The reported death of Amateur Radio due to FT8 is an exaggeration

Discussion in 'Amateur Radio News' started by VK6FLAB, Jan 18, 2019.

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  1. VK6FLAB

    VK6FLAB Ham Member QRZ Page

    Foundations of Amateur Radio

    The reported death of Amateur Radio due to FT8 is an exaggeration

    In 2017 a new digital amateur mode called FT8 joined the ranks of inventions related to our hobby. Since then it's taken the amateur world by storm, filled the bands with contacts and attracted a strong following among radio amateurs across the planet. Making contacts with low solar cycle numbers has never been so easy.

    Together with that following comes a growing chorus of those who decry this addition, the filling of our air with useless noise and it's too easy, not real radio, there's no conversation, who cares about contacts, I want to rag-chew, anyone can do this and it's not right. Clearly some think of FT8 as the end of amateur radio as we know it.

    Recently I came across a list of other technologies that made amateur radio too easy and would cause the end of our hobby.

    Amplitude Modulation or AM, Semi-automatic CW Keys or Bugs, Vacuum Tubes, Single Sideband or SSB, Radio Teletype or RTTY, Repeaters, Electronic CW Keyers, Transistors, Electronic digital programmable computers, Antenna Rotators, Integrated Circuits, Digital Signal Processing, Microprocessors, the Internet, CW Decoding Software, Automatic Link Establishment or ALE, Packet Radio, DX Clusters, Pactor and PSK.

    Of course some of those make current amateurs just shake their head, or laugh out loud. Who could imagine that AM or SSB would cause the end of the hobby, given that they replaced spark-gap transmitters, which incidentally became prohibited in 1934.

    As we invent new things - the ARRL referred to FT8 as the Latest Bright Shiny Object in Amateur Radio Digital World - we learn more, have more, do more and expect more. In 1675 Isaac Newton said: If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.

    Every invention builds on the ones that came before it and apart from the banning of the spark-gap transmitter, each of these newfangled baubles has made it into the mainstream of our community, to the point of being ubiquitous. Can you imagine an amateur radio without AM or SSB today?

    Using Clublog aggregate data as the source, with almost 30 years of records, in 2002, CW became more popular than Phone for logging contacts. This is on the back of Phone contacts reducing overall as a percentage of logs, against the increase of RTTY, PSK and other modes.

    In 2017 FT8 joined the fray and both Phone and CW logged contacts reduced markedly. Interestingly RTTY continues to be used though not at the levels seen at its prime between 2005 and 2010 or so.

    As an overall percentage of contacts, FT8 is by far the most popular. 2018 showed that over 40% of logged contacts were on FT8, CW remains essentially stable at 30% and Phone contacts account for 20% of overall contacts logged on Clublog.

    What this shows is that amateurs go where the contacts are. When CW worked better than Phone, it became the prominent mode. While CW use stayed the same, and Phone reduced, it was because contacts were being made with PSK and RTTY and other modes.

    This doesn't reflect the death of a hobby, far from it. It reflects the pragmatic nature of making contacts. You use a mode that's going to work.

    When amplifiers and big antennas were the name of the game, those were the tools being used by our community, but these days, FT8 has levelled the playing field for all comers. In a world where noise is ubiquitous and large antenna farms are possible for a select few, FT8 is making it possible for people to get on air and make some noise.

    No doubt some will decry that these are not real contacts and that exchanging a signal report isn't a real contact. Of course it is. It's just a different contact. Just like a CW contact isn't the same as an SSB contact and glorious AM isn't the same as FM, a contact with FT8 is like any other, it's real, between two stations using radio gear.

    I should point out that the logging information I looked at comes from Clublog and that in 1990 there were 2.4 Million QSO's logged. In 2018 there were 40.4 million. In the same time CQ WW increased the number of entries by almost 200%. Interestingly, CW logs outpaced SSB logs in 2003, 2006, 2008 and 2016.

    On the 31st of May 1897 Mark Twain said: The report of my death was an exaggeration. I think we can safely say that Amateur Radio isn't going anywhere and FT8 isn't killing the hobby.

    I'm Onno VK6FLAB

    To listen to the podcast, visit the website: You can also use your podcast tool of choice and search for my callsign, VK6FLAB. Full instructions on how to listen are here:

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    AC7DD, K4SAW, NC0L and 1 other person like this.
  2. WG7X

    WG7X Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    Haven't we done this enough yet?

    I would have thought that we have, over the last year, wrung every bit of arguments out on the FT8 topic? Before anyone asks, I use FT8, but not the current derivatives. It's a wacky mode at times, but what mode isn't?

    I guess it's time yet again to get the popcorn started and watch the inevitable "clash of the titans" as the usual suspects show up.

    Will anything new be discussed?

    Will the world be made safe again for "regular" hams?

    What will tomorrow bring?

    Stay tuned for the next exciting episode of "As the FT8 turns!"

    ...And now back to the regular arguments already in progress!
    KD0WGB, N7KO, N5EQY and 6 others like this.
  3. NN4RH

    NN4RH Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    How is this "news" ?
    KD0WGB, NY7Q, VE3BXG and 1 other person like this.
  4. WN1MB

    WN1MB XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    It's NOT "news."

    Oh No, er...Onno stumbled across a Mark Twain quote and thought he'd encourage the further beating of long-dead horse in his cleverly "disguised" title.
    KD0WGB, VE3BXG, VK4TI and 1 other person like this.
  5. NN4RH

    NN4RH Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Oh I see what he's up to now. Checked his website. This is an income stream for him. He sells transcripts on Amazon as Kindle books and also asks for "donations" to support his podcasts.

    Nothing really wrong with that ... but it's not "news". It's more like advertising.
    KK4HPY, VE3IZZ, VK5SA and 2 others like this.
  6. VA3VF

    VA3VF Ham Member QRZ Page

    Not me. I had enough.;)
    This former 'FT8 heavy user' is losing interest. The segments are too crowded. Bad operating practices have earned the status of 'standard operating procedures'. The recent FT8 tweaks, err... improvements, seem to be causing a lot of confusion.:(
    SM7NBO, K2MRK, KT4RK and 1 other person like this.
  7. W1YW

    W1YW Ham Member QRZ Page

    Why is this opinion-piece in "amateur radio news"???

    How is it a "foundation of amateur radio?"
    VE3BXG, G3SEA, KK5JY and 1 other person like this.
  8. W1YW

    W1YW Ham Member QRZ Page

    "death of amateur radio is an exaggeration..."

    I am going to take "ownership" of this hyperbolic statement--although not in this extreme.

    As I have explained many times, the DANGER of such universal adoption of FT8 is that it occupies such a small slice of spectrum in large HF ham passbands. It is not a true communications mode BUT IS a low bit/information machine to machine mode, with only minor operator control.

    That's cool. That's awesome. Joe did an amazing job. It is really a great innovation...BUT....

    Now: segue thru the doors of a commercial antenna company. Let's eavesdrop on a customer conversation. The potential customer , one of many, wants to have the US break international treaties to free up HF (I said H-F ) spectrum for commercial use. The customer HAS DATA showing the decreasing use of HF spectrum by amateurs. The customer CITES the morphing of ham radio to the FT8 mode. The customers asserts: 'hams can get along with 20% of the allotted HF spectrum".

    IS this fake? Is it fantasy? I mean, DOES THE US EVER BREAK INTERNATIONAL AGREEMENTS? Outrageous! Will never happen!

    IF you lose HF spectrum, you are essentially killing off ham radio. And that, dear Onno, is the concern. You can assure us all with a polyanna bent, but your absence of knowledge in this area should be a matter of concern--IF you pose it as "amateur radio news".
    KE0EYJ, DL7RV, MM0XXW and 6 others like this.
  9. VA3VF

    VA3VF Ham Member QRZ Page

    Half-sarcasm mode ON.
    This is why I advocate the substantial expansion of the FT8 segments. It would make the mode fun again, and occupy the empty bands. Enough simulating what ham radio, as we know it, will be like after it 'dies', restricted to 3kHz per band that is.
    Half-sarcasm mode OFF.

    The quote is 'bang on'. This is how 'sausages' are made. Think it's not possible? Think again. See what has been done with the TV spectrum, and it's not over yet. If they can take 'bread and circus' from the masses...

    Half-sarcasm mode ON again.
    We are lucky that our ranks are populated by the most technically inclined and intelligent segment of humanity. This is what 'saves' us. Politicians would not dare 'mess' with us.
    Half-sarcasm mode OFF.

    Use it or lose it folks. Stop the mode 'fraticide', and use your energies activating the modes you like.
    W1YW likes this.
  10. AK5B

    AK5B Ham Member QRZ Page

    Isn't it about time for more "Chinese university" spammers? At least they are obviously out of place here.

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