Dipping my toe into FT8
There has been a lot of talk, recently, about the new FT8 mode that has recently been included in the WSJT software. It’s very similar to it’s older cousin, JT65, in that it is for weak-signal work but the transmission/reception time has been cut down to 15 seconds making it much easier for those of us that don’t like to wait to use it.
It’s much more automated than I would prefer as one only has to double-click on a callsign to start the process of "working" the station (I’m currently attempting to work Z32ZM on 17m but you wouldn’t know it) but I could see this as a much lower impact means of taking on a DXpedition or long contest. The software literally runs the exchanges of signal reports to "73" leaving you nothing to do but select "ok" to put them in the log (oh look, I completed the QSO with Z32ZM). You won’t actually be having QSOs but in contests who is talking anyway? For what it’s worth, this won’t be replacing FLdigi in my toolbox for chatting (oh look, SV1OCA just answered my CQ) and general digital QSOs but this is oddly… neat.
So how far have I worked so far? Last night I sat on 30-meters working into Europe and Asia to around 5300 miles (~8500 km). Not bad for a dipole up around 50 feet (~15 m) (main lobe isn’t incredibly low). With sunspots being what they are, weak-signal work on HF may be all that there is for a while. I guess we might as well go ahead and embrace the new modes for longer distance contacts. Well, that and CW…