place.

Same as in ham radio - even as a 10 year old or so I enjoyed the local ham clubs full of knowledgeable (often eccentric) "curmudgeons" - give that to me any day as opposed to the "eclectic" riffraff they are full of now.
On 2m about 30 odd years ago I used to chat with people like GM5VG - he was ex managing director/president of the Rolls Royce Merlin Engine (for the Spitfire) factory during WW2 - now you would be convinced you were listening to 11m.

If this is progress, "Sad".......
 
RE: The 'F' is for 'Fun' Reply
by GM1FLQ on December 5, 2017 Mail this to a friend!

"Do QRP."

I often do......
 
RE: The 'F' is for 'Fun' Reply
by GM1FLQ on December 5, 2017 Mail this to a friend!

"load to any handy hunk of conductive medium."

Done that too....
 
RE: The 'F' is for 'Fun' Reply
by GM1FLQ on December 5, 2017 Mail this to a friend!

"So handicap yourself any way you wish to make it more difficult!"

Alternatively you can make your contacts closer and closer to meaningless any way you wish - make it so easy they're "digi" automated/guaranteed......
 
The 'F' is for 'Fun' Reply
by KK2DOG on December 5, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
I have a great idea. If you don't like FT-8 or any of the other digital modes, then don't use them.
 
RE: The 'F' is for 'Fun' Reply
by GM1FLQ on December 5, 2017 Mail this to a friend!

I have a great idea - if you like FT8, go play with an IPad, it'll save you a whole lot of money.........
 
RE: The 'F' is for 'Fun' Reply
by K0UA on December 6, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
I have a great idea - if you like FT8, go play with an IPad, it'll save you a whole lot of money.........

Hey! I thought I had your sorry behind on ignore. But apparently it doesn't work on these comments in articles. TO BAD!

I don't know if you have priced an IPAD lately, but they are pretty expensive. I can't afford one...
 
RE: The 'F' is for 'Fun' Reply
by GM1FLQ on December 7, 2017 Mail this to a friend!

"Hey! I thought I had your sorry behind on ignore. But apparently it doesn't work on these comments in articles. TO BAD!"

You mean to say you can't create a safe-space echo-chamber for yourself here.....gee whizz that really is BAD.
 
RE: The 'F' is for 'Fun' Reply
by GM1FLQ on December 8, 2017 Mail this to a friend!

"I don't know if you have priced an IPAD lately, but they are pretty expensive. I can't afford one..."

Better get saving, seems to be the way ham radio is heading.......

https://cnet4.cbsistatic.com/img/47-Yn6sYL2tMiGbAxbxzo9CYlRU=/fit-in/970x0/2014/09/17/c6450101-0599-4098-a42b-9ae485e8b489/airvr1.jpg
 
RE: The 'F' is for 'Fun' Reply
by VE7IG on December 8, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
I've been an active ham for 61 years and in the hobby since age 12 learning with a great mentor and friend for 6 years before being licensed. I started operating in 1956 at age 18 with a 20 watt home brew CW transmitter with one crystal stuck in the 80m US novice band with a 3 tube home brew receiver. Since then I've enjoyed most aspects of amateur radio including working DX, building antennas, amplifiers and other equipment, operating RTTY on the green keys, ragchewing, DXpeditioning, contests, operating my own repeaters and remote, etc. But the absolutely most exciting era in ham radio has been the last few years with the successful mating of computer technology and radio. We have APRS-GPS, IRLP, remote stations controlled through the internet, weak signal modes (such as provided by WSJT-X of which FT8 is just one mode), great antenna design programs, programmed Arduino controllers, Raspberry Pi computers just to mention a few. This is what ham radio is all about-- learning new things, getting involved in new activities and new technology, When you ask, "But is it really ham radio?" the answer is a resounding YES, ham radio at its best, and FUN!

 
RE: The 'F' is for 'Fun' Reply
by GM1FLQ on December 8, 2017 Mail this to a friend!

"When you ask, "But is it really ham radio?" the answer is".....

.....no, just the contamination of it......
 
The 'F' is for 'Fun' Reply
by AJ4DW on December 8, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
It's all ham radio... even the modes using computers. Some I don't enjoy, some you don't enjoy... but as long as someone's enjoying it.

Who's certified to determine what is or isn't ham radio? Someone got a degree in that?
 
RE: The 'F' is for 'Fun' Reply
by GM1FLQ on December 9, 2017 Mail this to a friend!

"It's all ham radio...

Who's certified to determine what is or isn't ham radio? Someone got a degree in that?"

......oh, a good guess, and almost without doubt, that'll be only those that share your view on the matter......

Yep...most always the same with this ilk, no great surprise......
 
RE: The 'F' is for 'Fun' Reply
by AA4PB on December 9, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
It doesn't require a degree, only some common sense. If it requires an amateur radio license to operate then it's ham radio.
 
RE: The 'F' is for 'Fun' Reply
by GM1FLQ on December 9, 2017 Mail this to a friend!

"If it requires an amateur radio license to operate then it's ham radio."


Yeah, just like a driving license that millions hold, yet mostly what you see on the roads every day are not drivers........
 
RE: The 'F' is for 'Fun' Reply
by K0UA on December 9, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
Yeah, just like a driving license that millions hold, yet mostly what you see on the roads every day are not drivers........



What are they then? You seem to pull you own definitions of things out of your bloody arse.
 
RE: The 'F' is for 'Fun' Reply
by GM1FLQ on December 10, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
Yeah, just like a driving license that millions hold, yet mostly what you see on the roads every day are not drivers........



"What are they then? You seem to pull you own definitions of things out of your bloody arse."

Now remember whenever you get all upset with the answer, you did ask.......

...... they are mostly just the usual thick masses with a license which allows them to be in charge of a vehicle on the public highway. This problem has increased along with the easier and easier access to finance for the plebs. You do also have the "new money" wide-boys that commonly run out of road/talent when confidence outstrips ability at the wheel of the oh-so predictable tacky models they gravitate towards.

I realise those coming from a low base may struggle to understand & even when you try to explain it the inferiority complexes kick in, often resulting in their signature default lash out position - little verbal tantrums just like your own......
 
The 'F' is for 'Fun' Reply
by KK4Z on December 13, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
I'm going to try FT-8. For the same reasons why I don't like it. Its not conversational, it only transmits at about 12 wpm, It only contains a few bits of information, and there is a little automation involved.

For the most part this is not communicating, this is not having a conversation, this is not passing any real infomration. I like to talk to folks on the radio, I like to ragchew be it voice, CW or PSK; even sending an email; I also like to run nets and particpate in nets.
I like to serve my community when they need my particular skill set.

I used to like to contest and DX. I haven't had a beam in years and as I am entering into retirement, probably will not see another one. When we contest or chase DX we send a few bits of information, and some of it is automatated.
So why am I going to try FT-8? Efficiency and congestion. FT-8 is more efficient and because some of the operation is automated DX and contest QSO's will be quicker allowing more folks an opportunity to snag that rare one. There is also more room for FT-8 signals when compared to voice bandwidth. The QSO rate should go up. How many times have we heard a DX station "Again" "Again" "KK4?" and then after a minute or so "I just can't here you...QRZ?". In that same time 4 or five FT-8 stations could have made a contact.

I quit DX'ing years ago because I could no longer compete with the big gun stations...it just wasn't fun anymore. Maybe now with FT-8, it might be a little easier and maybe a little more polite. I might get that spark back.

Who knows, maybe FT-8 will cause DX'ers and contesters to shift down the band and maybe leave a little more space for us ragchewers. Worth a try.
 
RE: The 'F' is for 'Fun' Reply
by AA8GK on December 14, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
Very, VERY well said!!!! Geezzz! Is THIS what ham radio has become? "If it's not spark-gap, it's not REAL radio!" Give it a rest, gramps. As a mentor of mine taught me, 'Evolve or die.' What some of these old farts forget is that they are NOT going to live forever. We should always be hoping for and working to recruit young people into the hobby to keep it alive after we are gone. The marriage of computers (and the digital modes) is a natural marriage and great way of generating interest in new, young, prospective hams. Sure, gramps, tell those kids about your first spark gap transmitter you made with the Model-T ignition coil. That'll impress 'em for sure!!!!

Have any of the digital mode haters listened to the 'QSOs' in the CW sub bands???? "TU 599 73"

73
 
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