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 . . .