Monday, May 18, 2009

QSL anyone?

Like a kid at Christmas, I get excited when a new QSL card arrives to confirm a QSO from weeks or, curiously, years past. It's a reminder of people I've met and places I've visited, albeit vicariously. It's also part of a century-old tradition begun circa 1916 by Mr. W. T. Fraser (8VX) from Buffalo, NY who sent a card to Edward Andrews (3TQ) in Philadelphia, PA.

Some cards simply contain the operator's call sign and QTH, but my favorite card is from Cuba which, in addition to the usual contact confirmation, displays the photo of the Cuban Five. Depending on your politics, they are either a). Cuban nationals convicted of espionage, conspiracy to commit murder, and other illegal activities while in the United States, or b). heroes for sacrificing their liberty in the glorious defence of the Motherland. Why send just a QSL card when you can make a political statement!

The problem with QSL cards is that they take so long to get from the other guy. But there is another way, and it's free -- at least, most of the time. is an easy way to exchange electronic QSL cards. You register (free for a basic account), choose an eQSL card design (more elaborate designs are available at extra cost), upload your contacts in Amateur Data Interchange Format (ADIF), and you're in business. Now when you complete a QSO you're contact info is sent automatically (if you use the excellent Ham Radio Deluxe) to Chances are good your contact also uses eQSL. When your card arrives you're notified by email. That's it!

What makes this particularly important is that CQ Magazine now accepts eQSL QSO confirmations for its operating awards. Currently only confirmations from "Authenticity Guaranteed" members of eQSL will be accepted, meaning that a membership of bronze or higher is required. Applicants for CQ DX and CQ DX Field Awards must print out their eQSLs and send them in accompanied by their conventional QSLs to a either a CQ checkpoint or CQ DX Awards Manager.

Of course there's also the tremendously useful Logbook of the World (LoTW) from the ARRL. It's open to all, not just ARRL members. You'll need a free digital certificate before submitting log data, but the software to accomplish this is also free. Charges occur only when you apply for an award using QSL matches obtained through LoTW, but that's true no matter what the source or format of QSL cards.

LoTW does not offer electronic QSLs so the two programs are not direct competitors. Instead they offer amateurs different opportunities to pursue awards programs.

I can get excited about that!

- 73
- Steve Hulse KB3IHX

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