Perceptions of the 10-meter band over the years

I got my Novice ticket in 1978 and, although I didn’t realize it at the time, I’d never see DX conditions like that again. I was 17 and a senior in high school. Upon waking up at 6am to get ready for school, I would turn on my Ten-Tec Century 21 and work a few Europeans on 10 meters.

Each morning; every morning.

Unlike now, it was a given that Europeans would be coming in on 10 meters in the morning with JA’s and VK/ZL’s taking their place after each evening’s dinner. The thought of whether or not 10 would be “open” never occurred – it was then a known fact that 10m would yield DX for 20 out of 24 hours and the thought that this was not always the case was foreign to us newbies at the time.

If I had known then what I know now, perhaps I would have savored each 10m DX contact just a bit more.

I wish I could find the words to describe what is was like to be a newly-licensed ham, able to turn on a simple rig connected to a simple antenna and have a chat with someone in Paris, Leningrad or Brisbane, mate. To put out a CQ at 30 watts into a dipole and have a slew of DX stations with honest 599 signals answering little old me…

To say that it was magical doesn’t even come close.

And, back then, they truly were chats – not the “599 TNX & 73″ wham-bam-thankyouma’am’s that pass for QSO’s nowadays.

I thought it would always be that way.

Years later, I migrated down to lower bands to get my DX fix since working DX on 10 meters came to mean nothing. CB’ers were doing it next door on 27 MHz, anyone and everyone could (and was) doing it, therefore it was no longer a test of a DXer’s skill or tenacity. In my flawed thinking, to be a DXer worth his salt meant the ability to cross an ocean on Topband or 80 meters.

For years now, 10 meters has been on again, off again – mostly off. The past few days have been okay on that band but not great, yet the DX forums have DXers celebrating the fact that 10m opened to Europe for a few hours on two or three days.

A part of me says, “Big deal”. Another part has me scanning the band along with many others. Like them, I now think a 10m band opening is unique, rare and special. I’ve willingly forgotten the old days, lest I be considered jaded.

A few days ago I worked 3B9EME on 80 meters and, curiously, it meant little to me to travel 10,000 miles on that band. It wasn’t a New One – the 80m band has taken me to that part of the world many times.

If I could have worked them on 10 meters though…..that would have been something.

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  8 comments for “Perceptions of the 10-meter band over the years

  1. Scotty 2E0OZI
    September 28, 2013 at 3:33 pm

    G’day John,

    those must have been great days indeed! My first QSO ever was only a few years ago and my first CW QSO was in March 2012 HA2PP and it has seemed throughout my very short ham radio time that we are fighting poor conditions or enourmous amounts of interferance, or both! Although I wasn’t a ham in 1978 I was 12 years old and fascinated by the distant contacts my father made on his 23 channel CB in his work truck. Me and dad would sneak furtively out there at night and turn on the CB and listen to the signals coming in from all over the world. It made a big impression on me, and started me on the road to being a ham, a journey I completed more than 30 years later! 73 Scott the Aussie in the UK

    • September 28, 2013 at 3:46 pm

      Across the miles and cultural differences, we have similar histories in radio! When I was 7 my Dad bought a CB for his truck and I was amazed at the concept of radio from that point forward. No exotic DX, just talking/experimenting with a friend across town, his ability to communicate w/o wires amazed me. I inherited his interest in radio – and later, the truck – my first vehicle, a 64 Chevy.

  2. September 29, 2013 at 12:17 am

    Those sure were special times…

    I checked my old QSLs and found quite a few cards from Australia for 10m contacts. Most of the QSOs were made during 1979 and 1980 this was pretty much during the peak of cycle 21

    Many with comments like: converted CB radio, 10 watts, mobile whip.

    Oh well……

    • September 29, 2013 at 6:14 am

      Yes, a lot of CB’s got converted and the ham mags back then (especially 73 Magazine) contained articles on how to convert specific models. Cycle 21 certainly had a long-term peak.

  3. September 30, 2013 at 9:56 am

    I got my ticket, along with my 12 year old son at the time (AB5EB), in 1989, which was one cycle removed from you but I remember the same thing. 28.300 to 28.500 was wall to wall with some days the flux going to 300. I would get home from work and my son would have a log page or two filled because he got home from school before me. I was jealous. Good times.

    73,

    Mike AD5A

    • September 30, 2013 at 10:56 am

      I’ve often wondered how band conditions experienced as a new ham contribute to how long (and in what way) one pursues the hobby. If conditions then were like they are now, I may not have been inspired enough to remain in it or, God forbid, I might have become a 2m FM aficionado!

      But, better than any solar cycle, must be the sharing of the hobby with your son.

  4. October 3, 2013 at 1:41 am

    I first got my novice license in 1979, used an FT-7 running around 20w into a 3 element 10m Yagi. Could work something on 10m almost any time. Sometimes it was so busy with US signals from 28.3-28.5 Mhz (General SSB voice then I think) that I couldn’t find a quiet spot to get on! Not knowing better then thought this was normal, how times have changed.

    • October 3, 2013 at 6:09 am

      My antenna was a dipole at 20 feet yet working your fellow VK’s as easy as talking down the street!

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