An old hobby of mine, but one I haven’t engaged in for more than 30 years, is amateur radio (also called “ham radio”, for reasons lost in antiquity). I keep my license current (N3BL), but, while I was active in high school and college, I dropped it after that, initially because I had no way to install an antenna, and then mostly because I was too busy with other things.
Many “hams” deal with the antenna issue by sticking to higher frequencies — VHF and UHF, the two-meter band and above — which need only small antennas that can pretty much go anywhere. But communication at those frequencies is generally short-distance (due to radio propagation issues) and by voice (by convention), and my preference, when I was into it, was long-distance communication with Morse code.
There’s a ham-radio term for long-distance communication: DX, following a convention of using an initial with an “x” to replace the rest of the word (TX is transmitter or transmission, RX is receiver or reception, and so on). What qualifies as DX varies by context; a contact on UHF that’s 200 miles away would be DX there, but on the 20-meter band one expects to contact the world.
As a general term, “DXing” usually refers to talking with people in other countries. In fact, there’s a certificate one can get, called DXCC (DX Century Club), which acknowledges that one has demonstrated contact with 100 countries. There are stickers for increments of 50 beyond.
The other day, it occurred to me that we could do a new kind of DXing, and maybe look toward a DXCC for it. We could record the countries from which we got spam. A sort of Internet DXing for the 21st century, yes?
Of course, we have to have some sort of “rules” to determine the country of a spam message. I’ve decided on these, admittedly a bit fluffy, in order of priority:
- If the sender claims to be from a particular country, accept that, whether or not it’s actually true. “Hello I am Mrs Amassa Smith, and I am from Ouagadougou.”
- If there is a URL in the message, use the country in which the domain is registered. If there are multiple URLs with domains from different countries, this rule does not apply. It also doesn’t apply if the domain is AOL, Facebook, or the like.
- If the body specifically lists an email address to contact, use the country that the domain is registered in. The email address must be listed in the message body — the address it claims to come from in the header doesn’t count. Common email domains, such as aol.com, gmail.com, and yahoo.com, also don’t count.
- Check the first reliable Received line in the email headers, and use the country in which that domain is registered. In considering “reliable”, one has to account for possibly forged Received lines.
Of course, this means I have to actually start looking at my spam, more than I already do (I actually do scan it now, and read some of the ones that look like they might be amusing), but it should be fun to keep track of the list. So far, in three days of checking, here’s what I have (go here for the current list):
- Côte d’Ivoire
- Sierra Leone
- Taiwan (Republic of China)
- United States
- United Arab Emirates
- China (People’s Republic of China)
- South Africa
I’m well on my way. Who wants to play too?
Update: I have created a permanent page to hold the current list.
 There are many suggested origins, all of questionable veracity; let’s just stick with “origin uncertain.”
 I’ll note that some of the commenters to these pages are also hams; I know that Jim, Ray, and Brent are.