Sunday, August 23, 2009

QSL cards, will tradition prevail?

I recall as a young pre-ham teen, admiring the wallpaper in a few of the ham shacks I managed to see. All those different colourful post-card sized cards adorning the wall with call signs prominent, many with exotic pictures or artwork was very appealing and it seemed no ham shack would be complete without such a wall of fame. Of course, I’m talking about the QSL card, at one time considered the final courtesy of an amateur radio contact. These also served the very practical purpose of confirming the contact, which could be applied towards the many awards available to amateur radio operators.

Indeed, after finally becoming licenced, and those first few precious cards came in the mail, the QSLs quickly found a prominent place on the wall of my small shack. If wasn’t too long though, before I ran out of wall space and became selective of which cards to put up, limiting the modest display to the most eye appealing or ones from DX locations. The rest were filed in a box, or a photo album.

Having not been an active awards chaser, I must admit, in the past decade or so, I’ve not been too diligent about sending out cards. I try to reply when one is received in the mail, either direct or via the bureau, but unless it was a particularly unique contact, or DX locale, I generally don’t send out a card. A big part of it is the time consuming maintenance issue, and the expense of postage if going direct. Even organizing cards to send out to the bureau I find a bit of a labourious task. Or….maybe I’m just lazy.

I’ve also noticed a trend, at least from the many pictures you can see online of other ham shacks, that displaying QSL cards on the wall has become more of a rarity. Maybe it’s a desire for a cleaner and tidier look or maybe it’s a bit of pressure from the better half, who may not appreciate the aesthetic beauty of the cards. Whatever the reason, these shacks just see a bit bare to me. In my case, the cards serve as a way to cover up a concrete wall (the joys of a basement shack). None-the-less for hams who are lucky enough to have an above-ground radio room, in many cases, the cards do not seem to be a favourable addition to the d├ęcor. Perhaps some Feng Shui consultant has determined they just totally through the off the chee in the room.

Despite my admittedly lackadaisical attitude towards QSL cards, I do like them and am currently trying to get caught up. But one has to wonder with the advent of things like eQSL (which I must admit has its appeal to me) and Logbook of the World (which qualifies as a confirmation of a QSO without the pretty paperwork), is the act of traditional QSL-ing on the way out?

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Happiness in a warm tube radio

Modern radio equipment is pretty incredible. So many features in ever increasingly smaller packages. I enjoy using the modern rigs, and have several on my wish list, but nothing beats the style and warmth of the old radios. While I only have a couple of beloved boat anchors on the amateur radio side, I have several broadcast radios that I’ve casually collected over the years. Not a huge collection…just as well as space to display these beauties is very limited. It all started about 1986 when I picked up a beautiful Westinghouse, circa 1933, at a local (non-ham) flea market. Over the next couple of decades, the collection has grown slowly. I love the look of the old wood radios, the art-deco styling of radios from the 30s and 40s, the sleek look of the Bakelite radios. These radios have personality, character, style, even sexiness. Okay maybe I’m getting a little carried away on that last one, but they sure look sweet compared with those boom boxes of today.

Many serious collectors are also into restoration. One day, I’d like to be, but right now, I just admire them. Unfortunately several are in need of TLC and only a few actually work well enough to listen to. I’ve been slowly picking up various pieces of test equipment at hamfests over the past several years with the intention to start some repair and restoration. However, by the time I get around to it, the test equipment may also qualify as vintage…necessitating me to buy some newer test equipment to repair the old test equipment to fix the old radios. Ooo, this could quickly become a vicious circle.

Over the coming weeks I plan to post photos of my modest collection, starting with the table-tops, then the floor models, portables and communications receivers. So, if you like the ‘oldies but goodies’ tune back soon. My first vintage radio, and still my favourite, purchased in 1986. A Westinghouse, circa 1933. It has a place of honour in my office at 91X-FM, Loyalist College.