DX University™

  A Guide for DXers and DXpeditioners

A New Level of Strange

The WeeklyDX™ Helpful Hints No. 62 from the DX University™*


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.