The final courtesy of a radio contact is acknowledgement of the QSO (radio contact).
QSL is an old brevity code meaning, “I acknowledge receipt”. Back in the early 1900s when passing messages was a main function of amateur radio (whence the Amateur Radio Relay League or ARRL), the term QSL made a lot of sense. Today you may hear a ham speak or write QSL to let you know they received something.
The term QSL now more commonly means to confirm a radio contact. Early on this was done mainly with postcards.
Some hams still do send out QSL cards, or send them in reply or if requested. Collecting cards is a fun aspect of ham radio. Many cards are interesting or unique.
Besides tradition, a sense of satisfaction, and general fun, QSO confirmation in the form of valid QSL is a basic requirement for most operating awards. This may not matter to you but many other hams are eager for your QSL, particularly if they are requesting one.
All hams should provide some form of QSL for all contacts except for routine local ones. Information in the QSL should include the station call signs, date and time (UTC), band/frequency, mode, signal report, and sender’s location details. Good logging is essential for this and a QSL function is often supported by computer logging utilities.
You can determine how to exchange QSLs with a particular station from their QRZ profile if they have one set up (most active hams do).
Details about QSL cards are given further below. Mailing cards can get expensive. While the cost of printing the cards is not so bad, postage adds up, particularly when sending internationally. Bureau (BURO) services to send/receive cards internationally reduces cost somewhat but is still pricey and response time is generally slow (months to years). Alternate methods of providing a QSL have arisen out of the need for keeping costs down.
Non-card QSLs are all electronic in nature, exchanged via internet connection in some manner. We will briefly mention three here. You can search for others Continue reading