Before the internet was woven into every aspect of our lives, a majority of amateur radio operators would send out little post card sized QSL cards– basically a confirmation of date, time, frequency, equipment used, and a thank you for a QSO.
This was doable because a lot of contacts were on voice modes (so called phone or SSB modes.) Because there were fewer contacts in a given day than you can get in a day working modern digital modes, you might spend time just rag chewing with the person at the other end of the connection, and really get to know a little about them.
However with current band conditions being sort of terrible (The sun has been in a very low sun spot cycle for the last decade or so, and thus not producing much atmospheric ionization for the radio signals to bounce off of) much of the possible contacts are on digital modes like FT8, and FT4. This means you hit the contact with tiny preset messages and quit it, and immediately move on to the next. Using FT8/FT4 I’ve made more than 30 contacts in a single day. And some hams are doing much more than that!
This has increased both the volume of contacts, and made keeping up with the old practice of sending out physical cards harder, and many have gone to strictly online QSLs at places like QRZ, LOTW, eQSL, or Club Log. But there are still a few ‘paper chasers” who like to send and receive physical cards.
Last week I joined that group with a batch of about 30 cards sent to hand selected ham contacts who indicated in their profiles that they like to collect the cards.
And last night I received back four reply QSL cards for my own little card wall.
These are not the actual first QSL cards ever– I received three from a very kind fellow in Florida who seemed quite eager to get one back from me and asked about my in the window antenna setup, which started me off wanting to get some cards so I could reply. And my good friend and Elmer, Norm also sent me his QSL card after our QSO while I was in Utah.
Humorously, this post wouldn’t be complete without the QSL mis-adventure — apparently I had a dyslexic moment and sent a ham I never contacted a card after reversing two letters of a call sign. I got a confused email about my card relating to me that he was sure the QSL was wrong because according to his logs, he was on 6m that day. Ooops!