Last night was another short one in the shack. I was using FT8 and need about 50 more to reach 1200 total contacts for the year and figure the weak signal mode gives me the best shot to accomplish that. Quantity isn’t generally a primary goal for me but given that I’m “this” close I would like to end the year averaging at least 100 contacts a month.

Once again, the only DX that I could find was in South America. Stations about as far south of the equator as I am north of it meaning these were distant contacts (5,000 miles). LU8EKC is just north of Buenos Aires and PY7ZZ is near Recife. Both have already confirmed our contact via LoTW.

These, along with a smattering of stateside stations was all I could wring from the 30-meter band.

FT8 is especially interesting on this band because shortly after sundown the signals usually begin dropping until they are below the noise and listening via the speaker yields little or no discernable audio, yet signals are still being decoded. When I see someone call in this condition I always assume they will never be able to copy me but often, they do.

I don’t think of myself as an HF digital operator, even with nearly 2,000 contacts (over the last two years) made using FT8. I’ve gained some understanding of what it takes to succeed with the new mode, but it’s not something I pursue with gusto. There’s no arguing its effectiveness at making something out of practically nothing and I applaud the amazing technology – but it’s not for me.

The necessity of a computer and software to operate a radio crosses an imaginary threshold I’ve created for myself to make my pursuit of the hobby simple and relaxing. A small CW transceiver with a wire antenna and a finely made telegraphic key is my idea of pure pleasure, my balm of Gilead if you will.

I’ll leave it to others to eternally update software and drivers all the while seeking that stray rivulet of RF that annoyingly gets into the USB cable at the most inopportune moment…