Busted Calls

    One of the Local QRPers came by the other day and made his way up the hill. He strolled over to the tower and stood there with his hands in his pockets and a pensive look on his face. We had just finished checking the guy wires on the tower. There were reports the El Niņo was stirring things up a bit and we remembered what as Lord Baden Powell had so often said, "Be prepared!" And we were. Always.

    After a few minutes the QRPer began, "This past week or so there has been a discussion going on as to whether or not electronic logs on the Internet should have the time and date." He paused, took his hands out of his pocket and wiped a bead or two of sweat off his upper lip. "This seems like a serious situation", he continued, "and I don't think the DXCC desk has made public its position on the matter, either. What do you think?" Son of a Gun! If the QRPer thought we were going to dive into this one, he was mistaken . . . so we went for the usual out. We hauled him up the hill to see the Old Timer.

    When we got there, the Old Timer was up on the roof of the house, securing another guy rope from the tripod to the ridge board. These were trying times for DXers, with dire forecasts of heavy rain and wind in the southeastern and southwestern reaches and just about everywhere else too. We began to think this might not have been the time to bother the Old Timer with questions about the Internet. He made his way down the ladder and as soon as he cleared the bottom rung, the QRPer started. "Some of the locals are saying that making public the times and dates of the QSOs in electronic logs will encourage cheaters!", he said, staring the Old Timer straight in the eye. The Old Timer was wiping his hands off with a rag and just nodded.

    The QRPer, building up a head of steam, continued on, "You see, there are always busted calls in a pileup. And more so in a big pileup, like those generated by major Dxpeditions. The same ones that might put logs on the Internet. The Big Guns that have been around the track a bit figure that someone's call might get in the log accidentally, and if so, that person could search the log and find their call, compete with the time and date it was logged. And that's the problem!"

    The Old Timer looked at the QRPer for a moment, then asked, "So, the worry is that this person could send for a QSL for a QSO he didn't make?" The QRPer nodded enthusiastically, "Yes! Of course he could. And that would be cheating. And it would take away from the rest of us. Our DXCC achievements would be lessened . . . they would be diluted by the acts of these dishonest DXers whose totals would be inflated with QSOs they never made." The QRPer was sweating profusely now, and he was glaring at the Old Timer and us with those beady little eyes. "What are we going to do about it?"

    The Old Timer took a deep breath and asked, "How many HAMs are Dxers? And how many of these DXers use the Internet? And supposing a DXer did, what are the odds of his call getting busted and into the DXpedition's log? And if it did, what are the chances of him finding it and sending for the card? Wouldn't you say the odds of all these things happening in that manner to be pretty remote?" The QRPer looked at the Old Timer, then down at the ground, then back up and said with a little less conviction, "Well, for all those events to happen, I guess the odds would be fairly unlikely, like maybe one if a few thousand. Maybe a bit more or less. I'm not a mathematician." He still wasn't satisfied: "But you have to agree, it could happen, right?"

    "Yes", the Old Timer replied, "it could. Let's take your estimate of one in several thousand, say one in four thousand, OK?" The QRPer nodded in agreement. "Now, the most successful DXpedition on record was the recent one to Heard Island. They made somewhere around 80,000 QSOs . . . a record for any DXpedition. And they posted their logs on the Internet, although without the date and time. Let's assume they had included this extra information. Factoring in all the numbers, that's 20 potential cheaters out of 80,000 QSOs. Or, looking at it another way, the percentage of good, honest QSOs is 99.98%, right"

    The QRPer was pacing in a circle and looking at the ground again. He stopped, looked at us, then the Old Timer and finally said, "Well maybe a 99.98% success rate is good, but it still isn't 100%! And if all DXers were true blue, we'd have 100%. But since they aren't, we can't post the times and dates . . . this is still serious stuff." He looked the Old Timer in the eye with a triumphant stare. "Most aspects of DXing are serious", the Old Timer agreed, "and one thing that's 100% sure and 100% serious is that if Bouvet comes on and you don't have an antenna, you won't work them." The QRPer followed the Old Timers glance up at the extra guy rope on the tripod. "Ever hear of El Niņo?" he asked.

    The QRPer never answered. He was off down the hill, arms waving and making his way home to secure down his tower. We looked over at the Old Timer, "Is Bouvet really coming on?" we asked. He shook his head slowly, "Who knows? But if they do, I'd say that fellow has a lot better chance of getting a QSL if he keeps his antenna in top shape than if he spend his time worrying about the 0.02% busted calls in electronic logs." And with that, he turned and made his way into the shack to tune 15 meters for the afternoon opening to the southeast.

    What could we say? Only that the Deserving will work the DX. And they will work the DX that is on the air, not the DX that is on the Internet. DX IS!


This story is in the public domain and may be reproduced in any format. - VE1DX

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Last updated on Thursday, 12 April 2007