This is the first part of an article I wrote for the newsletter of the local amateur radio club which I used to be a member of. I resigned a few years ago when the club was effectively taken over by a training clique who were mainly interested in generating a revenue stream for the local scouts and not at all interested in dx.
This will be an irreverent and not too serious look at how to be a successful HF DXer. Well, what is DXing? For some people it’s working the local 2m/70cm repeater from the other side of town. For our purposes I’m going to define it as working ALL of the DXCC entities on as many different bands as possible in either ssb, cw or rtty. (Sorry but we won’t be discussing psk31 here as it sends me to sleep…zzzzzz).
What’s a DXCC? Well, simply put it’s either a country or part of a country – the American ARRL keeps and approves the definitive list (at the present time there are 340 of the critters). The UK actually comprises seven DXCC, (England, Scotland, N Ireland, Wales, Isle of Man, Guernsey and Jersey). The USA is basically one DXCC (and so is China). If you want to find out the latest list of DXCC Google (as always) is your best friend, Joe.
So, let’s say that to be a successful DXer you need to work 340 DXCC entities; in ssb, cw and rtty on the following bands: 160m, 80m, 40m, 30m, 20m, 17m, 15m, 12m, 10m and 6m. Time to introduce a new concept – band slot. There are 340 (DXCC) x 3 (modes) x 10 (bands) bands slots to be worked – a total of 10,200 band slots! You will enter DXing nirvana if you have worked all 10,200 by the time you become a silent key – instead of 80 virgins awaiting you you’ll have top of the range Icom and Yaesu transceivers, stacked yagis on 100m towers and the sun spots will always be large and plentiful! But enough of that.
Our goal as DXers is to work as many of these band slots as possible. The first step should be to work the 340 DXCC entities on whatever bands and modes you can (actually the very first step is to work your first one hundred and take it from there!). By the way some people think you have to send off QSL cards to the States in order to be told how many DXCC you have worked. Nothing could be further from the truth – you know how many you have worked! Remember – this is a hobby and a certain bunch of our transatlantic cousins threw a lot of tea into Boston harbour to protest about King George having control of the DXCC list (or something like that). So nowadays you don’t need Obama to tell you who you have or haven’t worked!
There are quite a few ways to check you are in the dx log if you are bothered: use the ARRL Logbook of the World (LOTW) system, check dx station’s online log, check dx stations’s Clublog page or even just send the dx station an email! I’ve done all four in my time – LOTW is useful though it is a pain to get set-up and uses heavier security than on-line banking. Perfect example of an over-engineered system!
So how to get on the right road to DXing nirvana? Assuming that you have a radio and antenna what is the most important thing of all? Expensive radio, lots of antennas, morse key? Nope, the most important thing of all is switching the radio on and tuning around the bands. Because if you don’t do that you won’t be building up your total very quickly! So,to be a successful DXer switch on your radio at least once a day and tune around – your aim is to work a new band slot. Luigi and his Italian mates may be overrunning 40 and 20m, transmitting on top of the DX station but have you worked Italy itself on 12m? On 30m?
In the next article I’ll talk about how to optimise your working periods and build up those band slot totals!