We took a walk down to the village last week and we ran across several of the Local QRPers sitting on a park bench talking about a number of things, but mostly DX. Some of these QRPers had been around the track a few times, but we had learned long ago that the true understanding of DX is not always measured by years on the air. Since DX was a topic that always caught our attention, we decided to see what going on. "What's new?" we asked, sitting down.
One of the more elderly QRPers replied, "We were just talking about the Golden Days of DXing, about those days when things were better than they are today. When DXers stood tall, and were the top echelon of Ham radio. When you could be proud to call yourself a DXer. Not like today. DXing is a lost art. And we all agree on that, but there seems to be a bit of a problem on just when the Golden Days of DXing were."
We weren't sure that DXing had become a lost art, so we asked for clarification. Two or three of the QRPers started to answer at once so we held up our hand "Take a turn each", we said, "and let's start with the most senior one." The QRPer who had started the conversation jumped up, beaming with pride, "I was first licensed in 1947 when I was just 15" he began, "and I'm sure that the Golden Days of DXing were back then. We built our own rigs, and we didn't have any 2-metre spotting repeaters or anything like that. We found the DX on CW or AM and the DX was real DX, not the stuff that's kicking around today. Once SSB came around, DX was gone!" He looked around at the group and it was clear he was ready to defend his position. No one said anything so we nodded to the next QRPer.
"Well, I started out in the early 60's and did most of my serious DXing in the 60's and 70's. And that was when DX was DX. When Danny and Gus and Don were activating the new ones. We had a simplex frequency on 2-metres where we all met and exchanged DX information. And we never bothered with AM, either!" he said, glaring at the first QRPer, "No sir, we used CW and SSB. And sometimes we would even call the locals on the landline or give them a one-ringer to let them know when something rare showed up. We all understood the true meaning of DX IS!"
Somehow we doubted that any of the group understood this, but we simply nodded to the third QRPer. He was ready to make his pitch. "Those old guys can't see beyond their D-104s and straight keys!" he started in. "I've been on the air for 12 years now, and the Golden Days of DXing have just ended. I worked the Big Guns, like Martti and Romeo. The Golden Days of DXing are winding down and will be gone by the end of the year! When us real DXers operated, we all used solid state transmitters, DX spotting repeaters and Packet Clusters. We logged all our contacts with our computers and we worked DX on 30, 17 and 12 metres too! These guys don't even have WARC band antennas and they say they've seen the Golden Days of DXing! How can you say you've done it all when you haven't worked a rare one on 17-metre RTTY that popped up on the Packet cluster?" And he sat down, just as sure that he was right as the other two.
Things were quiet for about 30-seconds as the QRPers looked at us, waiting for a decision. Son of a Gun! Should you think we were going to offer and opinion on this one, think again. For has often been said, once a can of worms has been opened, you'll need a bigger can to get them all back in. Then the silence ended with "What do you think?" and "When were the Golden Days of Dxing?" and "Tell us who is right!" So we did the only thing we could do. We hauled the group of them up the hill to see the Old Timer.
He was sitting in front of his rig, tuning 15-metres for the polar opening to Asia. He looked up and motioned for everyone to sit down. After a few minutes he looked over and asked what was new. This brought forward the same arguments as we had heard down in the park, complete with arm waving and pounding of fists as points were made and territories staked out. The Old Timer looked at the QRPers for a moment and then asked, "You all seem convinced that you are right, but what makes you think the Golden Days of DXing are over?"
On this there was agreement. And to get two QRPers to agree on anything was rare . . . to have three agree was never heard of before. "The Internet and the new HF regulations are destroying DX!" they yelled in unison. We were impressed. The Old Timer took a deep breath, glanced at us with that "Why did you bring these QRPers here?" look and replied. "None of you understand the true meaning of DX IS! Didn't Albert always say that all things were relative, although some more so. He spelled it all out in his Special Theory of DX. But none of you can understand it, can you? Did it ever occur to you that the Golden Days of DXing are right now? And that no matter what the Internet, the ARRL, the FCC, the RSGB or any other technical or political group does or says will change this! The Great Days of DXing are here. The signs are everywhere! And the Golden Days of DXing are the Great Days of Dxing!"
The QRPers glanced back and forth at each other with confused and puzzled looks. Then, they all got up and slowly made their way out the door. We could hear them muttering as they made their way down the hill and it was clear they did not believe or understand what had been said. And we even had lingering doubts. So we asked the Old Timer, "All this talk about the Internet and no-code lowering the standard and destroying DX . . . do you think the QRPers have a point?" The Old Timer looked up from his rig, stared us right in the eye and simply said: "No."
And with that he turned back toward his rig and began tuning 15 again. It was clear this was all he was going to say. So we made our way down the hill and toward the library. For a while we were sure we understood the true meaning of DX IS!, we felt it wouldn't hurt to read Albert's book on the Special Theory of DX once again. These are trying times in this world of DX. When the new HF licensing regulations are announced, like the Hero of Mafeking Lord Baden-Powell so often advised, we wanted to "Be prepared!"
73/DX Paul VE1DX (EX: VE1UK)
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