|Activity levels on 20m|
Up till now, my FT8 operation had been limited to 5-35 watts. I was still thinking of FT8 as a sort-of QRP mode, which is how it was initially presented.
But the contest allowed 100-watts, so that is what I ran. This required the Flex (at 8 watts out) driving the KPA-500 to exactly 100 watts. This saved my Flex from having to run full power at FT8's duty cycle and also reduced the drain on my batteries.
|Activity on 80m|
FT8 is a power-hungry mode, drawing full current for 30 seconds every minute. The sun shone brightly all day Saturday, putting more power into the batteries than I was using even though the Flex draws 7 amps (91 watts) when transmitting at 8 watts. Late afternoon and overnight, my activity put the batteries only down to 88% at their lowest. Sunday morning and afternoon fixed that with another sunny day.
I didn't work a lot of DX, nor did I try to. Fellow blogger PA0O went into the log, as did a few other Europeans and some JA's. I did work 49 states (missing ND) though.
Software-wise, everything worked well. I was running SmartSDR (for the Flex), WSJT-X-rc5, JTAlert and ACLog with autologging. No hiccups at all.
I have mixed feelings about this mode. While it's fun for making casual QSO's, I doubt I'll use it much for contests or DXing rare stations. Unlike CW, there is little opportunity for skill or strategy. Working a rare DX station amounts to little more than waiting in line for the DX station to click on your callsign, among the many decoded.
This contest seemed more like a video game in that regard. A 4-step process:
- Click a callsign
- Let software on both ends do its thing
- Click another callsign
- Rinse and repeat
There are people who will be endlessly fascinated by such activity but I don't believe I'll be one of them. Still, I do appreciate the technology behind it and what it may lead to in regard to future modes.