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Contesting on FT8/FT4

FT8 and FT4 have prevailed in ham radio DXing since the late 2010s. Since these two modes have become so popular, having the contesting events on shortwave/HF ham radio is also quite logical regarding the accuracy and terse communication nature of these WSJT-X modes. Furthermore, semi-automated procedures by the WSJT-X software and timing accuracy make the contact experience smooth.

On the other hand, ham radio contesting in FT8/FT4 still has a lot of room to improve. For example, FT8 requires the operator to wait for ~30 seconds to check the response from the other station and decide what to do next. On CW contests, this is much faster, often in less than 10 seconds. Even on FT4, you still need to wait for ~15 seconds for each transmission-and-reception cycle.

You also need to watch and read multiple parts of the screen and windows during an FT8/FT4 operation: the waterfall signal graphics, decoded text that often consists of more than 30 lines for each reception cycle, the transceiver status, and many other pieces of information. This requirement of having to focus on multiple windows simultaneously is tiresome work, even not in a contest. In another way, you are doing a contest operation without participating in the contesting activity.

WSJT-X has more difficulties using on a rapidly-reactive operation than JTDX, which does not support ham radio contesting. For example, JTDX has an independent choice of the transmission and reception audio frequency tabs in the waterfall display, and manipulating these tabs is easier than WSJT-X.

During the first inaugural ARRL Digital Contest 2022, I couldn't continue contesting for more than two hours due to the mental and physical stresses presumably caused by the abovementioned reasons. I won't be joining another contest on FT8/FT4, especially on FT8, because the regular non-contesting ham radio DXing has already become something like a marathon contest for me.

If I could join another competition in an FT4-only contest, I might enjoy another good time of ham radio contesting on the air. To do so, I need a better radio system so I don't need to worry about my relatively weak signals and small antennas. In addition, I should use better software than WSJT-X.