Before Internet shortened attention spans, and even before the full advent of television, people listened to the radio and connected with far away countries. I remember tuning my medium wave and short-wave radio, extending the antennae with a wire dangled to the window frame, trying to catch different radio stations. In India, radio Sri Lanka was immensely popular because of the Geet Maala program. BBC was easy to catch too and quite a favorite for news and other programs. Voice of America had a strong signal too though it was popular during the night. But the fun was trying to catch radio stations from different countries. More technical hobbyist would set up HAM radios and talk to other people across the world who they had never met or seen. Perhaps those were the first “chat rooms” or instant messages much before the Internet.

Unlike HAM hobbyists, listening to a short-wave or medium-wave radio station was only half the fun because it was a one-way communication. To complete this communication, hobbyist would write to the radio stations about receiving their signal. The radio stations would then send QSL cards through mail confirming the reception. QSL cards were postcards confirming reception of the station’s radio signal. Amateur radio operators also exchanged QSL cards to confirm two-way radio contact between stations. Each card contains details about one or more contacts, the station and its operator.

QSL card derived its name from the Q code “QSL”. A Q code message can stand for a statement or a question (when the code is followed by a question mark). While ‘QSL?’ (with a question mark) means “Do you confirm receipt of my transmission?”, ‘QSL’ (without a question mark) means “I confirm receipt of your transmission.”

Collecting QSL cards became popular with radio listeners in the 1920s and 1930s, and reception reports were often used by early broadcasters to gauge the effectiveness of their transmissions.

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