A Western Union QSL

Jack, K4ITE, was a life-long employee of Western Union, and he wanted a QSL card that told its story.

In Jack’s words:

“I started working at WU in September of 1965 when I was 19. I began in the Installation Department and traveled all over the Southeast before Uncle Sam came calling. After four years in the Air Force I resumed my career and went to work at the Marine Base in Albany, GA in a very secure government switching center Western Union and RCA built and partnered on called Autodin. That system used a new technology at the time called “packet switching” which broke a message into several pieces and routed the various parts for security reasons via several different paths before being reassembled at the destination. Packet switching today is the backbone of the internet.

“In 1974 I was fortunate to go to work on our Westar project, America’s first domestic communications satellite system, and was trained on working in our various earth stations. My primary job was to maintain five microwave relay stations between Atlanta and it’s associated earth station just a few miles north of Scottsboro, Alabama. The satellites were in geosynchronous orbit, and the output power was only 5 watts in those days, so the earth station locations had to be in a natural bowl for RF quietness and away from cities, thus the requirement for a 52 ft. diameter dish. Those were interesting times. I finished up my 23 year career in a Telex switching center in Atlanta.”

That was just one email from Jack. He was understandably passionate about Western Union’s place in communication history and wanted a QSL that said so. It was my job to create it.

We eventually narrowed Western Union’s history down to three phases: messages delivered by pony, messages delivered by Morse code, and messages delivered by Westar satellite. Using reference images found on the Internet, I created a collage of the three, with Jack’s call sign looming large overhead. Jack wrote a brief blurb for the back of his card summarizing Western Union’s legacy to go along with it.

To give his QSL the feel of history, Jack asked me to print it on parchment. I work only with glossy stock but was able to use a texture overlay that looked like parchment.

Today, Western Union is a shadow of its old self, its name now associated with money transfers for those who can’t afford a checking account. In its time, though, Western Union was America’s first communications giant. I hope this QSL is a fitting reminder.

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What’s your favorite mobile mode?

amateur radio mobile operators car cycle bikeHere’s another illustration that was commissioned but didn’t see print for one reason or another. It’s a shame, too — I put a lot of work into it and was looking forward to sharing it with the world. A detail of the illustration headlines the post; the full illustration is below.

Perhaps the most enjoyable part of drawing it was dropping in a couple of Easter eggs. One will be obvious to the Old Timers. The other one is in the upper right corner: I drew myself and my wife Gail, N2ART, in our little turquoise Honda Fit. In the back seat are our cats, Bones and Geordi. I resisted the urge to draw them wearing headphones.

This cartoon was designed to showcase different types of mobile operation. What’s your preferred mode of operation?

amateur radio mobile operators

 

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