December 2000 issue of "CQ Contest"
by Bernd Koch, DF3CB
QSLing is thought of as a burden by most contesters, because they have great number of QSOs. It is a very time-consuming obligation.
There are a few different QSLing mentalities held by contesters:
- There are those who print every contest log on labels and send QSL cards. They have no QSL management and usually don’t check the incoming cards against the sent cards. The philosophy is to send all, see what comes back. Many of us get upset when we receive a QSL from XYZ again and again, not to mention the extra, actually redundant and unnecessary QSL bureau load.^
- There is another type of bulk QSL mailer. They send a card to every contest contact, with publicity on their mind: "Please work us in every contest!". They usually don’t expect cards in return.
- The real QSL collectors and award hunters send cards for only particular contacts or new bands and modes. They usually keep close track of their sent and received QSLs.
- Many are not interested in incoming cards, but at least they check the QSOs and answer the QSLs. This applies also to QSL managers for (contest) DXpeditions.
- Some never answer and probably not even have cards.
- There are those who haven’t answered for years but somehow feel they should. They feel the psychological pressure of the huge backlog that has to be worked off.Is there one solution for all types? Of course not. However, there is at least technical support - an efficient QSL management and label-printing software.
Back in 1989, when being the QSL manager for the old European Multi-Multi record holder LX7A, which resulted in some 30,000 QSOs, I was confronted with the problem: How could I efficiently and quickly answer huge amounts of incoming QSL cards? I started to write a little DOS software program called BV. The basic idea was to print as many multi-band QSOs on one label as possible to save expensive cards and labels, to ignore duplicate contacts, to quickly find requested contacts, and to correct callsigns logged incorrectly.
As my QSL manager job continued, more and more requirements came up that had to be implemented. One was to have the printout sorted by callsigns or even by bureaus but at the same time a "first in, first out" method for direct QSL card requests.
The program began to spread out among the members of the Bavarian Contest Club in the early 1990’s. Further requirements then came up. The most important was to handle several logs simultaneously. More and more contesters and QSL managers for DX stations began to use BV.By the time new printers appeared on the market with new printer languages, laser and ink jet printers began to replace the old, loud dot matrix printers. As the popularity and the number of different printers grew and because BV was limited to just a few particular printers and label formats, a general solution had to be found. And that meant a change to a Windows® program.
The first Windows® version of BV appeared in 1998 and has been developing continuously since then. Through the program distribution via the internet and a strong growth in the number of users and new feature requests, BV grew to a very powerful, universal QSLing tool. Further features were added, like
- QSO statistics
- Answering SWL cards
- QSL manager database support
- Log display sorted by calls and chronologically
- Filter possibilities
- Sorted printout of QSL labels in accordance with the QSL bureau rules, including sorted printout of U.S. callsigns by call districts.
- A visual QSL label designer with completely customizable layouts
- Support of importing many different log types
In 1999, the prices for many color ink-jet printers, which were able to print directly on even heavy photo QSLs, dropped tremendously. Direct printing on cards saves not only the expense of labels, it also saves the time needed to peel off the labels and place them on the cards. Answering QSLs can even be fun now!
BV supports two reply methods. The "first in, first out" method is useful for stations that receive many direct QSL requests. The requested call is typed in, and all contacts with that station are shown. Press the F2 key and the card or label is printed immediately. The configuration can be set so that duplicate contacts are ignored or not, either the first or last QSO is printed in case of multiple contacts, or only new bands and/or modes are printed.
The "bureau" method on the other hand is useful for all other QSLing purposes. While you work off your QSL pile, you only type the call and press F2. All QSL data is first put into a so-called print queue. After some experience, you just need two or three seconds for every card – just a quick cross-check of the bands. By experience, some 5% of problem cards remain, and these are put in a second pile. The problem cards are mainly incorrectly logged calls or real "not-in-the-logs". The log display then can be switched to a chronological mode and edited.The bureau method also applies to the bulk method for a complete or filtered printout of the contest log. All processed QSOs get a QSL sent and received status.
When the paperwork is done, the labels or cards are printed. They come out of the printer sorted in accordance with the QSL bureau rules, including sorted printout of U.S. callsigns by call districts. Printers such as the inexpensive Epson Stylus Color printer can be fed with some 30 QSLs at one time.
Other handy options are that the program can search through all logs for a QSL request and then print a label. This is very useful if you have operated under different calls. If you have run many contests under the same call, it is recommended to merge all contest logs into one master BV log.
The current version of BV is version 7, and available as freeware from my website at df3cb.com/bv/. There is a BV e-mail reflector where you can place support questions, too.