FT8 Digital Mode

By Jose B Rivera - N2LRB

It has been just a couple of months since the digital mode FT8 has come out. And boy has it been a hit with amateur radio operators.  Though I do not share their enthusiasm or their belief that they are actually doing any communicating (conversations) with FT8.  Yes, I can hear people say the same thing they always say when a new mode is rejected. That spark gap people looked down on CW, that 2M SSB looked down on FM repeaters, etc….. 

But some things are not really ham radio. Echolink for instance is really computer to computer communications. It can and is done without radios.
The FT8 mode is software driven. One puts out one’s signal and after some handshaking between two stations a supposed contact is made. Meaning after barely making the bare minimum of communications, computer to computer, a contact is somehow declared. But there was no QSO. No spontaneous exchange of information, it’s all programed and it is very very short. You barely acknowledge the other station. There is actually not much for each operator to do.  It’s like walking down the street, making eye contact with someone and then have the nerve to say you had a conversation with them. Many people call it “Zombie Mode” as one does not need a living body to work FT8 once it is turned on.

I highly highly dislike FT8 and don’t see it as radio (anymore than Echolink is radio) for reasons below:

1. No real conversation took place.

2. It’s too easy to make a contact. No effort is involved.

3. Hams actually think they are accomplishing something, and even use FT8 for awards Ulhhhh! Really!!

4. It can’t even be used to send any message traffic or files

5. It’s more computer than radio. Though it’s better than Echolink which can be used without RF

6. It keeps some hams well….LAZY. Why bother with SSB when you can easily pretend you did something on FT8?

7. FT8 is HF’s answer to FM Repeaters, which some hams never graduate from and move on to HF, SSB.

8. Hams are settling for so little by thinking so much of so very little. Hams could have actually been doing some hamming!

Don’t get me wrong, every now and then I will use PSK-31. But since I got into ham radio to actually speak to people, it does not hold my attention much. Nor do any of the other digital modes. They are just too far removed from actual talking. To gravitate and stay in FT8 is a sad statement about how people will take the easy and less meaningful way out. Yes they can do whatever they like. But I get to think what I want of them, people who settle for little .FT8 is much to do about nothing.

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