FT8 is a relatively new mode, introduced in the WSJT-X software this year. Its available for MAC OS, Linux and Windows – there are download links here.
Download it, install and run then enter your Callsign and station details and off you go! However I really do recommend you read the User guide and the operating tips for FT8 DXers they do contain some really helpful info to get you started.
A QSO using FT8 takes about 90 seconds and can be automated, using the right logging software you can even have the QSO uploaded to your online logs and eQSL.cc etc with minimal interaction from the user.
You will be surprised with how robust FT8 is. I’ve had QSOs on 20M when the rest of the band is dead. I’ve had QSOs with stations as far away as USA, Brazil, Japan and all over Europe using as little as 5 Watts.
If you are not getting any response to your calls you can always log on to PSK Reporter – https://www.pskreporter.info/pskmap?callsign=M0IAX&search=Find enter your callsign and you will see where your signal is being received.
This morning I spent a couple of hours calling CQ on and off with no success, not even spots on PSK reporter. Then I get a QSO with someone in Japan (6000 miles away), followed by Asiatic Russia using just 12 watts 🙂
This is how good this mode is: The pic below shows decodes I made last night (22 November). I had just installed some software on a new PC and was testing that I had it all installed and had the correct drivers for the Radio. So I fired up WSJTX and set the radio and soundcard and it started decoding. I tried listening on 160, 80, 40, 30 and 20metres. And despite not being able to hear the tones or see anything on the waterfall of the radio it was successfully decoding FT8 signals. Tuning around I couldn’t see of hear any other signals.
Why I was I so surprised? Because I had taken my antenna down earlier in the day because of the high winds, all that was connected to the radio was the coax feed line that I left lying on the deck of the boat.