Why QSL?

Why QSL?Why send QSL cards? I’ve heard that question asked dozens of times, in person, on the air, and over social media.

It’s a good question. Postcards take time to fill out and are expensive to print and mail, and then you have to wait for them to arrive. Web-based systems like Logbook of the World, on the other hand, provide quick and easy verification.

Understand I have nothing against Logbook of the World; I use it myself, as do almost all hams I know. It’s a great system, and the American Radio Relay League is to be commended for providing it.

But the thing is, it’s push-button easy — and if we hams wanted nothing but push-button easy, we’d all be talking to each other on our smartphones.

At heart, amateur radio is a pastime, and we all pass the time in different ways. Some of us like to tinker and build. Others are in it for the public service. Me, I like to ragchew.

When we’re at our best, what unites us all is friendship — and you don’t make a friend out of another ham simply by pushing a button to electronically verify a contact.

One of my wife’s best friends recently traveled to Scotland, and when she got there she mailed us a postcard. That means she took the time to choose a colorful card, to write us a quick note, and to drop it in a mailbox. That’s what friends do.

QSL cards used to be called “the final courtesy of a QSO.” And in a world increasingly marred by incivility, we could all use one more courtesy.

Besides, I can think of no better way than a QSL card to explain the hobby to our non-ham friends.

Imagine you’ve just made a new friend on the other side of the world via ham radio, and you want to share that thrill with a visitor to your shack. Point out a log entry on a computer monitor, and you’ll likely be met with indifference. Show the visitor a QSL card and you’ll get a much different response.

That’s what the other ham looks like? That’s his station? You mean he cared enough to send you a postcard after you talked? The answers are yes, yes, and yes. Computer log entries are intangible to the rest of the world. A QSL card is something you can hold in your hand.

QSL cards aren’t for every ham, of course, or even for every QSO — but if you want to make a friend via amateur radio, there’s nothing better.

— Jim Massara, N2EST