The QSL Card

When I was a novice I never had a QSL card.  The biggest reason was that I didn't know how to go about having one printed since I was so young.  I also didn't have any money anyway.  Back then, an eleven year old kid had nowhere near the net worth of the average eleven year old today!  
It was probably just as well -- I made a laughable and embarassing low number of contacts in my one short year as a Novice.  Back then, the Novice ticket was good for one year and non-renewable.  You either upgraded or kissed the hobby goodbye.
With no way to get to NYC to take the General Class exam, I had to upgrade to Technician.  That's how I transitioned from WN2LQF to WB2LQF.  I stayed a Technician for a couple of years until I was old enough to be allowed to take the ShortLine bus to New York City and then find my way to the Federal Building at 641 Washington Street in Greenwich Village.
That's where I came face-to-face with Mr. Finkleman, the pipe-smoking, heavy-black-glasses, thick-black-curly-haired FCC examiner.  I passed the 13 wpm code test because I made sure I could copy 20 wpm before I went down there.  Wanted to allow for nervousness.  I also completely memorized the license manual -- and I mean REALLY memorized it.  I had no idea what I was memorizing; I just memorized to pass.  I passed.
Somewhere between upgrading to Technician (which guaranteed I was a 'legitimate' ham with a permanent license), and becoming a "real" ham (which meant I was able to operate HF CW once again), I finally had my first QSL Card printed.


Above is the front and back of my sole surviving original early 60s QSL card.  It was a real low budget affair because that was all I could afford.  There was no choice of color or printing.  What you saw was what you got.  But it appealed to me on a couple of different fronts.  First, I could identify with the guy in the picture working on his radio in his bedroom with stuff all over.  That was me! My first "shack" was my bedroom closet.  I stuffed all my clothes in dresser drawers, removed the the wooden clotheshanger rod, and moved a 3 drawer cabinet into the closet for which my dad cut a piece of plywood that gave me a big surface to operate and work on.  Dad also removed the closet door.  I sat on the kitchen stool which I "appropriated" and dragged upstairs.  Second, I loved the red, white, and blue - the American Colors!  I've always been patriotic sap - still am - and these colors fit me perfect (then and now!).
The back of my original card was simple but 'standard' for those days.  Note "Inp."  -- back then we used to measure our power in terms of our "watts input" which was a measure of DC plate voltage times DC plate current.  Our output was usually about 50% to 60% in Class "C".  As a Novice, for example, we were limited to "75 watts DC input".  Such a rig would put out between 30 to 40 watts on the average.  Note also the separate lines for "Rcvr." and "Xmtr."  Transceivers were not that common and most hams preferred "separates."  Finally, note the "Mc" which stood for "Megacycles."  The transition to Hertz was still a few years in the future.

I've had a few cards since this first QSL but none of them were particularly impressive or unique to me.  As times changed and higher quality cards with broader choices became available, I would put in my periodic orders.  I even had a couple hundred QCWA cards somewhere around the house.  When eQSL was introduced and the facilities became available online to design and print one's own card, including photos and other images, there seemed to be no end to creativity.  However, having properly produced paper cards remained a priority for me because I have always appreciated giving and receiving real evidence of a contact - completed in the handwriting of the operator and with comments that make our QSO a real exchange across the miles versus the "599 TU" 30 second high speed contact followed by an immediate LoTW update. 

Back in January 2013 I worked my friend Ulrich N2DE who was on a vest pocket DXpedition to the Kingdom of Lesotho.  When he returned home, he couldn't stop talking about the personalized design service and great pricing he received from Randy Dorman KB3IFH who has a printing business ( ).  When I received my Lesotho  7P8US QSL card I was duly impressed.   I sent Randy front and back images of my original QSL card (above) and asked him if he would work with me to update it.  He was more than willing to work with me and this is what we came up with, a "foldover" QSL that incorporated elements of my original card while adding some new, personal information.

Remember that you can click any image to enlarge; click again to supersize; use backbutton to normalize.

I then commissioned Randy to print the QSL cards for a Special Event I ran to commemorate the 222nd anniversary of the birth of Samuel F.B. Morse where we operated from the front porch of Morse's historic Locust Grove mansion in Poughkeepsie, NY.  The QSL he came up with blew me away!  It was a real winner where Randy took a basic idea and essentially designed the card from scratch at no extra charge.  This guy apparently just loves to be creative!  And his pricing is very, very reasonable!

To complement Randy's skill at producing great QSLs, I had Jeff K1NSS ( sketch me and my little dog, Cocoa, in caricature form.    These two guys, working together, produced the finest QSL I've ever had!  Here is the fabulous artwork done by Jeff for the front of my QSL card:

Below is the back of the card designed by Randy.  Randy handled the printing of the cards.

After 50+ years in ham radio I don't have an overwhelming urge to initiate QSLs except, perhaps, for the rarer ones.  However, anyone who sends me a QSL by mail can rest assured that I will return the favor!  If a QSL is requested during a QSO, I won't even wait but will just send one out right away.

QSL cards are just one neat aspect of our hobby.   I enjoy receiving them even more when they include a personal note or some indication that our QSO was interesting, meaningful, or otherwise something a little beyond ordinary!