Cognitive DXing!

A couple of the Local QRPers were by the other day, and it was obvious there was a dispute of some sort. We heard the raised voices and saw the finger pointing from the moment they rounded the corner and began beating their way up the hill. We'd read somewhere about the "fight or flight" theory and this kicked in. Our first response was to slip out the back door and avoid the aggravation, but our conscience kept nagging us. W9EEA may have had good intentions in 1928, but the Amateur's Code didn't seem to take into account the Local QRPers! We gave it a bit of thought and decided to do the honorable thing and see what the problem was. After all, if one QRPer is a good thing, two must be better!

"It was too late in the day!" the first QRPer shouted, as they got within earshot, "way too late. It was well after sunrise and there was no way you could hear them on 80 at that time of day. And don't try to tell me otherwise, because I've been there before. The band is closed." The second QRPer was just as adamant: "He was 559 with a bit of QSB, but completely readable. There's a secondary peak on 80 after sunrise! Everyone knows that. And he was there, Buster, whether you could hear him or not!" By this time we wished we had taken the "flight" option, because the two QRPers were already on the front porch. By this time, it had degraded to a "Was not! -- Was too!" screaming match. What could we do? This was getting out of hand so we issued a 20-dB "Be quiet or go away!" bulletin!

"What's the problem?", we asked, motioning for the first QRPer to tell us his story. "It's that Asian DXpedition", he said, calming down a bit now that he had the floor. "They were on a few mornings ago and I was copying them on my vertical, S4 to S5! I didn't bother calling because the west coast Big Guns had the upper hand. But I heard them . . . listened to them for at least 15-minutes before they faded away."

"OK", we said carefully, "that sounds reasonable." Then we turned our attention to the second QRPer who was pacing back and forth and shaking his head. "I saw that spot on the packet cluster at the same time, and I listened too. There was no one there! My delta loop has been working great for the last three years and if I can't hear the DX, it means we've lost propagation. Simple as that! They might have been on, but there was no signal here on the east coast."

We thought this over for a few minutes, then decided that we'd try a compromise. We didn't like compromises, because as Margaret has so well put it: "A compromise is an agreement that pleases no one." Nonetheless, we decided to give it a shot. "Well, we were also listening on 80 that morning", we began, "and to be quite honest, we did hear the DX. They were 339 at best and all we could hear was the 5NN fading in and out for a few minutes. We wouldn't have known who it was if it wasn't for the cluster spot. One of you is using a vertical and the other a delta loop. We have a dipole for 80-metres so it probably was performing in-between on that morning. With the low bands, there are vertical days and there are horizontal days. No doubt the signal was arriving at an angle that favored the vertical, not the loop. The next morning conditions might well have been reversed. Understand? So, you are both right." We kept a straight face, but we were quite pleased with ourselves!

The QRPers looked at each other for a moment. Then the QRPer with the loop said slowly, "Maybe he's right. I did hear the pileup, but not the DX, so maybe my delta loop was catching the horizontal stuff, or maybe the radiation angle wasn't right for me that morning. Who knows?" With that he shrugged and made his way down the hill, confident that he'd been vindicated. We thought about it for a few minutes. Maybe Margaret was wrong . . . here we had a compromise that seemed to have worked.

The vertical QRPer waited until the QRPer with the loop was out of sight, then his face broke into a broad grin. The cat-that-ate-the-canary grin. We were not so sure of our success, and even less so when he began to speak: "Smooth move,", he said, "that settled that without giving away my secret. Polarization and radiation angle! Good idea. That'll keep him happy for years. Sometimes I wonder about those guys. It's a good thing us true blue DXers stick together, isn't it." The shields went up! Being lumped in with this particular QRPer wasn't our first choice. We had to know more. "What secret?", we asked innocently. "You know", the QRPer replied in a sly voice, his beady little eyes glistening with the look of one-upmanship, "the analog headphone filter only a few of us know about. That's why I could hear the Asian DXpedition and he couldn't."

We took a deep breath, thought again about running for the nearest door, and asked the inevitable question. "Yes, the analog headphone filter", we replied, "we heard about that. You've got one working?" At this point we had no idea what the QRPer was talking about, but if he was really hearing long-haul DX on 80-metres two hours after sunrise, we had to know more.

"Sure have", the QRPer replied, "it's simple to build. You see, as most anyone knows, one half of the human brain is oriented to the logical, mathematical aspects of cognitive recognition, while the other half is better at the creative, artistic functions. The trick is to use the half that corresponds to the CW signal of the DX. For weak signals, the creative, artistic half is much better. The trick is to feed the signal to the correct half of the brain . . . and I'm convinced that this is not always the same half! I'm sure it changes from time to time, maybe even daily." What could we say? This was making no sense at all, so we just nodded in agreement and the QRPer pressed on.

"What I did", he said, "was to run the cord of my headphones through a patch-box. I have a bank of switches and I can add a quarter wavelength of wire to either the left or right earphone. I've got coils inside that load it up for all the bands, so I can feed any band from 160 to 10-metres to either the right or left side of my brain, introducing a phase lag that gives the appropriate side 4-5 dB gain. Thus, with a simple flick of a switch, I can increase the signal on any band from white noise to a perfectly readable signal! What do you think of that? And don't tell the guy with the delta loop or he'll build one!"

Son of a Gun! We had a fleeting thought of running this by the Old Timer, but common sense prevailed. Why propagate this up the line? So, we did what had to be done. "Good for you", we said, giving the QRPer a knowing look, "you've figured out one of the Eternal Enigmas of DXing. Keep this knowledge to yourself, share it with no one, and use it to work the DX. Tell no one else what you've discovered!" The QRPer leapt to his feet, and headed off down the hill, confident that he was just that much closer to understanding the Mysteries of the Ages and the true meaning of DX IS! As for us, we shook our head slowly back and forth, got up and shrugged our shoulders. What more could we say when everything had been said? Nothing!

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

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Last updated 14 December 2020