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 FT8 - What? Again? (Episode III)

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CT Directors
CT Directors

Call Sign : 26-CT-3228 Ham M7VIC
Posts : 1143
Times Thanked : 73
Join date : 2019-11-10
QTH or Location : Bedford
Equipment Used : Various

FT8 - What? Again? (Episode III) Empty
PostSubject: FT8 - What? Again? (Episode III)   FT8 - What? Again? (Episode III) Icon_minitimeMon Nov 30, 2020 12:40 pm

Hi again all,

God I'm boring you lot with this FT8 malarkey ain't I? Wink
Hopefully this 'conclusion' will prove it was worth it.

I've already discussed reception of FT8 here :- Uh Oh.....FT8
Plus what a pain it was to sort out transmission here :- FT8 - Part Deux

So despite what a PITA it all apparently seems to be, most of that was down to 'misinformation' that abounds on that old t'internet.

Your own experience may vary, Windows doesn't always play nice, (sound cards, drivers, etc.), plus connections to different radios require various leads and maybe even interfaces.

For me I just required a USB soundcard, (£3 inc. p&p), my Linux system recognised it straight away and as it turned out I only needed a straight through pair of 3.5mm stereo male jacks to phono leads to connect to the radio. (Audio In and Audio Out - yep, that 'simple'. The radio handles the TX with the VOX button pressed in.) I don't require fancy knobs to adjust the audio levels either, I can do that within the PC settings Wink

So I'm ready to what to do with it?!

For me personally the interest was in QRP or low power operation and seeing how far you could get with a transmission, (FT8 apparently being very good for that). So armed with my 40 year old Yeasu FT757GX, my rubbish bit of coax going into my loft with various bits of wire hanging up there to resemble a 'fan-dipole' I proceeded ahead. (Couldn't have a more compromised station if I tried....apparently.)

Loads of 'arguments' and 'differences of opinion' abound with digital modes and especially FT8. I really can't be RRRR'sd with any of them letting nothing spoil my interests or 'fun'.

So I hit the 'Tune' button on the FT8 software with my radio on the 40m band and adjusted the power knobs until my RF power meter read exactly 1 watt output.

1 WATT!!?!?! Are you kidding me? Yep, QRP interests me. (Wanted a hard test, no point it being too easy!)

Hit the Tune button again, retuned to the FT8 transmissions on 40m and sat 'listening' seeing what stations came up on the WSJT-X FT8 software. Loads of them...yes, loads of them! I had my pick so slowly scrolled through the stations seeing what ones sparked my interest. Maybe a G or M UK callsign? Nah. How about some European ones? Nope. Ooh, Turkey is coming in - and the Christmas season is upon us  - maybe? Wink

One callsign stood out as I didn't recognise it and even used to look it up. Oooh, that'll do!

I tuned to their frequency, split the RX/TX to run duplex and sat 'listening' & watching the receive window. They were in transmission to someone else. I sat waiting patiently for the 15 second windows to pass. A little while later and they were 'CQ'ing's my chance!

I clicked on their call and the software took over calling their station back. Held my breath for the 15 seconds.

I got a response!! Was great to see my M7VIC callsign coming back from their transmission. OK, from thereon in the software 'takes' over and performs a transmission. Usual thing, signal reports back and forth, received all OK transmission and then a final 73 to each other concluding the transmission. Nothing fancy and no real difference from a typical CQ SSB voice transmission of 5/9 73's.

The software then pops up an electronic 'Logging' window and I added notes commenting on my first FT8 transmission. As I have the software set to PSK reporting I know those details will also be sent to the PSK site this being good for later observation and also helping others see their propagation as well.

So where was it? Where did I get to? With 1 Watt of unadulterated raw power!

See for yourself.......
FT8 - What? Again? (Episode III) First_10

TF5B - Mr. Billi Jonsson in Iceland!

Check out the little window on the above image. 1749km or 1086miles.....with 1 Watt Smile
None too shabby.

The line shows you my transmission path and all the other little blue dots show you stations that also automatically reported reception from me.
Seems I could've had the choice of far afield as the USA above New York, Northern tip of Finland, all the way to Khazakhstan and even someone on the Canary Islands.

All a bit too easy? Well from what I've written already it sure as heck wasn't easy to set up!
Easy from now? Maybe? Who knows? It's still down to propagation conditions and luck of the draw of who's 'on'.

I shall now be setting up an online logging system, QRZ log, or LOTW, (ARRLs Logbook of The World), maybe.
Perhaps I'll leave my radio on with the software running and see how far across the world I can receive, it'll sure help out other operators. Plus there's all those other bands and frequencies of FT8 transmissions I can check out. (30m already has seen me reception of Australia and New Zealand!)

At the moment it's all fun and I have a world of transmissions to try out for.

I've even seen CB radio frequencies listed on PSK Reporter - something for the future to try out Wink

Mainly though it's all about the fact that I could achieve this with S7 of noise from neighbours Christmas lights, a home made antenna system and as little as 1 Watt of RF power. Something I'm sure even the most radio 'poor' of us can achieve.

Hope you enjoyed the final result. Hope it inspired some of you to give 'digital' modes a go. It's still all about the magic of radio waves.

All the best,

43CT016 and bobby like this post

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Senior contributor
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Call Sign : 43-CT-016
Posts : 113
Times Thanked : 7
Join date : 2019-11-17
QTH or Location : Perth
Equipment Used : iCom IC-7610/IC-9700

FT8 - What? Again? (Episode III) Empty
PostSubject: Re: FT8 - What? Again? (Episode III)   FT8 - What? Again? (Episode III) Icon_minitimeTue Dec 01, 2020 4:10 am

The great thing about FT8, WSPR, and the rest of the newer protocols, as you note, is their ability to work way below the noise floor where you'd never hear an SSB or even CW signal.

I had Japan and South Africa (From Perth, before anyone gets too excited) on 20m the other week, and whilst I could "see" them in WSJT-X, there wasn't much of a trace on the spectrum scope of the radio amongst the noise...and 20m is one of my "better" bands compared to 80 and 160m where I'm usually battling a noise floor of S7-S8!

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CT Directors
CT Directors

Call Sign : 26-CT-3228 Ham M7VIC
Posts : 1143
Times Thanked : 73
Join date : 2019-11-10
QTH or Location : Bedford
Equipment Used : Various

FT8 - What? Again? (Episode III) Empty
PostSubject: Re: FT8 - What? Again? (Episode III)   FT8 - What? Again? (Episode III) Icon_minitimeTue Dec 01, 2020 6:26 am

Hi Jeff,

I've got to admit that all of this has me buzzing with excitement! 

It feels like I've come full circle in my radio interests over a very long time and I can compare the feelings of my very first crystal radio set to what I'm feeling now. My desires for QRP operation with non-obtrusive antennas has not only been fulfilled, but surprised me beyond expectations.

I seem to be able to pick up transmissions from around the world regardless of conditions too.
No propagation, no problem. S7+ of noise, no problem. No signals apparently heard, no problem!

Now I want to see what can be achieved with a minimalist station, small magnetic loop, simple receiver & low power transmitter. To really fulfill my perversions I'd like to perform the transmission handling with the simplest of computers such as the Raspberry Pi. I'd really like to take a setup as portable as my disability allows too.

Of course they'll always be people that don't "get it" and I have no issue with that whatsoever. 

Many don't get why I've always ridden a motorcycle and don't drive a car. Some think it's a biker thing, some try to relate, others think it's just plain weird. But for me it's the fact that after decades of riding I have never once been stuck in a traffic jam....ever!
No amount of money thrown at that problem can be solved with a bigger car or more powerful engine.

FT8 and digital modes are my radio equivalent of a motorcycle. I'm on the same road, doing the same thing as everyone else....just more efficiently and certain to get to where I want to be going Wink

Cheers again Jeff for that little nudge, you're the man I saw breezing through gridlocked traffic on his motorcycle when I was a little boy.

RRR or is that RR73? Very Happy


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PostSubject: Re: FT8 - What? Again? (Episode III)   FT8 - What? Again? (Episode III) Icon_minitime

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