A friend suggested I try out FT8, the new digimode taking the ham radio world by storm. I’ve been back ‘on the air’ a few weeks now, although much of that time has been spent downloading a new logging program and updating my paper award progress with the International Short Wave League.
Anyway, I investigated the best setup for my particular rig and digimodes. About 10 years ago I stupidly bought a cheap Prolific cable for digimodes and ended up bending one of the pins so could never use it. I did have CAT control, and had actually forgotten about it when a computer change happened, I didn’t discover the cable until a few weeks ago and I went to put the new interface in!
After speaking with a few other hams, all much more experienced than myself, I decided to get the Yaesu SCU-17 interface.
It was actually pretty easy to set up. The manual is here. You will need to download the driver for the software, you can download that here. I don’t have the DX1200, but apparently it doesn’t matter which rig’s page you choose to download the driver from, I just picked this one because others with my rig had done so, and it does work! Obviously if they list your rig, then pick that one. Yaesu UK do not have the drivers on their site, I did contact them and they directed me to the US site. I assume this applies worldwide, wherever you are go to the US site for the driver.
I can’t promise I can help but if you get any problems let me know and I’ll try should you get any problems setting up 🙂
Once I’d got the logging software connected and rig control I downloaded WSJT-X. There is another piece of software that will do FT8 (and other modes), called JTDX. Both are similar in look, but WSJT-X is designed and maintained by the owner, Joe Taylor K1JT. It’s just down to personal preferance!
Below is a fantastic two-part PDF guide by David Haworth WA9ONY on FT8, it helped me enourmously!
WSJT-X is super easy to use and once you’ve got the basics of an FT8 QSO down, you’ll be making contacts all over the place. My first few were YF5 Indonesia, HB9 Switzerland, IZ0 Italy, EB3 Spain, K4 USA, SQ9 Poland, EA1 Spain, EA5 Spain, W4 USA. That was between 1628 and 2021 (I had dinner inbetween and did a few other things). Overall time of the QSOs was only 11 minutes total, so you can imagine what you’ll work in just an hour!
The only problems I had, and still have with other digi modes, is knowing where to set the various knobs and levels. The SCU-17 has a RX and TX knobs, the rig has the RF Gain and Mic Gain knobs, the computer has microphone and speaker levels, and, the software itself has a power dB level. All of which affect your outgoing signals. I think I have it set for WSJT-X (well, I had QSOs, so I guess it’s right!), and I think I’m down with RTTY, I successfully decoded a signal from Russia over the weekend but have yet to try and TX.
There is a very useful piece of software called JTAlert which will autolog your WSJT-X QSOs and sent them to your logging software (DXLab DXKeeper, ACLog, Log4OM, HRD Log V5, Standard ADIF 2.2 file, MixW CSV file). You can also have it create alerts for the following:
- Audio and visual alerts for several alert conditions
- Your Callsign decoded (someone calling you)
- CQ & QRZ
- Wanted Callsign
- Wanted Prefix (by Band/Mode)
- Wanted Grid (by Band/Mode)
- Wanted US State (by Band/Mode)
- Wanted DXCC (by Band/Mode)
- Wanted CQ Zone (by Band/Mode)
- Wanted Continent (by Band/Mode)
- Wanted CQ Marathon (by Band/Mode)
Roger AE4VJ, ARRL SC Technical Coordinator has created a really informative video here explaining how to use JTAlert with HRD, but I don’t use HRD and still found this really helpful. I don’t think it matters which logging software you actually use, you’ll still get a lot out of this video.
When you’re comfortable with FT8 and want to start working towards awards take a look at FT8DMC. They offer 130 FT8 awards and even a piece of software that tracks it for you. More info is on their site!
If you want to follow my progress with awards then please check out my Awards page.
(May update this post with a few screenshots from WSJT-X once I really get going with it)