To the extent that FT8 is a way to bring people into the hobby or re-ignite passion among those who haven't been on the air in a while, what's the easiest way to get someone on the air with this new mode? Cost is a factor, but simplicity of components and ability to transceive (not simply send a signal) are relevant too.

It's safe to assume this is someone who has a cell phone, laptop/PC, or Raspberry Pi and can be convinced to take any of these paths.

Bonus points for addressing the US license requirements too.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Sorry, but as stated this is mostly going to get product recommendations, which is not a type of question allowed here. If you can restate it in the form of, say, "What is the minimum equipment required for FT8?" then that would be OK. $\endgroup$
    – Kevin Reid AG6YO
    Oct 19, 2018 at 21:14
  • $\begingroup$ done. $\endgroup$ Oct 19, 2018 at 21:55
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ When a question is on hold, you should edit it to fix it, not post a variation separately. I've edited this one for you, but since you had a link I assume that you had something specific in mind to refer to from the previous version. $\endgroup$
    – Kevin Reid AG6YO
    Oct 19, 2018 at 22:13

2 Answers 2


Without getting into specific product recommendations, I believe the simplest way is as follows:

  1. Obtain a license. An amateur license is required for using amateur bands. I am not aware of any non-amateur bands using FT8. A technician-level license is sufficient in USA for VHF and UHF but it looks like a General level license is needed for the HF bands.

  2. Buy a radio. Pretty much any radio that supports SSB. Easier if it has a phono out and a mic in; even easier yet if it has a digital audio out and digital audio in. Of course, more power is better, but 5 Watts is plenty for talking across many hundreds of miles, especially if you have a good antenna.

  3. Download FT8 software. The software is freely available here: https://physics.princeton.edu/pulsar/k1jt/wsjtx.html This software covers many different digital modes similar to FT8.

  4. Hook the radio up to the computer (or tablet or whatever). You might need a special cable depending on the radio.

  5. Synchronize your computer's clock either using a GPS or one of the network clock synchronization protocols. FT8 requires your clock to be accurate within a second.

  6. Start using FT8.

Once you start working with this, you will quickly see what opportunities exist to make the setup a little better. But this is enough to get started quickly and inexpensively.

Full requirements for FT8 are listed at https://physics.princeton.edu/pulsar/k1jt/wsjtx-doc/wsjtx-main-2.1.0.html#SYSREQ

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    $\begingroup$ Remember that in the US, VHF also includes the 50MHz (6-metre) band, and there’s an awful lot of FT8 on there. So the minimum licence required is actually the Tech. $\endgroup$
    – Scott Earle
    Oct 22, 2018 at 13:50
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    $\begingroup$ "Pretty much any radio" - I never tried FT8 on UHF/VHF but from what I know the radio should support SSB (USB) because digital modes work on top of USB. E.g. an FM hand-held radio will not work. $\endgroup$ Nov 21, 2019 at 10:26
  • $\begingroup$ I think this answer is actually wrong, as ft8 is a SSB only mode intended for HF and most HTs re UHF/VHF and FM only. Also, most HTs don't have digital audio, and you need level converters if you only have a mic in. (Most computers the mic in doubles as line in, so you don't need a level converter for that side.) $\endgroup$
    – user10489
    Nov 21, 2019 at 12:34
  • $\begingroup$ Good point regarding ft8 and ssb. I don't think a level converter is required, though it would be quite useful. $\endgroup$ Nov 21, 2019 at 17:04
  • $\begingroup$ I've edited the answer to be more correct and include a missing item listed in the wsjtx documentation. $\endgroup$
    – user10489
    Nov 25, 2019 at 1:31

data cable not required - it actually works very well with with microphone to loudspeaker. I actually use my iPhone earbuds, connect them to the radio and hang them on the screen of the laptop (my laptop has the microphone near the middle of the top of the screen). Radio mike I just put on the laptop. Radio in VOX mode. Works like a charm. (Just remember to switch VOX off when you finish or else all your later conversations with your wife may go on air ...)

  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to ham.stackexchange.com! $\endgroup$
    – rclocher3
    Nov 21, 2019 at 14:16
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    $\begingroup$ I would like to discourage this, at least for transmitting -- you're sending 3kHz worth of room noise, computer hum, and whatever else, and lowering the SNR for everyone else's FT8 signals. $\endgroup$ Nov 21, 2019 at 16:08
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    $\begingroup$ @hobbs-KC2G well, it's certainly not ideal but it's an interesting answer. It's really the minimum required for FT8. AM makes less efficient use of power and spectrum than SSB, but it's still a valid mode. $\endgroup$
    – hjf
    Nov 21, 2019 at 17:50
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    $\begingroup$ Actually, in the US, transmitting FT8 with acoustic coupling that allows background noise would actually be illegal. FT8 is used in a digital band that does not allow phone, and background noise would be "phone" mode. $\endgroup$
    – user10489
    Nov 25, 2019 at 1:35
  • $\begingroup$ Just make sure any room noise in 43 dB below your FT8 loudspeaker, and that the background noise does not include music (U.S. regulations). $\endgroup$
    – hotpaw2
    Nov 1, 2020 at 17:05

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