A conversation or contact via amateur radio is referred to as a QSO or a QSL. A “Q” code message can stand for a statement or a question. In this case, QSL means either “Do you confirm receipt of my transmission?” or “I confirm receipt of your transmission”. A QSL card is a written confirmation of that contact.
QSL card - Dayton, OH. to Ferguson, Mo. 1948.
QSL cards are a part of HAM radio tradition, sent to confirm radio contacts made around the world. In the early days of HAM radio after World War I, operators were required by the FCC to log all their contacts. The confirmation cards helped track radio activity when scientists were still learning about radio wave behavior.
QSL card - Ashland, Oregon. to Overland Park, Kansas. 1966.
QSL cards are collected by both radio amateurs and shortwave listeners as confirmation of having received the signal of a particular station. A typical QSL card is the same size and made from the same material as a typical postcard, and most are sent through the mail. The standardized card, with call sign, frequency, date, etc., may have been developed around 1919.
QSL card - Bison, Kansas to Ferguson, Mo. 1950.
A while back we acquired a ham operator’s whole collection of QSL cards. We put those items up for sale. We received a call from a gentleman who wanted to give us some background about the QSL card he just purchased from us. He was browsing through our cards when he made a discovery. One of the cards displayed his call sign! It was one that he had sent, when he was a young man, to that operator over 40 years ago! He was very happy to have a memento of his early days as a ham radio operator.
W4MTL Hapeville, Georgia. Fine vintage Ham Radio QSL postcard. Dated 1948.
QSL cards are a ham radio operator’s calling card and are frequently an expression of individual creativity. As a result, the collecting of QSL cards, especially interesting designs, has become an add-on hobby to the simple gathering of printed documentation of communications over the years.