A key member of the WSJT-X development group — where FT8 and other cutting-edge digital amateur radio technology has originated — has died. Bill Somerville, G4WJS, was reported to have passed away earlier this week. He was in his mid-60s, and his death was unexpected. The development group founder, Joe Taylor, K1JT, called Somerville “a dear friend and very close colleague.” Taylor said that Somerville was the first to join with him in 2013 to form a core development group for WSJT-X, then in its digital infancy.
“Bill has been closely involved with WSJT-X and related software projects ever since,” Taylor said. “Our free, open-source software could not have achieved its extensive worldwide popularity and influence in ham radio without Bill’s essential contributions.”
Somerville collaborated with Taylor and Steve Franke, K9AN — the third member of the WSJT-X development group — to author articles for QST and QEX about FT8 and other digital modes in the WSJT-X suite. The trio won the October 2017 QST Cover Plaque Award. They also received the Dayton Hamvention® Technical Achievement Award in 2020, and the ARRL Doug DeMaw, W1FB, Technical Excellence Award in 2021.
Taylor said Somerville “devoted countless hours to program support, patiently answering user’s questions on WSJT-related forums.”
“I have only started to think about the many ways in which I will miss Bill — not [to] mention how we all will miss his immense and positive impact on WSJT-X and related projects,” Taylor said.
Professionally, Somerville was a software engineer who worked mainly as a C++ system software developer, as he explained on his QRZ profile. As an active radio amateur, he also applied his expertise to such projects as setting up an SO2R (single operator, two radio) station and enhancing his station’s automated processes.