DX Stories by Paul M. Dunphy, VE1DX

The QRPer And His Computer

One of the Local QRPers was down in the village the other day, pacing back and forth in the park, this one with a troubled look on his face and sweat on his brow. We were sitting on a bench not too far away with the Old Timer, trying to decide if it would be better to work the upcoming Antarctic DXpedition long path or short. The Old Timer told us that he had worked them the last time beaming north at sunset. While we weren't positive this was the best plan, who could argue with success? And who would want to argue with the Old Timer? No one! Never . . . if the Old Timer said "Beam north", then zero degrees it is!

The QRPer was inching his way closer as he kept pacing. We had the feeling he wanted advice but was afraid to ask. So, against our better judgment, we asked the QRPer what was troubling him. "Oh, not a lot", he replied slowly, "I'm trying to decide if I should buy a computer. What do you think?" We were a bit taken by surprise. Usually when QRPers have the pensive look this one had, they are worried about a missed DXpedition or the intricacies of the DXCC rules. This QRPer was deep in thought and troubled about computers. We decided to bypass the details and toss the ball right over to the Old Timer. The Old Timer glared at us for a second and then turned his attention to the QRPer.

"Why do you want a computer?", he asked, "do you want to keep electronic logs?" The QRPer stopped pacing and sat down. "No, not really", he said slowly, "although it would be nice to have all that stuff available at a key press. But I keep detailed paper logs and notes, so I really don't need to have it all on a computer. I have an old CRT terminal for my connection to the Packet Cluster . . . that's all I need." The Old Timer looked at the QRPer for a few seconds, then tried again. "OK", he asked, "then if you don't want to keep your logs on computer, why do you want one?" The QRPer looked at the Old Timer, and then back to us. "I was at the club meeting this morning", he replied, "and all of the guys were talking about how a DXer or contester is just going to have to have one. They say that all the contests are going to require that we submit our logs on computer disk! And, they are saying that most DX in the future will be QSOs skeds pre-arraigned by electronic E-mail. They say I'll need a computer and access to the Internet!"

The QRPer had jumped to his feet and was glaring at the both of us, although at the Old Timer a bit harder. "This is the end of DXing", he continued, "the guys with the fastest computers, those who can type 60 words a minute and hook up to all the obscure sites on the Internet will be the ones that work the DX. What's the point of us tuning the bands or even watching the Packet Cluster screens? All those computer gurus will be on the Internet, setting up complex web sites, with hypertext links to call books and QSL data bases! They'll be E-mailing each other and setting up skeds! Unless we get a degree in computer science, none of us will be able to compete with them. And I hate computers, anyhow!" With this, he flopped himself down on the bench, convinced that he'd never be able to work any DX again."

The Old Timer looked at us, then back at the QRPer. "These guys with the powerful computers, the ones with the lightening fast Internet hookups and infinite knowledge of World Wide Web . . . do you know any of their callsigns?" The QRPer replied quickly, "I sure do, why there are printouts all over the club bulletin board and every DX bulletin has a listing of these great DX sites to visit on the Internet. These listings are full of the calls of the people who maintain everything. Why do you ask?"

The Old Timer looked the QRPer right in the eye: "These calls that maintain all this great stuff on the Internet, do you ever hear them on the air?" The QRPer thought for a moment, then slowly replied, "No, not recently . . ." "And have you seen their calls in the DXCC listings or the WAZ or WPX listings?" This time the QRPer was quicker to answer, "No, not ever. Why is that?" The Old Timer simply replied as he has so often before, "If you have to ask the question, you won't understand the answer." And he turned back to us and began talking again about the advantage of the northern polar path to Antarctica. The QRPer got up, scratched his head, and wandered off with a confused look on his face.

Son of a Gun! The Old Timer had put things in perspective yet again. What could we say? We'd never thought about the applicability of the law of diminishing returns! The Old Timer watched the QRPer round the turn, then stopped talking about propagation and said, "You know who the only exceptions to what I told him are? VE1DX and K2CD. Those are the only two!" We thought about it for a few moments. The Old Timer was right. Absolutely. There is no point in arguing with facts. You'll lose. Every time. DX IS!

73/DX Paul VE1DX

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