Those of you who follow the blog or the portable digital and qrp group on Facebook already know we’ve been working with FT8Call, for quite some time. As soon as one of the larger YouTube channels publishes a video about it, all hell breaks loose. The haters are now out in force criticizing the mode and the author, but why? Well, because haters are going to hate!
The simple truth is, good utility modes are few and far between. Utility modes for efficient low-power digital communications are even more rare. Now I know the haters are going to say we have modes like Olivia, Contestia, … but those modes lack the features necessary to support weak stations and network comms out in the field. Indeed they are chat modes, but you can’t Beacon with them, you can’t query stations with them, you can’t relay a message through another station with them,… so rather than basing the arguments on fact, the haters are basing their arguments on fear.
Yes at the end of the day fear and the “change phobia” are what drives hate, and unfortunately that’s also true in the ham radio community. Fear poisons everything, but we often forget fear is a choice. We either choose to be afraid of something, or we embrace it, try it, and see if we actually might like it. Do you all remember what I disliked about FT8? Or the field tests we did with FSQ in 2017? Now we’ve arrived with many good features from both of those modes.
I see a lot of stupid things in ham radio, and as you all know, I usually call them out. For example I think it’s stupid that we’re still putting nickel metal hydride batteries in our radios, or carrying lead acid batteries with half the capacity and four times the weight. I think it’s stupid that amateur radio manufacturers have not thought of integrating a single board computer inside of their radios. I think it’s stupid that Yaesu screwed us on the FT-818.
One thing which is absolutely not stupid is FT8Call! Here’s a system which is taking the best kb2kb features of FSQ, combining them with the weak signal performance of FT8, and making it possible to actually communucate with the mode. Sure we’re not doing things like transferring files or images, but FT8Call is providing weak signal keyboard to keyboard chat, routing, queries,… all in a way which supports the weak signal or weak signal and portable operator out in the field.
Now rather than becoming a hater myself, I took FT8Call out to the field for the X days off grid series. I used this magnificent mode to send out my sitreps ( weather observations, battery level, well being), which were then forwarded by operators who received them. Since the mode is much more efficient, I was able to use less power, allowing greater runtime for a field station reliant upon solar and battery power. The FT8Call beacon also served as a heartbeat for my station. This heart beat let other operators who were following my progress in Lapland, know that my station was up and running, and all was pretty much okay. Thank goodness I had no problems but if I did, I could alert other operators in the region with a message in a pop-up window displayed on their screen, asking them to acknowledge the message and or forward it. In this case FT8Call was my lifeline.
A few things FT8Call did for the trip.
- Provided two-way text messaging between myself and other stations.
- Allowed me to send an ALL CALL to all stations who could hear me. This is part of the lifeline, and let me know I was never actually alone.
- Allowed me to relay through stations if I wasn’t reaching the station I needed.
- Allowed other stations to interact with me, whether or not I was sitting in front of the radio.
I could go on but let’s say it this way, FT8Call is a utility mode. It takes what we love (And hate) about fT8, and expands upon it so that we can actually use it for real Communications. You see, ham radio operators have become so accustomed to a contact defined as “59, 59, 73”, having forgotten about what an actual exchange of information is. So there’s no reason to hate on this new system, as it fills a missing gap in ham radio, weak signal digital Communications.
In the above picture you see the example of a classic hater. He’s blatantly lying, and jumping on the hater bandwagon. Why? Honestly, I have absolutely no idea. We’ve been working with and testing FT8Call for some time with good results. I for one will make it my job to provide good content & information about FT8Call, if for no other reason than supporting the developers who put themselves out there to bring us the utility modes no one else wants to touch.
Haters are going to hate, but we can make them irrelevant by calling them out, forcing them to prove or disprove what they’re saying. They are empowered by the hate they spread. Calling them out works against that very narrow-minded agenda.
FT8Call was critical to episode one of the X days off grid series. Naturally there’s going to be a lot of ft8call content included in episode one of the series.
FT8Call will be the de facto data mode on the channel. So you can look forward to tutorials for making the most of this magnificent new mode, especially for Raspberry Pi users.
Designed for developers and interoperability
There’s already work being done to integrate other utility modes & systems into FT8Call. For one HFAPRS is one of the “add ons” being developed. FT8Call has an API allowing devs to integrate their own functionalities. This is totally contrary to the ham radio sandboxes which are often kept away from one another. This API finally brings system interoperability to the Islands found in amateur radio. The potential is huge, so why all the haters?
FT8Call & QRP
At the moment I have the ft-817, and old Asus laptop, and the qrpver 10w amp setup on 20m. This is a very modest station, but messaging is made possible using FT8Call. I can see who hears me, I can go through who I’ve heard, and I can interact with those stations in near real-time. This far exceeds the capabilities of the free text mode of FT8. In fact, this qrp experiment with FT8Call, is exactly what the mode/system was designed for.
Don’t be a hater. Read the documentation, then give it a try. If you decide you don’t like it, you don’t have to use it. Amateur radio is about experimentation and adopting new Concepts and ideas. if I were to listen to all the haters, none of the DIY portable power projects on the channel would ever have been published. So, keep an open mind, and lets support these forward thinking developers.
Make sure to read the latest documentation here: FT8Call Documentation
Then, head on over to the wiki to download: https://groups.io/g/ft8call/wiki/FT8Call-Latest-Release-Download-Links
One final point. The Official FT8Call site is incoming. Be sure to bookmark that page.
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