Sunday, June 3, 2012

The 'Q' Card

People collect just about about anything in this world. Antique collectors search for any and all things old. Football fans pick up memorabilia of their favourite teams.  Philatists acquire stamps. There is even a group of radio hobbyists who collect QSL cards.

 A QSL card? This is a colourful card, usually the size of a postcard, confirming a radio listener's reception of a broadcast station. Each card may depict a national landmark, cultural aspect or natural wonder of a country. In some cases a station's studio, antenna array or name is represented. Sometimes postage stamps will be duly placed on a card.

For many international broadcasters, a QSL card serves as a marketing tool to promote their station or country rather than a means of gathering data on reception.  Other commercial and government television and radio stations occasionally use a QSL card to measure the size of their audience and distance.

To obtain a QSL card, the listener must provide specific details about the station. Usually this entails the call sign of the station, time and date of transmission (designated in Coordinated Universal Time - UTC),  radio frequency,  mode of transmission,  reception quality and programme content. This is known as a reception report.

Almost any station  will issue a QSL card, simply by mailing or emailing the reception report directly to the station.. Upon verification most medium-wave, short-wave and FM broadcasters will issue a card. Time and frequency stations, such as WWVH in Hawaii,   will as well.  Short-wave marine and aircraft weather (VOLMET)  broadcasters will occasionally confirm, even some Internet, clandestine and pirate (Free Radio) stations. Amateur radio operators will too.

All one needs  is a good multiband radio, the patience to listen and -- as with most hobbies -- the enthusiasm to collect the QSL card, which incidentally derives its name from the original Q codes used in radio communication and radio broadcasting.

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