Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Does technology really make it better?

A number of times on blogs and email list postings I have seen comments that went something like this. "I saw [rare DX] spotted on the cluster. A click and PowerSDR had changed to that band, selected the antenna, tuned the amp and turned the beam in that direction. CW Skimmer showed me the DX station and where people were calling. I saw someone sending a report so I knew where the DX was listening. Another click and I was netted on to him. I sent my call as soon as he had finished and the DX came right back with my report. It doesn't get much better than this!"

But does it? Does a freshwater fisherman yearn for a radar that will show him where all the fish are and a net he can stretch across the river so he can pick out the biggest specimens? Doesn't all this computer technology just remove all the elements of chance and skill that provide the interest in radio DXing? Wouldn't it be even better than this if a program called CW Operator actually finished the job by doing the boring part: replying to the DX station, logging the contact and printing out the QSL card?

Someone wrote to me yesterday that they had heard of people who had got rid of all their commercial gear and just used an MFJ Cub or similar as their main station. When I see where technology is taking the hobby I'm tempted to follow them. It's the difficulty of making a contact and the thrill of finally achieving it that makes this pastime worthwhile, not the rarity of the station contacted. Do the people who have spent tens of thousands setting up automated high powered stations really get any satisfaction from using them? What's their thrills per buck ratio?

One thing is for sure, the folks who got DXCC in the days before computers really earned their awards. I don't think the same can be said for many of today's radio amateurs.
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