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 décor. 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?