[CQ-Contest] Contesting and the FT8 Revolution

David Gilbert ab7echo at gmail.com
Mon Jun 21 14:59:05 EDT 2021

Everything you just said there is the fault of WSJT-X as a user 
interface ... not FT8 or FT4 as a mode.  They are NOT the same thing.  
WSJT-X is simply the narrow and restrictive vehicle by which we have 
been exposed to the exceptional weak signal capability of modern digital 
processing (forward error correcting, Costas array processing, etc).  
We'd all be having a LOT more fun with a more open ended interface ... 
possibly with these parameters:

1.  wider individual signal bandwidth, such as maybe 200 Hz instead of 
83 Hz.

2.  fully tunable over the typical digital sub band (like RTTY does)

3.  Asynchronous in time ... i.e., not locked to a discrete and specific 
clock window

4.  shorter blocks of data with continuous feed of the blocks

5.  sent via text blocks on the transmit end ... exactly as DVRs and 
contest loggers do now

6.  displayed as text or converted to audible CW (or even digital voice) 
on the receive end

Such an interface would be amenable to DXing, contesting, or ragchewing 
with a user experience similar to CW or RTTY, except with far better 
weak signal performance.  It would even be possible to have a built in 
CW to text converter on the transmit end for CW ragchewing.  In my 
opinion, it's almost a crime that the capability of FT8/FT4 is being so 
completely constrained by WSJT-X.

The weak signal performance of FT8/4 is entirely possible with a user 
interface that would be hard to distinguish between how we typically use 
CW and RTTY for DXing and contesting.  I've dug into this stuff enough 
to know that (and I have a son who has done leading edge work on this 
kind of thing for a living for over 20 years) ... I'm just not smart 
enough to code it.

Dave   AB7E

On 6/20/2021 10:54 PM, Jeff Blaine wrote:
> This point that Ted makes - the FUN aspect - is in my opinion why 
> FT8/FT4 contesting struggles.
> Yes, it's fun to make FT8/FT4 contacts initially.  And the underlying 
> technology is about as cool as it possibly gets.  But from a 
> competitive standpoint, once the novelty wears off, it pretty quickly 
> becomes monotonous because there is no significant operator 
> intervention possible to push the rate or the mults higher.
> A competitive game (which is really the essence of radiosport, under a 
> different term) which is going to drive increased and sustained 
> participation must have a method that provides an increased challenge 
> and a performance-based reward mechanism which is the payback for the 
> increased skill.  Unfortunately in FT8/FT4 the computer (and the 
> mode's structure) controls virtually all normal contest skill set, 
> save for picking the right band.  I'm generalizing here, but 
> essentially that's it.  One can go from an new FT8/FT4 contester --> 
> to an experienced one in about an hour or few.  And after that, almost 
> nothing you do with respect to operation will significantly affect 
> your results.  The variables are limited, with perhaps the band chosen 
> being the most significant pick.  Otherwise, it's mostly up to the 
> computer.
> Of course that depends on how the contest is setup.  Some formats make 
> more sense to me than others.  I've always thought the grid-square 
> based mileage method popularized by the RTTY Makrothon and CW/SSB Stew 
> Perry contests provided a format that was almost ideal for the FT8/FT4 
> mode.  It provides a about as close to an even playing field with 
> respect to location as you are going to get in radiosport.  And it's 
> fun to watch what grid square pops up with each new caller as that 
> drives a variable points count.
> Unfortunately, even with a complementary contest format like mentioned 
> above, the operator performance reward is absent once you get the hang 
> of it, and it's that aspect of the mode that puts an upper limit as to 
> the "fun" realizable.
> 73/jeff/ac0c
> alpha-charlie-zero-charlie
> www.ac0c.com

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