One of the Local QRPers was by the other day and had a concern about QSLs. "You know", he began, "I read on the Internet that most of those Big Gun contest stations don't QSL. I've been waiting for the contest season to pick off a few new ones. Now I don't know what to do. Is it true that contesters are not good QSLers?"
Although we were not equipped for the Internet, and had no intention of doing so, we usually knew what was being said. Even us traditional DXers have our high tech sources. Absolutely. We had heard that this topic had come up in one of the more high profile discussion groups. And while this may have been a new topic on the Internet, it had been around since the Early Days of DXing. "What exactly are they saying?" we asked the QRPer, putting forth an innocent face.
"Well", he replied, "one of the more vocal types told a new comer that, with few exceptions, there wasn't any point in working contest stations for new ones because you'll never get a QSL. He said they almost never do. And then a number of the Big Guns jumped on him and said that this wasn't so. They said contesters were great QSLers and were bragging about how many cards they'd gotten from contest stations. The said contesters were better QSLers than regular DX stations."
We looked at the QRPer for a moment, and then replied, "It sounds like the one who started all this was one of the Legion of Hand Wringers. One of the malcontents who was just trying to stir things up. And if the Big Guns are all saying that you'll get cards, you have nothing to worry about because they've been around the track long enough to know." The QRPer was still not satisfied: "That's what I though at first", he sighed, "but then I got a little suspicious because all these guys were sticking up for contesters. So I dug out my QST and CQ magazines for the last couple of years. I looked up the calls of these guys and, sure enough, they were all contesters! And I think they are just on the defensive . . . maybe the guy who said they didn't QSL was right. What do you think?"
At this point we decided we needed a second opinion. So we hauled the QRPer up the hill to see the Old Timer. The Old Timer listened to the story without saying a word, then asked a question: "This one who said that contesters are poor QSLers. Was he listed in the contest results too?" The QRPer looked a bit confused, then replied slowly; "I don't think so. I never looked at the calls once I got below the top 20-25 scores. If he was, he wasn't in with the high profile types, that's for sure." The Old Timer thought this over for a moment and then said, "Is he a DXer? Do you see him DXCC listings?" The QRPer was quick to answer, "Yes, of course! He's a top notch DXer. He always shows up in the pileups, he's listed every year in QST and I see a lot of spots from him on the DX cluster."
The Old Timer was silent for a few moments, then he began to speak, "Son, there are DXers and there are contesters. Some operators are both. DXers need contesters to go to spots that aren't very active. They need them to activate countries with big signals on the low bands. They need them to fill in band countries and to be active on all modes. Isn't this a fact?" The QRPer nodded. "Did you ever think that contesters need DXers just as much?" The QRPer looked puzzled and shrugged, "No, not really. Why would that be?"
The Old Timer looked intently at the QRPer and said, "Once the contesters all work each other, in the first hour or two of the contest, who are they going to work then?" The QRPer thought for a minute, then replied, "DXers, I suppose. There will be a few traffic types that will give them a QSO, but for the most part it will be DXers. After all, aren't they the ones with the biggest antennas, the best rigs and the most power? I guess contesters pretty much depend on DXers to give them the points and multipliers, right?"
The Old Timer nodded and then asked: "And how many true-blue DXers do you suppose would bother to work anyone who wouldn't QSL? Someone who wouldn't confirm the QSOs . . . would they pick up a lot of points and multipliers?" This time the QRPer was seeing the light: "Of course not. It's a two way street! Why I bet all the Big Gun DXers know which ones will and will not QSL. Maybe they even keep a list and pass it on to their fellow DXers! I bet they do. And I bet it would be fair to say that the contest scores listed in the magazines are proportional to the number of QSLs sent out for the previous contests. Why, it's as plain as day once you figure it out. The only way to win a contest is to send out QSLs to everyone! This has to be one of the most important Eternal Enigmas of DXing!"
With that, he was off down the hill, prepared to hunt for those calling "CQ contest, CQ contest" from distant lands beyond the horizon. We looked over at the Old Timer for a moment and then asked: "Why does it take them so long to understand? Why does everything have to be black or white, on or off, yes or no? Why can't they understand that there are gray areas in this world of DX . . . and that questions like that one cannot always be answered?"
The Old Timer was quick to reply: "Computers. It's all those computers. While they may consider themselves DXers or contesters, maybe even both, they don't understand the difference between analog and digital. With computers, everything is digital. It's either true or false . . . represented by bits set to zero or one. These newly minted DXers buy the most powerful computer they can afford, get an Internet account and read all the DX information they can. They think digital. But do they tune the bands? Do they dig the weak signals out of the QRN at 3:00 AM like we used to? They are not true-blue DXers. They are digital DXers. They think in binary terms! And as you well know, to become one of the Deserving, you have to believe! You have to understand that the Mysteries of the Ages and the Eternal Enigmas of DXing are not found on a Web Site . . . they are learned by experience. And while some DXers learn them faster than others, none have learned them on a computer."
We thought about what the Old Timer had said and then replied: "You're right. And it seems that even true-blue DXers are prone to lose their understanding of such things. It's become more and more evident that some who were once true-blue DXers, those who have achieved the 'DX moment', have regressed. Why even some Honor Roll types are never found on the bands . . . they seem to have become the gurus of the Internet. Have you noticed that?"
The Old Timer nodded his head, then said: "Yes, but is that a bad thing? Maybe it's just natural selection doing its job. The same way lists and nets have proven to help the true-blue DXer. Remember, the solar cycle is returning. Those who have remained true-blue will work the DX . . . and the contest stations. Those that stare at their computer screens won't be in the pileups! They won't be prepared! They'll be too busy arguing over which modem is the best, or who has the best logging program. And don't tell them otherwise! They wouldn't listen anyway, but don't chance it. Leave them on the Internet. The Great Days of DXing are at hand. Bring on the DX! 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