At the bottom of Solar Cycle 24, things look pretty bleak for HF propagation. A quick look at the propagation forecast says fair to good for 40 and 80 and poor for all bands higher. Why then am I hearing a plethora of strange signals on 14074kHz? That would be FT8 digital mode. At 50Hz bandwidth it is theoretically possible to fit 50 simultaneous QSOs into a single 2.5kHz voice bandwidth and decode signals with a s/n ratio of -20db. And there are other modes, on all bands from MF to SHF.
Digital is perhaps a misnomer, from the users viewpoint they are keyboard modes, requiring a computer of some sort, suitable software, an interface and a radio.
“A computer?” I hear the traditionalists say. “They’ll be the ruin of Ham Radio. Darned things, never could get the hang of them!”
To which I would reply…
“Goldarn it Elmer, you’re using one of them microphones? What the heck is wrong with a Morse Key?”
And all the time operating the latest Software Defined Radio!
The Craft moves on, and if we want to keep it alive we have to embrace the things that interest young people. Things like computers and texting. Young folk are more insular these days, preferring less intimate forms of communications. The idea of actually speaking to someone they don’t know and can’t see, is pretty scary. Text communication on the other hand is universally embraced.
There is also the technical problem of diminishing available bandwidth. New modes are much more efficient… 50 channels in one voice bandwidth!
“Digital Modes” are to the texting generation, what voice modes were to the telephone generation. They will develop the new techniques and modes, albeit in software rather than hardware. A faster, tighter Fourier transform rather than a new crystal lattice filter. We need them onboard.
See you on 14078, JS8 Mode.