The Amateur Amateur: Q-S-Who?
By Gary Hoffman, KB0H
My first DX
QSL cards arrive! Some confirmed contacts made years before I even had
an Amateur Radio license.
July 27, 2004
As soon as I
retrieved the mail that day I sensed that it contained something
special. I could feel
the vibrations. I fanned the mail and
quickly spotted the item that was sending out such strong signals.
Even though I could just see the corner of the envelope, I knew right
away what it was. It was my first package from the
Zero QSL Bureau
The unopened envelope: Savoring the anticipation.
I was excited! Some months earlier the QSL bureau had notified me by email
that it had something for me and had given me instructions for
sending envelopes and postage. I knew that the bureau must have
received a card from Joan, EA3BOX--my very first
contact. And now, at last, his card had reached me.
opening the envelope, though, I laid it reverently on the table and
took a picture of it. I wanted to be able to relive this delicious
moment of anticipation over and over. After immortalizing the moment
I picked up the envelope and eagerly opened it. Yes! My long-awaited
DX QSL card had arrived!
As had another.
And another. And another.
Something wasn't quite right. I had only made one
I was expecting Joan's card from Spain, but the envelope also
contained cards from Russia, Guatemala and Malaysia. What the heck?
Okay, I get a
little confused at times, but I'm sure I would have remembered making
Ummm, I was only expecting one DX card.
Even stranger, the card from Malaysia was dated June 2001. I had just
barely been experimenting
with HF back then. But, just to make
I checked my log book. Nope, no contacts with
Malaysia during June 2001. The remaining two cards cited contacts
made in 1988 and 1991. I didn't even have an Amateur Radio license
Malaysia card remained a mystery, but I used my deductive reasoning
and came up with a possible explanation for why I had received QSL
cards for DX QSOs I'd never made. As it happens, I am not the first
person to hold the call sign KB0H. So, I figured that the two cards
must have been intended for the previous holder. A little digging
turned up the fact that KB0H the First had been was Charles C.
Carney, now K6RU.
Charles and let him know that I had some QSL cards that I was pretty
sure belonged to him. Charles wrote back and thanked me, but he said
that according to his logs, he hadn't made those contacts either.
Things got even
weirder. According to my logs, I've only made two contacts that
warranted QSL cards via the bureau. My wife Nancy has never made any.
But between us we've received eight QSL cards. Two contacts; eight
One of the
nonesuch contact cards was easy to explain, however. In an earlier
column, I'd lamented that I had never received a QSL card, and
sympathetic reader Don Dunn, AB2NM, took pity on me and sent me one.
(Thanks, Don!) That still left five unexplained QSL cards--some
arriving via the QSL bureau and some by direct mail. I could
understand one or two, but five? It was perplexing.
Is this seemingly innocent Amateur Radio club a front for
secret time-travel experiments?
Surely a 71
percent error rate wasn't the norm for QSL cards. It couldn't be,
could it? It made no sense. Trying to unravel the mystery, I decided
to take the advice of the legendary fictional detective Sherlock
Holmes. He said that once you have eliminated the impossible,
whatever remains, however improbable, must be the answer.
, but was it possible that I really had
those contacts? Had I been an Amateur Radio operator for much longer
than I believed? Had someone altered logs, changed records, and even
tampered with my memory? Why? Who would go to such lengths? Who had
the resources to do such a thing? One answer came to mind. Was it
possible that I was a retired agent of the Men in Black? (And had
Nancy once been a Woman in Black?)
And what are the
chances of alien abduction
I shuddered and
put such thoughts out of my mind. I didn't want to be neuralized
But there was
another possibility: Time travel. Again, it was improbable
but perhaps just barely possible
. Will I discover a time
machine, travel back to 1988, 1991 and 2001 to make those contacts? I
might, if DX pileups get worse in the future.
Initially I thought that this was even more improbable than my first idea. But
then it occurred to me that I work at one of the foremost research
universities in the world. The university has an Amateur Radio club
(call sign W0QEV). The Amateur Radio equipment is housed in the
university's physics department. I've been meaning to go there to
check out the station. Obviously I will. And I will discover that the
physics department has built a time machine. You are
my logic, aren't you?
And you thought
those Back to the Future
movies were just silly science
perhaps more sinister--is the thought that someone had been--and may
KB0H. It happens. But if someone were going
to bootleg, why not use a more exotic call sign?
One last notion
occurred to me. Perhaps the Amateur Radio operators who'd sent the
cards had made mistakes in copying the call sign or in logging some
contacts. But then, that is
an impossibility, isn't it?
note: ARRL member Gary Hoffman, KB0H, lives in Florissant,
Missouri. He's been a ham since 1995. Hoffman says his column's name
-- "The Amateur Amateur" -- suggests the explorations of a
rank amateur, not those of an experienced or knowledgeable ham. His
wife, Nancy, is N0NJ. Hoffman has a ham-related Web
page. Readers are invited to contact the author
via e-mail, [email protected].
© 2004 American Radio Relay League