Love it or hate it?
Actually, I hated FT8 without ever trying it. Sounds crazy I know, but in my head I had already decided this mode was like having a QSO via Skype, or similar.
I saw friends using it and poured scorn over their use of this easy click-mouse mode which seemed to be making a mockery of those DXers who had worked years to gain various difficult DXCC awards etc. Friends tried to convince me to use FT8 – but I was adamant: no way was I using this “mode”.
Last week I was in Svalbard (QRV as JW/OJ0Y) and propagation was often quite “patchy”. For some periods the bands appeared silent, and it also appeared I was wasting my time CQing in SSB (I do not run CW). I saw my buddy JW/EA3NT making lots of QSOs on the “hated” mode knowing full well the band was dead from where I was sitting with my SSB-tinted glasses on.
“What if I at least downloaded the software and tried it?” I did.
Within a few minutes I started making QSOs on FT8. My goodness, I could already see my friends back home in a state of regale!
One of the reasons to visit JW was to try make QSOs on 6m since Svalbard is very wanted on that band. In the end we only made two contacts on the Magic Band – all with the help of FT8. Sure, without it, we’d have made none.
The last 36 hours of my JW activity was exclusively FT8 on HF bands. Who would have thought that? I, like my friends, could not believe it. I jokingly posted on social media that I’d moved to the “dark side”. To my surprise a few others messaged to say they had done exactly the same just days earlier. Phew, I didn’t feel so “dirty” after all.
It should be noted that I am listed on the True Blue DXers website at #19. Indeed, the DX-World logo is also shown there. To this day, my personal opinion has clearly changed since I pledged my name / callsign to that website about 16 months ago, but equally I also admire those guys for sticking to their principles and basically refusing to be drawn into using FT8. Ham radio has many facets and if I can become an FT8 hater to lover then the hobby may not be dying as some allude to.
For one minute I am not advocating everyone uses or tries FT8, but in the case of DXpeditions where propagation is tricky, it may just be a life-saver. That’s how I saw it, except I’m also using it at home now 😀
73 Col MM0NDX