You would have to go back to the early decades of the 19th century (cycles 6 and 7) to find worse, I suspect, and of course there was no radio back then. But in all honesty, Walt, though the current cycle maximum doesn’t compare well it has still been a lot better than the typical sunspot minimum, hasn’t it? They can’t all be like 1959! And since that monster we have endured five minima but ham radio continued, so it isn’t optimism, Walt, its realism!
Interestingly, in the first few years of the Twentieth Century when Marconi was conducting his initial experiments with long-haul radio communication, there was a period of extremely low sunspot activity. Perhaps this is why the higher frequencies were written off as “useless” until the 1920s and 1930s when radio amateurs started to demonstrate their value for worldwide communication.
There was a talk about the Solar cycle at my local astronomical society a few months back. The speaker’s conclusion was that another “Maunder Minimum” wasn’t immediately on the horizon, but that the second half of the last century had been a period of exceptionally high Solar activity, and that the recent cycles were nearer average. Another point the speaker made was that exceptional bursts of Solar activity aren’t quite as well correlated with the peaks of the cycle as is generally implied.
I guess it boils down to “Keep your ears open, and give apparently quiet bands a try, just in case…”
The great thing about amateur radio is the choice we have. There will always be something that works. 40m has been bad, but the CW is still coming thought, maybe not loud and clear, but perfectly readable.
I agree with you Tacos that the bands have been very bad recently. However, back in the 80’s I decided to venture into QRP with 5 watts and home brewed kit. I was unfortunate that this coincided with a cycle low! However, during that low on 5 watts I achieved DXCC on 5 watts, DXCC on 1 watt and DXCC on 1 mW. OK it was using CW but it was still possible. The bottom line is don’t be disheartened, there will always be stations to work albeit on different bands.
From what you have seen Ed, that is not a universal action! Actually some people will enter an alert with a typo, not see the alert listed for a day or two ahead and re-enter it with the correct details. When that appears they’re happy and don’t go looking for what happened to the original.