DX Stories by Paul M. Dunphy, VE1DX
One of the Local QRPers came by the other day, and he was carrying a laptop computer and a pair of handie-talkies. There was joy in his stride and a gleam in his eye. We had seen him coming and, for a fleeting few seconds, considered ducking out the back door. This fellow was a high-tech QRPer, and he usually wanted to talk about something that was over our head. Thinking back to what the Old Timer had told us about being open to new ideas, and about the Amateur's Code, we decided to see what was up.
We opened the door and the QRPer burst in, laying his equipment on the table and looking at us with a happy gaze in his eyes. "I've found the perfect way to work DX!" he proclaimed. It's so much easier than chasing HF propagation, or listening to Red-Eyed Louie's reports on the DX he's heard lately. Besides, Louie's job has been replaced with packet clusters. Who needs him anymore, for that matter?" We thought about it for a minute and wondered who would feed the data into the clusters if all the Red Eyed Louies of the world packed it in. However, we'd learned many years ago not to present a QRPer with too much logic. Maybe another day we'd both be up for that argument, but today he seemed to have other things on his mind.
"How are you going to work DX without understanding propagation?" we asked carefully. "Simple!" the QRPer began, "And I'm here to show you how it's done." We just looked on as he opened up his laptop and started plugging in cables and hooking up adapters. "Shouldn't you bring that into the shack?" we asked, "That's were all the HF gear is, and the coax runs to the tower and all the antennas too." The QRPer grinned and simply said, "Don't need it. I'm working on 2-meter DXCC. I want to be the first in the world to do it, too!"
"How are you going to work DX without radios and antennas? And you and I both know you can't work 2-meter DXCC without repeaters or satellites. Repeater assisted contacts don't count for DXCC, and if you do it by satellite, it's a Satellite DXCC, not 2-meters. "
"Just watch me." He said mysteriously, reaching down and unplugging our phone from its wall jack and plugging in a line from his computer. We shoved our cap back on our head, scratched a bit, and pulled the cap back forward. "What are you doing with the phone lines?" we asked, wondering if he was up to something illegal. "You're not hooking up one of those things to make long distance phone calls without paying for them are you?" The QRPer looked up at us in consternation. "Don't be so foolish." He said, "I know better than that. I'm hooking the laptop up to my ISP." We didn't know exactly what an ISP was, but we thought back to the wisdom of the quote "Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt."
As soon as he had things set up to his satisfaction, he typed in a few lines and the computer squawked and squealed for a few seconds, and then a couple of windows popped open. "There", he said, "I'm connected."
"OK", we said quietly, wondering what was he was connected to. "Here's how it works." he began, "I'm dialed into the Internet with my laptop, and I've got my 2-meter handie-talkie connected to the computer with a RigBlaster. Follow?" We nodded, for although we still weren't sure on the ISP part, we knew what a RigBlaster was, and we knew what the Internet was. We'd seen a demonstration of the Internet at a shopping mall last fall. And one of the PSK31 types had tried to hook a RigBlaster up to our TS-920 last summer. Since we weren't overly impressed with the Internet or what the RigBlaster had done to our HF rig, we were just as happy that the QRPer was contented to stay out of the shack.
"Now, here's how it works", he said, stepping back and holding the second 2-meter handie-talkie. All I do is key up the EchoLink node number of the station I want to work on my DTMF keypad here. I've got this radio on the same simplex frequency as the one connected to the Laptop with the RigBlaster. Just using 250 milliwatts, too! That will select the DX station from the EchoLink list and connect us by VoIP. Then I just talk to them and bingo! I've got a DX QSO. I can connect to anywhere in the world! This is pretty slick, right."
We didn't know what to say. We decided to ask for clarification, in spite of our previous decision to not remove the doubt of our being thought a fool. "What's VoIP and what's an EchoLink?" The QRPer gave us a pained look and answered "VoIP is Voice Over IP and EchoLink is the controlling software that runs on my laptop. Where have you been the last year or so?"
We decided not to argue and simply replied, "OK, we understand. So where's the DX?" The QRPer's look of exasperation increased and he blurted out, "Where it's always been, in those far away lands over the horizon like VK, ZL, and in all of Europe and Asia. And in the Caribbean and the like. Where did you think it would be? On my laptop?"
At this point we still weren't sure, so we just nodded and the QRPer punched a few codes into his handie-talkie. Then he called a GM station. We jumped back as the Scottish accent called him right back. Son of a Gun! We were impressed, but not convinced this was DXing. The QRPer exchanged a few more words with the GM station, ending it all by saying, "And be sure to QSL by the bureau, 7'd3s." Up until the "7'd3s" we had managed to take things in stride, but enough was enough. "What kind of foolishness have you dreamt up this time?" we roared! "Every time you start playing with computers, you come up with some way to cheat your way into more DXCC points, or to bend the rules, or to keep acting like you just were licensed last month! You know better than this!"
The QRPer took a step backwards and then glared right back into our eyes. "Look Buster, just because you didn't think of it doesn't mean it isn't right. It's not just my idea, either! There are almost 1000 EchoLink users around, maybe even twice that many. Why even VE1YX uses it. And he's been around the track enough time to recognize a good thing when he sees it. This is the wave of the future, and it's time you threw away that CW and SSB technology from the last century and joined us modern DXers! There is nothing illegal or immoral about this. It's new technology, and just because I'm smart enough to figure out how to get my 2-meter DXCC with it doesn't mean it's cheating!"
"Isn't DXCC supposed to use a radio?!!" we bellowed back at him. "You're talking into a computer with a handheld! It's going through our phone line somehow and connecting to another computer in Scotland. Where's the 2-way radio QSO?"
"Right here in my hand and in the GM's hand in Edinburgh!" he screeched back, getting beet red and shaking his handie-talkie at us. "It's a good contact!" We took a deep breath and counted to 10. "How do you know he has a radio in Edinburgh?" we asked slowly, trying to bring the conversation back down to a civil level. "Because he has a -L after his call sign. That means he has a link to a radio, the same as I have! And if he didn't have an -L, there'd just be his call, and I'd know he was just using his computer microphone and speakers. But this fellow has a -L, so it's a good contact!"
"How does the -L get stuck after his call?" we asked quietly. "He typed it there when he set up his EchoLink software." was the quick reply. We leaned over and looked at the computer screen. A few of the calls had -R after them, and a few more had -L, but most had nothing but the call. "What does the -R mean?" we asked. "Repeater!" the QRPer snapped back at us. "I can't use those for DXCC because they are connected to repeaters, but the -L ones are good."
We looked a bit more and said, "That station in Hong Kong, if he were to stick a -L after his call, or if that LA or GD were to do the same, and if they still used their computer microphone and speakers, how would you know?"
"How would I know? How would I know!! I'd know because Hams are honest, especially DXers. No True Blue DXer would ever think of doing something like that."
We looked at him for a moment and then said "Romeo was in Burma." He stared at us with a blank look and then said "What?" We repeated slowly "Romeo was in Burma."
He looked at us for a moment, then snapped off his 2-meter rigs, unplugged his computer from the wall and began packing things up in their case. "There is no sense talking to people like you." he said. "I try to show you how DXing will be in the new millennium and you start talking in riddles. "Romeo was in Burma. What is that supposed to mean?"
We shrugged our shoulders as he was walking out the door. There is no point trying to explain the Eternal Enigmas of DXing or the Mysteries of the Ages to someone who isn't ready to understand them. So we just watched him stomp down the hill with his laptop and handie-talkies under his arm. Some day he might figure it out . . . but then again, maybe Romeo really was in Burma, too! DX IS!
73/DX Paul VE1DX (QSL via VE1YX)
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