Topband: FT8 - the end of 160m old school DXing? (long)

ok1tn ok1tn at
Wed Oct 25 06:26:10 EDT 2017

Agree completely from me too.
over 50years on TOP band only CW
73 Slavek Zeler

---------- Původní e-mail ----------
Od: Bob Kupps via Topband <topband at>
Komu: Steve Ireland <vk6vz at>, Topband reflector <topband@>
Datum: 25. 10. 2017 12:17:42
Předmět: Re: Topband: FT8 - the end of 160m old school DXing? (long) 
"Agree completely Steve. I was going to build a 2m EME station until I 
learned that computer to computer Qs were the only thing going on there 
these days....not for me. 
73 Bob HS0ZIA

From: Steve Ireland <vk6vz at>
To: Topband reflector <topband at> 
Sent: Wednesday, October 25, 2017 3:50 PM
Subject: Topband: FT8 - the end of 160m old school DXing? (long)


As a committed (yeah, that’s probably the right word - complete with white 
jacket that laces up at the back) topbander since 1970, I’ve never been so 
intrigued and disturbed by anything on the band as the emergence of the 
Franke-Taylor FT-8 digital mode.

For me, radio has always been all about what I audibly hear. I love all the 
sounds that radio signals make - and even miss the comforting sound of Loran
that I grew up with around 1930kHz as a teenager in south-east England. 
Yeah, I am one sick puppy.

With the emergence of high resolution bandscopes through SDR technology over
the last decade, I embraced that as it meant that I could find what DX 
stations I wanted to hear and contact quicker and more easily (and, in 
particular, before those stations who didn’t have the same technology). 

It was really exciting and enhanced the sensual experience of radio by being
able to see what I could hear (and no dinosaur me, I was an SDR fan boy!).

During this period, there has also been an extraordinary development in 
digital radio modes, in particular by Joe Taylor K1JT. 

As a topbander I could see that these modes in which you ‘saw’ signals 
through the medium of computer screen or window as being a remarkable 
technical achievement, but had relatively little to do what I and the vast 
majority of active radio amateurs practiced as radio on 160m, as it had 
nothing to do with the audible.

The good thing was that I could see that good old CW and Silly Slop Bucket 
(you can see where my prejudices lie) that I like to use were still the 
modes of choice for weak signal DX topband radio contact as these fancy 
digital modes were either very slow or, if they weren’t, were not good at 
dealing with signals that faded up and down or were covered in varying 
amounts of noise.  

While some amateurs seemed to have lost the pleasure of actually hearing 
signals in favour of viewing them on their computer screens, I felt secure 
that these digital modes were just a minor annoyance and any serious DXer or
DXpedition was never going to seriously going to use them, particularly on 
my first and all-time love topband, for other than experimentation.

Then, out of the blue, along comes FT-8. Joe and Steve Franke K9AN have 
quietly created the holy grail of digital operation with a mode that can 
have QSOs almost as fast as CW and SSB and over the last eight weeks 160m 
DXing has changed, perhaps for ever. 

Where once there were a few weak CW and SSB signals (I am in VK6, which is a
looong way from anywhere with a population so we only ever hear a few), I 
can see that the busiest part of the band is 1840 kHz – FT-8 central.  On 
some nights I can see FT-8 signals on the band but no CW or SSB.

There are countries I’ve dreamed for 20 years of hearing on 160m SSB/CW (for
example, KG4) regularly appearing on DX clusters and I can see the heap of 
FT-8 activity on my band scope. 

Frustration sets in and I even downloaded the FT-8 software but, when it 
comes down to it,  I just can’t use it. My heart isn’t in it.  

My computer will be talking to someone else’s computer and there will be no 
sense of either a particular person’s way of sending CW or the tone of their
voice (even the way some my SSB mates overdrive their transceivers is 
actually creating nostalgia in me). The human in radio has somehow been 

I think back to my best-ever 160m SSB contact with Pedro NP4A and I can 
still hear the sound of his voice, his accent, when he came up out of the 
noise and to my amazement answered me on my second call, with real 
excitement in his voice. Pure radio magic!

So I am sitting here, feeling depressed and wondering if overnight I have 
become a dinosaur and this is the beginning of the end of topband radio as I
’ve always enjoyed it.  

Now, over to you other topbanders, especially those who have dabbled with FT
-8 and live in more populous areas. Has the world really turned upside down 
and what do you think the future holds? 

Vy 73

Steve, VK6VZ/G3ZZD

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