It is popular to blame new technology for killing things. The Internet killed newspapers. Video killed the radio star. Is FT8, a new digital technology, poised to kill off ham radio? The community seems evenly divided. In an online poll, 52% of people responding says FT8 is damaging ham radio. But ham operator [K5SDR] has an excellent blog post about how he thinks FT8 is going to save ham radio instead.
If you already have an opinion, you have probably already raced down to the comments to share your thoughts. I’ll be honest, I think what we are seeing is a transformation of ham radio and like most transformations, it is probably both killing parts of ham radio and saving others. But if you are still here, let’s talk a little bit about what’s going on in ham radio right now and how it relates to the FT8 question. Oddly enough, our story starts with the strange lack of sunspots that we’ve been experiencing lately.
Classic Ham Radio
I’ve been a ham radio operator since 1977. The hobby has changed a lot over the years. I can remember as a teenager making a phone call from my car and everyone was amazed. Ham radio covers a lot of ground, but “traditional” ham radio is operating a station on the HF bands — 3.5 MHz to 30 MHz — and talking to people all over the world. That kind of ham radio is suffering right now for a few reasons. First, HF propagation largely depends on sunspots and sunspots tend to ebb and peak on an 11-year cycle. Right now we are in a deep low part of the cycle and even the last few peaks have not been very good and no one knows why.
I’ve often thought that if Marconi and the others had started experimenting with radio during a sunspot low, they might have decided radio wasn’t very practical. With low sunspot activity, higher frequencies don’t propagate well at all. Lower frequencies might get through, but those require much larger antennas and that causes another problem.
At the height of classic ham radio, every ham wanted a beam antenna or a cubical quad or some other type of rotating directional antenna. Being able to swing an antenna at a particular direction brings more power to bear on the receiver and also helps you receive the other station. The problem is, the antenna elements are typically about a half wavelength in size. So at 20 meters, the elements are about 10 meters in size. You can shorten them a little using some tricks but you pay a price for that in performance. At 10 meters, though, the size is quite manageable. Many hams had directional antennas for the 20, 15, and 10 meter bands (all-in-one antennas called tribanders). A very few would have something for 40 meters — despite Mosley’s description of its 40-20-15 antenna as “vest pocket”, but that was pretty exotic. At 80 meters, mechanically rotating directional antennas are all but unheard of.
So when propagation is bad you should go to lower frequencies, but that means larger antennas. Worse still, the last few decades have seen an increasing hostility to ham radio antennas with city governments, home owner’s associations, and similar. People living in apartments or condos have the same kind of problem. So the number of hams who can even put up a tribander or any sort of visible antenna has dropped significantly.
So here you are with your radio. The bands are bad, and your small hidden antenna is not very good at any band that might work. What do you do?
Voice is Wasteful
One historical answer to this problem was to quit talking and start using Morse code. For a variety of reasons, Morse code will get through when there isn’t enough power, antennas, or propagation to send voice communications. A skilled operator can pull a Morse code signal out of noise that you would swear is just noise. But what if you aren’t a skilled operator? Bring in a skilled computer.
Some hams have always experimented with digital operation, mostly with war-surplus teletype machines. Sending data digitally is almost as good as sending Morse code and it is easy to type and read a printout compared to manually sending and receiving code. Sure, computers can read code, but since a human is sending it, it is likely to not be perfect copy unless the software is very smart and can adjust to slight variations like a human operator can.
Then came a digital mode called PSK31. It was a low-bandwidth slow digital protocol that used a computer’s soundcard to both send and receive. The computer could pull data out of what you would swear was nothing. There was some error correcting and other technical features that made PSK31 possibly better than Morse code for disadvantaged operations even by very skilled operators.
There are other similar digital modes, but most of them have not really caught on in the way that PSK31 has. Until FT8.
FT8 is a digital mode, too. It was specifically created to work well in really bad situations like meteor scatter or moonbounce. To maximize the chances of success, each FT8 packet holds 13 characters and takes 13 seconds to send. The protocol depends on a highly synchronized clock and every minute is divided into 15-second slots. Because of this FT8 contacts are highly structured and short. It’s like Twitter on sleeping pills. You won’t use FT8 to talk about your new motorcycle with your friend in Spain.
However, because the information is digital and of limited format, a typical exchange is that one operation calls CQ. Another operator notices and clicks on the first station in their display. Now their computers exchange basic information like location and signal strength. And then the contact is done.
The Good, The Bad…
If your goal is to “work” a lot of countries, or states, or islands, or any of the other entities hams try to get awards for, then this is great. It favors getting the minimum data through under the worst conditions. If you want to use ham radio to learn about other people and cultures, this doesn’t help because you just can’t say all that much. The truth is, though, that having long casual conversations with people very far away doesn’t happen as much as you’d think anyway.
[K5SDR’s] point, though, is that right now HF ham radio is on the brink of disaster even without FT8. The bands are bad and with antennas restricted, there isn’t much to do for a lot of hams. FT8 lets them get on the air. Purists complain it doesn’t take skill. But honestly, we’ve heard that before. Automated Morse code gear didn’t ruin ham radio. Nor did the availability of store-bought equipment.
Besides, this is all classic ham radio. There’s plenty of other things to do: emergency preparedness, radio control, propagation experimentation, and TV or image transmissions, just to name a few. If those don’t excite you, there’s moonbounce and satellites (even one orbiting the moon), so there’s always something to get involved with. The frontier is moving, and ham radio is moving with it, or at least maybe it should be.
What do you think? Is FT8 going to kill ham radio? Save it? If you aren’t a ham, does that make you think about getting your license? Or is it just another boring thing old guys do with their radios that you don’t care about? Let us know in the comments.
170 thoughts on “FT8: Saving Ham Radio Or Killing It?”
Usually, you get reward for hard work, knowledge, accomplishment, …. What is the thrill or satisfaction in getting some diploma without any effort. It’s like literally buying that diploma. DXCC diploma is just one credit card swipe away. All you have to do is to learn how to click on OK button to log the contact (or buy a beer to a friend who will install a robot software extension for you).
Thumb down for FT8
Ft8 is for the lazy .
Absolutely! No interaction just contact and go. BORING! I have to admit I use it. But, that is just to fill time until the bands pick up.
In general I agree. I am mostly CW guy but what has happened lately I hear Morse code when there is a contest only. And what is the difference between CW contest and FT8 regular contacts? None. I always hated contests and now I had to switch to FT8 even though I prefer CW. My answer to the main question is that FT8 is changing the Ham Radio and considering all other aggravating circumstances it is probably saving it too.
FT8 might attract young people to the hobby as did buying black boxes and not building equipment. Its a futher development of our hobby. It will remain in use but will reduce over time as other ideas come forward. Remember we are experimental stations and its our duty to try new things. After all most of what came Hams is in use by the non hams.
Anything that gives more options for people to communicate without relying on outside agencies for long term support is good in my opinion
Well, you can have a casual conversation with a guy pretty far away by PSK31. It’s robust in many conditions as far as I’ve seen. Packet radio, CW, PSK, RTTY, Olivia, you name it – they didn’t cause any damage to HAM radio, they made it great just like FT8 did it again.
Btw, HAMDRM is quite great for digital picture exchange. Too bad guys are not familiar with it (yet).
Thank you for also referencing another excellent paper on MLA’s, i.e. the web article of Frank, N4SPP. Totally agree, most hams don’t have a clue as to excellent performance that can be achieved via a Magnetic Loop Antenna, viz. a properly designed,constructed and sited MLA will equal and oftentimes outperform any antenna type except a tri-band beam and will at worst be within an S-point (6dB) or so of an optimized mono-band 3 element beam. The proof of the pudding came when I was able to communicate with two ZS [South Africa] stations -who were 10,000 miles away – on 20 meter SSB, using a 3 ft diameter MLA that was only 3 ft off the ground, running 150 watts. The only disadvantage of a MLA is that it has a very high Q, i.e. narrow bandwidth, and must be retuned whenever one shifts frequency. This is no big deal, for automatic controllers exist that can retune the MLA as one QSYs to a new frequency, and using a dual SWR/Watt meter, manual retuning can be done within seconds.
Another excellent paper for those who are interested in constructing a MLA for 160/80 meters, or a scaled down version for 40 meters, is that of Steve,VK5SFA : http://firstname.lastname@example.org/tmla.html
In sum, digital modes are great and have added another dimension to all the things that one can do in ham radio, but have been a ham for 63 years, and I have to admit that I enjoy speaking with and hearing the voice of another ham vs. typing a message to them. Bottomline: FT8 or whatever other new digital mode comes along is not going to kill ham radio- but in fact, these digital modes simply add another means to communicate, and that’s what ham radio is all about.
73, Jim (N6MV)
What I especially like about Leigh Turner’s article, is that he goes pretty deep into the theory of MLAs. I had thought that MLAs’ “efficiency problem” was because they generated only magnetic fields, not both electric and magnetic. But the same goes for what we call dipoles: they only generate an electric field. In both cases, the “other” field is taken care of by physics I don’t fully understand, but which has something to do with the characteristic impedance of free space, which in turn has something to do with the speed of light. Whatever.
But the point is, an MLA can be considered just the magnetic equivalent to an (electrostatic) dipole, with the main down-side being that because of the high currents required to match an MLA to free space, conductivity of the loop is critical, requiring careful construction to get resistive losses down to an absolute minimum.
I’m kind of excited about this; I’ve considered HF to be impractical for me, since I have no place to put a decent size antenna. This gives me more options.
If one [hidden] antenna element isn’t big enough, what about multiple elements?
Phased arrays can have a fixed length joining the elements, OR each element drives the ADC of an SDR (and you sum the signals with a digital delay). Cheap RTL-SDR’s for the win.
What the hell are you talking about? You can’t combine 4 one-sixteenth length antennas to make an electrical 1/4 wave antenna by using ‘delays’. You use delay lines to ‘phase’ antennas to either increase gain or to reduce unwanted signals.
This only works if both digital radios are operating from the same clock, and have the same overall delay from antenna to ADC. Otherwise your signals aren’t coherent, and you won’t get anything like a phased array. Plugging two RTL-SDR sticks into your computer just isn’t going to cut it.
I don’t understand why HAM stuff gets so much attention on HaD. I understand the large HaD hipster audience, but even they appear to have moved on.
Does HaD’s audience base consist of THAT many ACTIVE HAM operators who care about protocol changes?
Seriously, something like the electrician code relates to more of these projects yet gets zero coverage because, like HAM shi…stuff, it’s dry as hell and doesn’t affect hacking any more than a “Warranty void if removed” sticker.
cj crazy joe:\\to really enjoy the keyboard modes, you would need to be a good typist to get much satisfaction
out of ft8 Ft8 has no attraction at this point in my hobby time….mabbe later. 73
I can make FT8 contacts all day long and never touch the keyboard, mouse clicks all around.
FT8 is very scripted, with WSJT software generating every response, you need only enable transmit, double-click on a callsign, and the software does the rest. At the end, click ‘Log QSO’ and you’re all done.
i love ft8 it is a mode i can use and get all over the world also with the digital modes you don’t get tvi i can work on 80 ft8 all day have one qso on lsb and interfere with the tv in the house ?????
“There’s plenty of other things to do: emergency preparedness, radio control, propagation experimentation, and TV or image transmissions, just to name a few.”
I read something similar when a Canadian user questioned on QST why the ARRL seems to have a contest every weekend. The person responsible for contests told him if he thought there were too many contests, go build a kit. To me that’s just dismissive and condescending. Some of us have been around for quite some time and have long been into emergency services as well as other aspects of amateur radio other than HF. But we like to rag chew as well.
Some of us own and operate analog repeaters at a time when digital repeaters you taking over that require the internet for maximum functionality. What happens when the disaster strikes in the internet goes down? How good is your digital network then?
I’ve also read here that FT8 may well bring in the young users. The same young users that want to change the way amateur radio works to begin with. I know because I read them on the Facebook groups all the time complaining about this and complaining about that and having no clue about how amateur radio works. When you try to help them out like a good Elmer they mouth off to you and block you. Many of them are taking advantage of the fact that getting an extra class license no longer requires code. They brag about taking all three tests in one day. Great job memorizing answers. Talk about a dumbing-down of amateur radio just to get more users in to keep the ARRL board well-paid.
Why is it that when there is a contest the bands that people complain or dead suddenly come alive with users? Those are the same users that don’t get on the air because they’re not interested in FT8. That also means the bands aren’t dead. Or at least not as dead as people claim them to be in order to support digital modes. How easy it is to see someone pop up on your computer and double click your mouse and an automatic QSO takes place.
The only one l agree with that has truth to it is with HOAs and city governments ignoring PRB-1 even though 33 States the last time I checked put laws on their books duplicating PRB-1. Putting up a tower is not as easy as it used to be. You end up spending $30,000 on an attorney just to get the rights guaranteed you by the law.
That’s why I’m looking at moving to less populated parts of the country and giving up creature comforts like a market around the corner. I mean Amazon is only a click away. But if I want a bowl of cereal and I’m out of milk I want milk now, not a week from now.
Our society coming to when people will order their groceries online and have them delivered? And they’re too lazy to cook dinner so they order that online too? Is this what we’re coming to? You call this progress? If you want to text message somebody use your cell phone and text the guy on the other side of the world.
Stop dumbing down amateur radio! Stop giving excuses like using a computer will bring in the younger user. Have you ever seen the look of fascination on the face of a young teen that hears a station on the other side of the earth answering back on SSB? They’re hooked instantly. It seems like the younger ham just wants instant gratification. Put up an antenna with an inexpensive radio dialed up to 30 watts, hook it up to your computer and start FT8 and work the world!!!!
How challenging. Don’t think that I’m just some old fuddy-duddy. I own a web hosting company and I’m all about computers. But I believe in keeping amateur radio real.
“when a Canadian user questioned on QST why the ARRL seems to have a contest every weekend. The person responsible for contests told him if he thought there were too many contests, go build a kit. To me that’s just dismissive and condescending.”
The obvious answer is “because many people enjoy them” – could the Canadian user not figure that out?
SSB contests leave the CW portions of the band undisturbed, and vice-versa for CW contests and the SSB portions of the band.
If there is any truth that solar cycles will continue to get weaker it would seem that is more damaging to the hobby than anything. FT8 can give you a reason to tx for someone that doesnt care about chatting on hf. Maybe ft8 isn’t hurting ham radio but I don’t think it can save it either. I feel like its a mode you can “complete” and not have anything else to do.
Even with ft8 the bands seem to be in fairly poor condition for dx. It seems like it would be common sense that dx chasers should move over to jt9.
There doesn’t seem to be as much to do with radio as a hobby anymore and I’m fairly new on the ham bands. Most the good swl stuff is gone, encryption of law enforcement, etc. I plan to take down my hf station and focus on other projects like tinkering with arduinos and such. I would still like to keep around an ht for emergencies and monitor 146.52.
The lack of simplex activity on vhf from stubborn hams that will only use hf is another big pet peeve of mine that I won’t even get started on.
The solar situation is expected to get worse before it gets better (for propagation purposes), but during contests and State QSO parties the bands ‘magically’ come alive and DX contacts are made. I contend that half the problem with the bands is that a large percentage of hams don’t even fire up their HF rigs and call CQ.
Nearly everything you could do with amateur radio 20+ years ago you can still do today, and in addition there are exciting new digital modes to try, new antennas to use, and the radios have never been better.
I can consistently work ‘DX’ from my Texas QTH on 20 meters (Mexico, Canada, South America, the Caribbean, and the Continental US states, with Europe a frequent occurrence.
That DX used to be easier isn’t a reason to shutter your station IMHO.,
I was talking more about the possibility of a maunder minimum type event. If that happens it could be difficult keeping people interested in hf even if you can make good contacts on occasion.
With psk reporter and wspr I can tell when my signal isn’t leaving the lower 48 which is quite often. Those that have beams on a tower or even a dipole at full height I’m sure will do much better.
I’m over loaded with hobbies and always looking for ways to simplify things. Doing vhf only would be simpler and still keep me in. Radio is fascinating. However I find myself agreeing with some of the earlier posts on this site that amateur radio is not exciting. FT8 gets boring but so does inaccurate signal, wx, or bowel movement reports that are the common exchanges on other modes. That is probably the main reason I want to pack up my hf station.
Amateur radio is populated with s lot of older gentlemen, and as such they discuss the things most old men talk about when they get together.
A decent radio and a resonant antenna can still make contacts most of the time in today’s conditions, I can’t predict the future. Most hams I see that get frustrated are that way because their miracle ‘no ground radio, 160-6 meter’ antenna isn’t getting them the contacts they want.
True, back in the day you could literally ‘load up a bed spring and talk around the world, but today a simple, resonant antenna is a very effective antenna, but many/most opt for compromise antennas, set up in bad locations with inadequate counterpoises and they blame the solar conditions for their lack of success.
I put up a simple cobweb antenna, and the difference is night-and-day from my previous trap vertical.
A 20 meter dipole is 33′ end-to-end, the band is active during daylight hours, will provide a new Ham with a great experience.
A 40 meter dipole is 66′ end-to-end and the band is active at night, and is home to a lot of local net activity during daylight hours.
A 30’ pole, with a 20 meter dipole and a 40 meter dipole installed as an ‘inverted V’ will give you a simple antenna that will provide round-the-clock activity for minimal investment.
Very interesting reading and lots of interesting commentary. I’ve been a ham for 50 years as of this year. I’ve seen a lot of innovation over the years. I believe any mode that we are allowed to use is viable and certainly there is room on our bands especially during this time of minimal numbers of sunspots.
One of the things that interest me most about ham radio is how signals propagate especially over long distances. The fact that a new mode gives operators with minimal antenna setups and low power a way to work DX is fantastic! I think one of the keys to Ham radios future is 2 keep the Bands active more of the time.
I will say I was not a fan of elimination of the CW requirement, however what’s done is done. I believe that CW will eventually fade away as more of us old timers pass on.
When CW ceased being a requirement, it became something Hans aspire to. It won’t (in my opinion) go away, it will become a sought-after skill by many, but not all Hams.
To me FT8 has no purpose. It can not be used to convey meaningful information in an emergency, so why are we practicing something that can only bolster our egos…. as in I made this contact to this station, but thats it.
I am not against the FT8 or any digital modes, they seem just boring to me. I am just afraid that it will kill another modes.
If we spent less time self destructing the better we all would be! So much time was spent keeping people out of the hobby we may be now reaping the rewards of those efforts. When any young person sees us fighting and belly aching about this that and the other killing Ham Radio what must they think, if they even care. I don’t think FT8 or any other advancement is going to be the death of Ham Radio. It’s just another mode for God’s sake lighten up a touch! FT8 ain’t my cup of tea but if it brings new people in, excites those who have lost interest then maybe it’s a good thing. Ham radio one of the few hobbies that has so much diversity, lets celebrate that and encourage new thinking and advancements. It is experimenting and development, the days of people building spark gap transmitters and such is long gone. Stop the moaning and groaning and lets be part of the solution instead of being so negative about anything new. Negativity will kill the hobby faster than a new mode.
I’ll admit that I didn’t read every previous comment in detail but I’m pretty sure most if not all hams here are really missing out if they think the selections of digital modes are only between PSK31 and FT8. The first has a low entry level of effort, minimal bandwidth but relatively low performance since there’s no error correction to speak of. Quick and dirty. FT8 and it’s ilk have a learning curve challenge, excellent performance communication wise but for me the robotic exchanges get boring fast. Yet there is a whole world of modes in between many of which enable DX comms below the noise floor, such as Contestia or Olivia just to name two of dozens of varieties. They hardly take any more effort than PSK31. Btw, I was a dedicated CW op, but in my “dotage” it really aggravates my Tinnitus, so I’ m very grateful for the digimodes.
The true radioamateur works:
Homebrew pocket QRP CW transceiver on a day tripper,
with accu, headset, wire antenna. Field day, like W7ZOI ….
FT8 is to much computer controlled and not as much hands on. Its a Boring mode and takes no skill. Dumb down ham radio is all it does.
gets decent proper software it’s only threat is to someone who wants to maintain their sanity while trying to install and run the software
I’ve had my license for a little over a year and a half (took and passed the tech and general two weeks after my 64th birthday). I am not socially gregarious. I get my biggest thrills from bringing old radios back to life. I’ve made some decent DXs with FT8 and very minimal equipment. Where I go from here who knows but, there’s a VIking II on my workbench right now, cw looks real interesting and I’ve been using a forty year old hybrid SSB tranceiver for FT8, so phone is in the future as well. but FT8 got me in the door. I imagine it will do the same for others that are reluctant to take the plunge. I see FT8 as a grass roots enabler. It does require computer skills. What doesn’t in this day and age. I see CW and phone as further accomplishments. The future looks great from here.
How come no one attacks DMR?
I’m a newly licensed general operator. I only got interested because of ft8. I was on the fence about getting into ham radio but once I saw videos of the digital modes and satellite use I jumped in…:-)
I’ve been a ham for over 10 years and while I’m currently without an HF radio, I enjoy learning about all sorts of things. I don’t see FT8 as my cup of tea, but I’m fine with others who enjoy it. From my understanding, FT8 inspired JS8Call, which seems to be me and interesting next step. It has the ability to enable contacts despite the challenges many Hams are facing, but brings back the ability to exchange a bit of personal info, like PSK31. I’ve seen many digital modes come and go. It’s whatever you want to make it. Last night, using a web sdr based in Utah, I listened to a qso between a ham in TX and one on S. Africa. I sent an email to the DX station to let him know that I heard him in Montana via a radio based in Utah. Did I do anything very technical? No. Did I do something interesting that I had to figure out? To me , yes. Did I enjoy the time I spent doing it? Yes.
It’s the poor propagation. FT8 Isn’t killing anything, hams will tire of FT8, there is no reward to letting your computer pursue your hobby for you.
People are saying its no use, not a real ham radio, BUT they are using it to fulfill confirmations and awards.
As a new Ham, I find FT8 great, and extending the technology with JS8CALL even better. Old Hams are going silent and CW is following. I have no desire for learning and using CW, but I am interested using digital modes, HF voice, and in making DIY antennas, fox hunting transmitters, and tech stuff with Arduinos and Raspberry Pis. Transmitting and receiving HF digital messages, emails, and images is exciting. Making satellite contacts is exciting. And HF voice, when working, is exciting. I have avoided an interest in ham for many years because of the image that ham radio is all about morse code. This image still exist and is continuously promoted by old Elmers with good intentions(stop bringing a CW keyers to public events). But the reality is that CW is a negative attractor (negattractor). Highlighting the advances in amateur radio is the best approach to keep the hobby alive. CW RIP.
Hello. DMR is killing radio, and it is not very readable! Its a backwards step in communications. Why do people spend their money on it? My 50 year old AM kit sounds far better than any DMR kit, We are NOT short of bandwidth as HAMS so use it for nice modulation. Why strangle the bandwith and reduce readability? Dont get me started on poor RT procedure and VOX break in “pub” chats, devoid of callsigns. Top-Band the “Gentlemans band”? Bollocks, they are just as bad.
FT what, boring…..
My two cents as someone who started as a code tech long ago is there is no.more danger than when SSB tended to replace AM. Its all a point of view. Never got involved in the packet era. Did work 10 meters back then and ended up about 4 States shy of WAS. Recently upgraded my VHF/UHF to digital and like it a lot. Everytime sonething new comes along a lot of OT gets bent out of shape due to a fear their days are numbered by the upstarts. Not true except that SSB did rather replace SSB simply because ut worked better. I tend to love a decent conversation over short and to the point contacts. But, everyone in the Hobby has different likes. Live and let live.
Sure, FT8 (and now FT4, as well) is killing ham radio. The same way phone killed CW.
Ridiculous. Many are making contacts via robots while they are not in the shack. I dont get it…
I’m really late in this conversation, but just reading the article now. I’ve just got on FT8 about a week ago after getting it all working. Good fun! Sure, it’s not personal conversations and such, but just another mode to add to the hobby that we can play with. I’ve been licensed since high school in 1986, and very active on HF CW when I was a teen. Got into Packet in the early years of that, some SSTV, a little SSB, but always loved CW the most. My last logged contact was back in 2002, but getting back into the hobby again and finding all this new and cool technology. It’s fascinating to send out an FT8 signal, then look on the PSKReporter site and see where I was heard. It’s still radio to radio with a piece of wire on the roof. So no matter what kind of signal is transmitted, it’s still good old basic RF signals that haven’t changed.
Now back to my CW practice to get my 14wpm back! But first a few states on FT8. :-)
A great article by Al Williams but somewaht disagree with his suggestion that “If you want to use ham radio to learn about other people and cultures, this doesn’t help because you just can’t say all that much.”
I have just returned to Amateur Radio after some 10 years and started using FT8 with my old Icom IC-730 with 68w into a 1/2wave wire dipole and in a little over one month have made over 450 contacts from all corners of the globe.
I use QRZ and look up all the contacts in the log especially the satellite imagery of their QTH and find I am indeed learning a lot about the world and getting a great insight to the lives and country of those I contact, Gridtracker is also great for seeiin where they are, with whom you are conacting and other operators in real time.
TBH FT8 is saving ham radio. It’s transformed HF into basically an any-time game where you can drop in, make contacts, and push yourself to accomplish any number of challenges, easily, in the face of extreme QRM/QRN, adverse antenna situations, low power outputs, etc.
OG Hams are afraid of it because it’s new and different. It’s not their type of ham radio. It’s not ragchews or CW. it doesn’t entail calling CQ for hours on end til your voice cracks. They think it’s all robots…it’s not all robots. There are some robots (which I think is pretty cool and harmless, btw), but what it is, is ham radio. It still takes a station, with a radio, antenna, and power, and skill. It’s just a different set of skills that give you a different set of results.
They’re mad because FT8 has certainly taken away from CW and SSB operating, as well as other digi modes. See https://www.kb6nu.com/ft8-new-stats-new-operating-guide/. That’s because it’s just easier. More people will do the easier thing, and lo-and-behold, that brings more people into the hobby. Then, when they’re tired of FT8, guess what? They do SSB and CW! Why do you think Long Island CW Club and CW Academy and LCWO are so popular? Those newcomers are now trying to learn morse code!
I have been a ham for over 30 years and have enjoyed the hobby thoroughly. I see the demise of Ham Radio not just with FT8 but society as a whole. The art of conversation has been lost and is evident everywhere. Hams use to enjoy a long qso about equipment , experiences and life in general with local and dx contacts daily. Today neighbors let alone hams don’t have time to talk to one another and more sadly don’t care to talk to one another. Ham Radio is just 59 73 qrz….. truly a sad statement on our society as a whole and neighbors well you are lucky if you get a hello. I miss rag chews , locally and internationally…. sure you hear some especially on 80 meters complaining about everything and not wanting to listen to anyone but themselves. But the enjoyable days of ham radio and social conversation on a daily basis in the real world are gone. So enjoy FT8 I am a purist and I will continue to call CQ to any station anywhere not just DX. 7 3
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