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Surfin’: How’s TV DX?

08/19/2011

By Stan Horzepa, WA1LOU
Contributing Editor

This week, Surfin’ recalls the lazy, hazy, crazy days of summertime TV DX.

It was a lazy summer afternoon in my hometown, Waterbury, Connecticut, back in 1969. I was relaxing in the backyard, watching the battery-powered portable RCA TV that my folks gave me as a high school graduation gift.

Maybe I was daydreaming about the trip I was going to take with some friends later that summer to see a rock concert in upstate New York, or maybe I was worrying about Yaz and my pitching-challenged Red Sox. In either case, the rolling picture on the portable TV distracted me from those thoughts.

When it became apparent that the rolling was not going to stop, I got up out of my cushy chair and adjusted the horizontal hold and the antenna, but it did not help. When I realized that E-skip was causing the rolling, I started switching the channel selector between channels 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 to see what I could see. My reward was crystal clear pictures from stations in Iowa -- 1100 miles away.

In the past, I’d seen TV E-skip from Canada and Cuba (1300 miles between Waterbury and Havana), but that was with my family’s console TV and a rotatable Yagi antenna on the roof. This Iowa E-skip was captured with the 1-element telescoping antenna built into a low-end portable TV. Amazing!

I’ve seen TV E-skip since then, but nothing as impressive as what I saw back in 1969. Then again, I am a casual aficionado of E-skip. I enjoy it when I encounter it, but I do not sit in front of the receiver during the summer months waiting for it to roll in. But I wonder if K1MOD or WA5IYX do?

Jeff Kadet, K1MOD, of Macomb, Illinois, has been chasing television DX for a long time. He has photos of TV DX going back to 1963 on his website, so he has been at it at least 48 years!

“It’s all in the timing” is a quote from Johnny Carson that Jeff displays on his website, so I assume he does not sit in front of the receiver half the summer waiting for DX, but his success at catching TV DX is awesome, so he must be doing something right.

Pat Dyer, WA5IYX, of San Antonio, Texas, has been at it since the mid 1970s. He also has an impressive collection of TV DX photos on his website, including a catch of BBC Channel 1 – more than 5000 miles away. He has also been uploading TV DX video clips to YouTube; search for his call sign on YouTube to find them.

Recently, I read a claim that chasing DX in the digital era is easier than in the analog era. Digital TV signals include the station identification in their packets, so your receiver instantly knows what station it is receiving, unlike the analog TX DX days when you hoped and prayed the DX lasted until the station identified itself. 

Chasing TV DX makes the summer reruns more palpable and, by the way, the first half of this column is an edited rerun from the summer of 2001.

Until next time, keep on surfin’!

Editor’s note: Stan Horzepa, WA1LOU, resides in downtown Wolcott, Connecticut, and is a member of the QQCC (QST Quarter Century Club) -- he was a QST writer for 25 years. Since getting his ticket in 1969, Stan has sampled nearly every entrée in the Amateur Radio menu (including a stint as Connecticut Section Manager), but he keeps coming back to his favorite preoccupations: VHF and packet radio. As a result, he runs a 2 meter APRS digipeater and weather station from his hilltop location in Central Connecticut. Stan has been a long time advocate of using computers with ham radio and wrote programs to dupe contests and calculate antenna bearings way back in 1978. Today, he is on the board of directors of the Tucson Amateur Packet Radio (TAPR) and uses his Mac to surf the Internet searching for that perfect ham radio webpage. To contact Stan, send e-mail or add comments to the WA1LOU blog.



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