FT8 & FT4 An Introduction

posted Feb 28, 2020, 4:50 PM by Anthony Luscre   [ updated Feb 28, 2020, 4:52 PM ]

I am guessing that most of you reading this have either heard about FT8 from fellow Hams or heard it on air as that strange repetitive buzzing sound between the CW and SSB portions of the bands. 

Want to Work 6, 10 or 12 Meters But No Sunspots? Don't Miss Your Chance with Summer E Skip and FT8

posted Aug 15, 2019, 2:05 PM by Anthony Luscre   [ updated Aug 15, 2019, 2:07 PM ]

Want to Work 6, 10 or 12 Meters But No Sunspots? Don’t Miss Your Chance with Summer E Skip and FT8.

Anthony Luscre, K8ZT

You may have heard the doom and gloom about being in the depths of the 11 Year Sunspot Cycle:

  • “No propagation above 20 Meters”

  • “Ten is dead!”

  • “Might as well sell the radio” 

  • “The sun will never return”

  • “It’s 80 & 160 Meters only for the next few years”

  • “#$@&%*!”

Well, the idea to concentrate on 160 and 80 Meters is a good idea, but not until late fall or winter. In the meantime, there is a way to make contacts on 6, 10 or 12 Meters most days of the week by taking advantage of the summer enhanced E Skip season and the new mode of FT8.

Typically during high sunspot activity (solar flux) ionization of the F layer of the atmosphere facilitates refraction of signals on higher HF bands allowing worldwide communications. The E layer is below the F layer and is responsible for a propagation type known to abnormally effect VHF and higher HF frequencies called Sporadic E or E skip.  This happens went ionized particles appear in the E layer of the ionosphere. Sporadic E as the name implies occurs sporadically throughout the year and is not dependent on 11-year sunspot cycle. In the Northern hemisphere, sporadic E activities are more frequent during the summer months.  

The lower height of the E layer results in shorter skips than the F layer. During sporadic E events, the E layer becomes heavily ionized in specific small thin areas, sometimes called clouds.  This can last a few minutes or up to several hours. The effect is normally more pronounced with lower frequencies. The short duration of this type of propagation can mean openings can easily be missed so frequent monitoring of bands is important. Fortunately, in this internet age, there are, of course, websites that can predict or at least define sporadic E, DXMaps.com has maps similar to the one below.

Another good way to monitor activity, especially with FT8 contacts is PSK Reporter.

Speaking of FT8, it is a great way to maximize your number of contacts during the sometimes marginal propagation characteristics of Sporadic E. For information on FT8 visit www.k8zt.com/digital. Sporadic E is available for all license classes as Technicians have privileges for all modes on 6 Meters and voice and CW on 10 Meters (FT8 is not yet included for Techs on 10 M).

In addition to PSK Reporter, visit www.k8zt.com/propagation for other Propagation and Spotting Resources.

The table below shows contacts made at K8ZT during the months of May 2018 to July of 2019 with a power output of 5 watts. The antenna was a 3 element beam at 50 feet.

Using PSK Reporter Website as a Propagation Tool

posted Aug 15, 2019, 2:02 PM by Anthony Luscre   [ updated Aug 15, 2019, 2:09 PM ]

PSK Reporter, www.pskreporter.info/pskmap.html, is a powerful tool for monitoring your FT8, JT65 or PSK signals around the world. But, even if you are not transmitting on any of these modes it can still be a great propagation tool for determining which bands are open and to where in the world signals from your area are being heard. 

Here are some instructions with screenshots to get you started:

  1. Go to the PSK Reporter website- www.pskreporter.info/pskmap.html

  2. A map of the world will appear. 

  3. You will see shading indicating night and day conditions around the world. You can easily zoom in and out by clicking on small blue plus or minus in upper left corner, double-clicking on an area or using your mouse’s scroll wheel.

  1. The controls for what you want to display are across the top of page:

    1. On- choose “all bands” or select specific band you want to display

    2. Show- leave this on “signals”

    3. Sent/Rcvd- choose...

      1. “sent/rcvd by” if you are transmitting digital signals, 

      2. “sent by” if you are looking for a specific station that is transmitting on digital modes

      3. “rcvd by” if you are not transmitting digital modes.

    4. Who-  choose…

      1. “the callsign” to see your stations activity or another specific ham (only if you/they are transmitting digital signals)

      2. “country of callsign” to see who is transmitting and who is receiving QSOs from a specific country, not a specific callsign (only the country of that callsign)

      3. “Grid square” to see who is transmitting and who is receiving QSOs from a specific Grid Square (usually your’s)

      4. “Anyone” this will give you an idea of all activity worldwide (typically only used for one band at a time)

    5. Callsign or Grid Square- this is where you would enter callsign or grid square depending on what you choose for D.

    6. Using- this is where you select “all modes” or a specific mode type usually you can leave this as “all modes” 

    7. Over the last- this is where you choose the time frame you want to view from 24 hours to 15 minutes

    8. Go- once you have made all of your choices in A-G click Go to display the information

    9. Display Options- allows you to set additional parameters

  1. Examples 

  • To see all the stations around the world that are hearing my FT8 transmissions 

  • To see all stations that are receiving digital transmissions from my Grid square on 80 Meter band, even when I am not transmitting

  • To see all of the stations that stations in grid EN91 are hearing on 40 meters

  • When I am displaying all signals sent & received by me I can click on a colored station “flag” that heard me and see details including the strength of my signal (-6dB here). The colors of the “flags” correspond to color codes for each band as displayed below options section and time in minutes since last heard is shown on each “flag”

Having Fun with Morse

posted Aug 15, 2019, 1:57 PM by Anthony Luscre

  Having Fun with Morse, Getting Started with CW & Getting on HF Bands with Any License

“Happy 150!” Hiram Percy Maxim Birthday Celebration

posted Aug 15, 2019, 1:53 PM by Anthony Luscre

 This year marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of ARRL’s first president and cofounder Hiram Percy Maxim (HPM), W1AW, born on September 2, 1869. ARRL will hold an operating event this summer to celebrate HPM’s legacy, getting underway at 0000 UTC on August 31 and continuing until 2359 UTC on September 8. It is open to all radio amateurs.

The event goal is straightforward: Contact as many participating stations as possible. W1AW and all ARRL members will append “/150” to their call signs during this event (DX operators who are ARRL members may operate as <call sign>/150, if permitted by their country of license.) Participating stations will exchange a signal report and their ARRL/RAC Section. DX stations will send a signal report and “DX.” Those taking part may use all Amateur Radio bands, excluding 60, 30, 17, and 12 meters.

The event will recognize three mode groups: CW, phone (any voice modes), and digital. Submit Cabrillo log files. ARRL will calculate all final scores based on participant uploads to the ARRL event web app (link not yet active). 


New Mode - FT4!

posted Apr 30, 2019, 11:56 AM by Anthony Luscre

FT4 a new Digital Mode, similar to FT8 is here!
With even shorter transmissions (4.48 s, compared to 12.64 s for FT8), FT4 is designed for contesting.
Click here for details. Here is also a video of Joe Taylor announcing it- link
Download the software here (scroll down to Installation packages for WSJT-X 2.1.0-rc5)and get in on the inauguration of this new mode. 


posted Apr 30, 2019, 11:55 AM by Anthony Luscre

A great way to get your Worked All States Award is via State QSO Parties. State QSO Parties are contests where you try to work as many contacts with hams in a state or group of states. Multipliers are the countries of the state(s) (so it is also a great way to add to your Worked All Counties USA total). The weekend of May 4 & 5th is a great time to get a jump on this with 4 QSO Parties-- 7th Area Party (8 western states), New England QSO Party (6 states), Deleware QSO Party and Indiana QSO Party for a total of 16 states including 5 of 10 rarest states. State QSO Parties are usually more laid back than big contests so they are great for new hams and contesters. You can find dates for all state's parties at tiny.cc/sqp and county outline maps at these two sites US Census State-based County Outline Maps and No5W County Overlays.

Ham Radio Resources for Youth, Students, Teachers and Any New or Prospective Hams (or anyone working with these groups)

posted Mar 11, 2019, 12:58 PM by Anthony Luscre   [ updated Mar 11, 2019, 1:01 PM ]

Collection of Ham Radio Resources for Youth, Students, Teachers and Any New or Prospective Hams (or anyone working with these groups)- link tiny.cc/hry

Fun with Morse

posted Feb 20, 2019, 5:10 PM by Anthony Luscre   [ updated Feb 20, 2019, 5:10 PM ]

Increase your Amateur Radio Fun by adding CW to your operating modes. I just put together a new presentation for a local licensing class and I am sharing it here for those that might be interested in getting started with CW. As usual, my presentation is more of a reference piece so it will stand on its own without me for you to read.


Dit Dit Interview

posted Sep 26, 2017, 8:00 AM by Anthony Luscre   [ updated Sep 27, 2017, 1:02 AM ]

Listen to my interview by Bruce Pea, N9WKE for his Dit Dit podcast.  

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