Introduction to DX News
This is basic information for people with no prior knowledge of Amateur Radio, DX and Radiosport.
It all started more than a century ago when commercial radio users determined those short waves being useless for broadcasting and military purposes. Let them play with these unprofitable frequencies - was the ruling of the day. Things have changed since then.
The experimenters and plain fanatics soon discovered that these impractical waves sometimes reached very far. The greater the distance, the more excited they got. Abbreviations were common in the era of railroad telegraph and an appropriate abbreviation was adopted for distant signals on the radio. Undetermined distance became Distance X - viz. DX. A DX in the radio lingo means today a distant station, or its operator. A DX can mean a few miles when microwaves are used, but for the majority of shortwave lovers the term denotes signals from at least another continent.
Today DXing has two meanings - passive and active. A passive DXer is someone who is listening to distant commercial radio stations on both medium and short waves, trying to identify them. The contents of such transmissions is irrelevant for the listener, only the distance and the quality of the reception matter. Medium-wave stations, identified as AM on a car radio, are phased out in many areas. Their transmitting antennas are bulky and the transmitters consume much energy.
Try https://www.wikipedia.org/wiki/DXing for a start.
A good source of up-to-date information about licensed stations is the database at http://www.qrz.com. More than half a million Amateur Radio operators in the USA hold such permits, and over 2 million in the rest of the world. They are mostly interested in shortwave bands which require relatively small antennas, but cover the whole planet. A new trend on the rise is giving Amateur Radio permits and call signs, in some countries, for VHF and UHF bands only. No need to comply with international regulations regarding global coverage on HF bands. Countries like Japan, Indonesia and Thailand can show huge figures for Amateur Radio licensees, but this is fake news. VHF-only handy-talkie is not Amateur Radio. They look for cheap communication locally, not for global coverage, and are not interested in learning how HF radio works. These radio waves, called HF - abbreviated for High Frequency - can be reflected from layers of particles that exist around the Earth, between 50 and 500 miles above the surface. These layers and the deflections is nothing to be taken for granted. It is a dynamic process, influenced by the Sun and the Earth's magnetism. Basically, you never know if the radio waves will disappear in the outer space or will return to the ground, or more likely, to the sea, since there is more water than land on Earth. This is where the thrill of DXing is. Amateur Radio is about understanding what goes on, well, to a certain extent. The scientists have made huge progress in explaining the Sun, the magnetism and the ionosphere around the Earth, but we cannot control them. We know more and more how to use these phenomena and predict some effects, but we can only humbly accept what is generated by the Nature.
The Internet is vital for contemporary DXers. The news about operative stations, propagation and solar activity, background information about the installations and operators, technical advice and other facts are readily posted on many portals and individual websites. A well-working real-time information billboard called The DX Summit gives a total picture of current activity on all frequencies assigned to Amateur Radio. The amount of information is incredible, and the abuse of this portal is its weak point. Too many operators announce insignificant events and the true DX is no longer highlighted. Egocentrics declare their presence on the air without any respect for the current propagation conditions, others advertise friends and neighbours for no reason. This site is recommended for the experienced operator who can quickly filter out irrelevant information. The DX News is dedicated to reliable information about DXing and contesting. Here, one can read about present and planned trips to remote places, reports, often illustrated, about active operators and groups. This information source is free to use and ads-free. A bonus is the forum open to everyone interested in exchanging news and tips, as well as soliciting for help, promoting activities in remote and developing countries. Check https://dxnews.com/forum/ and try it yourself.
The Internet offers new services to the DXer, never-thought-of before. The digital technology allows setting up receiving posts which can be controlled by anyone. This can be used to monitor how your transmitter sounds in a distant location. This can be also used for comparing the propagation in different places. Finally, what I recommend to every reader whose curiosity has been aroused by this article, to try passive DXing on the web, in front of your computer at home. Do it before you acquire a traditional radio receiver and hang some reasonable antenna. One suggestion is looking for links to the SDR (Software Defined Radio) receivers on line.
Centuries ago people believed in the aether in which the signals spread through. Now we know that radio waves are basically the same kind of radiation as light, X-ray and others. They just behave in a different way and people know how to use them to communicate with others. However, the shortwave radio is still a mysterious adventure, attracting more and more people all over the world.
Henryk Kotowski, SM0JHF