Among other things, WSJT-Z is a "bot". An automatic CQ-caller/responder for FT4 and FT8. But it's much more than that...
I was curious how well such a process might work and believe that there is room in our hobby for an automated 2-way mode in the same way - and for the same reasons - that we have a 1-way automated mode (WSPR).
Before I get to the "bot" part of WSJT-Z I should mention the other aspects of this program that make it superior to WSJT-X.
First, is the larger receive window.
Second - and it's a major plus - is the filtering:
With this on, your Band Activity list on the left will only show stations that you haven't worked before (on any band)
Min dB filter
This will let you filter out weak stations from your Band Activity list on the left. If I'm operating QRP, I don't necessarily want to see stations that are -20 to -24 for example. I know that I am more likely to be able to work stronger stations so I can set the filter to only show decodes of -12 or stronger.
Self-explanatory, only selected continents are displayed.
This allows you to exclude certain stations from appearing in the Band Activity list, and is a band-specific list. It's useful if you don't want to see the local stations on your Band Activity list.
And the robot features:
With this feature on, WSJT-Z will call CQ, automatically log a QSO and return to calling CQ.
In this mode TX Watchdog only applies to QSO, not to CQ. Please keep TX Watchdog timer low to make sure you don't keep calling the same station for long if they fail to respond. The watchdog timer is located in the File> Settings> General tab.
The logging works well with JTAlert and ACLog as well, automatically logging stations to my logging program, not just to WSJT's built-in adif log.
With this feature on, WSJT-X will automatically call the last decoded station that called CQ, automatically log QSO once done, and go back to calling new stations.
This doesn't work so well. After working a station who called CQ, I - or my computer/software - called that same station again when he called CQ after our QSO. Obviously I intervened and terminated that almost-QSO.
I like the filtering and wish that such features would be incorporated into WSJT-X. It's great for DXing and propagation study - I can point my Yagi away from Asia, select only Asian stations to appear in the decode window on bands and times I suspect long-path propagation to that area. Or, late evenings on 20m with the Yagi pointed at EU but with only Oceania stations selected to appear.
Does this represent the end of ham radio as we know it. Yes, it does - and by that I mean "yes" in the same way that SSB was the end of ham radio. Or that DX spotting networks marked the end of DXing. Or that CW (as opposed to spark gap) marked the end of the hobby. So, in other words, no.
To those who say that the human element is gone with FT8, and especially with full-auto FT8, my response is that we are hams, not CBers. We don't only use RF for communication but for experimentation. Do the hams who rail against FT8 also have the same animosity toward that portion of the 6m band reserved for radio control? If not, they are hypocrites.
Here's some food for thought: my auto-generated QSOs contained the same content as my regular FT8 QSO's. No additional personalization was present or lacking. A callsign, signal report, grid square and 73 were in all the exchanges, auto-generated or not.
Despite what many think, there is room in the hobby for an attended auto-digital mode. It should be on frequencies other than the standard FT8 frequencies, and if awards are sought, they should be separately categorized as well.
UPDATE: Tom has released a new version with several glitches fixed and full-auto enabled. The filtering mentioned above is still in place and I've been using this version for about an hour now as both an auto-CQ'er and an auto-responder. Working well on all counts. Downloadable here.
If you decide to give either version a test run, install it to some other than the default directory, otherwise you'll write over your normal WSJT-X program.