In my early years as a ham, say from 1971 to 1997, I would occasionally work a DX station. Sometimes just randomly, or maybe during what little operating during a DX contest. I really didn’t actively chase DX. I personally kept a piece of paper with countries worked, but never pursued confirming the contacts as I never tried to get DXCC or any other certificates. I would occasionally get a DX QSL card, and I would send them off mine, but the hassle I perceived in sending cards to DX stations seemed to be not worth it. QSL Managers, DX stamps, IRC coupons, green stamps, and this was before the internet. You had no easy way to find out what the DX station preferred. To even find their address required buying a DX Callbook and hoping it was up-to-date. XARC used to buy callbooks for club member use.
Probably the most effective way to get back a QSL was to send a self addressed stamped envelope. But getting stamps for each country you might want to get a QSL back from was not easy. This was the reason for IRC or International Reply Coupons, which theoretically allowed the DX station to buy stamps in their own country to cover the cost. But from what I understand, DX stations didn’t like them because they could be a problem. One ham came up with a better idea. George Robertson, W2AZX I believe, went out and purchased stamps from all over the world, and sold them to hams. He advertised in the major ham magazines like QST. And strangely enough, he was in my town, Ontario, NY, less than 1/2 mile from where I now live. He has long since passed on, but it was probably the best way to go.
In 1997, I had an increase in my ham radio activities due to some better antenna arrangements and a permanent shack setup at my home. At some point I sent the “2” section QSL bureau some money, and some DX cards would trickle in. Also, the internet was kicking in.
A move in 2001 put my ham radio activities on hold for a time. No antennas, no shack setup. Over time, I did finally get a shack in place and a vertical multi-band antenna, and the logbook was getting some entries. My activity increased as the kids started moving out and we had more time on our hands. I started hearing about this Logbook of the World that the ARRL had put in place. Also, electronic logging.
LoTW was a bit of a pain to get setup with. It isn’t a “logbook” really at all. It is a way to confirm QSOs in order to track DXCC and other awards. I can’t complain, it seems to work, but only some percentage of DX stations seem to use it. I don’t know exactly, maybe 60-75% will just regularly upload their logs. Then there is some number, often DXpeditions, that will upload with a donation. Other might use a QSL manager who will do the work for them, and require some payment, send an actual QSL and possibly upload to LoTW.
So I always seem to have some number of countries work but not confirmed. So I have developed a process for my unconfirmed countries:
- Go to their QRZ page. Often they will have QSL instructions, or link to another web page that has info
- OQRS – Online QSL Request System, many, especially DXPeditions use this system that ClubLog provides. Easy to use, you upload your log, it checks against DX log, and you request QSL and usually pay some fee via PayPal, $3.00 – 6.00 is common. They usually will upload to LoTW and send a QSL. I still enjoy getting QSL cards.
- There are other OQRS systems similar to ClubLog, though not sure who runs them. Also, some take direct PayPal payments themselves, or thru a QSL manager
- Direct – Some DX stations only do a direct sway. You send a QSL with a self addressed envelope and “green stamps” (one dollar bills to cover postage), and they will return a QSL. Can be a problem because in many countries, the QSL gets stolen before it gets to them.
- QSL bureaus – DX stations don’t seem to like these much anymore, especially the busy ones who make a lot of contacts. I do sometimes still get cards via the bureau, and some cards I send out via the ARRL Outgoing QSL Service, usually replies that came via the bureau
- QSL image via email – I get these sometimes, a JPEG QSL. I don’t believe they are usable for a real confirmation, but haven’t really looked into it.
- eQSL – another system, they have their own awards. Seems to be used less and less these days.
- QRZ – You can upload logs and QRZ will check against others. They have their owns awards as well. Again, a low percentage of users. I don’t think their confirmation process is as stringent as ARRL DXCC.
It has gotten easier over the years and because of this, I have had more of an interest in working DX. I went from around 70 countries worked and maybe 30 confirmed, to 212 worked and 193 confirmed on LoTW at the moment. I also have a handful of cards I need checked, but I have another half dozen or so in process (in the mail).
Just this 10% or so of my countries that I need to chase down makes me appreciate the effort that hams went through back in the day to get QSL cards from over 300 countries! I can’t imagine what an effort that took.