I had a goal to take a shot at Digital modes after the 2017-2018 Major Contest Season, which ended Sunday with the close of ARRL DX SSB.  So, Monday I was determined to make as much progress as I could with something digital.

My first effort was to try MMTTY, since it was already somehow integrated into my current logging software, but I'm probably a little more impatient than the program designer expects and I shortly began looking for alternatives.


I have heard a lot about FT-8 so I did extensive research for two minutes on the Internet and downloaded the WSJT software.  This includes the mode everyone is talking about, FT-8.  And the interface was a little less intimidating, so  I thought I'd give it a try.

First I needed to interface my PC with my K3S audio.  I never worried about this, but I wanted to have this for next contest season to use with N1MM+ Logger, so it was an acceptable priority.  What surprised me was how easy this was to accomplish.  The same cable that provides CAT Control also support bi-directional sound, so there are no analog audio cable to attach.  I simply select USB CODEC both ways and did some test recordings in Audacity to see if I could hear the radio. Yes, main receiver on left channel and sub-receiver on the right channel, so all is well.  Heading the other way, I needed to adjust things a bit.

I added two important pieces of hardware to the interface between the K3s and my computer.  The first was the N6TV Y-Box, which permitted me to have more than one item connected to the K3s ACC connection on the rear panel.  The second is the W1AN TTL-Serial adapter, which is designed to mate to the ACC jack, as well.  I leveraged the W1AN adapter for PTT control and used the Keyspan USB-to-serial adapter to connect back to the PC.  That could probably be cleaner, but it works flawlessly.

So, I had the radio listening and keying, but not making any noise.  What I missed is the LEVEL control that you get in DATA mode when you fiddle with the MIC level knob.  I moved it up until I had three or four bars on the ALC meter, and it seems fine.  In order to test the settings I decided to make a few contacts and after my first 50 QSOs I thought it might be good to post something here for those who, like me, are just starting out in digital.

One obvious thing after making these contacts: it's different.  First, it felt disconnected from "real" radio. I'm listening to the audio in the headset hanging under the desk, but I don't have to interpret anything - the WSJT-X software does all that.  I just pushed a couple of buttons and I had a contact (most of the time, except for that 5T2 that I didn't get).  But gradually, the actual signal reports coming back and forth got very interesting.  "Why the 10db difference here?" and "Hey, I was 1db better than that guy." and so on.  And that's how it came about I couldn't stop until 50 QSOs. Each one a new WAS Digital or a new DXCC Digital.  Neat stuff.

I will try other digital modes, but I want to dive a bit deeper into this software, try more bands, see the singnal reports under different conditions and understand things a little better.  This is educational, and fun.  And, I met my goal of going digital in one day.  Many thanks to N6TV and W1AN and others for their support and encouragement, and to Elecraft for making this so easy.

Enjoy your day!  73, Byron NZ3O K3s #10072 NZ30/qrp KX3 #4816 FT-8 Fan #2,223,719 (or so it seems)


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