What are FT8 and FT4?

FT8 is a digital mode forming part of the WSJT-X Suite, and was first released in mid-2017.

It enables QSO’s when the received signal level is as low as -24dB and each over takes 15 seconds or about 90 seconds for a full QSO.

FT4 was released in in 2019 and has a faster QSO rate of 7.5 seconds for each over.

These modes have made a big difference to my HF amateur radio operating, given that I use a wire antenna and don’t own a linear amplifier.  I’ve had contacts with DX countries I couldn’t have hoped for previously, and it’s been great for Winter DX on the low bands.  I’ve posted some articles on my experiments.

There are many guides to its use on the web, the one I used being at https://www.physics.princeton.edu/pulsar/K1JT/FT8_Operating_Tips.pdf

Your computer clock

An exact computer clock is essential, within +/- 1 second, needing changes to how the clock is managed.

Using Windows 10 I first tightened its Internet time checking interval to daily instead of weekly, and to a nearer time-server, by some registry changes I found on the web.  Using a time checking website such as http://www.time.is these changes give me around +/-0.3 to 0.7 seconds accuracy, which seems OK but maybe not quite good enough.

For tighter timing I’ve recently been trying out Meinberg NTP at home, which gives the exact time.