HF digital Weak Signal Radio is a force of nature in Amateur Radio. Its initial release appears in 2008 and it was a novelty.
FT8 came along in 2017 and is currently the one of the most popular digital modes in amateur radio because of its ability to send signal despite challenging propagation conditions, high noise environment, low power operation (QRP) or even compromised antennas. It is excellent for HF Dxing. In other words, you can have a contact almost anywhere in the world with 50 watts power and a simple dipole antenna. FT8 is great for making QSO all over the world but is limited to 13 text characters for each transmission period. Not great for conversations.
VARAC uses VARA (virtual) modems released in 2020 to interface between your radio and computer. Functionality is based on FT8 but does not have the limitation of FT8. VARAC is truly an app for group and peer to peer messaging, mail, file transfer, beaconing, digipeating and ping (SNR) test to check bands condition and reliability. I am totally blown away by its ease of use and its functionality which has depth and width for various communication scenarios from QSO, Chats, Nets, Emcomm, Post office (vault), Special events, etc… all on one screen. Winlink and online signal reporter (psk reporter) are supporting that mode as the major on line logbooks do. A brief summary of it all can be viewed as a PDF at this link: VarAC for EmComm (varac-hamradio.com) . Also check YouTube, lots of info there.
As a new member of IslandHF I would be interested to explore casual Net meeting using VARAC platform and work out the best practice for ongoing scheduled checkins, chats and whatnot. To start with we need only of few people to experiment with it. Any interest?
Respectfully, Joseph VA7YJJ from Duncan, BC
Below is a propagation map for quality transmission done at 10:15 AM BC time, July 29 using https://hf.dxview.org/ (map is updated every minute when activated and conditions can change dramatically over time as we all know)
Dark tone is for SSB , SNR>10
Mid tone is for CW, SNR>-1
Light tone is for Digital WS, SNR>-28
Digital WS is augmented reality for Amateur radio 🙂