"I fear that technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots." Albert Einstein.
What do you know? Late last year, Denny Berg, WB9MSM, achieved his goal of completing DXCC using FT8. It took him just 4 months. "I can tell all of you," Denny says, smiling broadly, "that this mode is spreading like wildfire throughout all the HF bands," Berg told The Daily DX at the time. He said he was able to work all states on FT8 in about 6 weeks of operating. (Don't over do it, Denny, you're beginning to sound like a dipstick. FT8 is a computer-to-computer protocol, not the second coming of Christ.)
Well, whoop-de-do, Denny. Congratulations on a marvelous accomplishment! And you were able to do that without touching a Morse key, or even speaking a word into a microphone! What an amazing accomplishment. That's really something to brag about. I'll bet your computer loved talking to those other computers. Why don't you ask you computer how much it enjoyed those contacts?.
Joe Taylor, the man who is responsible for killing what little conversation still took place on the digital modes says, "SSB and CW are general-purpose modes" that are good for ragchewing, DXing, contesting, disaster communication, and other purposes. On the other hand, he has said, FT8 and the other protocols in the WSJT-X suite are "special-purpose modes," designed for making reliable, error-free contacts using signals that may be too weak to work using more traditional modes -- and sometimes even too far down in the noise even to hear. Thanks for nothing, Taylor. If you don't mind, I'll keep "talking" to the hams I contact on my "general purpose modes."
There is no question that FT8 is a leap forward in technology. ARRL says, despite largely dismal HF conditions, there is no doubt that the recent FT8 digital protocol has hams on the air. The mode has caught on so quickly that co-developer Joe Taylor expressed surprise last fall at the rapid uptake of FT8 for making contacts on HF bands. Judging by Logbook of The World (LoTW) data, more than 2.3 million FT8 contacts were uploaded in 1 month -- a net gain of 1.2 million contacts on all modes over the same month last year, ARRL Radiosport Manager Norm Fusaro, W3IZ, said. Over the same period, activity in some of the other modes has declined.
Yes, thanks to Joe Taylor the activity in the other modes HAS declined. It's the same old story. For everything we gain in technology, we also give up something. The advent of mobile phones (remember when they were as big as a brick?) has led to more compact phones and an explosion in texting. Now, youngsters are siting around texting each other instead of talking. And now FT8 has allowed Denny to work DXCC in a weekend, but he hasn't gained anything except a piece of paper. Conversing with another human being is a valuable and natural characteristic for people. Computer to computer contacts are fast and furious, but those who embrace it have lost "human contact." And that is far more rewarding, or should be, than collecting some more wallpaper FT8 is a fad, and like all fads it will make a splash and then fade away like repeaters with phone patches - once all the rage and now a thing of that past. That's my take on it, what's yours?.
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