Contesting in my view

This is a view of a ham who hates contesting. If you are an avid contester, please omit reading it.

I  used to enjoy contesting in the beginner days in '60s and '80s/ '90s. It was a time for me to test my set up. For a beginner teenager ham with a 6AQ5 TX with ladder line fed dipole, it was a real thrill to work abroad anywhere in contests. Later, I was chasing DX in contests as well as trying to get high score at the same time.

I became to know it had been impossible for me to compete with the big guns in contests. I also lost interests in DXing since it was only a rat race full of trickery. I saw XU8DX, which was operated by a native girl, had been forced to go QRT by a behavior of an undisciplined egoistic DXpeditioner.

At almost the same time, I felt contesting could not be a real origin of our pleasure. In contests, we handle the others as means for our pleasure. Not an objective. The others whom we work in contest could be replaced to anyone. No human relationship with the others. In the real QSO as a communication between humans, the others should be the objective themselves. The others are not replaceable to anyone in that case. The directions which contesters and non contesters are heading to are quite opposite in my view. 180 degrees opposite.

I am sure contesting could be substituted to computer game in the very near future. It is not worthy to have such a big set up for only contesting. Too costly. I am sure young people won't spend much money for that costly humanityless thing any longer. For the past decade, we have lost almost all activities in contesting by university clubs in Japan such as JA7YAA, JR1ZTT, JA9YBA , JA2YKA ans so forth. The last one, JA3YBK, was not heard recently any longer. This loss of activity by young people means that contesting is on the downhill at least in Japan. I am sure those contesters have become computer game freaks.

Any CW clubs need something to attract members to the club. They often give that role to contesting. I am sure it is wrong. It will eventually lessen the other activities in clubs than contesting. I sincerely hope the CW clubs won't be contest oriented.


  1. Shin,
    I enjoyed so much the great picture of your garden and the cello posting. I would ask you to post more pictures of your garden and home. Perhaps even of inside your hamshack.Please don't be so critical of ham contesters. I am also retired from that, but without them CW would disappear from our ham bands. We don't want that do we?
    Bob, W6CYX

    1. Bob,

      Thank you for the comment. I have told contest lovers, either in the past or at present, not to read this! hi I understand what you meant. John, WA9AQN, also told me the same thing. It must be a common sense. I just would like to express my philosophy against contesting. There could be subtle but positive relationship of contesting with the decreased overall activity in ham radio.

      Yes, I will take some photos of the garden and the shack etc and uproad them here. Tomorrow, I will have a visitor, Nobu JF3KNW. I should clean this messy shack. Maybe, then, I could take a few photos here. Be patient.
      Thanks again.


  2. Shin,

    We all come into amateur radio from different directions and meet on the air eventually. It is a pity that real communication has been reduced to a 599 TU but I suppose that is better than nothing, as Bob /W6CYX says. CW is the fastest way to complete a QSO for contesters, faster than RTTY or even SSB. A good contester can rack up 15 QSO's a minute. The art of CW has now become "Radio Sport" for many, a term I first heard a few years ago.

    It is strange that some keen contesters are also great ragchewers. I know that some of the CW Ops guys on USA west coast can hold a very good conversation, but for some reason you only hear their big signals during contesting times. It seems a waste of skill and talent. But I respect their right to contest if it gives them a buzz.

    For myself, I arrived in amatuer radio in an unusual way. My last QSO at sea was in 1987, and I did not touch a Morse key for 15 years until I got my 9V license in 2002. During those years QRT I would find myself walking down the road converting street signs into Morse in my head, or reading a book and doing the same thing. I thought "how can I get back into CW since it has gone dead at sea?" The only way was to become a radio amateur. When I first went on air in 2002 I heard "test" and thought lots of guys were testing their rigs ! It shows how naive I was. It all seemed rather odd to me and I have never understood it.

    CW to me has always been about making friends. At sea after exchanging QTCs with a coast station, if the op was not busy we would start to chat. Many times I have been invited to see the coast radio station and even have dinner with the operator's family when I reached their port. This is true of P2M (Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea) where the chief op was a really great Italian guy who wined and dined me. Similarly of Cape Town Radio (ZSC). I had several friends there and radio was a way of getting to know people.

    The same is true of amatuer radio if we are patient enough. The contesters can carry on enjoying their version of radio. It does no harm. The same goes for the DX-ers who spend a lot of their own money going to remote island reefs etc. ( Someone I know in Singapore is on the NH8S expedition. It cost him US$ 8000 to go). I cannot understand this but they obviously enjoy the thrill and I cannot criticize them at all.

    For ragchewers it is often more of a challenge. We have to listen to the operator and hear if he is really interested in 599 TU or not. There are some guys (like me) living in DX areas who have to put up with the pileups, but who would much rather be chatting. I have heard some excellent DX operators who will endure a pileup in order to satisfy the DX-hunters, then break into a ragchew.

    I still think there is room for everybody in CW. Let the contesters and DX-ers enjoy themselves (even though we may not understand the attraction). There is still space for ragchewing.


    John 9 V 1 V V

  3. Shin san
    As you also enjoyed before, contest and dxing had been exciting thing. Beacuse results were mainly depends on the skills of hamradio operators.
    Unfortunately, after computer and internet have been introduced in those games, skill of operator became not a major function to win.

    1. John and Atsu,

      Thanks for the comments. Your observations might be right. I wanted to emphasize what I would like ham radio, especially CW communication, to be. There could be different ways of enjoyment in it. I thoroughly understand it.

      But I would propose you to consider what is going on behind the surface of the phenomenon. I am a little bit pessimistic for ham radio in the future. Both contesting and DXing used to be trial to work farther and more on radio. They have lost its original characteristics closely related with the communication or conversation. They have become a kind of game now. It is clearly against the human aspect of ham radio in my opinion. No wonder good contesters won't come on for ragchewing, even though some of them are really competent ones. They seek only some thrills and desires for fame in radio.

      Nevertheless, I won't convince the others to enjoy radio in my way. I would just enjoy it as I do. Won't care for the others.  

      John, you might be one of the relics of the past as I am. The interval between 1980s and 2000s has brought radio communication a drastic change as you said. Ham radio was not an exception. The internet technology has changed completely the meaning of radio communication. Good old days have passed. But, in ham radio, I believe, the human aspect of communication still should occupy the essential part. Let's go on in the old fashioned way together!

  4. As you all know I am a semi retired DXer and contester. Hench my big station and antennas hi -

    As Atsu points out this has changed with the internet as has rag chewing. Today u point and click the band map and instantly your rig/ants change to that frequency. A lot of new and old hams will call where ever that puts there sets too with many relying on code readers to decipher calls. To me that took the challenge out of radio. As John states it is much like RTTY.

    We no longer spend hours tuning our rigs around the bands looking for stations. I am guilty of that myself with rag chewing. I rely on RBN and set it to FOC members or other clubs. I think we all miss the trill of tuning the bands much like fishing. You never know what you will catch.

    Although I must say sometimes I still enjoy the thrill of a pile up which makes my blood pump. I guess this is from the many years of DXing and contesting while raising my family which always has come first in my life.

    Today I enjoy rag chewing first as it has been very rewarding to me. I am back to my roots when first started in radio as a young ham of 12 yrs old.

    Amateur radio has changed much, there is no interest in radio as we have texting and internet with instant gratification. The days of old are long gone but at least we got to experience it when you could make a living at it as John did. Also as John states there is room for everyone in CW. I have become more tolerant of all aspects of CW communication.


    1. Steve,

      Thanks for your comment. I believe we have spent the same time in radio since 1960s. So I share the same idea and feeling for the various aspects of radio.

      I won't question of tolerance/intolerance for the other ways of enjoyment in radio than ragchewing. We should be tolerant to the other kinds of enjoyment, of course. Actually, I enjoy joining in pile ups or contests, even though I could not be serious at them at all. My anti contesting fundamentalism is not like a religion. A more open minded idea.

      The question is if the enthusiasm for DXing and contesting as it is at present hasn't changed anything in ham radio. Something is moving behind the phenomena. I wonder if they haven't devalued ham radio having it fallen into a game. Some people may say it is not of any value to question such thing since it is just a hobby. If it is of fun, that is good enough. But the other including myself may consider what way ham radio is going to. I am much concerned about that since I have been involved in this hobby for a long time and it could be so fruitful. Ham radio is just more than a simple hobby for me.

      I am tolerant enough for DXing and contesting. I won't make any fight with those who are not concerned about this issue.


    2. Shin, I agree with you that DXing and contesting has moved into a game of sorts. As I stated it has become completely different in today's society.

      The challenge of radio in general has changed with the influx of internet and more importantly keyboards and code readers. No longer is there a personal aspect to keying. In the old days you could tell who was on the end of the key by there banana boat swing or ever there paddles and straight keys. There was a individual or person behind it. Now there are robots doing it for them.

      This has become very discouraging to me. I am not tolerant of the robots sending and receiving CW. This is one reason I enjoy rag chewing. I like the challenge of trying to send perfect code at QRQ speeds with proper spacing between letters and words. With out this I would go QRT.

      Yes the hobby has changed a lot, I do not like it.As for the DXing and contesting, I do very little of it these days. Thank God for rag chewing with old and new friends. This is what keeps me going in radio.

      Steve N6TT 161