What is “DXing”? “DX” is old telegrapher’s shorthand for “long distance”. Since the beginnings of radio were exclusively Morse code transmissions, the term was quickly adopted & adapted to mean a “long distance radio signal or communication”. Since the origins of radio, “DXers” came to be known as those quirky people who don headphones & listen for faraway, often weak radio signals. Originally, many of these were amateur “ham radio” operators who had obtained licenses to transmit via short-wave to experience the thrill of communicating with a “DX” operator in exotic lands & places. Many however, have chosen to concentrate on “DX” listening as a hobby instead of the more technical challenges & qualifications required of a ham operator. Pioneer Northwest broadcasters, such as Vincent Kraft, Louis Wasmer & Carl Haymond were all early “DXers”. Bootlegger Roy Ohmstead “DXed” for communications from his distant ships bringing alcohol to thirsty Seattle residents. To this very day, there are still those who get their kicks tuning around static-filled radios listening for weak signals from afar. Today’s “DXer” now has the choice of using the latest in radio receiver technology – software defined radios or SDR’s as they’re known. These well-built digital receivers are no more than a small box connected to one’s computer & all receiving & functions are done via elaborate, sophisticated software. There are also “DXers” who prefer classic, well-built radios from the past, preferring the well crafted & designed communications receivers of yesteryear. These older radios now long obsolete can be cleaned, refurbished & restored by a skilled, competent technician.

There are many different aspects & interests within the “DX” hobby. Some listen to short-wave broadcasters from afar. Some prefer listening to ham radio 2-way communications. Some chase the 2-way military or shipping traffic which often used text-based radio transmissions similar to FAX. Some “DXers” enjoy listening to communications on their scanners from various first responders. Some “DXers” are listening for some of the original types of long distance radio – the AM broadcast band! I just happen to be one of these! As we all know: after darkness sets in, the ionosphere reflects AM broadcast signals over long – sometimes stunning – distances. With high-end receivers containing filters & other means of dealing with weak radio signals, coupled with well-designed, tested & well-built antennas, DXing the AM band at night still provides a thrill for myself & a select group of equally enthused & equipped “AM DXers”.

What this means for you is that I have the unique ability to eavesdrop on most Wash. state AM’s each & every night as an “AM DXer”. Contrary to popular beliefs, the AM band is NOT entirely a wasteland of syndicated talk, sports & lifestyle features. There ARE a few of these that dare to be different. On occasion I’ll get our head admin Jason, to fuel up the Puget Sound Media SUV & we’ll take a little roadtrip to examine some of these.

This wasn’t intended to be an in-depth article about “DXing” & merely scratches the surface of this particular hobby & it’s many facets. While the FCC is touting “AM Revitalization” we here at PSM keep on top of our region’s AM stations so there’s no revitalization required here! “AM Revitalization” is a complex subject that I will be writing more about in the future. Stay tuned!     

Author: Mike Cherry

retired broadcaster: on-air, MD, PD, asst PD, Prod Mgr, IT, station technician/engineer, pioneer Internet webcaster, station installation/maintenance; 12 years in commercial radio, 17 years volunteer in campus/community radio in B.C., Alberta & Wash. Amateur radio operator & "DXer" specializing in AM night-time DX, short-wave DX/listening & remote SDR DXing/listening

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