DXCC and Ham Radio “Epoch”

Autumn colors are fleeting . . . as is life . . . 

It was fun presenting at Pacificon in the Antenna Seminar, and for the first time in more than 10 years of presenting there, I arrived early and stayed for the entire seminar. Its always interesting to see how we all just keep aging – at Pacificon and at Visalia.

The presenters included several people whom I’ve presented with over many years, the one I miss is Dean Straw, N6BV, and who has been a real mentor – from when I first got back into ham radio in 2001 until the last time I saw Dean – a few years ago at Visalia. I haven’t seen Dean in person for a while.

This was a “tongue in cheek” photo op – where I had special “Team HFTA” caps made for Dean and I – Visalia 2013

I staged a photo of Dean and I – with Dean “presenting” my Honor Roll plaque to me. The “inside joke” was that Dean’s fantastic HFTA program was the software and technique that helped me (literally) get “over the hump” and make Honor Roll from my Orinda QTH – and where my station and antennas are down in a bowl. Dean appreciated the gesture, and we had fun staging this. It ended up in QST and on several DX web sites.

Carl Smith, N4AA just passed at age 77, and I had been a long time subscriber to his wonderful DX Magazine. VK0EK had an issue dedicated to our DX-pedition, and now that Carl is SK, I reflect on my DX-ing years going back 16 years. It has made me think of all of the characters who made DX-ing what it was along those years. I remember working Chuck Brady, N4BQW on many semi rare and even rare locations.

VK0EK at the 2017 Dayton DX Dinner

Rather than get morose about how time marches forward and how things have changed (for better or worse), I’ve been thinking that there are “eras” that occur with anything that you participate in for any length of time. When I was WN2QHN and WA2QHN, I was only active from 1973 – 1977, and so being a ham as a teen was a real little “blip” in time – so much so it was almost inconsequential.

When I got back into ham radio in 2001 – I picked up an Icom 756ProII, which was a revolutionary new rig. I then moved to a Ten Tec Orion I and then II:

Ten Tec is pretty much dead, but in their zenith, they created one of my very favorite rigs. There are days I still wish I had mine.

Elecraft beat Ten Tec at its own game, and I switched back in 2008 if I remember right

I have an Elecraft KPA-500 in the closet and use my new SPE Expert 1.3K FA amplifier instead. It will be the very last amplifier that I own – once I work the last 12 on 160M and last 2 for Top of DXCC Honor Roll – I will sell the SPE and go back to the KPA-500

There are several threads in my ham radio epoch. There was the WA2QHN years, and now the more modern 2001 – 2017 period. This more modern period started when my oldest boy was 10 and youngest was 6. They are now 26 and 22, which is hard to believe.

The thing that helps me still feel young at heart is that technology keeps changing – and I am already behind. Flex Radio is the new shiny penny, but since I am at the end of my DXCC chase, I am not motivated to jump to the new shiny penny. In fact, I am much more likely to head backward to simpler home brewed rigs – especially if they are Arduino and or Raspberry Pi based. I am sure that soon enough, we will be assembling radios from such boards and they will be very configurable and customiz-able. With FT8, and whatever follows it – we also will no longer need 1500 watts.

There are DX-pedition teams that will come and go – some mega DX-peditioners will retire soon – ending that thread in my “epoch”, and I guess my epoch will be defined as closed when I finish my DXCC counters. I expect that will be around 2020, so I will have worked 19 years on it. That’s how long the activations were between Heard Island – VK0IR and VK0EK, and while it was theoretically possible for me to have completed DXCC Top of Honor Roll in 2016 – with VK0EK (because I missed the two that I need), if I make Top of Honor Roll by 2020 I will feel like that is well within “fast”. For some its a lifetime pursuit.

There is overlap – the end of my DXCC epoch is so slow – almost painfully so – that I’ve taken up with the new Maker Ham stuff – and at Pacificon, that went over VERY well. It was encouraging to see that so many old dawgs are as interested in the new tricks that we have at our fingertips.

Time waits for no man – onward!

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