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Keyboard chat with JS8

You've probably heard of FT8. It's a popular computer based mode where you have exchanges but not conversations with others. That's fine for racking up DX tallies but is not a conversational mode. If that's more your style then try the road less travelled, aka JS8. JS8 is also an efficient digital mode but with some important differences. Firstly it enables free text keyboard chats. Secondly you can leave your station on and automatically give signal reports to others. Thirdly you can leave messages for others via third stations who you cannot directly hear. It's a bit of mix between old and new modes including Morse Code, PSK31, packet radio and FT8.

Setup is similar to any other digital mode. You need (i) a computer with sound capabilities (like they all have now), (ii) the free JS8 Call software (easily downloadble off the web), (iii) an interface cable conveying to and from the transceiver and (iv) an HF SSB-capable transceiver, preferably equipped with VOX (voice operated transmit). Because JS8 is 100% duty cycle on transmit your transmitter's output power should be set at around half that which you'd use on SSB.

All JS8 activity is on a specific frequency on each band. Because its bandwidth is narrow many conversations can occupy a 'slot'. Enjoy the videos below for various aspects of JS8 activity.

 

JS8 - my first contact

 

3.5 MHz JS8 milliwatts across Australia

 

Backyards on the Air - FT8 and JS8 activity

 

VK5WAT FT8 JS8 CW activity

 

Three transistor JS8 receiver for 80m

 

Homebrew 7 MHz JS8 transceiver

 

Summary

These videos show some of the variety of JS8 activity. You can download the free JS8 Call software needed from here. A simple cable to connect your laptop computer to your transceiver is described here. That cable in conjunction with software and a suitable HF SSB transceiver will get you transmitting and receiving JS8. Alternatively you can build your own JS8 transceiver, either from a kit or from scratch.

 

 

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