October 17, 2015

DX Technique: Persistence

We have all been there.  You are calling and calling on HF with no reply.  You then start to wonder, "Is anyone receiving me?"  Perhaps you may even begin to doubt your signal is making past your properly line, "Is my signal going anywhere?"

CQ, CQ, CQ, ...

Faced with this type of doubt many hams simply turn the dial or switch bands.  After all, if your signal is going nowhere then why bother?  However, does abandoning the frequency as a strategy make sense if your signal is actually being heard in desirable DX locales?  As in life, good things (i.e. good DX) come to those who are persistent.

"Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time." -- Thomas A. Edison

Often the key to unlocking your own personal power of persistence is information.  Information can remove the uncertainty and doubt and help us make an informed choice to stay or move from a frequency.  In the age of the Internet, we now have access to excellent information regarding where our signals are being received.

A wonderful free service that provides remarkable information is "PSK Reporter".  Using PSK Reporter you can quickly determine visually where in the world your signal is being received with just a few clicks.  If you haven't tried it be prepared to be amazed!

Example 1: configuring PSK Reporter to determine where your JT-65 signal is being received

  1. Using your web browser navigate to PSK Reporter.
  2. Enter your own call sign in the upper left corner of the screen and click, "Find".  This will take you to a screen with a map and drop down filter options at the top.
  3. Select the band you are using with the drop down next to "On".
  4. Select the mode you are operating with using the drop down next to "using".
  5. Select the time interval you are interested in using the drop down next to "over the last".  We typically use "15 minutes" to limit the results to the last 15 minutes.
  6. Click "Go!" to retrieve your results and update the map.

In the example above, we can see that my JT-65 calls were being received and decoded by stations all over the world as indicated by the yellow call out balloons with time durations.  For example, 3 minutes prior to this query, my JT-65 signal was received and decoded by a station in Canada (VE6ADZ).  My signal was also received 13 minutes earlier by stations in Hawaii and Asia.  My signal was also received 1 minute earlier by a station in Puerto Rico.

This information helped motivate me to continue operating even though I wasn't receiving as many calls as I would like.  I could see quickly that my signal was being received in many of the locations I was targeting such as the US Eastern States, Hawaii, and Asia.

Recently, I was operating JT-65 on 40m in the morning.  I had been calling for about 30 minutes without any DX calls.  I was beginning to feel a little discouraged; however, I could see from PSK Reporter that my signal was being decoded in Asia and this motivated me to continue calling.  Once again the power of persistence paid off and I was rewarded with a contact with 9V1XX in Singapore which is a new DXCC entity for me and Kazuhiko confirmed the QSO via LoTW!  This was an excellent contact indeed.

The next day, I started decoding E21LXK (Thor) at 1546 UTC from Thailand on 20m JT-65.  His signal was weak and according to PSK Reporter my signal was not crossing the gray line to Asia yet.  It seemed it was too early for a contact.  Thailand would be a new DXCC entity for me so I was determined to see if I could make the contact.  Each time Thor would call CQ I would diligently return his call.  The contact would then proceed between Thor and some station in Europe or Asia (none in the US).  Each time I returned his call I would check PSK Reporter and found that no stations were reporting receiving my signal.  I noticed that E21LXK's signal strength was increasing slightly as time went on.  This gave me hope that an opening would appear and provide a window of opportunity to complete the contact.  This went on until 1738 when suddenly his signal shot up as though he was operating from my neighborhood coffee shop!  Excited at my good fortune, I returned his call again and this time Thor replied and we completed the QSO!  Persistence paid off once again.

There are many interesting uses for the information provided by PSK Reporter.  For example, the information is very good for radio experimentation (e.g. power settings, antennas, etc.).  It is quite interesting to adjust your power and see the immediate impact on where the signal is being heard.  It is surprising how little power is needed with modes like JT-65.  This is great fun.

Fire up PSK Reporter, get on the air, and drop your call to see where you are being heard.  There is a good chance you are being heard in more places that you thought and you have better odds at making an interesting DX contact when you are persistent.

Good DX and 73, NJ2X

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