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Is the Honor Roll Too Difficult?

The WeeklyDX™ Helpful Hints No. 41 from the DX University™* 


The history of the Honor Roll goes back nearly to the beginning of the DXCC program. The first mention of such recognition was presented in QST for May 1940, p. 76:

This month, DXCC members were listed individually with each member's call followed by its country total.  (Membership numbers were dropped from the list in Sept. 1939.)  Starting with this issue, individual calls and totals are listed only for those with country totals of 116 or more.  For totals of 115 or less, the country total is given, followed by a list of all calls of members at that level.  65 DXCC members have totals of 116 or more in this list.  Since these top 65 have been given more prominence in the listing, they are, in a sense, members of an "Honor Roll." *

Later, in QST for Nov. 1947, p. 79, the First Honor Roll listing was presented:

A new form of DXCC listings has been adopted.  The purpose in choosing this presentation is to credit more prominently the progress of the live-wire DXers toward higher totals…Henceforth the listing will credit the top ten DX men in a Century Club Honor Roll.  New members will receive an initial listing.  Further listings will be made under "Endorsements" only as progress to or past the 110, 120, etc. marks is shown.  It is hoped that the new listing method will encourage members to submit additional confirmations above the 100 mark. *

Originally, in the mention of an Honor Roll, the level of achievement was arbitrary – those with a total of 116 countries or more. Later, “... the listing will credit the top ten DX men in a Century Club Honor Roll.” Just the top ten individuals were listed! Eventually, the Honor Roll would include those DXers who have been credited for a number of countries within the numerical top ten of the current mixed countries list.

It hasn’t always been that way, however. Early on, the number of countries required was based on the all-time list, including deletions! With over sixty deletions on the all-time list today, that would be…uh…interesting. The change to exclude deleted entities from the Honor Roll list was announced in April 1962.

In this article, I am wondering aloud whether the numerical top-ten is still a relevant measure. Is it perhaps too difficult? Why would it suddenly be too difficult? Over the decades, the total number of current countries has increased considerably. The ARRL’s Diamond DXCC Challenge of 2012 reminded us that there were just 231 entities on the DXCC list when the program was first introduced in 1937. An Honor Roll using the same top-ten entities and based on that list would require one confirming contacts with approximately 95.7% of the available entities. Today, with 340 entities on the mixed list, a DXer needs nearly 98% of the available entities. In percentages it doesn’t seem that much different, but with 109 more to work, the chance of running into several more “impossible” countries is significantly greater. Getting to within ten of the current top would be considerably more difficult. To illustrate with an extreme – engineers like to do this – consider that if there were 1000 entities on the list, you would have 660 more possibilities for rare or impossible entities. As a consequence, it would be much more difficult to attain the same top ten. Nine hundred ninety one out of 1000 would be 99 percent.


 I had never even thought of this situation until hearing some discussion about the difficulty of reaching the Top of the Honor roll while being simultaneously engaged in working toward the Diamond Challenge in mid-2012. Very clearly, it is more difficult to reach the DXCC Honor Roll today than say 60 years ago.

One solution, of course would be to lower the threshold at which point a DXer would qualify to be listed on the Honor Roll. The factor might be scaled according to the increase in the number of current countries. Doing “the math,” this would work to be close to the top fifteen. Reducing the Honor Roll threshold by five from the top ten to the top fifteen would put the differential and therefore the difficulty back where it was originally.

Actually, it is not clear to me exactly when the “top-ten” level was adopted, nor is it clear how many entities were on the current list at that time, but you get the idea. What is clear is that there are more current entities today, and it is considerably more difficult.

I am sure many DXers would love to eliminate five of the most difficult DXCC entities from the requirement for their gaining Honor Roll status. Of course, old-timers wouldn’t like to make it easier for newcomers to get on the ‘roll, but at the same time, I could easily make a case that the old-timers had it too easy! Certainly, it was relatively easier. Think about it, restoring the original easier-to-attain Honor Roll status!

* Thanks to Jim Maxwell, W6CF (SK) for his historical notes.

These weekly articles published in the WeeklyDX™ are archived in the pages of The DX University. For more information on these topics, see www.dxuniversity.com The DX University™ is an in-person learning session for newcomers and old-timers wishing to hone their DXing skills. The next scheduled sessions will be at the International DX Convention in Visalia California, April 19, 2013. Register for the DX Academy at www.dxconvention.com