Tuesday, September 17, 2019

My most fulfilling FT8 QSO?

A few nights ago on 20 meters, I had what might have been my all-time best FT8 QSO. I've had about 1500 QSO's on that mode - some good, some rather boring - it all depends on the op at the other end and whatever chemistry we may develop.

But this one was great and I'd like to share the details with you.

I opened up WSJT-X and clicked on "20m". This automatically caused my rig to QSY to 14.074 MHz. Ah, the beauty of CAT control. Not much more than 15 seconds later the receive window in WSJT-X filled with decodes from wide variety of locations: Portugal, Russia, Venezuela and, yes, even Pennsyltucky.

For a minute I just sat there, pondering the many-splendored origins of the RF that was hitting my antenna, inducing into it the variations that would cause WSJT-X to decode all the interesting transmissions. I made a mental note to invite some non-ham friends over for a demonstration of this mode. Like many non-hams, they are often curious as to what we talk about with distant stations.

After recovering from my reverie I clicked on one of the stations that was calling CQ.

He was in some place called "FN21". Wow! I could hardly contain my excitement - FN21 - I used to live there! As my transmission went out to him, I had 30 seconds to ponder who he/she might be. What is his/her name? How long has he/she been a ham and what got him/her started in this hobby? What was his/her first rig? I wondered what he/she did for a living and whether or not we had anything besides ham radio in common.

I couldn't wait for this to get started as I settled in for what I knew would be a memorable FT8 QSO.

His transmission was being received by my station - I could actually see his trace on my panadapter! - and I was thrilled to realize that he had chosen to respond to my call. It was a conscious decision on his part and required him to move his mouse (and therefore his PC's cursor) to the appropriate point on his monitor so that it hovered over my callsign. My callsign - so personal!

He then had to exercise the dorsal interosseous and policis brevis muscles of his index finger in order to click his mouse on my callsign. This is such a personal mode - it's mind-boggling to think that some people are superficial enough to use a "bot" for FT8, negating all the joyous humanity from it. Some people are so shallow. I thought this as WSJT-X's auto-sequencing completed our canned exchanges.

But wait - there's more.

His reply was decoded by WSJT-X and - you'll never guess, he had this to say: "R-08". Pretty amazing, right? I told you this was a personal mode. In response, I sent him "RR73" and he responded in kind, wishing me "best regards" all the way from FN21.

The interpersonal nature of our canned QSO was special to me and I relished the warmth with which our computers performed the remaining functions now that this distant operator had unrobotically manually clicked his mouse on my callsign. I'm sure that he and I will, years from now, still fondly remember the fellowship of this wonderful QSO.

And this was truly a unique QSO for me. I've worked FN21 before but have never received a report of -08 from there. A -15 and a +02, sure, but this was my first -08 from that location.

I then looked up my QSO partner on QRZ.com in order to learn something about him/her and the horror at what I learned is almost indescribable. The owner of the callsign I worked uses a bot on FT8!

What I thought was a personal QSO with a human element to it, was, in all likelihood, an automated "qso" (not even worthy of capitalization - pftooey!).


  1. ;-) :-) hihi, a great contact indeed John LOL. However there is a fault in your story. At one moment you tell you were going to call CQ and the responding station was from FN21. Then a few moments later...you wrote he/she had moved the mouse to hover over your call? However, WSJT-X at most stations will respond automatically! However, it could be a robotical error ;-) 73, Bas

  2. Even my comment has a error. Difficult when it is not in my native language. You responded to a CQ, but the FN21 station had chosen your call? However WSJT-X is responding automatically after you responded to the CQ. Hope I have it correct now...73, Bas

  3. I wrote this mainly in response forum comments of those who like FT8 but think that full-auto FT8 removes the "personalization" from the canned mode. Yes, such creatures exist and I appreciate them for their (unintended) entertainment value.

    One commenter likened full-auto FT8 to running, saying that it's like having a robot run a race and then the human claims the accomplishment for himself. This idiocy conveniently overlooks the fact that, as an regular FT8 user, he is claiming the accomplishment after the robot runs 95% of the race for him - so 95% automation is okay, 99% is not.

    73 - John AE5X (or did my bot write this...)

    1. I understand the intention. But in the end let everyone decide for themselves. I like FT8 but I prefer SSB. However if someone (like G3XBM) has problems talking, FT8 would be ideal. And if movement and responsiveness is also a problem a robot could be the solution. In that case contacts are far more valuable. In the end it's just a feeling....and just a hobby. 73, Bas