The Amateur Amateur

Welcome to the new home of The Amateur Amateur

The American Radio Relay League has indicated that it no longer wishes to publish the column,
so I have set up this site as its new home. My thanks to all of you who have sent me messages of support. They are greatly appreciated.

The Amateur Amateur is a column about my experiences in ham radio. Since I have little technical expertise and not much knowledge of electronics, I make a lot of mistakes. I consider myself to be just an amateur amateur radio operator, but I keep pressing on and trying new things. This column details my triumphs - and foibles - and I try not to take myself too seriously. Whether you are an experienced ham or new to the hobby, I hope you find these chronicles of my efforts to be entertaining.

Gary Ross Hoffman, KB0H

January 2015

The Amateur Amateur: NQSL

By Gary Ross Hoffman, KB0H
and Nancy Hoffman, N0NJ

QSL card from a contact never made

My wife Nancy is also a ham radio operator (N0NJ). On those rare occasions when she enters the “shack” in our basement, it's only a few steps and she never stays more than a minute or two. I think she wants to avoid touching the Forest of Forgotten Items bulging from the shelves and the inevitable avalanche that would ensue. Or perhaps its the Great Entanglement of Go-Bags on the floor that she's trying to evade. And I know for certain that she holds no love for The Cable Family that dominates the space under the tables.

No, most likely she's there to tell me that I have a phone call. Or to see if I still have a pulse. She's definitely not down there to operate the radios.

Why is it, then, that she has more QSL cards than me!!??

I've written about this before in Q-S-Who? I receive QSL cards for contacts I never made. Nancy also receives QSL cards for contacts she's never made. In fact, we get many more QSL cards for these non-contacts than we do for actual contacts.

So, what has prompted me to write again about about this phenomenon?

Well, Nancy just received a new batch of cards from the Zero QSL Bureau. She now has more cards than I do. That's not really fair, as she's never even been on the HF bands. And not that I'm jealous or anything like that, but some of her cards are really desirable.

erroneous QSL card

Sorry, never made this contact either

As we both seem to have made more phantom contacts than authentic ones, I used a logging program to set up a special database to keep track of them. I keep them separate from the real contacts, of course. But on those nights when I fail, yet again, to make a connection on HF, I can always call up my database of phantom QSOs and fantasize that they were real.

I have another reason for revisiting this topic. In my earlier column I gave in to fanciful speculation and suggested that perhaps the erroneous QSL cards were for actual contacts that I just didn't remember. It had something to do with time travel or being neuralized by the Men in Black.

Hah! How incredibly foolish! I'm ashamed to have written such nonsense. No, clearly there is a much more logical, rational explanation for what happened.

The contacts were made with a parallel universe.

Wait, don't get the wrong idea. I didn't make the contacts, and neither did Nancy. The Gary and Nancy in the other universe (Alternate-Gary? Nancy-Parallel?) are obviously demon DXers. They are so good that they managed to break the barrier between our respective universes. Neither they nor the hams in this universe whom they contacted realized it, though, and hence the this-universe operators wound up sending QSL cards to the wrong Gary and Nancy.

It makes perfect sense.

This revelation does, however, bring up some interesting issues (besides Alternate-Gary and Nancy-Parallel being perturbed by how long it is taking for expected QSL cards to arrive).

For example, would a cross-universe contact count as a special event station?

And suppose you've just filled in that last grid, or state, or island? If the contact was actually in a parallel universe, does it still count? I would think not, as there may be 52 states there, different sized grids, or even a few less continents.

Will the ARRL modify its Logbook of The World to include parallel universes? Probably not. I suspect that they will create an entirely new logging system, PUDX, with an even more complicated validating procedure.

This will hit serious DXers the hardest.

First, having attained awards for contacting every continent, every grid, and every millimeter on Earth, they will suddenly find that they have to start all over again with a whole new universe! This will drive them crazy.

Yet another phantom contact

Everyone will have to create a new QSL card indicating which universe they are in.

Every contact ever made will have to be scrupulously re-examined to determine which universe each party was located in. And just imagine if (shudder!) the other universe doesn't use Universal Coordinated Time!

With the discovery that a parallel universe actually does exist, the demand on scientists to figure out how to make physical contact with it will be intense. After all, it is absolutely essential that we get our QSL cards across that barrier.

Nancy disagrees completely with my theory. She has her own.

“I may not get on the radio,” she said, “but I put out good vibes. That's what the other operators are picking up.”

“Tell everyone to keep sending me QSL cards, I enjoy getting them,” she added. “They make good bookmarks.”

She asked me if she should make her own card and respond to those who had sent her one. I explained that a QSL card was confirmation of a contact, and if she confirmed something that didn't happen, it was the same as cheating.

“But if someone sends me a Christmas gift, I feel obligated to return the favor,” she countered.

Well, eventually we came to a compromise. See the card below.

N0NJ non-contact card

Glitches in the System
A series of cartoons about what really happens when your radio breaks down

New "Glitch" added January 2015!

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