It hasn’t been all that long ago when the popularity of FT8 was quickly growing that naysayers called it a “fad” and something that would soon pass. Not so, at least so far. As its use has outpaced phone and CW to become amateur most popular mode, the digital mode appears headed for a long life.
Makes me wonder how its adoption might change the hardware that facilitates it. For instance, since most of the heavy lifting takes place in software, does the dedicated digital enthusiast really need a world-class transceiver to succeed? Might the market for high-end gear with lots of bells and whistles for Phone and CW operators begin to shrink?
Perhaps we will one day see a dedicated digital transceiver hit the market. I realize there are a few SDR-only black boxes available that would do the same thing, but I mean from one of the big manufacturers. Say a faceless box with a built-in sound card with the only user connections being power, antenna, and a USB port. About the size of a VHF mobile transceiver with 25 watts out and maybe even a decent auto-tuner inside.
A “brick” like that might catch fire if it were offered for less than $500. Especially among those new to HF who are without previous investment. Sure, if you already have a K3S then why not use it for digital modes. On the other hand, why buy a K3S if all you really want to explore are the nooks and crannies of the HF digital underworld?
The transition to digital on the coattails of the wildly popular FT8 will change amateur radio in ways we’ve yet to even consider. But one thing looks certain, the staying power of interest in FT8. And it’s proving that the naysayers are just that and not great prophets.