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What is a QSL card and how do I use it?

A QSL card is a written confirmation of a two-way radio communication between two amateur radio operators (also known as “hams”). The term “QSL” comes from the Q-code used in radio communication, where “QSL” means “I confirm receipt of your transmission” or “Can you confirm receipt of my transmission?”. QSL cards are often exchanged between hams as a way to verify contacts, collect souvenirs, and celebrate the accomplishment of establishing communication with other operators, especially those in distant locations or using low power.

A typical QSL card contains the following information:

  • Callsigns of both the sender and the recipient.
  • Date and time of the contact (usually in UTC).
  • Frequency or band and mode of communication (e.g., 20 meters, SSB).
  • Signal report (usually given in the RST format – Readability, Signal Strength, and Tone).
  • Other optional details, such as the sender’s name, location (QTH), equipment used, or a personal message.

In addition to this information, QSL cards often feature unique designs, photographs, or artwork that represent the sender’s interests, hometown, or country. Some amateur radio operators collect QSL cards as a hobby and display them in albums or on walls.

Here’s how to use a QSL card:

  1. After completing a two-way radio communication (referred to as a “QSO”), note down the details of the contact, including the other operator’s callsign, date, time, frequency, mode, and signal report.
  2. Obtain a QSL card, either by designing and printing your own or purchasing pre-made cards. Make sure your QSL card includes all the necessary information fields mentioned above.
  3. Fill out the QSL card with the details of the contact, and add any additional information or personal messages, if desired.
  4. Mail the QSL card to the other operator. You can find their mailing address through online call sign databases, such as QRZ.com, or via their country’s amateur radio organization. Alternatively, you can send the card through a QSL bureau, which is a service provided by many amateur radio organizations to facilitate the exchange of QSL cards between their members.
  5. In return, you may receive a QSL card from the other operator, confirming the contact from their end. Keep the received QSL cards as a record of your contacts or as a collection of unique souvenirs.

In the digital age, electronic QSL services, such as eQSL.cc or Logbook of The World (LoTW), have become popular. These services allow amateur radio operators to exchange QSL confirmations electronically, saving time, money, and resources. However, many hams still enjoy the tradition of exchanging physical QSL cards as a tangible reminder of their contacts and accomplishments in the amateur radio world.

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