New Digital Mode FT-8

New Digital Mode FT-8

Written by Lyle KØLFV

I am very thankful that a couple of my Ham Radio friends encouraged me to try out the new FT-8 Digital Mode and if you are looking for a new mode to operate I would suggest that you would give it a try.

All you need to operate this mode is a computer, your HF Transceiver and a Radio Control Interface.  One of the more popular Control Interfaces would be the SignalLink manufactured by Tigertronics.  The operating program software is WSJT-X and is a free download from    https://physics.princeton.edu/pulsar/k1jt/wsjtx.html.  You will also need to download NTP Meinberg, a program to keep your computer clock accurate.

A brief write up from the ARRL:  FT8 Mode is Latest Bright Shiny Object in Amateur Radio Digital World.  FT8 — the latest digital bauble to capture the imagination of the Amateur Radio community — has been luring away many of those already using the popular JT65 “weak-signal” mode. FT8 is included in the release of WSJT-X, version 1.8.0.   Among its biggest advantages is a shorter transmit-receive cycle, meaning quicker contacts. The notes for the “candidate” release say that FT8 offers “sensitivity down to –20 dB on the AWGN channel.” Contacts are four times faster than with JT65 or JT9, and an entire FT8 contact can take place in about 1 minute.  FT8 is an excellent mode for HF DXing and for situations like multi-hop Es on 6 meters, where deep QSB may make fast and reliable completion of QSOs desirable.

On a recent Sunday afternoon I operated FT-8 for a few hours and made many contacts into Europe on 20M.  Countries worked included Germany, Croatia, Spain, England, France, Netherlands, Italy, Scotland, Wales, Belgium, N.Ireland, Canada, Ukraine and a number of US contacts.  Operating Ham Radio for years I have never contacted so my Countries in such a short time.  It was the most fun I have had operating for a long time.  However, I also love working Field Day and some of the DX contests that are available to work.

During our 2017 Fox Hunt and Picnic Mitch ADØHJ and myself set up a rotatable dipole and a FT8 station at Lum Park and in a couple of hours had logged 50 contacts for WØUJ.

Mitch ADØHJ and Lyle KØLFV Operating FT-8 at Lum Park during our Annual 2017 Fox Hunt and Picnic

Operating KØLFV/5

On a recent trip to visit my son Matt KCØNAF and family in Houston I set up my son’s station to operate FT-8 and had a good time making many US, Cuban and South American contacts.   I download the software, installed a Signal Link interface and started to operate.  After working out some bugs with the software and transceiver settings and getting my son’s dipole antenna up higher in the air, I was able to make many contacts when I had time to operate.  Very busy family and household.

Pictured is KØLFV/5 operating the station of Matt KCØNAF.  Matt lives in the Woodlands which is a approximately 20 miles north of Downtown Houston.

Screenshot of PSK Reporter

You will not want to miss our upcoming November Membership Meeting.  The program will be on the setting up and use of the new digital mode FT-8.  Additional features of operating FT-8 is how you link to a website called PSK Reporter that will show you additional information on how your signal is doing and who has heard you.  Our plan is to have an operating station set up to demo all the great features of FT-8.  Program will be presented by Mitch ADØHJ and Lyle KØLFV.

Meeting is scheduled for Thursday November 30th and will be held at the Brainerd Fire Station starting at 7 PM.

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