18 Aug 2018

FT8 and Es

This summer I have not used JT65 at all. Instead, I have been mostly on 6m FT8 RX with just the occasional TX period. Once in a while I tried 2m and 10m FT8. I have also been on 10m WSPR TX, although WSPR seems much less active than FT8.

FT8 is supposed to be not quite as good as JT65 on weak signals. However, the take-up of FT8 is phenomenal.

I am wondering if one of the reasons we are still seeing Es on 6m so much this late in the season is that users are in just one place and even very short openings get detected? Most FT8 is between 50.313 and 50.315MHz.  In the past, a CQ on SSB or CW might well have been missed. Also, FT8 works with signals that are more marginal than SSB or CW.

Let us hope a few remain on 6m so we can see if 6m Es is much commoner than we previously thought. In an average "out of season" day it would not surprise me to see brief openings. Remember, you only need 15 seconds to be spotted with FT8, probably even less.
6m FT8 RX spots today


Todd Dugdale said...

Yes, FT8 is the new fad -- much like WSPR was a few years ago.

It seems as if "making contacts" is now the "raison d'etre" of amateur radio. FT8 is worthless for EmComm -- the former "raison d'etre" -- but it's great for filling up logbooks.

On the plus side, it's impossible for someone to sputter about how an operator is "doing it wrong!" over FT8. It's impossible to offer unsolicited advice, stroll down Memory Lane, or engage in elitism. An operator with a modest rig can do pretty well (at filling up their logbook). So it's all very egalitarian.

The problem is that "filling up your logbook" requires a steady supply of "fresh blood". There's little point in working someone a second time, after all. You can do so for 'fun', but how fun is an FT8 contact? Perhaps this explains any drop-off, rather than propagation -- the pool of "contacts" has been exhausted?

The idea that FT8 points out openings in propagation that SSB/CW could make use of has been largely debunked. FT8 contacts merely indicate openings suitable for FT8 (or WSPR, JT65) QSO's.

Personally, I had hoped that the solar minimum would encourage operators to find more satisfaction working locally or regionally on phone and PSK. But, if operators enjoy FT8, I'm not one to begrudge them their fun.

Roger G3XBM said...

Todd, I have some sympathy. FT8 in no way replaces "real" chats on voice modes. It never can do. Sadly FT8 "contacts" are edging out voice chats. My concern is this requires special software so the chances of just casually hearing an amateur QSO are essentially nil. I do not have any easy answers. I love that FT8 can work with weak signals and bring life to otherwise "dead" bands, but I feel sure that in the end fewer people will just "find us" and become hooked. Maybe I am wrong and few newcomers enter the hobby this way these days?

Steve McDonald said...

Hopefully most will tire of FT8 when they realize how utterly boring it is. Its slam-bam, what the heck just happened computer controlled robot-like protocols have cut the heart out of the art of communicating and human engagement. "What is your name?" "Where do you live?" "What is your set-up?" "Do you .... ? .... when did ...? Now all gone thanks to the FT8 madness.

Todd Dugdale said...

You wrote:
"My concern is this requires special software so the chances of just casually hearing an amateur QSO are essentially nil."

That's a valid point that I hadn't considered, either.

Modes such as RTTY and PSK31 have smart-phone apps that can "decode" the signal. That's not as 'accessible' as modes like phone, but it's quite easy to put a tablet near a speaker and read the QSOs. You can even use an online receiver. FT8 doesn't work that way.

From that standpoint alone, it makes amateur radio less attractive to potential newcomers.