I finally got around to installing the beta release of WJST-X that includes the new FT8 mode.

That software is available on multiple platforms and since I also have multiple platforms available in the shack, I had to pick one to be my test environment. I decided to put it on the Win10 laptop for no particular reason other than I figured it might present fewer problems configuring the sound. I bought a Dell XPS13 a year ago specifically for ham shack duties and it hasn’t broken a sweat.

The installation was pain-free but before going further I had to setup a few things on the IC-7300. In a minute or two the rig was talking to the software via a single USB cable.

Stopping by 20 meters in FT8 mode the waterfall was very crowded. Same for 30, 40, and even 80 meters. It became instantly obvious that, for the moment anyway, this is one very popular mode. I watched the activity with interest hoping to “learn” a few things.

As it turrns out, there isn’t a lot to learn.

That was yesterday. This morning I decided to call CQ on 40 meters and soon logged my very first FT8 contact with a station in Texas. Before finishing my first cup of coffee I had logged a half dozen stations and was headed for a coffee refill.

It’s easy to see how addictive this could become. Calling CQ requires only finding an unused spot in the waterfall. It’s auto-pilot after that. The software does all the work from calling CQ to responding automatically to any station who returnes your call. Searching and pouncing requires only watching the band activity and clicking on a call sign.

And at the end of the “QSO” the software prompts you to log the contact. That information is already filled in for you, it’s just one more click to stuff it in an ADI format that can later be imported into your regular logbook. The only question I have is can it be uploaded to LoTW now if the mode field is changed to DATA - or do we have to wait for Newington to catch up?

This sort of operation is not for everyone. But consider its efficiency and ease of use in coaxing miniscule signals from an aether that’s otherwise preparing to take a long nap.

Besides, it’s a brand new adventure. Everybody needs everything and that means everything is in demand. Quests can include first to DXCC using FT8. WAS, WAC, WAZ on FT8. Then there’s WAS 40m FT8, and on and on. We make up our own games to keep us happy and always turning the VFO, or in this case, clicking the mouse.

See you in the waterfall.