Early Information Tools Used by DXers
by Ron Chester ★ Wednesday, September 22, 2021

The first time I ever got onto the Internet (via a BBS system) I found a mailing list for DXers. This was before the World Wide Web had been invented. The DXers mailing list was a bleeding edge improvement in the technology for exchanging information about DXing.  After literally reading the mail there for a while, I had a brilliant idea about how it could be made better, so I sent an email to the list with my brilliant idea.  I have no recollection of what that idea was, but I soon discovered the list had codified a bunch of rules and my suggestion violated one or more of those rules. This seemed arbitrary and I argued against such an idea. I then discovered there was someone called the moderator, who informed me that the rules were there to be followed and that if I wanted different rules, I could start my own list. But on this DXers list, I would have to stick to the rules. This was a huge surprise to me, but I got in line. Finding any mechanism for encouraging communication among hams on this new Internet was verrrry exciting. 

DXers had always been on the leading edge of technology in their quest to work them all, that is, every rare DX station that ever appeared on the bands; anywhere, anytime. When I moved to Los Angeles in the 1970's I joined the Southern California DX Club and would never miss any of their monthly meetings at the Department of Water & Power downtown. At those meetings I was always in awe of the DX Legend, Don Wallace, W6AM. DXers returning from DXpeditions would always make a presentation at the SCDXC meetings to report on the results of their latest adventure. The club also had a 2 meter repeater that was dedicated to DX spots. If someone worked a good one, he/she would immediately announce the callsign and frequency of the station worked on the repeater and others would quickly go to that frequency to work the station as well. There was no Internet yet, so these were all live announcements over the air from the repeater. The  DXers were always listening on the 2m frequency for these announcements.  

There were also printed & mailed newsletters with news about up coming DXpeditions. From 1968 to 1979 Hugh Cassidy, WA6AUD, with the help of his wife Virginia, published the West Coast DX Bulletin. It was published and mailed to subscribers (48 US states only) weekly by second class mail. That's right, they mailed out a new paper newsletter every single week!  Over the years it grew in the number of pages and even had display advertisements. Surely this was the mother of all side hustles. I was too cheap to subscribe, because I was just not all that fanatical about my DXing. I definitely didn't feel like I had to work them all.

These were not prepared with desktop publishing software on a personal computer. The hardware and the software for that sort of thing had not yet been invented! The Bulletins were typed on a typewriter and run off on a mimeo machine. They were happy when they had 800 subscribers, but it just kept growing and growing, hitting 3200 subscribers by the end. They had shipped 600 consecutive issues, every week without fail. Each issue required printing 30,000 pages in the end! Needless to say, this couple demonstrated amazing dedication to the publication they created and it was always just the two of them who produced every single issue. In the last paragraph of every issue, Cassidy would tell stories featuring various characters he had created. This was an extremely popular feature of the Bulletin, an equal to any popular column in the newspapers of those days, such as Herb Caen in the San Francisco paper. Hugh Cassidy was blogging long before that term had even been invented. 

After the Bulletin was retired, the Northern California DX Club scanned all pages of Hugh Cassidy's archive of all issues and now they can all be read online. The news they contain is no longer current, but Hugh's writing in those last paragraphs is still a lot of fun to read. In January 1980 some DXers published a compilation of what they considered to be the best of those stories at the end of the Bulletins in a 188 page paperback book called DX IS! The Best of the West Coast DX Bulletin.  I have a copy of the book, but it would probably be very hard to find now. Since we now have scans of the complete original text available, I'd say that's the best way to read them now. Paul Dunphy, VE1DX, a friend of Hugh Cassidy who safeguarded Hugh's archive of his original Bulletins before they were scanned for posting on the Internet also wrote an Introduction to the WCDXB Archive which perfectly captures the style of writing Cassidy used in his stories. Be sure to read it! At the bottom of that page that I just linked to is also a link to the very last Bulletin. Be sure to read that too, as Hugh Cassidy's last column contains a lot of specifics, not previously known about the Bulletin. 

He wrote:

DX to us has always been an alive and continuing thing. But it was always a bit amazing to find
so many really old timers who have been DXing for thirty, forty or fifty years and are still
enthusiastic about the whole activity. They seldom miss a day when they are not checking the
bands and their level of interest has been sustained over the years.