Now you might want to ask…..
”What was the question?”
The question is as follows:
”Is FT8 ruining Amateur (Ham) Radio?”
I believe that FT8 is no worse for ham radio than any of the other computerized modes such as any of the PSK family along with all the other sound card based amateur digital modes.
Earlier in my amateur life I would of said “yes” to the question but that was when I was operating mostly SSB with some very poor (and very slow) CW thrown in mostly for an extra multi or to try and get that rare dx.
But all of that changed a few years ago when my daughter picked me up a FLEX 1500 radio for my birthday. Along with being a great present it also forced me (kicking and screaming as I went) to use a computer for more than logging in the shack.
After a long lesson in Virtual Comports and Virtual Audio cables along with intergrating several amateur radio software programmes so they could all talk to each other and the Flex it was a dream to operate.
Suddenly I had the ability to send CW and receive it at a speed never thought possible by my shakey hand and poor ear… I also figured out that the macros I had programmed worked equally as well in RTTY, the PSK Modes and CW….
Memory 1 was VA3QV
Memory 2 (type in his call then) UR 5NN ON (or the contest exchange )
Memory 4 (type in his call then) 73 TU
The “AGN” or “RR” could be added manually as needed
and suddenly I was chasing DX in CW and my contest scores improving… The RTTY contests were no longer just noise to me.
But I also figured out that most of the Big Gun Contesters and DXers were doing the same thing. As I was using a CW Reading Software I noticed that it only seemed to decode perfect CW…. and it also seemed that most of the stations I could work must be using Computer Keyers as I could read there CW with no problems….
To put it to the test I monitored a CW Slow speed net where the operators preferred Keys to computers and I noticed that after a few seconds of their sending suddenly I was having issues decoding their transmissions… The longer they sent…. the worse the copy at my end…. My gear was working fine… but their fist was getting weaker the longer they transmitted
Before you call BS on this… I managed to work all of the W1AW stations during the Centennial in CW using my QRP Flex 1500 with it’s built in CW Keyer and the CW Get software package. I also competed in my first CQ WW CW Contest and was operating at 30 wpm which seemed to be the average speed of most of the Contesters. And I still freely admit that my CW skills would have to improve 100% just to be considered bad
So back to the real topic….FT8 is allowing people to make contacts…. and making contacts I am…. Since I relocated to Kingston from Ottawa and got the gear set back up I have managed to make 39 confirmed states and 38 of them have been made using FT8.
No different than the 5NN TU that the DX station gives you or you give the Contester…. It’s still a contact and its getting people to stay on the air. It gives us a way to make contacts in band conditions that would be considered poor in the best of days. Till the propagation Ghod smiles on us again… FT8 is giving us a reason to visit the shack…
Yes I agree that the computer is doing most (if not all) of the work…. and that it’s not for everyone… but then again…. What part of Amateur Radio could we all agree on liking?