FT8 Contest Mode Test
Updated November 25, 2018. In the RESOURCES page I have posted a PDF copy of a presentation I gave at the January 2018 meeting of the Cumberland Amateur Radio Club. The topic of this presentation is the FT8 Digital Mode and how to get started. You may find that presentation interesting. The version of FT8 software has changed since then, but the basic concepts remain the same.
A good friend of Ham Radio said to me the other day — Andy, if you want to attract more people to our Radio Club web site then you need to show them something they will consider interesting.
In search of interesting topics I tried almost everything I could think of involving curly fries, jalapeno poppers, all-you-can-eat shrimp, calzones, stromboli, craft beer, and Grain-to-Glass distilled spirits. Nothing changed very much. I need to stick with the things I know.
Today’s posting is about the WSJT-X FT8 Contest Mode test that took place last night (November 19, 2018 local date and time). I participated in this test and I had a pretty good time.
Regardless of how some seasoned Ham Radio Operators feel about the new digital modes, FT8 and other digital modes represent the up-to-the-minute state of ham radio communications technology. Some people would call this Cutting Edge technology. I think it is great that Ham Radio has a Nobel Prize winning Princeton University professor (Joe Taylor, K1JT) who shares with us the results of his research and applies those results to the development of Ham Radio software. Thank you, Professor Taylor.
I prepared for this contest by downloading and installing the WSJT-X Release Candidate 4 software onto my PC. I also slogged through my muddy back yard to attach a Coaxial Cable to my antenna. During the Lawn Mowing Season the antenna cables need to be coiled and moved out of the way each week when the Lawn Man is expected. With the frequent rain showers and snow storms my backyard reminds me of Okefenokee Swamp. it was my lucky day to find only one inch of standing water on the ground.
My efforts resulted in three contest QSOs during the one hour test. This isn’t very many, but I had a great time observing the tremendous amount of activity on 7078.000 Mhz in the 40 Meter Amateur Radio Band. I estimate there were 100 or more operators participating in the test. I had my opportunity to observe how the new FT8 software works and the sequence of the contest QSO exchanges. With this experience under my belt I will be better prepared for the ARRL RTTY Roundup Contest in January.
A couple of problems jumped out at me. I will be watching the WSJT-X Discussion Group to see if my experiences were commonplace among test participants. 1.) The WSJT-X software crashed when I tried to log the QSO. 2.) The digital decoding died on me a couple of times. I futzed around with the audio configuration, rebooted the PC, and was able to recover.
It is easy to predict that the Professor and his colleagues will develop some bug-fixes and offer another Release Candidate level of software. I will be watching for it.
• Author: Andrew Forsyth, AF3I
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