Is The ARRL DXCC Operating Program Still Relevant?

There are actually flying bikes and eBikes and other types of bikes that beg the question “Are these still bikes?” and “Is this still considered cycling?” Double plus points for using it in a brewery name . . . 

There is hardly a thing in this world that hasn’t been affected by technology in recent years. The DXCC Program stayed relatively stable during my years working towards Honor Roll – 2001 – 2013. But just barely. The biggest changes were a few entities were added and removed, but that was no big deal. Radio’s and connecting radios with networks were in the incubation stage. DXpeditions were not revolutionized – they had been planned and carried out the same way they did them since 1997 and VK0IR, maybe even before. DX Clusters were considered a potential DXCC killer at one time – but it was a non existential threat.

A few years later, and Remotes were allowed. I watched many OT’s and OOT’s claim that DXCC was DEAD.  Today, I read a ham who said that FT8 has the potential to kill DXCC because if it is used as a remote then anyone can set one up in P5 and then anyone can earn Honor Roll or Top of Honor Roll. It has been declared an existential threat . . .

That is a poorly thought out argument. The real existential threat to DXCC is the cost and access to activate an ultra rare entity. North Korea, Syria, Turkmenistan and Mount Athos are examples of entities off limits due to man’s folly. In a day they could be made common place garden variety DX. But Bouvet, Heard Island, etc will never be made easy. At $750,000, Bouvet is a bell weather – is this the beginning of the end of being able to activate some places? I think yes IF we insist on only large scale projects. 3Y0E was one man in a tent. Scientists visit there yearly …

The problem is NOT DXCC, its aging MEN who want to hold onto some “olde tyme” idea – when things were better – Ham Radio V1.0 (and each of us have our description of what that is – heh heh). We might not be ready for Ham Radio V2.0. But the problem is the operator, not the technology.

Another existential threat is the fact that the DXCC is made up of aging Boomers who seem to be going SK regularly. That will certainly have an impact and my crystal ball is cloudy after 2028…

And if the DXCC Program needs an occasional rule tweak, so what, that’s been the rule, not the exception (bad pun intended).

I will admit – the ARRL DXCC program is an anachronism. One reason many get into it is the lore of days gone by – there is the romance of adventure, the changing world map, etc, etc. We seem to be able to handle changes in the world map – where the list changes, but very ironically, we cannot handle changes in technology as well. And this is a technology based hobby!

I think the problem is most people think that the DXCC program is a contest and an award. It really is NOT. It is an Operating Activity where YOU compete against YOU.

Most people I know don’t really get that – or maybe they do get it but also slip into the belief that it is also a contest of some sort. That might be natural because the only output of any value of this Operating Activity is the knowledge and experience we get (and its a recreational experience for sure), and the only “award” really is “bragging rights”. But its only human nature to get puffed up when bragging and then it can start feeling like a contest.

The DXCC program is only still viable because people want it to be. Its a way to center ourselves and give the chase of DXing a framework – a program of sorts. It gives us some guidance and sets boundaries for our bragging rights. We can learn a lot along the way, and it can be great fun.

I know one person who chases DXCC Challenge but who has never filed for a DXCC “Award”. He is content and happy just having his electronic bingo sheet filled in, and you know what – during my 2001 – 2013 HR pursuit I dumped all of my QSL cards except one for each entity / ATNO. I also have enjoyed the online digital records as much as the cards themselves – maybe even more. That took a little doing since I was first licensed in 1973. However, I’m also a database programmer. But sometimes we hold onto emotional footholds from the past I guess – its part nostalgia and part fear (?)

99% of the people who have groused about DXCC being dead are in the very next pileup – and they will most certainly be trying to work 3Y0Z in just a few weeks. Its a gyration we go through – maybe a “checkpoint” – there are so many advances in technology that it seems normal and healthy that every now and again we have to ask ourselves “Why am I doing this?” and “Does this matter?”

I know several people who just like that rush of “winning” in the little pileup battles. There is a “rush” for sure – a sweet little sugar high you get when you’ve made it through – especially – when its rare and an ATNO.

Technology will keep marching on, and we either adapt or sit in a rocking chair reminiscing about when times were Great.

I’ll be out in the back yard goofing with antennas . . . . and then in the shack goofing with new technologies and new toys. Only because it brings a lot of joy in my life and its something I do just because its fun.

DXCC is like a non gender specific fraternity. (Pretty PC, eh?). But I do feel “akin” to others on the DXCC list in the (now) electronic only DXCC Yearbook.

As long as there is DXCC, I will at least follow along, even if I don’t actively play in it forever.

40M Phased Vertical Array ~ 40M Half Wave Dipole

The N6BT DXU-32 …

I have had two occasions where I was able to test my fantastic 40M phased vertical array against other antennas. I say fantastic only because when you compare the height requirements and maintenance requirements, the phased array has tremendous bang for the buck.

The DXE DV-40-P …

First I compared it to the N6BT DXU-32, and the DXU-32 won by it’s 4 dBi advantage. A shorty 40 two element yagi is a formidable antenna even if only up 50′ as mine was.

But the tower and safety requirements for a 28 foot boom with two 42 foot element and three 36ish elements is a major undertaking compared to a phased vertical array.

I have also had two test periods comparing a 40M doublet with the phased array, and both times they were neck and neck. I could hear and work the same stations on the short path to ZS, but on the long path, the doublet did seem a bit better. I’ve tested all paths along the broadside of the doublet, whose orientation was dictated by what trees it’s in.

I tested the doublet against the end fire direction of the array, so that’s putting the arrays best foot forward so to speak.

Enter the Cushcraft D40. It is almost exactly the same as the N6BT DXU-32 driven element. I will add 30M to it, and it will be max 13 pounds.

This means I can actually use two of my superb Spiderbeam aluminum push-up masts and get the antenna up as high or higher than my N6BT DXU-32. That antenna was up only 50′, it would be simple to go 60′ with the D40.

Think about the value proposition here: you get the best part of the fixed phased array, but rotatable so that you don’t suffer the broadside dip you get gain wise in two directions with the phased array.

I’ve only ever had one 40M antenna up 60′ before. It was a 40M doublet that I used to work my last Honor Roll ATNO, SV2ASP/A for Mount Athos. That was New Year’s Eve, 2013, or yikes! 5 years ago.

Hmmmm the interesting thing is I made Honor Roll in 11 years and will be within one if Top of Honor Roll 5 years later, and again, I’m talking 40M doublet up 60′

Now I totally understand why both Tom, N6BT and Tom W8JI says that a dipole up 1/2 well in the clear is a great antenna.

Funny how I’m loving the rotatable 40 / 30M dipole right now.

3Y0Z will be hitting the airwaves with what I expect to be a truly historic DXpedition. The cost alone begs us to ask the question if this can ever be done this same way again. I tend to think in the future it will have to be done with the Norwegian Polar Institute team that goes there or some other science mission.

But for now, my only worry is working them and evolving the antenna farm past that DXpedition.


The Path to 9BDXCC …

I need 7 more to make DXCC on Top Band and also get my 160M 5BDXCC endorsement. Where are the likely QSOs going to come from?

Announced DXpeditions:

  1. Bouvet
  2. Baker
  3. Ducie
  4. Palau
  5. St. Kitts
  6. St. Paul

DX Contests (actually the before and after weeks):

  1. I can’t list anything as the ADXO is about as skimpy as I’ve ever seen it regarding announced contest stations – and 160M is a no show. The list will fill in soon though

Caribbean, Central American and OC surprises. Some north easterners will travel to places (to avoid “cabin fever”) that would be easy for me like FY, 9Y, OA, HP, HH, etc.

Africa – I’ve had about 4 African Q’s on 160.

Europe is least likely, but if it ever does open for me, I could clinch this fast.

I’m very confident I will make it by the time Ducie hits the air, perhaps sooner. That means by October of this year, I’m done with 9BDXCC and all I will need is Glorioso.

I’m very much long overdue for a “run” of luck on 160M. The past year seems like nothing but false starts and that working a new one on Top Band has been like walking with cement shoes. That bad luck streak will soon break me thinks and me hopes.

That will be very sweet.

An Easy Cushcraft D40 Mod Adding 30M

The Cushcraft D40 rotatable dipole is a great antenna – and its the same element they use on their 40M yagi. Because it uses coils and cap hats  instead of traps, it fairly efficient for a shortened antenna.

One way to really make this antenna sing is to add 30M. It can be done very easily by simply adding a wire below using standoff insulators of some sort – like these electric fence standoffs:

If the feed gets tricky as a “fan dipole”, then use 2 feeds. No big deal.

I can already see the bottom of the cycle starting at the end of 2018, and I fully anticipate that after 3Y0Z, my use of any high band antennas will be a waste of time. All of what I will be doing will be on 160 – 30M. Glorioso won’t be activated until at least a year after it is announced, and there is nothing in the rumor mill regarding that – so even if it were announced today, we would be very much at the bottom of the cycle. I fully expect that I would need to use a remote or someone elses super contest station.

Furthermore, there is a very good chance that I will be very seriously planning my retirement move before the peak of solar cycle 25, so, after 3Y0Z and 7 more QSOs on 160M I enter what I consider “very casual DXing” and the last throes of DXing from Orinda.

I love 40M, and when 30M is open and behaves like 40M, the same applies. I don’t even know if I will bother chasing anything on 160 or 80 after I make DXCC on 160 – my interest is starting to wane on it – this QTH is just a tough bugger and if I don’t get a surprise – like working EU on Top Band soon – my interest will fade for sure.

But I could be very happy just goofing around on 40 and 30M until I retire and move, and in my retirement I will probably also just goof around.

My definition of goofing around is use the radio like people watch TV, and build stuff and read “living history” books.

How Will This End?

It’s an amazing political circus, watching Trump and Bannon go after each other.

Billionaire vs. Billionaire!

Media Mogul vs. Media Mogul!

Sunday, Sunday, Sunday!

It’s amazing, but the more I read about the details of historic events, the more we seem to be headed back to earlier, rough and tumble times.

Will we see the duel come back?

Telegraphers and Robber Barons

It’s very interesting how control of information and exploitation of both the government and workers by robber barons (speculators) has a direct parallel in the mid to late 1800’s to now.

Western Union was born out of a regional telegraph line, and at first was headquartered in Rochester, NY. Morse’s patent ended in 1861 and telegraphy really took off during the Civil War. The private telegraph companies were able to buy government lines on the cheap. There was government and private traffic being handled and telegraphers were in short demand. There was unchecked conflict of interest, but this was the brave New information world, and life during wartime.

Telegraphers started trade unions to improve their working conditions, but pretty much lost every fight. They were the conduit for information that made many men rich due to having first knowledge of happenings in mines especially. Copper, Gold and other lucrative ores would send news via telegraph, and this made those in the know rich. 

The robber barons were very similar to what you see in today’s stock market. People speculate and gamble based on information. Some get filthy rich. Some lose it all. It’s hard to draw the line between risk, opportunity and luck I guess.

The workers who kept the network open are paid a straight wage, far below the spoils of the speculators. But like software engineers, they had a pretty decent life. There were many others not nearly as well off.

I guess taking risk and playing paper games has been what has benefitted the few in the US. Lots of shenanigans.

I think in those times people at least weren’t as cavalier as our current ruling regime is. Robber barons in the late 1800’s were much better liars and cheaters than our current administration. Talk of “transparency” has always been nothing more than polite lying.

On The Path to 3Y0Z: RI50ANO

This is one of my favorite paths, and its on the way to 3Y0Z. In fact, its only 2000 miles farther to 3Y0Z – and this is South Shetland Islands. The path is so good, I easily worked South Shetlands on 160M. All other bands were a cake walk.

Come to think of it, all of the VP8’s were easy.

I’m hearing them about the same on both the phased vertical array and the 40M doublet / 17M EDZ. And both are a solid S7.

This clearly in the range of the 3Y0Z prediction. I will check it again in an hour when 3Y0Z is predicted to be about S8 at my QTH, but its all adds up even one hour earlier.