K5LAD - 50+ Years of Ham Radio Memories
Working DX intelligently
Subtitle: The question is not Where have all the flowers gone but instead,
"Where has all the common sense gone?
by Jim Pickett K5LAD
Search keywords: common sense
Some years ago, someone posed questions about what would alien beings think of we on Earth if their only opinions were formed from watching our old I Love Lucy TV broadcasts. It was postulated that since the frequencies used to transmit analog television signals did not usually bounce off any layer above the earth they would just keep going forever until, perhaps, they would be received by some alien many light years away. The interesting and whimsical question was, what would they think of our civilization if it were only some of those older TV signals they viewed?
One might ask the same type of questions about what might an alien think of us if they only received radio signals of Earth-bound hams in a pileup, attempting to work some rare DX station. Perhaps the only advantage from that might be that there could be a pause in their plans to bring an attack upon Earth. After all they might report, We sure dont want to take on those Earthlings since they are obviously crazy as loons.
A newcomer to the DXing. ranks, whether newly licensed or a timeworn old-timer, would probably assume that they could learn the ropes simply by doing a bit of listening on the bands where Ding was taking place. Nothing, however, could be further from the truth.
There are numerous avenues to working DX that include working DX stations during a contest, working a DXpedition, or just stumbling across a rare foreign station. For the most part, this article will be aimed primarily at working DX stations operating from a DXpedition.
If you have a desire to enter the exciting area of working DXpeditions on the HF bands, there are some basics that you can adopt from the beginning:
1. You should know that most DXpeditions operate from a remote, often uninhabited area of the globe. Since this site is only visited once every few years (or even decades) its going to be a much desired (needed) contact for hams all over the world. That means pileups galore, which means hundreds, perhaps thousands, of stations crammed into a small spectrum of frequencies trying to work the DX station.
2. Rule #1 DXpeditions almost exclusively operates using split frequency operation. That means they transmit on one frequency and receive on another frequency or range of frequencies (They will often say, Listening from 5 to 15 kHz up). This means DO NOT transmit on the DX stations frequency youll cover him up for others and he is NOT listening there anyway so your transmission is fruitless and absolutely useless. This is a time where common sense should rule . If hes not listening on his frequency and has announced where he is listening, what good is it to transmit on the same frequency he is on? Common sense would tell you that he is not going to do something special and different, i.e., tune back up to his TX frequency, just to contact your station.
3. Rule #2 Listen for a minute or two before you ever place your transmitted signal on the air. If youre hearing the DX station well enough, listen to the calls of the stations hes working. If you dont actually hear any of THOSE stations, perhaps theyre not within range of your station but probably you arent hearing them because theyre not transmitting on that same frequency. Common sense would tell you:
a. Im trying to work a DXpedition that half the worlds hams need,
b. Im not hearing the stations hes been calling,
c. DXpeditions almost always operate split,
d. perhaps I should listen to him for a bit to hear him tell where hes actually listening.
Common sense is in such short supply these days . but then, look around at other things look at the county and youll see a total departure of any common sense. Common sense; what we used to refer to as horse sense, is a quality that used to be available in large supply but now is, for the most part, missing in many, if not most, aspects of life --- including ham radio.
As an aside, failure to use proper judgment and common sense could be akin to a form of insanity. I believe it was Albert Einstein who defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
It should also be noted that the station who continues to call a DXpedition station on his own frequency, and ignores the multitude of nice and/or rude reminders from the Up Police that the station is working split, there awaits for them a worse, but aptly deserved, destiny. Continued ignoring of stations who insist on throwing out their call atop the DX station, thinking they are going to work him there, will often have someone answer him, just as though they really were the desired station. The station receives a report which they believe is from the desired station and they go their merry way to sit back a wait for that juicy DX QSL card or LoTW confirmation. This is a card, however, that they will never receive since there was no actual contact with the DX station. If a station is idiotic enough to continually transmit incorrectly, even though they have been informed, they deserve to be tricked out of a legitimate confirmation. Fools do foolish things and receive foolish results.
Ding and working DXpeditions can be one of the most satisfying and rewarding activities available to a licensed ham operator. It can also be trying, sad, and frustrating to both the amateur in pursuit of the DX contact, to the DX contact themselves and to many others trying to make a DXpedition contact. Common sense can usually spell the difference between a positive or a negative experience.
There .. I feel better after venting but gosh, I sure do miss seeing the common sense that has made our hobby, and our country, great.
Written October, 2012 - published TARC Newsletter November, 2012