Wednesday, 15 February 2012

I Am Not A Proper DXer!

Sorry - it's another grumble. Looking through some old emails on various radio groups I have been surprised to see how much criticism some DXers receive regarding the way they enjoy the radio hobby. Much of this is technology related though, which suggests that some enthusiasts are reluctant to change with the times. As a DXer, it's bad enough being singled out as a weirdo because you have a niche hobby, but you would expect that we hobbyists would all get on well together. This is not always the case, for now we have divided ourselves up into even smaller, "nichier" (is there such a word?) little communities. We share a common interest, so what's the problem?

I have always considered myself to be a traditionalist, but if new technological innovations come along which are going to help me get more DX, then I am all ears. I can grumble about things as much as the next person, but I accept that we all have our preferences and we will all differ to some degree. So what are the main issues? Some examples:

There are those who prefer to 'listen' to their DX for several minutes while others just want to log something and quickly move on to the next signal. I was accused of being a "List Logger";

Some people like to DX with their broadband SDR receivers and record an entire band so we can play it back and catch everything on every frequency, while others say this is cheating and would rather have a big knob in their face! (Yes, I did say that) and listen to only one frequency;

Some of us radio creatures like to monitor DX Clusters so we can see where the activity is and 'chase'   accordingly. Some complain that this is cheating too!

I can't win! If I go by these moaning minnies then I am a "greedy, cheating list logger"! Some DXers obviously find this is wrong, but I think I can see their point. I would stop short of calling it cheating though. That is not fair. It is sad that a few DXers are happy to fall out about these issues since they see one way is right while the other is wrong. I have been criticized several times myself because I use an SDR receiver, then, blow me, somebody had a go at me for "list-logging" the other day as if that is the worst sin possible. Sorry, but if I catch a clear identification then I may log that stations and I am then ready to move on to the next frequency in search of something else. I have little interest in listening to the programme, but I know some people do and that is absolutely fine with me. Exactly what is wrong with "list logging" anyway, if you catch a positive identification?

Consider radio amateurs: "Radio Sport" has become a big part of the amateur radio community, resulting in things like the "Contest" and 'Field Day'. The purpose of which is to collect points while logging as many countries or grid squares as possible along the way. This is effectively the same thing - list logging, if you want to call it that. It's all a bit of fun and I would say "each to their own". For me, the radio ham contest gives me the opportunity to add new countries to my logbook without having to wait in a long queue for other hams to finish their chinwag. I can use 2m for a good old conversation.

As for the new breed of radio, the SDR (or Software Defined Radio), this has simply enable me to DX to my full potential. Before the days of SDR I would be able to listen to (or record - shock, horror!) one single frequency in the hope I would hear something new and exciting. I never used to think my location was a particularly good DX location, never once hearing anything from the North American west coast or from the Canadian Prairies on medium wave - these are considered the more difficult DX targets in the UK. The moment I got a Perseus SDR receiver I was able to record ALL the medium wave frequencies overnight and play them ALL back the following day, studying station identifications at the top of the hours I recorded. Once I was in this exciting new position to be able to listen to every frequency throughout the night, I missed nothing. If the exotic DX was there I would have it. As it happened, I DID receive many exotic west coast US and Canadian stations, not to mention the Canadian Prairies AND the Canadian North West Territories, plus the impossible ... ALASKA several times! So, whether you consider this cheating or not, I was suddenly able to realise the full DX potential of my location and my logbook grew in size proportionally.

Even the use of the "DX Cluster" has become a bone of contention to some. We can now see where the action is, thanks to radio enthusiasts reporting their DX 'as it happens' and seeing this display in lists or global maps online. We can then jump in and follow the action ourselves. No we cannot - we are cheating! Really? OK, I see this could take out an element of chance for some, but each to their own.

So, would I like to return to the dark ages and go back to single frequency monitoring with a tuning knob? NO! Will I continue to dash around the bands like there's no tomorrow before a propagation event finishes? YES! Will I continue to use DX clusters so I can see where the propagation is? YES! It's simple: For me, if it increases the size of my logbook then I will do it. Call me a List Logger if you like, but if you like to do the opposite then that's fine with me. There's no accounting for our tastes so let's just enjoy and stop being over critical of others.

The great thing about this hobby is that we can choose how we want to go about it: We can use as much or as little power as we like, as long as it is within legal guidelines; We can choose our receivers and our aerials as we can afford them; We can listen when we want, how we want and where we want; We can share our experiences with others or keep them to ourselves; It can be a full-time hobby or an occasional pastime. Neither is particularly "wrong" as such, though it is so nice when we can all share our experiences together. Whichever way you look at it, it's an engaging hobby. We should learn to accept each others preferences without falling out. Sadly, we are all human too. Where do you stand with this?