A Modest Proposal
By Victor Rosenthal, 4X6GP
While waiting for VP6R to operate CW instead of FT-8 on 20 or 15 meters during the very short openings to the Middle East, I began to think that FT-8 might not be as bad as I’d believed. My thoughts turned to ways that it could be improved. And suddenly I got an idea that I think will revolutionize digital mode operation, amateur radio in general, and maybe even pay for my beer.
What is FT-8 except a massive online multiplayer game? And why can’t some of the concepts familiar from the world of gaming be applied to ham radio?
I propose to set up a network of servers which would simulate the behavior of the ionosphere. A simple cross-platform client application would be available to access the network, with a user interface that was exactly like WSJT-X or similar programs. Users could sign up for free, although there would be in-app purchases available (more about that later).
The system would initially simulate a 5-watt transmitter and a dipole antenna at a height of 10 meters above ground of average conductivity. When a user logged on to the server, an algorithm would calculate the probability of being heard at the locations of all the other users, using VOACAP for propagation predictions, and taking into account the locations, power, antennas, SSN and A/K indexes, etc. Contacts would take place according to the probability computed by the algorithm. If multiple stations were calling one station, the caller would be queued appropriately by signal strength.
Welcome to FT-SHMATE, the ultimate digital mode! Operating FT-SHMATE will be indistinguishable from old-fashioned FT-8. But getting started is so much easier: you don’t need a radio, a sound card, or even a ham license. All you need is a computer or even a smartphone. Anyone can do it! And given the permissiveness of ARRL with respect to things like remote operation and their support for digital modes, I am sure they would agree to allow FT-SHMATE QSOs to count for DXCC!
I mentioned in-app purchases. I envision a whole slew of accessories that you can purchase to enhance your FT-SHMATE experience. For several hundred dollars you can buy a 13 dB increase in signal strength, equivalent to boosting your power output to 100 watts. For a few thousand more, you can buy the equivalent of a 1500 watt signal. Antenna height and gain improvements are also available, at prices that are highly competitive with the cost of physical towers and antennas. You can even buy a quiet rural environment or a seaside location for several hundred thousand. And there are NO antenna restrictions in the world of FT-SHMATE!
That isn’t all. For $500,000, FT-SHMATE will give you a two-week “DXpedition” to Bouvet Island. You and 10 friends will be able to operate FT-SHMATE as though you are on Bouvet with a real 3Y0 call! Everything will be just like a physical DXpedition, except that there will be no engine trouble or weather problems. Want to operate from North Korea? For the estimated $1 million cost of a bribe to Kim Jong Un, FT-SHMATE can make it possible.
But perhaps you are the kind who would prefer to stay home and just work everything you can hear. FT-SHMATE has you covered. Since all radio transmissions in FT-SHMATE are virtual, there are no pesky rules or regulations. If you can afford it, we’ll set you up with a half-megawatt and huge dipole arrays for transmit, as well as a remote receiving site with acres of beverages in all directions.
Hmm, 20 should be open to VP6 now. I wonder if they are still on FT8?
CWops no. 5