Why did I start my HF journey with FT8?
As a new ham there are a lot of options to choose from when getting on the air, so many that it can be overwhelming. Initially, I wasn’t that interested in digital modes, however running a low power rig (Icom-705) limits ones ability to make contacts. I wasn’t having much success with SSB and I really wanted to start logging some contacts while learning how to DO HF.
I had been hearing a lot of chatter on the local VHF repeater about FT8 so I decided to install WJDT- X and watched some videos on doing FT8 with the IC-705. I run my shack on an System76 Ubuntu 20.04 machine, which almost always requires some fiddling to get new hardware running. I struggled for a few days to get things all working together and eventually read a blog about JTDX, which is based on WSJT-X, but seems to work better on Linux. I added an RFI choke to the USB cable to help reduce with the connection problems I was having. I was able to start making contacts as soon as I had my system stable (no app crashes or radio disconnects) and have been adding to my logbook since.
FT8 is a great entry point for new DX’r due to its low skill/knowledge threshold when compared to SSB or CW. As a newbie, there is a ton to learn and having early success at making contacts got me hooked. I was a bit worried after I bought the IC-705 as I started reading that it wasn’t a great choice as a first HF rig but it I am finding it a fine way to get going with an out of the box FT8 configuration. The simple, automated process of an FT8 QSO teaches the new Ham the basic elements of a QSO, Name, Location and RST. I found a PDF FT8 Guide that also helped boost my confidence and knowledge.