Once Again…

Once Again…

A few weeks ago — during the FT4TA DXpedition — I was suffering. Finding that the best time to visit our son in Vancouver B.C. coincided with the Tromelin Island offering was difficult. Being from the western US, not the easiest location to work the Indian Ocean, my band-slot file for Tromelin had but one entry – FR7ZL/T for a QSO on twenty-meter CW in 1979.

So, I was looking forward to a few more and even – perhaps – the possibility of another Topband country. (Though we would not return to Wyoming before the end of the operation, it became possible to do some operating along the way – in southern Oregon. Even an 80M QSO was made thanks to a monster 3 element beam located on a wonderfully effective hill top.)

Moreover, thanks to the magic of the Internet, I was able to able read all about the operation in detail as viewed from Northern California and Colorado and Utah. What I read was mostly disappointing. It seems that the jammers and usual malcontents were out in force, and once again, there was pause to think about why all of this was taking place.

Many younger DXers – and some returning to the wars following long absences – are sure that the jamming and generally poor operating is worse than ever. “It’s never been this bad.” That is probably true unless you scale the whole picture back according to the number of active DXers. And when it comes to Tromelin, there are more than the usual number of DXers “in need.”

In the 1970s, there were a number of operations which raised a strikingly similar ruckus on the bands. At one time, I even had a few questions for a customer of mine who is (still) a professional psychologist. I was wondering why people would behave in such an anti-social way. While he wasn’t up to speed on the intricacies of DXpeditions, he did offer that people usually had – at least in their own minds – reasons for their behaviors. My point is that it was that bad, even forty years ago.

Why do you suppose that might have been – and still is today? There are lots of reasons. Those who complain the loudest – adding their own form of vitriol – are hip-shooters who never bother to wonder why these disruptions occur. They shoot first and then blame the consequences on others.

A major DXpedition is a usually a significant disruption to the “normal” operations on any and all bands. These operations often generate excessively large pileups. As I have mentioned more than once, part of the responsibility of a DXpedition ops is to limit the impact of their effort on others who are not interested in DXing. We invade these spaces with huge piles of DXers who virtually NEVER listen to their transmitting frequencies. In the case of several recent DXpeditions, 17 meters in particular has been almost fully occupied – band edge to band edge – by excessively large pileups. I am sure that at least a few non-DXers aren’t overly happy about that. Do pileups really need to be so large? Maybe, maybe not.

In addition to the disruption of non-DXers, there are very frustrated DXers who call endlessly without results. In part, this is a function of their own lack of expertise. There is evidence everywhere. They call at the wrong times, on the wrong frequencies, with their antennas pointed in the wrong directions, etc., etc. After experiencing a certain amount of frustration, their operating technique often changes dramatically. Calling sometimes becomes continuous on a poor selection of frequencies. They may become hostile and create their own form of chaos. Thinking is usually put aside.

The blame for much of the poor operating demonstrated by DXers can be laid at the feet of the DXpedition operators themselves. Their instructions are often inadequate. They don’t identify frequently, and they don’t indicate where they are listening and how they are tuning. More critically, they often don’t properly target the most difficult place in the world for them to work. When those who need the most attention are getting precious little of it, temperatures rise. As a result much of the garbage on the bands related to a DXpedition is the result of a lack of experience and good operating practices by the DXpeditioners themselves.

I hasten to add that this isn’t the whole story. There are other causes. DXers who simply don’t know how to operate their radios – split operation in particular are s significant part of the problem. Several misplaced calls – on the DXpedition frequency will generate all sorts of responses from responsible to – well – the worst possible.

Continuous callers are also a problem, although interestingly, they are not that much of a disruption. An experienced DXpeditioner can work around all but the most persistent and aggressive continuous caller. A few such callers seem to find the station being worked and QRM all attempts to compete a QSO. Yet, continuous calling is more an aesthetic problem for those listening to a pileup rather than for the DXpedition operator – he doesn’t hear much of it.

There are lots of reasons for the cacophony we hear during DXpeditions. Rather than reacting irrationally, a more reasoned analysis should take place. This analysis will be highlighted in additional articles in the coming weeks and months in this publication and on the pages of the DX University (www.dxuniversity.com)

*The DX University™ includes a day-long learning session for newcomers and old-timers wishing to hone their DXing skills. DXing resources can also be found on the DX University Website. A DX University session will again be held at the Visalia International DX Convention in April, 2015. This all-day session will be aimed at issues surrounding DXpeditioning. Contact the DX University if you are interested in using DX University resources as a framework for mentoring DXers in your area. For more information go to www.dxuniversity.com

Back to the Future

One of the perennial issues involving Amateur Radio is invigorating our hobby/service by attracting new and younger enthusiasts. Fourteen years ago, I asked “What do we do to attract new hams to the service?” My interpretation of the answer was “we do very little.” Did we advertise outside of the ham radio world? I asked. “No, it’s too expensive.” “Do we survey young folks to find our common interests?” “No.” At the time we were doing very little. We were trying to increase ARRL membership through advertising aimed at newly licensed hams. To me that seemed like preaching to a choir of diminishing size. It still does.

Then along came The Big Project, an ambitious and well-intentioned effort to introduce school-aged children to the wonders of Amateur Radio. What became of that? At the time, it seemed like a very aggressive effort to do what we always do: Try to sell the younger generation on what we loved so much about Ham Radio when we were their age. “Surely, they would love the hobby as much as we did fifty years ago” I said. Does that work? Apparently not. (There are some interesting and successful projects involving robots and other electronics learning that are popular among youngsters.) Part of the problem is that communications simply doesn’t invoke the same intrigue and adventure that it did fifty years ago, and the part that does intrigue them doesn’t interest us. To us Ham Radio is different, but talking spontaneously around the world doesn’t impress young folks anymore.

In the meantime, society has moved ahead. Have we? Not so much. We like Ham Radio the way it was. Other than peripherals, much of the new technology that has been developed has been termed “not ham radio.” Why? Because it involves the Internet. If it involves actual communicating with anything related to the Internet, “it’s not ham radio.”

Now, we have HamSphere. HamSphere is simulated Ham Radio using the Internet. Certainly that’s not ham radio. No, it isn’t by our classical definition, but it is something in which younger people have shown an interest. They are interested in ILRP and Echolink linked radios, too. Recently held was the Internet equivalent of the World Radiosport Team Championship (WRTC) called the ETRC 2014 (European Radiosport Team Championship). Interestingly some of the most progressive Ham Radio personalities are introducing these technologies to young people, aiming at integrating their interests into our legacy delights. Maybe we can integrate our different interests.

We’re so stuck in the past that even remote control operation worries us because “it gives [some of] us a propagational advantage!” Horrors!! What that seems to mean is that somehow DXing among the old guard is seen as a competitive sport that requires a level playing field, even on the largest geographic scale. Can any DXing program – with competitors living all over the globe –really be a competitive sport? The current introduction to the DXCC program states: “Individual achievement is measured by working and confirming the various entities comprising the DXCC List. This is the essence of the DXCC program.” Clearly, DXCC progress measures our individual achievement. If there is competition it must be defined locally, not by rules.

In his report to the Programs and Services Committee for the July ARRL BoD meeting, the DXAC Chairman added that “some distance limitation should be included for the remote station.” According to sources, this wasn’t really discussed, but there it is. The distance rule was added to the original DXCC rule after a month or two, and it stood for over 40 years. It was changed because the world changed. Going back to our beginnings in this area would be a major mistake.

I grew up in an era of Ham Radio that was really fun. It was simple and concise for me, and it will never be quite the same. And why should it?  We live in a world that has changed. Get over it. Let’s help create a new legacy for younger enthusiasts, one that actually interests them. Let’s integrate!

*The DX University™ maintains an Internet-based website containing lots of useful DXing information. Read additional thoughts on these topics in the coming week at www.dxuniversity.com.

DX IS!

One of the best and often funniest publications on serious DXing, DX IS! The Best of the West Coast DX Bulletin is a compendium of short stories (and maybe opinions) written by Hugh Cassidy, WA6AUD, editor and publisher of the West Coast DX Bulletin. If you don’t have a copy of this book, this may be your last chance to get a one. It’s well worth the price. — N7NG

“Back in 1980 after WA6AUD shut down his highly popular West Coast DX Bulletin, my brother, W5DV, and I compiled and published a book, entitled “DX IS! The Best of the West Coast DX Bulletin”.  We thought that we had fulfilled all of the requests for it within just a few months, but we still get occasional inquiries about its availability, more than 30 years later.

During a recent move, I found a supply of unsold copies, still in new condition.  We have arranged to make these available through Amazon at

http://www.amazon.com/The-Best-West-Coast-Bulletin/dp/B002ODDJ0Y/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1408745485&sr=81&keywords=DX+IS!+The+Best+of+the+West+Coast+DX+Bulletin

While we do not expect a major demand for it after 30 years, we want interested parties to be aware of its availability.  If you feel that it is appropriate to mention this in the DXer, there are probably some DXers who would like to know about it.  We have a very limited supply and when these are gone, that’s it.

73 de W6OGC  Jim Allen

The West Coast DX Bulletin

We moved to Wyoming in 1972, and I operated five years in an apartment using a 14AVQ. It was a major hiatus in my DXing – possibly even terminal – because I left California (K6ALH) at 293 mixed on the DXCC list, and I was faced with working all of those countries again. As much of a DXer as I had always been, I wasn’t too enthusiastic about starting again from the beginning.

As luck would have it the DXCC rules changed beginning in 1977 allowing DXCC QSOs to be made anywhere in your own DXCC entity. As a result, my interest was again engaged. I gave up W7JFG for N7NG and was again up and running.

In becoming active in DXing again, it seemed reasonable to look for a source of DX information. It was probably Bob, W6RGG who introduced me to the West Coast DX Bulletin. The WCDXB had been published by Hugh Cassidy, WA6AUD and his wife Virginia as “The Marin County DX Group” since 1968. There were several bulletins being published, but the WCDXB was “local” for me, so I sent a subscription request. I received a receipt dated April 19, 1978. I don’t recall the price, but I can tell you now that it was worth every penny.

I had been active in high school and during my college days at the University of California in order to get that 293 countries worked. Now it was down to 275 due to deletions. Some of the stuff that I had worked had become very rare, stuff like Burma, Heard Island, the Andaman’s and Laccadives (Lakshadweep) and so on. I was missing some other countries that came up while I was inactive. The West Coast DX Bulletin was a tremendous help in finding the countries that I needed to fill out my list. By early 1979 I was already at the Honor Roll level. Even then, I looked forward every week to the arrival of the WCDXB.

As were most DXers, I was shocked the day I received the last copy of the WCDXB in July, 1979. I sat in front of the Jackson Post Office for some time as I read that last issue. Could it be? I had had the pleasure for only a little over a year. Cass had been hinting for some time, and finally as he said: “Sooner or later most of us learn that even the longest road has an end, the most glorious day a sunset, the beautiful melody a final note, and that even the most enthusiastic can tire.”

In hindsight, the value of the West Coast DX Bulletin was as much in Hugh Cassidy’s way of presenting the bulletin as it was in delivering DXing information. Through his stories, he included lots of interest and even some wisdom. I always found Cass’ stories had a point, something to think about. Also, I usually found it difficult to figure out what his own take was on the issue of the day.

Many of his stories are just really funny. Charles Allen, W5DV and his brother James, W6OGC published a book of “The Best of the West Coast DX Bulletin” in 1981. Every once in a while I pick up my copy and turn to a story on one of the well-marked pages and get another chuckle. They are still really good, over and over again.

According to Ross, K6GFJ, “When Cass decided to stop publishing the bulletin, he shipped his entire collection to Paul, Dunphy, VE1DX.” Paul recently shipped Cass’ collection back to the West Coast where the Northern California DX Club will have every issue scanned to be available on the Internet. So far, issues from issues from May 1, 1968 to December 30, 1975 have been published on the NCDXC webpage. After every issue has been scanned and available on line, the collection will be moved to its permanent home in the W6CF Memorial Library at the California Historical Radio Society in Alameda (CA) (www.californiahistoricalradio.com). Most likely, by the time you finish reading those issues already published, the remainder will be scanned and online.

Although many of the stories refer to operations and other DXing matters that are dated, not relating directly to today’s operations, you can easily substitute current callsigns, as most of the topics are the same and relevant, maybe more so. As Cass would say, “DX IS!” Still is? You bet!

*The DX University™ maintains an Internet-based website containing lots of useful DXing information. Visit it at http://www.dxuniversity.com. The next scheduled in-person DX University session will be held on Thursday, July17, 2014 in Hartford, CT, at the ARRL Centennial celebration.

W1AW Portable Seven

Wyoming and Missouri became two of the latest states to spend an intensive week with volunteers signing the ARRL’s callsign – W1AW portable – in a sort of a year-long pseudo contest to help promote the ARRL’s Centennial celebration. Since Wyoming has the smallest population of all states, with a ham radio operator count similarly small, I volunteered to participate and help out where possible.

The activity began last week at 0000Z on Wednesday, May 28th. Since I have a moderately successful low band station, I decided to spend most of my time on 80M and Topband with a little 40M thrown in. While the first few nights were very active, adverse weather showed up yesterday in the form of severe electrical storm activity in the West and central Mid-West. The noise level has been running around 10 to 20 dB over S9 for the duration. Nevertheless, with some 20 meter CW thrown in Sunday night, over 3,400 QSOs have been made during my stint. There have been some top-grade runs, for sure.

I suspect that the W1AW portable activity can serve a number of purposes. It certainly is helping to highlight the ARRL Centennial. It’s also lots of fun, especially for DXers would-like-to-be DXpeditioners as well as potential contesters. Perhaps expectedly, there have been great pileups, and these pileups have been very large, wide and deep. Japanese and Far Eastern callers in the morning and on the higher bands, European and African stations later in the day.

It is a fact that running a pileup is one of the most important skills in contesting and DXpeditioning. Learning how to pick callsigns out of pileups quickly and accurately is a fundamental skill for these activities, and lots of experience is the key. The W1AW portable activity is a great chance for those interested in contesting and DXpeditioning to practice these skills without having to travel offshore.

This is a real-world equivalent of the many computer-based pileup programs, and probably superior in many respects to most of them. There’s real world QRM, incidental and intentional, real QSB, a full display of “interesting” operating styles, real propagation – or not – and a whole host of other parameters. It’s a great opportunity to see what you can do on all modes, CW, SSB and RTTY.

So if you still have an opportunity, join in the fun. Tomorrow morning, I’ll be back on 80 and 160 hoping for a little quieter band, and looking forward to a quieter October/November session.

*The DX University™ maintains an Internet-based website containing lots of useful DXing information. Visit it at www.dxuniversity.com. The next scheduled in-person DX University session will be held on Thursday, July17, 2014 in Hartford, CT, at the ARRL Centennial celebration.

A New Level of Strange

A couple of interesting things occurred last week. The first was actually as humorous as it was strange. I was listening to a moderate pileup engaged in calling Rich, KE1B signing V25M from Antigua. Rich was very good about telling the callers that he was listening up. (I think he was working by numbers at the time, as well.) So, he was saying “This is vee twenty five mike, listening up 3 kilohertz for fives,” etc.

Regardless of his careful directions, there were several strong stations on his frequency calling him. That’s not particularly unusual, of course, it happens all the time, and many of us are at times guilty. What was interesting – and humorous – was the following:

After a couple of these stations calling on Rich’s frequency stopped calling at one point, and just after Rich finished a transmission to a station he was working, someone asked if the stations on the V25M frequency understood the meaning of “Up Three.” The loudest of the stations came back on and said “Yes.” OK so far. I guess, somewhat stunned, the querying station then asked why he was calling on the DX station’s frequency, if he knew Rich was listening up three. The offending station then said: “I wasn’t.”

Hmmm! I have never heard that before. Usually, a station committing that offense quickly realizes that he is on the wrong frequency and mumbles “sorry” or something like that and quickly disappears back to the pileup. No further conversation took place, and most of the callers disappeared from the frequency – not all, of course – and things went on again normally — with a few more stations calling on the wrong frequency. Apparently, some of the other offending stations simply weren’t aware enough to guess that they might be the offender.

But, this guy was a prime example of someone who really needs to spend a little more time with his radio. Did he really not know where he was transmitting? Maybe he has a new radio, full of buttons that he needs to learn. Maybe radios are getting more complicated faster than DXers can learn the frequency control functions. Anyone for some AI? (Artificial Intelligence)

On another occasion last week – several occasions in fact – DXers were having serious difficulties correctly spotting the CW signals of HT5T. This one isn’t really humorous. HT5T was variously being spotted as 5T5H, ST5H and even HT5H. There were surely a number of DXers really happy at getting Mauritania and even Sudan in the log. This could be expected, of course, since many of us have problems with the letters/numbers H, S and 5. But this was occurring a number of times. What could be happening?

I hadn’t been listening, but I decided to take some time and see what was transpiring. It seems that the operator wasn’t sending with an electronic keyer. The characters were reasonably well formed, and the information was 100% intelligible — but the characters were just not formed with the perfect spacing that one expects with an electronic keyer.

I am guessing that HT5T was being called by several DXers using code readers. Apparently, some of the code readers were having a difficult time adjusting for first letter and its less-than-perfect character spacing. They didn’t seem to have difficulties with the subsequent letters. Although some CW is poorly formed, and difficult to copy, all operators should have the flexibility to copy something other than perfectly formed characters.

As I have said in the past, don’t get me wrong: I think the use of code readers as an aid is acceptable, particularly if they are intended to lead to better natural code-copying ability on the part of the operator. I am very happy that many hams are interested enough to want to be on CW to use them. Let’s eventually get our speed up to a point where the reader is not necessary, though.

The hint for this edition is to at least try to be more aware of how you are operating your station. Understand that you are not anonymous. Be proud of your signals. If you understand that your code reader has difficulty understanding code under some circumstances, learn a little more about what is going on before you call. On both modes, watch those A – B frequency and split buttons. 

*The DX University™ maintains an Internet-based website containing lots of useful DXing information. Visit it at www.dxuniversity.com. The next scheduled in-person DX University session will be held on Thursday, July17, 2014 in Hartford, CT, at the ARRL Centennial celebration.

What Should The DXAC Recommend? Register Your Opinion

In the coming weeks the DX Advisory Committee will be formulating its final report to the ARRL Board of Directors regarding potential changes to the DXCC program rules. While there are any number of issues that might come, two seem to be at the forefront in DXers minds.

One is that matter of the current country criteria. The current country criteria is not the same as was formulated by the so-called DXCC-2000 committee in 1998. As a result of world politics — and ARRL Board changes — the original 1998 criteria no longer exists.

At the same time, changes in world politics beginning well over six years ago, and currently accelerating recently may cause us to wonder where we are headed in the next decade. Ideally, DXCC country criteria should not be politically charged. Geopolitical entities with large populations should not be neglected from a DXCC point of view for political reasons. At the same time, the desire for new countries and alternately, the desire for no new countries should not be argued ad-infinitum by the ARRL and its advisory committee.

Clearly, the current criteria is broken. We need a new criteria that adds political entities to the list while rejecting those which don’t meet reasonable criteria.

The second matter is that of remote control. Originally, remote control was not really an issue. The technology just wasn’t there for its wide-spread use. The first DXCC rules allowed QSOs to be made from anywhere in your call-area, where call-areas existed. Where they did not, QSOs could be made anywhere within your DXCC country. That rule was later change to restrict your operation to a 150 mile radius of your “original location.” Since 1977, in order to accommodate our increased mobility, QSOs have been valid anywhere within one’s own DXCC country.

Today, enhanced technology utilizing the Internet makes remote control operation possible from anywhere in the world. Although enforcement is virtually impossible, DXCC rules would never be altered to allow contacts to be made with a transmitter outside the bounds indicated by a DXCC certificate. The physical location of a station will likely always define the place for which awards are issued.

Issues remain, however. From where should an operator be allowed to operate? That is where should control points be allowed? If they are restricted, how can such restrictions be enforced? There are many different combinations of equipment and control point locations to be considered.

Rules changes related to both of these matters are under consideration. Do you have some good ideas? This week’s hint is for you to be sure to contact your DXAC representative if you have a stake in these issues. Time is growing short. If you have the ideal solution, be sure to pass it along. Make your ideas known.

*The DX University™ maintains an Internet-based website containing lots of useful DXing information. Visit it at www.dxuniversity.com. The next scheduled in-person DX University session will be held on Thursday, July17, 2014 in Hartford, CT, at the ARRL Centennial celebration.

Some Bandwidth Stuff

In the beginning we had little idea about what frequency we were transmitting on. In fact, we were actually transmitting over a wide range of frequencies. Our bandwidth was huge. When crystal control came along, we were restricted to only one frequency – plus and minus limited modulation – at a time. We could transmit on any frequency for which we had a crystal, but only one at a time.

One would think that would make things simple. In the mid-20th century, while transmitting on single frequencies with VFOs we still didn’t know exactly what our frequency was. So, we often used 100 kHz band-edge markers to help us stay inside the allocated frequency bands.

Unfortunately, operating out of the band can still be a problem. While most of us have transceivers with frequency control that synthesizes signals that are accurate – and displayed – to roughly one part in a million, many of us still have difficulty staying within the limits of our authorizations. Why you say? Let me tell you!

Starting in the fifties, hams – particularly phone guys – knew about sidebands. Single sideband was new, and familiarity with the technology was widespread. Now, what we know is that the radio is on twenty meters, and the radio is set to SSB. The frequency is displayed to the nearest one-hundred or even ten Hertz. What more could we want to know? If a DX Station is calling CQ in a contest on 14.349.7 it’s inside the band limit, right?

If you are up to speed on advanced communications engineering, you will say “Wait! On SSB, you will be probably be transmitting outside the band!” Is that true? One well known contester at a big multi-multi station once told me that he was definitely inside the band because the radio displayed 14.349.7 kHz, and that band limit was 14.350 kHz.

So what is going on? The fact is that the single sideband transmission power spectrum generally occupies a range of frequencies roughly equal to the bandwidth of a voice. This bandwidth is necessary to convey the information contained in the transmission. Pure CW – key down – takes no bandwidth; add some modulation, such as keying and maybe a bit of ripple, and even CW takes some non-zero bandwidth, but very little.

SSB on the other hand, takes roughly 2.7 kHz of bandwidth, starting about 300 Hz above the carrier frequency and extending usually to about 3 kHz. Some newer radios limit the frequency at the high end of the signal, thus limiting the bandwidth, allowing you to creep a bit closer to the band edge. This is done either by limiting the audio frequency response or using a narrower filter in the transmitting chain. (If you think that the transmitting bandwidth is affected by the bandwidth setting for the receiver, check again. Only a few radios do that.)

The rule of thumb has always been to stay about 3 kHz away from a band edge of your sidebands extend in that direction. For example, you should only transmit on 14.347 USB or 7.128 LSB.

Knowing where your sidebands might be of interest to others, as well as your regulator. This came to my attention the other day listening to the operator of a major DXpedition who was on 20 meter single sideband. He was on 14.205 kHz listening from 14.220 to 14.230. Now everyone knows not to venture into the slow-scan television frequencies. (Even though these frequencies weren’t occupied at first, eventually, someone came up and started complaining.) The DXpedition operator eventually heard the complaints. He said that he hadn’t listened above 14.230, but he would move down to 14.225. Nice guy! But if he had been listening at or below 14.230, what was the problem? The problem was that to avoid 14.230, one must keep the carrier frequency below 14.227 in order to limit one’s sidebands from extending beyond 14.230. The DX operator should have known this.

Over the years with frequency control so much better than in the past, we have forgotten. Just “set it, and forget it.” At ARRL we resurrected the Frequency Measuring Test partly because of this problem. Accurate frequency readouts don’t tell the whole story. But you know all this, right? This week’s hint: Do some research, and learn how to stay inside the allocated bands.

Perceptions

During the extraordinary DXpedition to Amsterdam Island in January-February 2014, although the expedition ops were cranking out QSOs at amazing rates, there was the usual grousing about all sorts of misbehavior on the DXpedition frequencies, on the bands, and of course on the various spotting network comments lines. According to many, the poor behavior was the worst ever.

Yes, there were many examples of DXers transmitting on the DXpedition frequencies, some intentional, most inadvertent – people who need to listen better and/or learn how to operate their radios. And yes, there was also some degree of deliberate QRM (DQRM) on the DX frequencies. Yes, the “problem” is becoming worse. There is also much more activity because of more DXers and more DXers chasing many more band-modes. Perceived poor behavior begets more poor behavior. More people trying to use the same frequencies leads to congestion. When DXers hear these examples of poor behavior on the bands, they don’t like it. And why should they, it’s annoying.

Yet Ralph Fedor, K0IR, the team leader was moved to make the following comment in the Twin City DX Association’s Grayline Report http://www.tcdxa.org/Newsletters/March2014Grayline.pdf :

“DXers and DXpeditioners perceive things differently. DXers hear what’s happening on the DXpedition’s transmit frequency. DXpeditioners hear what’s happening on their receive frequency. My perspective is this: Callers were generally courteous and orderly. If I struggled with a call, others generally stood by until I completed the QSO. I experienced no jamming on my receive frequency. If I called for a specific continent, I generally experienced cooperation. Of course there was an exception from time to time; perhaps just a simple mistake. So, in my personal experience, pileups were a pleasure to work —- worldwide.”

Ralph is a very nice guy, and probably doesn’t want to upset anyone with negative comments. Yet, I know from my own personal experience that there is truth in Ralph’s observation. Intentional QRM on the DX frequency is a serious problem for some DXers, especially if they are perhaps within one skip distance from the DQRMer. But, there are always other stations to work while the DQRM continues. Some DXers hear the DQRM, others don’t.

There are also many DXers calling in the pileup out of turn. (DXers also hear these calls because many of them are searching through the pileup for the station being called.) These calls happen for a number of reasons. Many are inadvertent, many are caused by unfortunate timing. These transgressions are easy to discern when listening with two receivers, one on the DX station, one listening to the pileup. These calls might disrupt the DXpedition operator if they are intentionally timed and placed to purposely interfere with the DX operator. The DX op has an excellent tool to combat these calls, however: He can move his listening frequency. Frequency agility is a wonderful tool.

In the end, these apparent disruptions aren’t nearly as bad as they seem to DXers. If the QSO rate is good, and the accuracy is high, the problem is primarily aesthetic, but it doesn’t sound good to the sensitive ears of deserving DXers.

This week’s hint for DXers is to think about what is happening in these major pileups, try to understand why people do what they do. And, try very hard to disregard those factors that don’t really affect your probability of getting in the DXpedition log. It is really to your advantage to devise a way around these situations while others are busy hand-wringing — N7NG

This post originally appeared in The WeeklyDX™, Helpful Hints No. 60 from the DX University™ 24. March, 2014

Remote Control DXing and DXCC

One of the issues currently under consideration by the DXAC is that of remote control of a DXer’s station. It is important to recalibrate our existing programs with respect to current and future remote control techniques because it is here, and it is being used extensively. Remote control is virtually impossible to control under any sort of rules. With the remote equipment available now, such operation is virtually impossible to detect. Failure now to fully address remote control rules and restrictions will subject our most beloved programs to ridicule. There are several remote control configurations, which must be considered independently. One such configuration is operating a station or stations in various locations within one’s own DXCC entity.

One of the concerns highlighted in a 2008 DXAC report on remote control was the idea of “propagational advantage.” The idea that the ability to remotely control a station located anywhere within a DXers own country provides a DXing advantage seems to be a hang-up for many DXers. Why is this so?

(Before discussing remote control, we must stipulate that when controlling an amateur radio station remotely, it is the location of the transmitter, receiver and antennas, that is definitive. According to current DXCC rules, a station — the transmitter, receiver and antennas — must be located within one’s own DXCC entity. The control point must also be located in the same DXCC entity. It is also necessary to understand that the laws of amateur radio operation at the station location must be followed.)

According to the original DXCC rules (1937), a DXer could make contacts from any location within his own DXCC country. This was a simple rule that made lots of sense in 1937. Shortly thereafter, however, the “rule” was changed such that QSOs had to be made from within the same call area where call areas existed, or in the absence of call areas, from locations within 150 miles of the “original” location. The 150 mile rule was in place until late 1977 and early 1978 when it was phased-in in favor of the original rule. The reasons for the 1977 change to Rule 9 was different – a much more mobile population – but the result was the same. This article is not a discussion about DXCC Rule 9.

It seems that almost from the very beginning there has been a sense that the resulting “propagational advantage” is somehow unfair. Just exactly whom is this advantage over, and how is it unfair?

The concept of a propagational advantage only makes sense in the context of competition. Somehow DXers – perhaps from the very beginning – assumed that chasing DX within the DXCC program was competitive – some form of competition. Maybe it was natural for DXers to be competitive. Perhaps it was natural for DXers living in a small area to be competitive, but as far as I know, no such competition has ever been set forth in the DXCC rules. If DXers wish to compete in some manner, they can create their own set of rules and in fact they often do just that.

A New England DXer might be viewed as having a large propagational advantage over a “Suffering Six” in California as there is such a large number of easy-to-work entities just across the Atlantic. Of course, this advantage is inherent. It has nothing to do with remote control. In a way, it might seem that by supporting restrictive rules, east coast DXers are trying to keep the poor Westerners “in their place.” Or, perhaps by promoting limits on remote control, some west coast DXers with big stations might be trying to maintain their own advantages over local DXers with small stations.

Really, there should be no such concept as propagational advantage in DXing because there should be no official competition. If DXCC were a competitive endeavor, it would be unfair on its face – by definition. DXing is inherently unfair. Propagation differences between widely separated areas make competition meaningless. Some DXers will have bigger antennas and more power — some even more yet!

Instead, DXCC is — and should be — an award recognizing personal achievement. How could it be otherwise? If you want to compete, you can participate in a contest. In contests, there are usually categories of recognition for competitors in different areas or regions. There is no such categorization for DXers. DXCC is not competitive, and the rules should not suggest that it is.

Unfortunately, despite the personal achievement aspect of DXCC, certain basic elements of the DXCC program seem to support competition. Consider the periodic listings of individual DXCC standings calculated to a single point. Consider as well the Honor Roll listings. Finally, consider the Top of the Honor Roll. These all tend to suggest competition. “I got to the Top of the Honor Roll in 12 years!”

After dismissing competition, we are left with one’s own personal values. If a DXer utilizes large, remotely operated stations in various parts of a large country to accumulate his totals, that DXer is establishing his values. There’s nothing wrong with that. He has simply defined the terms of his accomplishments. If another DXer fastidiously makes all of his Topband QSOs from a single location, he is speaking of his values. Many people say that those who cheat at DXing are only cheating themselves. This is true when thinking in terms of personal values. When DXers cheat, they are defining a certain set of values. (Most people know who these people are, and it doesn’t matter much.)

To maintain the integrity of its DX programs, the ARRL must deal with the remote control issue with rules that are consistent with current technological trends and usage and its ability to enforce them. The rules must lead the way in a rational manner. Failure to do so – and perhaps even returning long obsolete rules – will harm the program and lead to increasing controversy.