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Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Some Initial Thoughts on FT-8

 -- This is really interesting technology.  Three cheers for Joe Taylor and colleagues.  This mode would obviously be very useful for fast, weak signal contacts as are needed on meteor scatter or EME. 

-- FT-8 does give you the chance to work DX that would have been difficult on other modes. 

-- Chinese hams showing up on FT-8 -- more than other modes. 

-- I think FT-8 is good for hams who just want to have a lot of "contacts." It is definitely not for the rag-chewer. 

--  I find it it kind of cold and antisocial.  More like a computer game than ham radio. A bit like sending  short text messages on a cell phone. 

--  I think FT-8 contacts are in some ways more meaningless than a "59!" contest exchange -- unless you look, you don't even know the report you got,  nor do you know the report you sent. 

--  For me it is more impersonal than CW.  But at least we let the technology decode the characters instead of having to memorize dot and dash sounds.  In a phone contact you can hear the other person's laugh.  In a CW QSO, you hear him key "HI HI."  FT-8?  No laughter at all. 

-- With PSK Reporter, FT-8 gives you a good feel for how propagation changes during the day. But it is kind of like 2-way WSPR.  As with WSPR, it is -- at first -- fascinating, but then it loses its charm. Yes, everyday you are heard in Belgium. 

-- It seems to be getting kind of crowded.  The passband for FT-8 contacts is often full, and it is hard to find an open space.

-- There is little opportunity for the homebrewer.  I hooked it up to my homebrew transceivers and had a small bit of fun using a 2N3904 as a switch triggered by the RTS signal for T/R.  But that's about it. 

-- I get the sense that the ham himself is not really needed in FT-8.  This mode seems like it could easily be automated or run by an AI.  Just tell it to go out there, make a lot of contacts and log them.  Maybe prioritize the DX you "need."  Has this already been done? 

--  After a session with FT-8, I had a really nice 17 meter ragchew SSB QSO.  That SSB contact left me happy.  The FT-8 session was a bit like spending time on social media or a video game.  It left me edgy.  FT-8 made me appreciate phone even more.

But hey, to each his own.  A lot of people really like FT-8.  I hope they have fun. 


  1. Well said, Bill. Suus cuique. To each his own. Had the same experience with digital modes as well. They serve a purpose, for sure. But they're less than personable.

  2. I did not think I would like FT8, but find that it has let me spend more time on the air. I can be running FT8 while working on the bench or debugging a circuit. I can make a quick contact get something in the logs and not be distracted etc. Its not replacing other modes, but I am using it when I would not have the time for other modes. I am on the air more which is a good thing.


  3. Hi Bill, I'm with Jack. Chacun a son gout! Nice place to visit but I don't want to live there. Maybe the digital modes can be the hook that attracts some new (younger) folks to the hobby?

  4. Hello Bill - It was an interesting exercise for a while. But it soon became boring. A good way I guess, to fill in some blank spaces in the log. Reminds me of this old Peggy Lee song - Is that all there is? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LCRZZC-DH7M

  5. Completely agree with this. I felt like I could replace myself with a small Python script and go to bed with FT8.

    Rather be soldering!

  6. This is the future of ham radio! How many young people do you see actually talking on their phones?
    A ham radio will be just like the modems we used to hide under the desk. No front panel,just a few LEDs indicating the status. All the controls and interface will be on your screen,more likely an app on your phone.About 20 watts and 100 khz on each band.
    Antenna will be a magnetic loop in the attic computer controlled.
    It's not good or bad. Ham radio will evolve to the operators interests as always. Or it will go the way of Fibber Mcgee.

  7. Hi Bill,
    I agree with all your summary points on FT8, the QSO information is too stripped down to be of interest to me. But there is still hope; JS8/JS8Call from KN4CRD is a legit derivative of FT8 that is gaining in popularity. It has an additional messaging layer added which provides for keyboard QSO's plus other interesting features while retaining the weak signal capability of FT8. See http://js8call.com

    73, John

  8. Its hard to describe Bill, I started out being very anti-FT8 for all the reasons you list above. It was very impersonal, it was very 'machine driven', etc. BUt then I dove into it and even though I still conceptually should not like it, I find myself completely fascinated by it! Probably mostly because of the performance, but I'm hooked and I can't explain why!


  9. Patrick: It sounds like the crack cocaine of ham radio. JUST SAY NO! Thanks for the warning OM. I'm tempted to destroy my interface box. 73 Bill

  10. Hi all. Well I could not have put it any better.
    Yes I listen to Ft8 on the reciever but don't send any Ft8 signals from my radio room.
    Why, mostly because I'm not a computer engineer but an RF one. Yes I can see that Ft8 can have its uses but I was under the impression that Ft8 was QRP mode. So why are some stations running over 100watts?
    The reason I listen to it to see what state the band of interest is in(mostly 17m) if you can hear a good number of strong Ft8 signals then why not pick up your microphone and call CQ.

  11. I am with you Bill!
    The only place where I can see use for it is in very weak signal "research" on either VLF or the other side of the spectrum VHF-UHF..

  12. There is some youtubers putting a human face to ft-8. They do a Sprint with a live scoreboard and live chat. Worth a check out. Every Thursday evening.


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