Picture of ON4UN's QTH, picture taken from street level.The first tower on the right supports the 3 el 40m yagi at 30m, and the 5 element 20m yagi at 25m. On the back of the house is a second tower supporting the 6 element 10 m yagi at 19m and the 6 element 15m yagi at 24 m.The tall tower in the background is the 39m tall vertical for 160, which also supports the 80m 4-square wire elements. The station consists of an Elecraft K3s + P3 and the ACOM 2000A amplifier.


I got interested in radio at the age of 11 and built my first 'transmitter' when I was 12 (a VT??? surplus type tube as an LC oscillator, and a carbon microphone in series with a battery in the antenna circuit). My uncle, ON4GV got me interested in amateur radio and bought me surplus radio components available in the post WW2 army stock warehouses. Yes, ON4GV (SK in 2009) was my Elmer.

In 1961 (I was 20) I obtained my amateur license and the call ON4UN. All my equipment, except for the receiver, a Geloso G209, was home built, including a phasing type SSB exciter (using a 2Q4 audio phasing network). I then had a HY-Gain 3 band vertical (model 12AVS) and some dipoles for the lower bands (40 and 80) all at my parent's place. In Feb 1962 I participated in the UBA (Belgian IARU society) CW contest, and won my very first contest. I still have the cup!

In the early sixties I made my first 80m DX QSOs. The first DX station I worked was 4X4DK in December 1961. The very first North American station I worked on 80m SSB was Jeff, VE3BPV, also in Dec 1961. In those days I worked almost exclusively SSB. The first W in my log on 80 was W1BU, shortly after that I found out that the American stations had a different band from us (above 3.8) ! My first transceiver was a National NCX5 which I used in conjunction of a Drake 2B receiver.  A few years later I built a Heathkit line consisting of a SB200, SB300 and SB400. Early 1966 I worked my 100th country on 80m (still at my parent's home where I now had an 18m tall quarter-wave vertical), followed by the number 200 DXCC country in 1969 (got married in 1968 and moved to my present QTH in 1970). In 1968 I bought a Drake 4B line and also used a Collins 75A4 receiver. In 1975 I added a Collins S line (75S3C3, 32S3, 30L1 and 312B4) to my equipment. It took a little longer to get to the 300 country level in 1977. In 1980 I obtained a Drake R7 receiver. Once over 300 countries the country count increased more slowly and it took until 2016 to get to the present 364 country level on 80m (already for a long time the world highest DXCC score) (click here for an overview of all 364 QSL's). As of today, I need only one DXCC country on 80, the ‘unavailable’ P5 (North Korea). I think that countries not having made amateur radio available to a wide public for more than e.g. 20 years should be deleted from the DXCC list. Then at least I could say I worked all countries on 80m, hi… In 1978 I obtained 5Band DXCC and in 1979 5band WAS. In 1988 I received the WAZ award on 75m, award # 4.

On Jan 1st 1987 we finally got access to the 160m band in Belgium. At that time I had 325 countries on 80, and the DXCC score growth had slowed down. I now had a 25 m vertical (for 80 and 160) and 12 Beverage antennas (150 to 300 m long). By Dec. 1987 I had worked 159 countries on 160m. A few years later (1991) I erected a full-size (39m tall) quarter-wave vertical for 160 and a 4-square for 80m.The score evolution on 160m was as follows: 200 countries in 1990, 250 countries in 1993, 300 countries in 2005 and 324 countries by 2016 (click here for an overview of all 324 QSL's). This score puts me in the top 20 world wide and as nr 7 in Europe. Some of the European stations preceding me, I never heard or worked on 160 (??? !!!). At this time (early 2017) I need 23 countries on top-band, of which 2 in Asia (Scarborough and N. Korea), 1 in Africa (FT5W, Crozet) and not less than 20 in the Pacific… The other continents are fully covered on topband. In Feb 1988 I received WAZ 160 (# 3) as well as WAS 160. By the way, in June 1979 I received 5Band-WAZ (#1 worldwide). Another very nice award I received in 1983 is the all band US COUNTY Award (award # 417). I have it confirmed for ALL US-counties (tnx Gene, N4ANV for all your help).

How about 40m, which is often considered as a low band? Barely as far as I am concerned. Having had a 3 element full-size yagi at 30 m for over 40 years now, working (almost) all countries (all except N. Korea) was not much of a problem. I now have 356 DXCC countries confirmed on that band (click here for an overview of all 356 QSL's).

On 20m (not a low band, hi) I have 370 DXCC countries confirmed (click here for an overview of all 370 QSL's).

The amount of experience I got by building stations and antennas and operating DX on mainly 80 and 160m, made me write articles in the local radio magazines in those days. In 1977 I was asked by Ham Radio Magazine to write a booklet on DXing on 80m. “80-Meter DX-Handbook” came out the same year and a second edition followed one year later (both published by Communications Technology, Inc. in Greenville, NH, USA). The 68-page booklet had chapters on 80m propagation, antennas for 80m DXing, the 80m DXer’s station, and operating practices for 80 meters.

At the ARRL they knew my 80-Meter DX-Handbook, and my DXCC scores on 80 and 160 m. They asked me if I would be interested in writing a LOW band book for the ARRL. In 1987 the Low Band DX-ing book (edition 1) came out (254 pages), followed by the edition 2 book in 1994, the edition 3 book in 1998, the edition 4 version in 2005 and the last (edition 5) book in 2010 (this version now counts 637 pages). Edition 2 was also published in 3 more languages: Russian, German and Japanese. Editions 3, 4 and 5 included a hard disk with computer version of the book and many computer programs.

Over the years my interest in contesting has grown from a 1st place in a UBA CW contest in 1962 to something more substantial in the period starting 1993, until 2008. In those years a competitive multi-single contest station was built and operated in approximately 80 international contests (ARRL, CQ-WW, Stew Perry etc). The equipment used for the 2 stations were Yaesu FT1000s. Many contests were in the Multi-Single class, and operators from all over the world operated in them. I also often invited friends (excellent operators, of course) to operate single operator contests. Over the years the ON4UN station (often operated as OTxT, where x stood for the year) scored 14 times first World-wide, twice second world wide and 4 times 3rd world-wide. On European level the results were: 54 times 1st Eu, 22 times 2nd Eu and 5 times 3rd Eu. The last contest of this series was in 2008, when my friend George, K2UO operated the CQ WW 160m phone contest from my station. He made 1st world wide and established a new all time European record. I kept very detailed records of all these contests, and after many years it is a real joy to have a close look at them. My shack walls hold not less than 53 first place contest plaques, 95% of which are either ARRL or CQ plaques. Since 2006 I also permanently hold the call OT7T (which I do not use very often) and a few years earlier I obtained the US Extra class license with the call AA4OI. When the contest age was over in 2007, I dismanteled the two-radio station and bought a Ten-Tec Orion, which I liked a lot. Finally, in 2011 I bought the Elecraft K3 transceiver which is what I still use today.

Since late 1986 I use a computer logbook (DX4WIN) that now lists over 425.000 QSOs in a single logfile (all QSOs from 1 Jan 1987 on, plus a small number of QSOs that were copied from my earlier paper logs). My paper logs from before 1987 (which I still have, all of them) account for approximately 120.000 QSOs, so my total QSO number since 1961 is well over half a million (that's an average of almost 10.000 QSOs per year). I sort and classify all my received QSL cards, and have approximately 120.000 of them in my shack, that is an average of one QSL card per 4 QSOs made, not bad I think. Today I still QSL via the bureau for EVERY QSO. I do of course also answer any direct QSL if SA-envelope and $ are included.

As a result of a long series of great scores in various world-class contests, I was elected to the CQ ‘Contest Hall of Fame in 1997. Eleven years later, in 2008 I was elected to the CQ ‘DXing Hall of Fame’. At that time I was the second station, world wide, to have been elected for both Halls of Fame (with Martti, OH2BH). At the occasion of the DXing Hall of Fame, CQ-magazine  printed: “John Devoldere, ON4UN, more or less single-handedly popularized DXing on 80 meters. His book, Low Band DXing, the last several editions of which have been published by the ARRL, is considered the "bible" for DXing on these bands. In 1979, John was the first ham to earn CQ's 5-Band Worked All Zones (5BWAZ) award; he holds 80 meter DXCC Certificate #1 and currently has now 357 countries confirmed on that band.” In the mean time this score has increased to 363 DXCC countries.

In 2008, assisted by Mark Demeuleneere, ON4WW, I wrote a comprehensive document entitled "Ethics and Operating Procedures for the Radio Amateur." The purpose of this document was for it to become a universal guide on operating ethics and procedures. This document was accepted by the IARU Administrative Council as representing their view on the subject. During subsequent Regional IARU meetings it was emphasized that the document be made available to the Amateur Radio Community via all available means, at no cost, and in as many languages as possible. The document has since been translated into more than 25 languages (see: http://www.hamradio-operating-ethics.org/versions-languages). In some countries the document is also offered in printed format and many Amateur Radio websites have a link to the document.

I also served as President of the UBA (Union of Belgian amateurs), the IARU radio society in this country, from 1998 to 2007.

In 2013 I was elected to receive the YASME Excellence Award. Ward Silver, NØAX, President of the Yasme Foundation Board of Directors wrote:Along with building one of the premier amateur stations in the world, John's contributions to the DXing community have been extensive. Beginning with "80 Meter DXing," published in 1978, his book expanded to "Low-Band DXing," which in its fifth edition has become the most widely used handbook for operating and building antenna systems on the bands at 7 MHz and lower frequencies. The book contains important advances in HF amateur technology and encourages operation on these bands."

"The Yasme Excellence Award is awarded to individuals who, through their own service, creativity, effort and dedication, have made a significant contribution to amateur radio. The contribution may be in recognition of technical, operating or organizational achievement, as all three are necessary for amateur radio to grow and prosper. The Yasme Excellence Award is in the form of a cash grant and an individually-engraved crystal globe."

In March 2014 I received the ARLL Certificate of Recognition, for achieving 50 years of ARRL membership (life member for over 50 years).

Nowadays I operate CW 95% of the time (CWops member #17).

In November 2015 I lost my XYL, Frida. We were together for 54 years. She was a tremendous support to my hobby, and a wonderful host for the many operators who came operating the ON4UN contest station over the years. She is dearly missed.

My story would not be complete if I did not mention my best friend Roger, ON6WU, now SK, who, for nearly 40 years assisted me in all my technical projects, especially antenna projects. Thank you Roger!

Thank you for reading my story and see you on the bands. Your QSL card would certainly be appreciated!

John ON4UN