The Anachronistic DXCC Program

When I started DXing in 2001 I clearly remembered feeling like I needed to catch up on something I had missed out on since I left Ham Radio in 1977. DXing.

In 1973 or 1974, a fellow who lived across town and who was in High School, Larry Reiser, WB2KBH tried to get me into DXing and contesting. I was a CW rag chewer and a “Traffic Man”, and just wasn’t interested. I was in middle school. Larry went SK a few months back as N9LR. Turns out he was very good friends with Craig, K9CT. They both went to Bradley University together in Peoria. Small world.

Anyway, I love “living history”. I love hearing stories about the way things came to be. In parallel, I’ve been in a career where if you didn’t keep current with the latest technology, software especially, you would quickly be put out to pasture. My recent foray into the Maker world has me wondering where Ham Radio is in relation, and doing the URAT project told me that Ham Radio and Makers simply must join forces. They are even better together.

When I still see DX-peditions using “Press Release #9” and look at their web sites that look like 1995, I just cringe a little. It makes DXCC look long in the tooth.

I then see people saying DXCC is dead (often opined on the Low band Chat and on several web sites) because of remotes or some other new-fangled “mechanization” or whatever. I see OOTs really stuck in the past. Maybe DXCC needs to stay an anachronism? Maybe that’s part of it’s appeal? I don’t see how it can continue that way. I love the historical aspect of DXCC, but when I compare it to the newness and freshness of the Maker community, it makes me wonder. I am quite sure that Makers are the future of Ham Radio, but don’t know where future DXers (who would keep DXCC relevant) will come from.

The program has been driven by Boomers and several generations before them, now long SK. 3Y0Z costs more than $700,000, and is still short by over $100,000. How long can we continue on that road? Two years ago the Millennial Generation surpassed the Boomers in numbers. Boomers are going SK and Millennials have just started their careers. Its the equivalent of me living in the 80’s. My kids are Millennials. I even tried to get more kids into Ham Radio by holding a class during summer break, and all kids passed their Technician test at an MDARC meeting, but none continued on being active in Ham Radio. HOWEVER, when I wear my Hack a Day Maker hat, I get people asking me about Making on BART quite often. They really like it when I say I do Making and Ham Radio. In that guise they both sound cool, modern, hip. Its kind of funny – but my evil ploy works!

In fact, I am giving two presentations at Pacificon in October, one is Low Band DX-ing antennas and the other the URAT – Maker Meets Ham. I’m doing my part – and not just blogging about it – I just gave the first URAT presentation at EBARC and its really important to get out there in person and share.

I have had several people interested in Making come over to my Maker Space – which is also my Ham Radio shack, and they then see the cool connection between ham and maker. Its very encouraging.

Back to DXCC – that’s a different story when it comes to attracting hams to become DXers and DXCCers. Its no wonder to me that the ARRL would be loathe to add any new entities to the list (which would require a rules change). I actually could care a less (personally) since I am in a transition away from DXCC and into the Maker world. But yet, I still care just enough to care and think about it. Its been a fun time in my life and DXCC helped me through a rough spot of 7 years – which is only a few years short of the 11 years it took me to earn Honor Roll. But I do often wonder where the new fresh DXers will come from. Some say Europe, but I don’t see the numbers at all – only a small fraction of the Boomers who cut their teeth on ham radio and even got into IT – just like me! That seems like an era that won’t be replaced. That was pre-PC for God’s sake. “Kids these days” are “Post Internet” let alone “Pre PC”. Its actually amazing.

I do know that DXCC has been relevant as long as there has been “critical mass” – and by that I mean numbers of participants and there willingness to donate to DX-peditions. 3Y0Z and its cost (heck even having worked on VK0EK and helping raise the money we did) just makes me feel like we have passed a certain point or peak.

I don’t see where the vacuum will be filled – even though nature abhors it . . .

7 Comments on “The Anachronistic DXCC Program

  1. I guess Classical DXCC is long dead. It died a thousand times over, with the advent of split operation, SSB, mega-DXpeditions, remotes, LoTW, Club Log, you get the idea. DXCC is an anachronism, certainly, but it’s not stuck in the 30s — that might actually be something worth preserving if only as a historical curiosity. No, the problem is that it is neither historical nor up-to-date. It’s stuck somewhere around 1987, with that awful faux plastiwalnut veneer. It could get away with that when there weren’t so many other compelling options for hobby time, but I think technology has finally caught up with it. My feeling is, either get with it and get modern (I think the ARRL is trying although it’s a bit of a losing battle) or give up and accept a long terminal decline. Frankly, I think all signs point to the latter.

    But don’t pickle the program in aspic. It needs a freshen up or it’ll be toast. Maybe we could consider ideas that would make it fresh again.

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    • I think its a valiant effort by the NCDXC to offer elmering classes to say the EMMCOMM folk – which is where the biggest growth in Ham Radio is these days. The ARRL is doing a pretty good job with the Maker thing, but I just learned that they still think in terms of building Maker projects like a Heathkit – step by step with a full BOM. They havn’t “groked” that the Maker world is where someone gives you a “Hello World” and expects that YOU will run with that. Shoe horning a Heathkit mentality on a Maker just won’t cut it. I hope they really explore the Maker world and get this.

      One thing the Millenials pride themselves on is travel – and they want to go where others have not. They also are concerned about the environment. I am SURE that the “numbers” of DXers will decline and stay lower for good – that the Boomers were the “Pig in the Python”, and that FY2016Q1 was the biggest turning point in regards to that. HOWEVER – why not tap into young world travelers – “Adventure Travelers” and convince them to bring Ham Radio along? The idea will be to strategically place fewer people going to rare places where the travel is paid for. How about getting environmental scientists going to Heard Island or other far flung places to get into ham radio? Its utilitarian as well as a good way to spend time when not collecting samples. Just musing here . . .

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      • But that’s still about how to keep the basic program intact and on life support. I don’t think it really addresses the (ir)relevancy of the program. I’m skeptical that the core premise of DXCC will continue to be attractive as-is as time goes on.

        Then again, there are more participants now than ever. Signs of success or a dead cat bounce?

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      • Sad to say, my gut tells me its not a matter of the program going the way of the Dinosaur, but when. I just wonder if future generations – who were born after the internet, smart phones and satellite navigation will bother with HF. It would be like me using Spark – why?

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      • My mother teaches high school. About 10 years ago she mentioned to me that when she taught “20th Century Literature,” she realized none of her students could remember the 20th century. Next year, even the oldest won’t even have been *born* in the 20th century!

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  2. DXCC is not the same as it was “back in the day” but it hangs proudly in my shack. I’m feverishly working on my CW DCCC and then start working on bands. I’d also like to get my QRP DXCC , even if it’s only in my mind.

    LoTW has made it easier, not having to collect cards but I love cards and want them. They are something tangible I can hold and show others where “I’ve been.” In fact, my 15 yo daughter who does not care about ham radio still likes to see the cards I get (there is still hope for her).

    Remote operations has also changed DXCC. No longer do you have to deal with the hand you are dealt with noise and antenna wise. You can rent a superstation on a quiet mountain. Is it fair to someone like me with a modest station and antenna? The way I look at it is my sense of accomplishment is much greater, personally, since I know I got my DXCC with 100 watts of less on a 30′ high inverted vee wire antenna.

    So, DXCC may not be the same as it was, but it’s not dead.

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    • I’ve never had a problem with remotes and also have made all of my Q’s with my own station in my own back yard. I solved the problem that some have with remotes by listing my accomplishments on my QRZ page and specifying how I made those.

      I’ve been a computer programmer for 37 years, so I think I’d be a hypocrite to be against any technological advances – but I also can play the game the “old fashioned way”.

      Maybe with modes like FT8 – people in HOA’s and whatnot can hve fun with something like a KX3 and hidden wire. So maybe FT8 mode will save the high cost of using a paid remote station.

      I always thought I’d join a local club or contest station if I could no longer have a station, but I think a KX3 and a wire and FT8 could be run almost anywhere – so maybe new technologies and modes will be the best solution?

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