One consequence of the pandemic has been a dearth of DXpeditions. You might therefore think that the DXpeditions or other moderately rare DX stations would receive more attention than usual. This is what economists call supply and demand: there is less supply so the demand should be high because we are spending far more time at home. That is, we should be willing to pay a high "price" for the rare DX.
That hasn't happened. When these stations did appear the pile ups were not deep. For many of them I found it took just one call to get through. As regular readers know I do have a few big antennas, and that does make it easier. Yet there is more to the story because there is less competition in the pile ups. Most of the time I was successfully working the pile ups without turning on the amplifier. I always try that first since it's a bother to turn on and warm up the tubes and the power boost hasn't been necessary except on 160 meters.
Which brings us to the second consequence of the epidemic: apathy. It has been widely reported that despite the additional time we are spending at home many of us are not taking advantage. For hams that means spending less time on the air or on radio projects. There are notable exceptions, like the increased activity in contests. That is good for me since I'm a contester. But these are exceptions and not the rule.
All communications services are subject to the network effect: service usage strongly outpaces the growth of service users. As deployment proceeds, usage growth is geometric. Think of the telephone in its early years. Imagine you're the only person with a phone in town. You have no one to call so you don't use it very much. As more phones are deployed you have more people to call, so you do, and so does everybody else.
Amateur radio is the same. When many hams exit their shacks, many more follow. The bands sound dead and we lose interest. Bland food isn't tasty; apathy is contagious. The network effect also works in reverse.
The network effect applies to other aspects of the hobby. You don't like digital? What do you do when you have few left to work on other modes? This happened to me on 6 meters with FT8. The network effect is in play with digital, no matter your feelings or mine. I'm even beginning to like it.
No one to talk to with the same interests you have? You move to where the activity is or you lose interest. You might even leave the hobby. As activity for your favourite mode declines the overall decline accelerates so that total silence seems to happen overnight. The transition to FT8 on 6 meters was measure in months, not years. You can call CQ using AM but do not expect a reply except on select frequencies where the remaining aficionados congregate.
Another reason activity declines is due to the same old, same old syndrome. For many, interest is spurred by novelty. DXpeditions spur our interest. The novelty of digital modes is the same. It's akin to spicing our bland foods.
Non-DXers may grow curious and increase their activity when they hear the excitement on the bands over a rare one. Some will jump into the pile ups despite their indifference. The same happens in contests, with non-contesters coming on the band, hearing the activity and jumping in to make a few contacts. Do you hear some peculiar warbles on the band? You download the software and have a look to see what the excitement it's all about.
Excitement breeds excitement. Imagine going for a walk in the quiet of night. You unexpectedly run into a street party with music and dancing and happy people. You stop to watch. Someone grabs your hand and you think, why not, and soon you're dancing, too.
Getting back to DX, maybe it's just my imagination that I am beginning to see more excitement on the bands. The DXpeditions that make an appearance are garnering bigger and more enthusiastic pile ups than they have for many months.
Perhaps it the rollout of the vaccines that promise an end to the pandemic. People are perking up everywhere, and not only on the ham bands, so it may be more than my overactive imagination. I've seen the renewed excitement with the A25RU operation and others.
Sunspots, vaccines, contests, DXpeditions and more. HF is once again tasting spicy.