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Datamode - FT8


After half an hour of operating yesterday, I’m sold on FT8. This mode is a game changer.

It would sure help if we had a more convenient method of operating FT8 portable. The only option now seems to be to lug a relatively heavy laptop up the mountain. We need qrp rigs with FT8 functionality built-in, or lightweight Windows tablets with soundcards, or an Android app (assuming a smartphone has the horsepower to run the FT8 software).

What’s the chance of a next generation portable QRP SDR rig with integrated FT8 and hi res display in the next few years?

So will 2018 bring the first global FT8 S2S event? Maybe I’d lug my laptop up to a summit for that. :wink:

In the meantime, I will make it a priority to chase any weekend European FT8 activators on 20M.

73, Barry N1EU


Hi Barry,
My portable FT-8 configuration is an ACER 10" Windows 10 tablet, Wolphi-link (for audio), USB cat-lead (for rig control) and an FT-817. No big heavy laptop but … be warned … the problem with any portable digitl set-up applies here as well - screen readability and mouse/touch control. My next update will be a foldable cardboard box to provide shade. (I already have a bluetooth mouse and keyboard.

Rigs with FT-8 built-in would be really nice.

73 Ed.


One problem might be that by the time developers managed to build FT-8 into a radio, FT-97 would have been launched. The penalty you pay with cutting edge modes is that they don’t all survive for long making third party development very risky indeed.


Does the software automatically reply to a decoded caller after I send a CQ message? As I fumbled through my initial operation, it seemed like I needed to double click on the responding caller’s callsign to force the software to respond to him. Otherwise, the software seemed to call CQ again instead. Or did I simply just have to wait a few seconds and the software would have automatically replaced the new CQ message (visible in yellow) with a responding message instead, without my manual intervention.

Thanks & 73,
Barry N1EU


Yes, it does, IF you have checked the “Call 1st” box. If this box is not checked, you need to double-click on the responding caller’s callsign as you described.

Walt (G3NYY)


The problem Barry is that you need to convince the designers and manufacturers that this is a good idea. Most designs have barely enough time spent getting the control software working before there is time to port FT8 etc. to the radio. Cost engineering suggests you want to use the cheapest controller you can and not fit something faster and better in case someone uses it for something useful. So it’s difficult to justify building this hardware into every rig and spending the money writing effective software for it when maybe a minority of users will use it. Also it’s always going to be a losing battle against consumer computer hardware because that sells in the millions/billions and is either going to get cheaper with time or faster with time or both. And this year it’s FT8. Next year a better scheme is produced that needs much CPU power. That’s fine for all the PC users, most modern PCs are riddiculously overpowered for what they get used for. But an embedded system in your radio might have been on the edge and could just decode FT8 and doesn’t have the computational horse power for the new schemes.

There are plenty of cheap tablets (sub $100) that can do this task. The downside is cables between the tablet and the radio, LCD readability in outdoor daylight and tablet battery life. And the extra weight.


Maybe. Anyone can organise a poll on here to guage interest. I reckon a few low-key practice events before would be needed for people to iron out the bugs and issues in their systems before the big event is held.


Then perhaps something arduino or Pi based whose firmware would be open source and could be updated as new modes come along - oh yes we call that SDR …

So an open source SDR all mode QRP portable transciever. That would be nice …

73 Ed.


I worked G4NXG/M on 20m FT8 this morning. He was in IO83 square. That is the first time I have heard a mobile station on FT8. It would be hard to believe that he was mobile in motion (!) but his QRZ.com page says he often works mobile from a beach location on the Wirral peninsula. It would be interesting to know what equipment he was using.

Walt (G3NYY)


Ed, what you are envisaging is a radio with a general purpose operating system that can run future digital mode software for decoding and encoding, by simply (!) installing the next version of the software.

It’s a nice idea but the question is whether you’d want to burden your radio (which will probably last 10 to 20 years - or longer if you look at the ads for FT101s and TS520s) with an operating system and specific hardware that works today but might not be much use in 10 years. Would you, for example, buy a radio with an embedded PC running windows 98, 2000 or XP and insufficient memory or disk to support a later OS? All those versions of windows are now without support from MS.

I think computers will steadily become more powerful (a la Moore) and radios will diverge into new architectures, such as the SDR trend seen now. The KX3 is an SDR and has some digital modes built-in. But has the PSK31 inclusion been a lasting benefit? I think it is now rare to find a PSK31 station, whereas 5 years ago it was still a very effective and popular qrp mode. Icom has moved into sdr with the 7300 and 7610. Will the Japanese brands move into compact portable SDR boxes? I think it depends on the perceived market size.

In the meantime I think using separate general purpose radios like the 817 with general purpose “just fast enough” laptops or tablets will be the way to go.

And as you remarked earlier, taking the equipment into the field is one part of it - being able to view the screen comfortably is a big factor in the practicality of using screens in the field. A shelter, or one of those nice triangular tarps, makes all the difference.

73 Andrew VK1DA VK2UH


Before I left Hewlett-Packard over 20 years ago, we were already putting general purpose operating systems in test instruments.



And it shows when you use old HP gear! :grin:

Great performance at what they’re measure but you get those flashbacks to the 90s and its music and fashions as you figure out the UI.


The SunSDR MB1 SDR transceiver runs on Windows 10, with an Intel Core i5 CPU. Come to think about it, a midrange CPU from 10 years ago like an Intel Q6600 would still be able to handle the MB1 flawlessly. And the fancy Icom IC-7300 that came out last year uses a 12-year old ADC (LTC2208) and a 8 year old FPGA (Altera Cyclone IV) … and we will see it on the shelves for many years to come.

Hardware is less and less important now, everything happens in software. A CPU the size of the nail on my pinky that only takes a few watts can run any of today’s ham radio software. The main problem would be compatibility & support, so what we actually need is an open-source platform that we can develop on. Put an ARM octacore, 8GB of RAM, custom Android and a low-power DSP chip in a portable QRP SDR and it will run anything from now until 2030 by just upgrading the software.



I wonder if the NuVision 8in and 10in Windows tablet has enough power to run FT8 - it is very lightweight, inexpensive, hi res screen and seems to have the necessary audio in/out connections: http://goo.gl/GqFYnL and https://goo.gl/PqUXi3


I’d expect so Barry. That tablet has an Atom x5 cpu which benchmarks at 1200 “magic CPU thingies” and the chip in my Win10 tablet benchmarks at 900 “magic CPU thingies”. My Win10 tablet can decode FT8.


Thanks Andy. I think there’s also a version of the software out that will run on an iPad, which might be even better. The NuVision seems to have mixed reviews but nobody seems to be making good small Windows Tablets these days.


As I predicted, the advent of .rc3 with its default to using “split frequency” as the norm has resulted in chaos.

In the past couple of days, I have had innumerable QSOs wiped out, after just one exchange, by another station replying to someone else’s CQ call right on the frequency of my existing QSO. People are just replying to CQ calls on a random frequency, anywhere in the band, regardless of whether the frequency is already occupied.

It has become a zoo.


Walt (G3NYY)


It’s all here, Walt…



I think Walt knows, Mike - he is one of the authors on there :smiley:

The comments in the discussion do suggest that a strong signal blanking out the entire waterfall is more likely to be the program at the RX end not configured correctly than (necessarily) the TX op running too much power though.

I’m looking forward to activating with FT8. Got all the kit I need; just need to sort out getting it all up-and-running.


It was already a zoo. I always work split.