Reflecting Upon a 33-year-old Written Logbook, Now Completed

A couple days ago I made my last entry in the logbook I’ve been using for 33 years. The log has grown up with me and is a bit battered, much like its owner. The first entry I made was on 9/10/78, back when I was a 10-year-old Novice with the call KAØCEM.

It’s a trip down memory lane to page through this logbook, not only to read the entries and the notes I made about changes in my equipment and QTH, but even to see how my handwriting changed over the years. But it’s full now, so it is time to start another logbook.

The first page of my logbook when I was KAØCEM.

I happen to have a nice, new logbook just waiting for the next hand-written entry. Somewhere along the line I acquired it and it’s been on my shelf waiting for the day my first logbook filled up. But now I’m not so sure I want to use it. Things are different now. Back in the day we relied exclusively on QSL cards to confirm our contacts, but now some folks rely on the Logbook of the World — as a courtesy to them I started entering my contacts there this year. But double-logging is as prone to error as it is time-consuming. And as much as I love the nostalgia of the hand-written log, I have to admit that logbook in Ham Radio Deluxe is mighty slick.

So I’ve ordered the chips to upgrade my Kenwood TS-440S, a CAT cable to hook it up to my computer, and from now on it’s a computerized logbook for me.

But one thing is nagging me. There are unanticipated consequences of “progress” like this. For instance, this computerized logbook has a window with constantly-updated DX spots. Nice, huh? But with this instantaneous feedback-loop that we’ve created, it has become harder and harder to have meaningful QSOs with DX stations — as soon as one is spotted there’s a massive pile-up that turns subsequent QSOs into rapid-fire exchanges that consist of nothing more than NØIP 599 TU.

I’m glad my ol’ logbook ended with a better QSO than that. I called CQ DX on 20m and LU1MA responded from Argentina. We didn’t exactly have a ragchew, but at least it lasted for six whole minutes. The second I signed off with him, though, a horde descended upon him like a swarm of thirsty mosquitoes.

I don’t remember that ever happening in the old days, even though there were more CW operators on the air back then. Back at the peak of the third-to-last sunspot cycle I had DX QSOs that routinely lasted 10-15 minutes, sometimes longer. That wasn’t because my CW was slow. Back then I was around 20 WPM; now I’m down to 15 WPM (it’s coming back, though!). It was simply different back then, and I would say it was better. I loved how the DX stations used to call me DR TODD; I’d hear it from more than one country, but never from the USA. We talked with each other back then, no matter how far away the DX station was.

So I’m not sure I’ll keep that DX spot window open in my new computerized logbook. I’m not even sure I’ll enter pile-ups all that much. I’ve learned how to do it, but it’s tedious and not nearly as rewarding as the contacts I used to have with these DX stations. Maybe I’ll call CQ DX more often and hope the fellow on the other end is willing to spend a few more minutes in QSO than he’s used to.

But when I do, he’ll go into my computer. Along with the old days, my written logbook is a thing of the past.

Todd Mitchell, NØIP, is a regular contributor to and writes from Minnesota, USA. He can be contacted at [email protected].

8 Responses to “Reflecting Upon a 33-year-old Written Logbook, Now Completed”

  • Garth KF7ATL:

    I’ve only been licenses 2 1/2 years, but am a bit old-fashioned. I use a paper log and send paper QSLs. The old ways seem friendlier, somehow. Seeing on confirmation on LoTW just isn’t the same as finding a long-awaited QSL in the mail box!

  • Peter KG5WY:

    I can relate.

  • Todd Mitchell, NØIP:

    I agree with you, Garth. LoTW sucks all the pleasure out of it. I still send QSL cards and hope to keep receiving them from folks. Recently I read one fellow comment elsewhere about how much of a nuisance QSL cards are. That boggles my mind.

  • Richard KJ4ZIZ:

    I love getting QSL cards in the mail…Some are really nice…Yes I would like a longer qso but sometimes all I get is 59 and 73…Oh well life goes on
    and at least I did get the new country…I too keep a written log book…
    Guess I am old fashioned…

  • Joe ws4r:

    I have Been licensed on and off since I was 10 years old in 1955. I like the old paper logs. I must admit I am getting lazy in my old age. I write my QSOs on bits of paper, planning on entering them in my logbook, however I am WAAAYYY behind.

  • Keith, G6NHU:

    I paper log everything as well as computer log. A paper log is timeless, it’ll last far longer than bits and bytes in a computer will. If the computer goes down then you’re stuck with no log at all. Although it’s no longer a requirement for us in the UK to keep a log, I still log everything because I enjoy doing it. I flick back through the logbook from time to time and it brings back memories.

    Keith, G6NHU
    QSO365: A QSO per day in 2011

  • Stuart:

    I have been a HAM since 1978 and that was when paper logs with signature of the op was requires. It was just part of the QSO process. In the 1980’s along comes Commodore C-64 and yes, a HAM radio logbook. I started entering my contacts form my paper logbook into the computer as it was nice to search and see if you had worked a station previously. Or see trends by band conditions, etc. However after 300 entries the program would crash upon saving and all your data was lost. I learned early on to not trust computers. Even if it worked beyond 300 entries what machine could I read that C-64 logbook on now? When your OS is as antiquated as Commodore DOS your logbook will be unreadable. I even have software call books that will not run on any OS after Windows XP. However my paper logbook can lay on the shelf in it’;s zip-loc bag for hundreds of years and a person can pick it up and read it. No electricity, no outdated operating systems, outdated, etc etc.

    For me it’s paper logs for good. 3000 years later the dead sea scrolls can be still be read. Will be be able to say that about Win 3000 ? Probably not. My only issues is my eyesight isn’t what it used to be so larger lines and big print logbooks would be nice too.



  • Tony, HB9HSX:

    I accidentally fell on this page because… I googled “amateur radio logbook”! After about 20 years of constant use of software-based logbook, I simply decided to step back to paper. The path I followed to come up here has a lot to share with the ever-changing goals we have: in the eraly days it was all about gaining DXCC, WAZ, WAS and so on and it was easier (and faster) to have the QSOs recorded there. But.
    I moved recently to HB9 and I have a brand-new calls-sign. All the goals I wanted to reach (DX-wise speaking) were accomplished in the past years and now I am more on the ragchewing side of the game. I am a full CW operator and I usually write my notes realtime on paper while I am having a QSO. So, it became natural to me to think about a paper logbook. And it’s what I am going to do right now, even though some contacts are stored or uploaded to LoTW and eQSL when required. But there is another thing which made me stepping back: since I watch a PC-monitor for more than 10 hours a day for my job, when I sit on the shack I want to unwind, laid back and enjoy the uniqie pleasure of radio without taking care of a screen. I am proably getting older, but at the end I am just a good old X-gen guy who is a little missing those good old days too… 73 ES VY GL!

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