DX University™

  A Guide for DXers and DXpeditioners

DX History

The WeeklyDX™ Helpful Hints No. 46 from the DX University™*


This past weekend, I attended the ARRL Rocky Mountain Division Convention in Estes Park, Colorado. The primary purpose for my trip was a DX University session. A secondary reason for the trip was a rare tour of the NIST stations WWV and WWVB near Fort Collins, Colorado. As it turned out, the WWV/WWVB tour was probably the highlight of my weekend.

One interesting session at the DXU session was Walt Stinson’s (W0CP) discussion of DXing history and its relevance to todays’ DXing. Walt is a past ARRL Director, and member of the “DXCC-2000” committee that re-evaluated the DXCC program in 1997-1998. His discussion was most interesting. It gave me pause to think further about why we study history and how such study can benefit all of us.

Walt described the exploits of the famous DXer Don Wallace, W6AM, and in contrast, went on to compare the less famous DXpeditioner Dr. Don Miller (W9WNV) with bicyclist Lance Armstrong. The similarities between Miller and Armstrong are striking. Don was a great operator, Lance was a great bicyclist. Don could work six DXers at once, and Lance would pass everyone on the tour with ease. Walt suggested that we all need a hero. We are supportive of our heroes even in adversity, and we are eventually crestfallen if or when it all turns out badly. Those who were there in the sixties – including “Professor Cass” – often described “the situation” in just that manner.

As mentioned often in many arenas, the study of history can help us to avoid repeating mistakes made in the past, and it can assist us in making better decisions for the future. It can help us to understand how individuals respond to programs, their intent and their rules. Although programs frequently change in order to be relevant in later decades, individuals and their reaction to the programs often seem to change less quickly.

With changing technology, what will DXCC even mean in the not-too-distant future? What will DXing mean in a world where communication to all parts of the globe is instantaneous and always “five and nine”? To many of us it is already clear that day in and day out, S-Band (Skype) is much more reliable than 20 meters. Of course, the difficulty is the game, so we already know some of the answers. Being propagationally challenged is what it’s all about.

From Jan Perkins’ book about Don Wallace, Don talked about a trek to obtain his amateur license in 1909. The inspector’s office was in San Francisco, and Don was working for a steamship company in the Los Angeles area. One day he boarded a ship to travel to SF to see the inspector and obtain a license. In route, he obtained an affidavit from his shipping company that indicated that he could copy Morse at…you guessed it! Five words-per-minute.

Of course, even that requirement has gone away, but at that time the new 5 WPM code requirement was in effect. Hearing this, I thought how ironic it was that we had gone full circle, 5 WPM to 20 WPM and back to 5 WPM. It seems that the use of high-speed code as a filter to keep out the riff-raff is no longer desirable.

Many high school students find the study of history boring and irrelevant. That’s often because of the way it’s presented – facts and footnotes. According to the famous historian David McCullough, history presented simply as stories can be extremely fun and informative. So, from time to time I will be exploring where we DXers have come from and where we might be going. Stories of my own experiences and those of others. If nothing else, it could be fun to learn more about where we have been in the past. If it works well, we might add a history section to the DX University archives. It could also be fun to put some of the old stories in a repository, available for any of use to read from time to time.

* These weekly articles published in the WeeklyDX™ are archived in the pages of The DX University. The DX University™ is an in-person learning session for newcomers and old-timers wishing to hone their DXing skills. See us at www.dxuniversity.com.