Friday, November 10, 2017

Digital Mode - FT8

I will preface this blog post by telling you that CW is and always will be my favorite mode of communication, BUT... digital modes like FT8 seem to be a hot topic right now in the world of amateur radio so I thought I would check it out for myself, QRP of course!

FT8 mode on the WSJT-X Software

According to the ARRL, FT8 is a "weak signal" mode that is named after it's developers, Steve Franke - K9AN and Joe Taylor - K1JT. The number 8 designates the mode's 8 frequency shift keying format. FT8 signals occupy just 50 Hz. FT8 requires accurate time synchronization and uses an auto-sequencing feature that offers the option to respond automatically to a reply of your CQ call. I use the WSJT-X software to access and use this mode, you can find a free copy of the WSJT-X software by CLICKING HERE. 

I will admit my first impression of this mode was not great. I found it to be a little boring and seriously lacking the "personality" of CW. The QSO is short and just about 100% automated. That being said I stuck with it and found a perfect use for me. I am not always home during the day and my job requires a lot of travel. I found that be accessing my home station remotely through a program called Teamviewer, I could operate FT8 from any computer, tablet or phone around the world.

Operating FT8 via my cell phone

The photo above I took a few days ago when I was operating FT8 on my cell phone, by remotely logging into my station back at home using Teamviewer. I had some time to waste in-between meetings and sat in my car and made contacts around the world on 20m. I will admit, I had a lot of fun operating this way and I completed QSOs with several DX stations including Venezuela and Spain. My QSO with Spain is now my new record for distance using 5 watts and my "home brew" gutter antenna, over 4,200 miles away! Thank you to Miguel - EA4BAS for the QSO.

Well, I guess I have a use for digital modes after all. Whether I'm wasting time in-between meetings for work, sitting at the airport, or just hanging out I can now log into my home station from anywhere and complete some quick and fun QSOs. Do you operate on FT8 or some other digital mode? Do you have any experience with remotely logging into your station? Please comment below.

Until next time, 72 de Mike - W9ODX


  1. Good morning Mike, I too have given FT8 a go and for me at first I found it very fast. I started using it before it became hands free and back then trying to see and setup an answer to my CQ before the rig went back into transmit was a learning curve! Now it’s more sit back and whatch. I’m like you I find CW more of an interactive mode and for sure my choice hands down.

    1. Thanks for the reply Mike. Will you be participating in the SKCC Weekend Sprint this weekend? FT8 may not be my first choice, but I was able to find a practical application for it by logging in remotely and a great way to help pass the time when away from home. Now if I can just figure out how to copy and send CW remotely I'll be even happier!

  2. Hello Mike, I use teamviewer for many years now to remotely operate my station. Works great especially the digimodes. In one case I even had a webcam integrated to have a eye on my SWR meter, just to be shure I wouldn't blow things. See:
    In my attempt to work 100 DXCC in 100 days QRP I worked many new DXCC on digimodes when I was on my couch in the living room remote controlling my station. 73, Bas

  3. Bas, thank you for sharing your story, that is awesome! Congrats on your DXCC.

  4. No SKCC for me I will be working on the weekend and almost every weekend until Christmas.

  5. FT8 is a high power mode -at least ther4e are more and more high powered stations using high gain rotatable beam antennas! Just like CW or SSB!