Saturday, September 5, 2015

Record Keeping Part II-Stats

       One may ask " Why keep stats?" Maybe it is a variation on the idea of collecting things. Maybe its a means of measuring performance or the radios or the antenna-or maybe even the operator! Maybe its a means of learning things about prop, digging out the tough ones.  Maybe its for keeping the hobby fresh by always having something new to do in looking for the new ones-a new country, a new country on a given band, new states or grid squares or greater distances.  Maybe its for "bragging rights."
       In truth,  its probably for a bit of all those things.  I would suggest that for those who just tune randomly listening to what comes along that setting up a log and a secondary log for keeping stats will open a whole new "freshness" to the hobby and perhaps provide some direction out of the randomness.  It will also provide a good way to reflect back on the hobby years or decades later.
       The nature of the stat keeping can vary greatly,  and if allowed, can grow into almost as big a job as general log keeping itself.  I have gone through variations in general log keeping over the years, at times keeping one master log with all entries for all kinds of listening in one log.  I am kind of back there now. Everything is kept in a day to day log that is almost a journal of listening.: Shortwave Broadcast, Medium Wave, FM and TV DX, amateur band listening,  low frequency non directional beacons, and all forms of utilities. All are logged straight down as they come in the receiver and are identified. 
       I have also gotten in the habit of logging everything, not just the new things I hear.  That is to provide a way to look back and judge band conditions on given days or even weeks or months and get a handle on trends in prop. ( I am still learning the "Black Magic" of it all!)
       There have been times when I split out  certain types of listening into specialized logs.  I would log Medium Wave stations in a separate log, had utility stations in a separate log ( see previous posts) long wave stations in their own and TV DX in its own. There are advantages in that, too.  I am now thinking about taking my amateur VHF loggings and splitting them out.  Care must be taken in doing this because it can create a lot of work and not a little duplication, but the upside is learning about band conditions and things that create certain kinds of openings.  The work involved does pay back dividends in things learned and gives the DX-er something to do on the days when the bands are fully and truly dead or thunderstorms make it an unhealthy proposition to sit in front of a metal box connected to a giant lightning rod outside!
       So where should one start?  The simplest thing is to start with counting countries.  I actually started doing this back in 1958 while doing only Medium Wave DX with my old Watterson five tube table radio. I wasn't even keeping a full listening log then,  just a list of stations heard.  On a separate sheet, I kept a check list of countries heard.
       When shortwave listening began for me with my first home built receiver tuning other than Medium Wave that list began to grow.  When I began listening to the amateur bands and later got my amateur license,  it grew even more.  Soon I began to split the listings into amateur,  Medium Wave and All Others.  Then the amateur listings split into bands.  Then the All Others split into Shortwave Broadcast and Utilities. 
       This a few years ago during a period of particularly bad weather and remodeling to the house that precluded radio time ( they were all stored away for a time) the time presented itself for going back and "clarifying" all my listings. This might be considered Obsessive-Compulsive by some, but it was a fun way to relive the DX-ing experience over the years and helped deal with the "withdrawal" from being in front of the lighted dials.
       In my early amateur operating days,  I always listed stations I called unsuccessfully along with the stations that I actually worked.  This meant there were lots of stations and not a few countries that could be counted as SWL catches that had not been counted.  There was country-count gold there to be mined.
       I had already begun using the same ARRL County List charts for tracking amateur countries worked.  It was a matter of getting another copy of the chart and adapting it for SWL use. There are numerous ways of determining what is and what is not a DX country or " entity" and there can be some debate over which is " correct".  I am not here to join the debate or take one side or the other, but just to report that I happen to have chosen the DXCC list simply because it is at least something to go by.
       Some modifications to the list had to be made to adapt it for my purposes.  As it stands, the chart has a list of countries in order of prefix assignments, with columns to mark off each entity for the various bands 160-6 meters.  I added another column to the left of the entity listings for Medium Wave DX Countries.  There were two other columns to the far right of the band columns that were originally labeled " QSL's Sent" and "QSL's Received". I just relabeled them " SWBC" and " Utility"
        This "updating" turned into quite a job. Starting at the very beginning,  I went through my logs beginning back in 1958 page by page, carefully making down on the "Countries" chart in the appropriate column and line the countries as they appeared in the logs. The entries came from both the purely SWL logs and my amateur logs. Of course from the ham logs, any country actually worked counted as an SWL country on a given band because to have been worked,  it had to be heard.  And since in those early days,  I wrote down the callsign, frequency and signal report information from even the stations heard and unsuccessfully called, there were some other additional countries for the SWL log even if they did not make it as an amateur " worked" station. In those early ham days, my antennas might have been pretty fair for receiving but were in some cases less efficient for transmitting.  Also,  I had not learned the intricate dance sometimes involved in working a DX station in a heavy pileup, resulting in many good ones heard but not worked.
       This sweep of the old logs took some weeks.  Some of it was done while watching TV, some at night before drifting off to sleep, some at times when storms precluded getting on the radio, some done while radios were in storage during work on the house, and some time just taken to get it done.
       After all the updates to the countries chart had been completed, it was a matter of going down each column and counting the entities in each one.  I made up a separate tally sheet to list the tallies for each category:  MW, 160,80,40,30,20,17,15,12,10 and 6 meters, with the last two columns for SWBC and Utilities.  There was also an entry for overall grand total countries.  This number was obtained by once again counting the entry lines of the countries chart,  counting each line for which there was any entry at all.
       I regret at that time that I did not make a separate breakout for the different SWBC bands.  It would have been interesting to see what the results would have been looking at DX performance for the separate 120, 90, 60, 49,41, 31,25,19, 16 and 11 meter bands.  Then if I went totally crazy, I could have broken out the utility or maritime bands. Maybe there is such a thing as going too far!
       I have mentioned in an earlier post that I wish there were a SWL logging program that would allow doing such.  I simply have not found one that is as easy to work with as the basic ham "LOGGER" program,  with a simple one line entry.  With ham calls, the programs can easily handle dividing things up into entities by looking at the callsign prefix.  With SWBC and Utility calls, this is not so easy, but could be handled by the program having an entry column for manually putting in the ITU country prefix or identifier  rather than relying on the callsign.
      But I digress.  After the tally sheet was completed it is now just a simple matter of updating the tally sheet each time I log a new country on a given band.  When I make the X-mark in the appropriate column on the ARRL countries chart,  I just go to the tally sheet and add one to the appropriate band or category number.  I must also remember to add one to the total country total, but only if, in fact, there had been no entry for that entity before.
       So how did I come out.  Here is the list as it stands today(September 5, 2015) going back to when the first station was written down in January of 1958.
        Total Countries: 326
        Medium  Wave Countries:  26
        SWBC Countries:  136
        Utility Countries: 84
        160 meter amateur: 66
        80 meter amateur:  117
        40 meter amateur:  210
        30 meter amateur:  185
        20 meter amateur:  256
        17 meter amateur:  177
        15 meter amateur:  252
        12 meter amateur:  172
        10 meter amateur:  215
         6 meter amateur:    15
         2 meter amateur:      5
        NDB/LF BC:          10
         TV-DX:                   7
          FM-DX                   4
       I must note at this point that I had kept separate logs for two meters, TV, FM and LF/VLF with their own running tallies. Also,  all of these tallies are for stations received in Texas and Louisiana.  They do not include anything from the days listening from other locations, including the Washington, DC area and overseas locations.  I feel they should be counted separately and within their own context.
       OK, so these numbers probably don't equal those of the big time, hard core DX-er. But I have never claimed to be one of those.  I always figured I was one of the " little guys" who just likes to play with the radios, figuring it keeps me out of the saloons! Besides, its cheaper than a bass boat!!
       So is it worth doing all this? Well there is something to be said for doing it for your own satisfaction of seeing an overview of what you have accomplished. For myself,  there were some interesting observations to be made when going through logs that covered a year or more in one sweep at a sitting.
     It gave an interesting overview of how certain receiver/antenna combinations did at certain locations. One thing that was particularly enlightening was how well I managed to do during a six year span of my life spent living in apartments, using " make do" antennas, often indoors, or in stealth antennas hung around the complex into trees and such and in instances of operating portable.
        It was also interesting going through logs against a backdrop of sunspot cycle charts. It showed some amazing catches on 16,15,13,11 and 10 meters on a less than stellar National SW-54 receiver that probably was more a function of the cycle rather than the receiver performance or teen aged operator expertise!
       Also, comparing logging times with what I later learned about world time zones, sunrise and sunset times and grey line prop explains a lot about what I was hearing at the time.  If I had only had that knowledge then when I had more listening time flexibility during summer school holidays, I might have chosen listening times more carefully and logged a lot more DX!
       So what does all this really mean? Probably that careful record keeping is good for providing an overview of your DX career and can provide some real education about how band conditions and prop work. It can also provide some new  "fire" for the hobby when conditions or other things drain enthusiasm a bit.  And maybe it can provide a little "bragging material" for visits with fellow DX-ers.
       Actually, on a serious note related to that last,  comparing notes with fellow DX-ers when you have complete records can result in learning a lot about receiver and antenna performance, prop, and even the performance of stations you have both logged.
       Hopefully it doesn't just lead to a new outlet for obsessive-compulsive behavior! Perhaps this would be a good time for that old reminder from a friend who will say after a particularly big endeavor: "after all,  it is just a hobby". 
       As always, please share your thoughts through "comments" or provide an email address if you have longer form thoughts to share...and  Good DX!



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