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Fwd: [PVRC] Tips for the CW Contester and DX'er by KH6IJ (73 Mag. Feb 68)

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  • Paul Dluehosh
    Here is a great article for contesters passed along by W3LPL on the PVRC Reflector... Some references may be obscure to new hams, but the techniques still work
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 29, 2011
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      Here is a great article for contesters passed along by W3LPL on the PVRC Reflector...

      Some references may be obscure to new hams, but the techniques still work today!

      Paul -- N4PD
      Sent from my iPad

      Begin forwarded message:

      From: <donovanf@...>
      Date: December 28, 2011 15:31:06 EST
      To: pvrc@...
      Subject: [PVRC] Tips for the CW Contester and DX'er by KH6IJ (73 Mag. Feb 68)

      The 73 Magazine archives have now been placed on the Internet Archive


      I downloaded this classic article by one of the most famous names in contesting, Katashi Nose KH6IJ.  This article is as enjoyable and informative to read now as it was in 1968.



      Katashi Nose KH6IJ
      Physics Department
      University of Hawaii,
      Honolulu, Hawaii 96822

      Tips for the CW Contester and DX'er


      Go as high power (to the legal limit) as your budget and facilities will allow, "Low power is all one needs for DX" is sour grapes and unrealistic. I have worked the East coast of the USA from Hawaii on 160 meter CW with 25 watts to a guy wire and have been on the receiving endof a chap in Arizona using 6 milliwatts on 28 MHz CW, but that's for the birds if you want to enjoy DX without waiting for that freak break.

      Low power may be fine for the higher frequency bands but on the lower frequency bands it is a waste of time, Likewise stacked arrays, long booms, and high structures are fine if you can afford them, but I have found that the mental strain in a wind storm is not worth the price. Frankly, there is little to choose between a quad and a Yagi as long as you have some kind of a Beam with reasonable radiation efficiency, I have been through many cycles including stacked four over four beams,
      rhombics, and 45 foot booms, some of which are described in the antenna handbook and magazine articles.

      A good receiving location is more important than long booms and superheights or yagi versus quad arguments. Let's face it, some of us are not situated to work DX.

      Would you care to compete in the Indianapolis Classic in your family car? Get the best there is that you can afford, either homebuilt or commercial made. The qualities to look for in a CW receiver are controllable selectivity, fast recovery and freedom from front-end overloading. My contest contacts jumped a good deal when I switched from conventional IF to mechanical filters,

      Lest you think that I am a button pusher, let me say that I entered the first few DX contests with a microphonic 201-201-112 combination in which one did the fine tuning by body English (leaning forward and backward to the right position after each transmission). Later a National FB7 was used which had only M inch (not misprint) of bandspread for the whole 20 meter band. There was no such thing as zero beating a station because one couldn*t find zero beat. However, for those who were fastidious, one could shut off the plate voltage and by
      holding the key down and letting the filament voltage provide a 60 cycle buzz of a sort, one could get near the correct frequency (wavelength in those days,)*

      To zero or not to zero

      In CW work there is no choice but to zero beat. Listening up five (or ten) merely serves to clutter up the band. How would you like to work in a net in which each station was on a different frequency? A party line is what you want, so that everyone knows what is happening and where he stands.

      The average CW man is smart enough to learn very quickly which way the wind is blowing. It doesn't take him long to find out that he is making an ass of himself by getting out of phase,

      A good operator can take complete control of a frequency, I have heard operators who spend more time complaining of the QRM on their frequency, and trying to line them up in proper numerical order, than working them. If the QRM gets out of hand, one can always get out from under and sneak up on a new frequency.

      Work stations and reduce the pile in natural order, the loudest ones first (with exceptions mentioned later) and get rid of them so you can work down into the weak layer. If vou find that they are all about the same strength, tune off to one side just a litde (something you cannot do with SSB very far). It is very seldom that everybody will be exactly on the same frequency, Work slightly around the edges of your frequency and back and forth across your frequency. Let your ear separate the slightest frequency differences. If you cannot do this you need more practice.

      The operator

      One must keep in condition to be able to work a successful contest. Be able to copy 50 words per minute in your head and to take down 35 words per minute solid. Logkeepers and spotters are a waste of time and as necessary as the fifth wheel.

      The bottleneck is not spotting or logkeeping, but the operator on the other end. You can catch up on your log keeping while the other operator is sending. You will find ample time for logkeeping and other bookkeeping chores while the other fellow is sending, except when you hit an operator who has been around contesting a lot. If you meet two or three of these fellows one after another you will find yourself three or four contacts behind in logging. However, there is a trick in this situation too. Simplify your numbering system, what difference does it make to anybody whether you pass out a 599 or 579, you might as well give them all 599. The chances are he will also give you a 599 so
      why complicate bookkeeping. Moreover, a good report makes the other operator think that he is getting in loud and clear and will make the contact short and fast.

      To squeeze out that weak one employ the following technique. Hold your breath, close your eyes, cock your head and concentrate. Incidently, I have found that this works for hearing tests as well. I presume you use earphones, because if you use loudspeakers you are not a CW Dx'er, note I didn't say phone Dxer because quite a number of hams apparently don't know that one can monitor the quality of ones transmission by using earphones and your own receiver. If you use a transceiver, of course
      you are out of luck.

      The stethoscope type of earphone allows you to wear glasses in comfort since you will be operating for 8 hour stretches. The old earmuff type (Brandes, Baldwin) phones made your ears feel as if they were ready to drop off after a few hours of use.

      When your contacts start falling off to less than 30 an hour, it is time to catch up with a catnap. Get a good rest of at least six hours every night.

      Special techniques

      Unless you can get into the dense ham population area you might as well forget about becoming one of the top scores. In the ARRL DX Contest, this means that you must put in a good signal into the second and third call areas for at least 14 hours a day. There seem to be a lot of W6s but you will find that they get fished out very quickly. The second and third districts will furnish an inexhaustible supply of weak ones.

      If it is a world-wide competition (CQ type), unless you are situated to work into Europe, you are not going to be among the world high. The South American CW contester is a rare bird, and you can't get many CW multipliers from the North American continent.

      Know when special openings are going to take place and be there with proper schedules. Special openings sometimes are of only a few minutes duration. For instance you can work that Wl on 160 meters just as the sun in rising on the East Coast. He will peak up and rise out of the noise level and disappear again only once.

      On the low frequency bands, don't get sucked in by the first loud station who calls you. He can serve a useful purpose by using him as a bait. Let him call you but don't answer for a while. His cry of anguish will alert the band to the fact that something interesting is underneath. When the pack becomes thick, pick them off one by one. This technique will save a lot of CQing on your part on the low frequency bands.

      However, certain non-DX types will fool you because he gives up easily and quits after a few calls. Cultivate a clientele and learn their habits and foibles. You will find that certain ones will always be there as soon as you open up on the band. Make a habit of opening up on a certain band at a set time, the old timer contester will be there waiting for you. W9IOP, W4KFC, W3MSK, W3GRF, W6RW, to name a few, don't get rattled easily. They will quit if they don't get you in the first few calls, knowing full well that their time will come around when the hue and cry subsides. Learn to recognize fragments of familiar calls.

      Don't fold up in the face of competition, the opposition can always blow up a power transformer or have a social engagement the second weekend. Don't show your hand but keep the opposition guessing, and in
      this respect serial number sequences are less desirable since it involves one more type of bookkeeping. Multipliers will take care of themselves if you pile up the volume. Do not keep the other station guessing by changing pace. Set up a definite sequence and stick to it. Deviation from a sequence or change of pace only serves to confuse
      the operator at the other end. When you go back to a station, his call will be lost in a pile of QRM and he will know who you went back to. Therefore it is important that you reassure him by signing his call at the end of an exchange plus your call. Signing your call at the end advertizes your presence on the band and prevents queries as "what is your call?" Sign your call only once, no more, after all, they know who
      is being hunted. A mere "break" only serves to get several other stations acknowledging you, each one thinking that he has nailed you.

      Learn to copy a fast sender through a slow sender. Many times you will find that someone who calls very slowly will be in harness with a fast caller. Get rid of the fast caller with a fast exchange and then go
      back to the slow one, He won't know the difference. If the slow caller (long caller) unexpectedly signs early, a short "QRZ" will keep him going for another round until you are ready for him.

      Sometimes you will find two stations sending you a serial number each thinking that he has mailed you, A short "ok" at appropriate intervals will hold both for you until you sign out both calls. However, this last trick calls for considerable practice and finesse because you can get into an awful mess by losing synchronism.


      Use carbon paper and send in the carbon copy (FCC says you must keep original logs.) The standard ARRL logbook is good for only 29 contacts per page and is not recommended for contests in the order of 4000 contacts.

      It is amazing how well one can keep track of duplications after a few years of practice. The average contester has a pretty foolproof filing system so let him do the work for you. You will not have time to keep track of multipliers at first, Leave that chore to a slack period, You are less liable to make mistakes this way.

      Hang on to that ballpoint pen at all times and don't lay it down. Learn to send on the bug while holding the pen in the same hand. The other hand can be arranging papers or adjusting controls while you are sending. Can you imagine picking up a pen and laying it down 8000 times which is what one would do in the course of a good hot contest.

      A parting shot

      Over 8000 contacts were made in the 1967 ARRL DX Contest from a 5000 square foot city lot using a tribander and antenna system described in a recent magazine article with a 40 foot tower from 160 meters through 10, Tower guy wires were used as radiators for the low frequency bands. For the contest antagonist, let me say that I have been through the public interest and necessity bit. Ask any old timer about the relav circuit from KA1HR (Manila, OM1TR (Agana) to NY2AB (Coco Solo) to W3CXL
      (Washington DC). There was none of this "a phone match is in progress and a clear channel will be appreciated" stuff. Message traffic ran up as high as 4000. Traffic handling, ragchewing, net operation, RTTY,
      VHF, have been tried but there is nothing like a good hot DX contest to test men and equipment.
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