WSJT-X is a computer program used by Amateur Radio Operators for weak signal communications. It is designed to send and receive the most basic information for a verified contact. This does not allow for rag chewing or any conversation. Since it’s release in 2001 by Joe Taylor K1JT, it has gained popularity with many operators. In 2005, the software was released open source. The program is free and can be downloaded from the WSJT-X website.
Like many other innovations in Amatuer Radio, WSJT-X has caused controversy. Many Hams say “This program and its modes will be the end of Ham Radio”. If you look back over the history of radio, you will see similar fears with each new innovation. Fears like this date back to when spark gap transmitters were being phased out. Do Not let these people discourage you.
This program has multiple modes or protocols. The most popular modes used are FT8 and just released FT4. Both of these modes operate pretty much the same; but, the transmit and receive cycle are different. FT-8 has a 15 second long T/R cycle, while FT-4 has a 7.5 second T/R cycle. In this post, we will not go over the other modes. For information on the other modes refer to the WSJT-X website or the Wiki.
Sync Your Time
Before we get into setup, make sure your computer time is synced. The following example is with Windows 8.1. This will also work on Windows 7 and 10.
I am using my Yaesu FT-891 as my transmitter. This transmitter has a usb connection for CAT control and a 6 pin Din connector for Data in and out. The usb connection uses a standard cable. Use a good quality cable to help keep out any stray RF. There is a cable on ebay to connect the 6 pin Din connector to the sound card in your computer. This cable is built cheaply but will get you on the air. In later post we will build a cable with higher quality components and shielding. If you are using the data port provided on the FT-891, make sure to set you mic to rear before operating.
Many operators use only 1 sound card. I do not recommend this. It is difficult to ensure system sounds are not played over the radio while transmitting. The simple solution for this is a cheap usb sound card. There are many to choose from on Amazon and Ebay.
Once the radio is connected and drivers are installed on the computer it is time to setup WSJT-X.
First type in your call sign and grid. If you do not know your grid, QRZ gridmapper will help. With this tool you can also see all the hams around you.
The next tab is Radio. This is where you put the settings for your radio. The com port setting may be different in your computer. Check device manager to verify what port your FT-891 is using. Make sure the baud rate in your radio is set the same as the baud rate in WSJT-X. Once you input the settings click Test CAT. If the button turns green then WSJT-X has successfully connected to your transceiver.
The Audio tab is were you set up your sound card. In the drop down menu I just selected the usb device for input and output. Again, I highly recommend getting a second sound card for you radio. This prevents system sounds from windows from accidentally being transmitted.
At this point you should be able to select a mode and active band and hear activity. If there is activity you should be able to see it on the water fall. At the end of the T/R cycle, The left hand window will display any received signals.
Before transmitting it is recommended to download and read the user guide. It is full of useful information about operating this program. There are also a lot of internet groups out there that can be helpful. Just remember there are a lot of hams that seem to fear or feel threatened by FT8/FT4, so choose a group specific to WSJT-X of FT8/FT4.
I have made thousands of contacts using this setup. Recently I purchase TRX-Manager and will be reconfiguring and making a better cable. Once this process is complete, the updated settings will be posted.
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