DX University™

  A Guide for DXers and DXpeditioners

What Some of the Newer DXers Need to Know

The WeeklyDX™ Helpful Hints No. 52 from the DX University™*


Learn From History: What Some of the Newer DXers Need to Know

Chod Harris, VP2ML/WB2CHO, who edited the The DX Bulletin and started The DX Magazine, told me once that when the mail was slow, he asked one of his contributors to write something attacking Lists and Nets. This was always guaranteed to generate traffic!

When one of the locals was criticized for arranging schedules with a rare DX station the other day, he wondered aloud about the difference between 1) a DXer moving a rare DX station from band to band and 2) having mass schedules – many callers – with a very rare station and orchestrating the resulting on-the-air goings on. Personally, I don’t see the comparison. Essentially, the local was establishing a mini DX net. Now, handled properly, there is absolutely nothing at all wrong with such arrangements.

The conversation tended toward describing questionable goings on, however, and listening to this narrative, I was reminded of earlier times when “lists and nets” were more prevalent than today. DX nets were common in the seventies. Some loved them and some really, really hated them – maybe more so. In a DX net operation, the net control station – the Listmaster – would start by making a list of callers from a large pileup. He would then call the DXers one at a time, sometimes identifying them by their last two letters and give them an opportunity to call “The DX.” If a valid QSO was made, the Listmaster would pronounce “Good Contact!”

To be fair, some of these DX operators were not really interested in DX, pileups or even working DXers. In fact, some of these DX ops really disliked pileups, so the nets performed a service of sorts. The DX ops only wanted to talk to their friends from their far-off location. But in trying to be polite, they often found themselves inundated by an eager Listmaster and his DXer followers. The Listmasters were very important, and were looked up to by the eager ones.

The usual routine went like this: The managers of Lists and Nets sort of “cornered” sometimes unwitting operators at a rare DX station and coaxed them to move to the net frequency and participate on a net with the intention of providing contacts to multitudes of eager – but somewhat lost – DXers. Nets or schedules themselves weren’t themselves that bad, but they became very questionable – bordering on unethical – when the net control operators went to extreme lengths to fabricate a “Good Contact.” Afterwards, of course, the Listmaster would subsequently bless the contact by saying “Good Contact.” Of course on occasion he failed to formalize the contact. I recall one case where about ten minutes after a questionable QSO, a poor KB6 ask the net in a rather sheepish tone: “Could someone please tell me if that was a good contact?” These were the good old days.

In 1979, before the International DX Convention in Fresno, [California] a high-profile debate between luminaries was touted in the pre-convention literature. There would be a monumental exchange of ideas (and maybe vitriol) on Nets and Lists. I was there, and I would have to say that nothing new was discussed, and among that group, there were few supporters of nets. The Big Debate fizzled. Fresno was a joint meeting of real DXers, north and south. (In case you missed it, let me emphasize again that lists and nets aren’t inherently unethical, but they do tend to degenerate.)

Today though, we may again need to discuss ethics and even morals. If you claim a QSO what are the parameters that define that QSO. I have often been asked: “What constitutes a good contact?” Generally speaking, an exchange of information – including callsigns – is all that is required. No assistance in exchanging that information can be sought or supplied. That is a bare minimum. To the best of my knowledge, no organization requires a signal report, although a signal report is often cited as being necessary. There are many variations and ways to go astray, of course. If a third party says “over,” he is acknowledging that the DXer can’t hear the DX station and is telling the DXer to finish the QSO anyway. If a DXer learns the callsign and even the signal report on the Internet, rather than on the band, there may be a problem.

Suppose you move a multiplier to another band in a WW DX Contest – 80M to 160M. You already know his callsign – a priori knowledge – and you have mutually decided on a frequency. You go to the new band, and you hear a station. You hear a signal, but just barely – ESP. Maybe you hear two letters, enough to be pretty sure it’s the station you want. You already know the exchange – the CQ Zone -- so you log it. Is that a good contact? Well, it’s up to you – and him – isn’t it?

There are many rules in DXing that simply can’t be enforced. There are issues concerning power, the Internet, and remote control. Too much power is illegal, but other things are not areas for which you will run afoul of the authorities. I believe each of us has to openly define our own values in working DX. This idea will command more thought in the coming months and years. There’s not much else to do about these issues except talk about them.


*The DX University™ is a day-long learning session for newcomers and old-timers wishing to hone their DXing skills. The most recent scheduled session was on Friday, 20 September at the W9DXCC in Elk Grove, Illinois. In person sessions are being scheduled for 2014. DXing resources can be found on the DX University Website. For more information go to www.dxuniversity.com