The Joy of Radio

My plans for the ARRL International DX Contest (CW) were, as usual, very modest. Spend a few hours in search and pounce mode on a single band, 40 meters. No quest for big numbers, and no pressure. And that’s just what I did. I’ve nothing against contesting, in fact I enjoy it very much. But I’m not very competitive and frequently jump into the fray only to pull the plug after an hour or two. I’ve no intention of putting endless hours “in the chair” and I don’t care about my score.

And so it went this weekend. I put in two hours Saturday night and another very early on Sunday morning. More than enough exposure to rekindle the old flame that keeps the spirit of radio alive in those of us who hold it dear. At first it was mostly Europe – LZ9W, S50A, S50C and S57Z. DL1A and OM0M, and SP7GI. OL7M, G4A, and E70T. SH4W, 9A8M, and YO9HP.

Ham radio is well represented in Russia and across all of Europe, East and West.

Since I was in no particular hurry and operating S&P, I would often linger on frequency after working one of these stations, listening to the others being worked. It was easy to imagine the distant fellow at the key, no doubt sitting at a desk, like me, hand on VFO, like me, headphones on head, like me. His family may be in the other room, detached from the activity in the other room but curious at the attraction that dominates a part of our lives that we call our “hobby”.

Distant cousins in the evolution of humanity but kindred spirits brought even closer by the joy of radio.

In the early pre-dawn hours of Sunday morning I was back at the key and the Earth had moved. Now signals were coming from across the vast expanse of the Pacific and I worked JH1GBZ in Japan, WH7M in Hawaii, and VK3IO on the southern tip of Australia near Melbourne. Two cups of coffee later and the 40 meter signals from South America and the Caribbean began pounding in.

PV8ADI, HI3K, HC1WDT, and CO8ZZ were in the log in minutes. Then came KP2M, V31AT, VP5S, PJ2T, PJ4X, and C6AWW. The sun hadn’t yet cracked the eastern sky when I worked NP2N, NP2P, XE2S and a handful of others. In all, I worked stations in 43 different entities. None were “all time new ones” but many could be first time confirmed on 40 – if they use LoTW.

I don’t know about you, but I still find magic in this pursuit. Perhaps that’s owing to my 20th century upbringing. I sometimes hear or read chatter about ham radio being obsolete since the advent of the Internet. Mobile phones and the Internet can’t compare with this: when I touch my key, a world of friends comes calling.

In 1941, Clinton B. DeSoto wrote, “Amateur radio is my hobby. In its pursuit I find the balm of Gilead.”

And in the afterglow of a big international DX contest, I know exactly what he meant.

Author: Jeff Davis