The Joy of the QSO

Since my retirement I suppose I've had a little more time to think, philosophize if you will, about the important things in life. As my work career fades into the past, I've quickly come to realize that events and issues from my work-life, at the end of the day, weren't that important at all. The things that I stressed and fretted over where simply mirages of importance that faded away as time passed.

So, I've asked myself, what is it about Ham Radio that's so important? Many of us spend a lot of time in the hobby, so where is the meaning, where is the value added to our lives? Many of us chase awards, join clubs, go on expeditions and have many significant achievements in our ham careers that bring a certain level of satisfaction. However, what we soon learn is that it's the chase, not the finish that's exciting. I've enjoyed very much chasing DXCC Honor Roll, WAE-TOP, IOTA, SOTA and competing in a variety of  contests. However, once the objective is achieved, the excitement of working toward the goal is gone and the sense of accomplishment is not quite as satisfying as the thrill of the chase.

So in my thinking about what's lasting and important about ham radio, at least to me, starts from  a simple QSO. QSO's bring joy in many ways, i.e., marking a needed entity of the list, working a new club member, getting that rare country that you never thought possible, whether QRP or QRO or perhaps a special contact on Top Band or the Magic Band. It's QSO's that bring joy. However, many of these QSO's are the 599, TU type of QSO and are more focused on accomplishment or earning some award than the relationship side of ham radio.  As I've progressed or maybe matured or perhaps just gotten more sentimental, I get a lot of lasting joy from a simple rag-chew. Does a rag-chew bring my recognition, no. Will it qualify me for any awards, maybe, but probably not. But what it does do is allow me to meet real people with similar interests as me. Since I retired I find that I have more and more rag-chews with the most interesting people. And I am starting to come across guys multiple times and we pick up where we left off from the previous QSO. It's wonderful. I don't have to worry if I've already worked them on the band I'm on, they are glad, at least I think they are, to take my call and have a chat, I don't have to worry about getting a "worked B4" response.

I've found there's lots of unexpected pleasure in the simple things. A simple QSO gives me lots of satisfaction. Don't get me wrong, you may well hear my call in a DX pile up or calling CQ in a contest, but I've learned to stop and smell the roses and the roses of ham radio, to me, are the relationships you can build and develop through conversational ham radio.

 My mode of choice is CW, but I don't suppose it really matters what mode you use. Just get on the air and have a real chat, you might find it brings a little more meaning to the hobby.
Mike Crownover, AD5A, is a regular contributor to and writes from Texas, USA. Contact him at [email protected].

7 Responses to “The Joy of the QSO”

  • Walt n5eqy:

    I for one was always greatly attracted to the enjoyment of meeting someone on the HF bands and establishing a new contact/friend than the lunacy of contests. As a very young kid i discovered ham radio on both my grandmothers old AM radios that had shortwave bands on them. What a surprise when I discovered that two of my relatives were licensed hams, After visiting them when I graduated high school in 1961, the fever was upon me. Even tho i had no ham radio equipment and no license, I inherited my G’mothers old Eldico. I cannot recount how many hundreds of hours i spent listening to the magic that came out of that little black box. Finally i was able to afford some gear and had some hams living in the military housing that mentored me… I made it. I was issued a novice license WN7ZYW Sept 7 1974. Its been a great ride, i have has calls in the USA and a UK call, 2 german calls, a Italian call and a Greek call. Living in Europe for 13 years I actually met some of the people that I talked to on the bands. Live in Tx now and going strong 73

  • Bill Shanney, W6QR:

    Great essay Mike. I agree wholeheartedly that a good rag chew is the most pleasurable activity in ham radio. I get on 40M CW early most mornings and enjoy making new friends as well as catching up with old ones. 73…Bill

  • Colin GM4JPZ:

    Couldn’t agree more, Mike, and I see we had a CW QSO in 2016 on 17m. There’s something zen about having a CW ragchew at a comfortable speed, although I must admit to also being happy with a few ‘rubber stamp’ QSO’s if the band is open to Eastern Europe, where many of the CW ops don’t have the English for long chats.

    Over the last few years we have all seen a growing number of Special Event Stations with ever more bizarre callsigns, only looking for 599 TU, which is fine if you are working towards an award or something, but can get tedious when the band is full of them. Having been an op on a few such SES calls, I understand the buzz to be had from working a mini-pileup as an op with an interesting call, but there really has been a proliferation of them in Europe lately, meaning hardly anyone wants to develop the QSO beyond the basic exchange of c/s and report.

    73 and hope to see all you guys on the bands in the upcoming improved DX months, Colin

  • Larry VE7VJ:

    Have to agree. Rag chewing is the best. I have little interest in gathering paper, but each to their own.
    One of the more memorable contacts I had was at home for lunch one day while taking a fire weather course. I got on and spent most of the hour talking to a fellow who had been a meteorologist in WWII when they were flying supplies ‘over the hump’ into China. I will take that over any “worked all whatever” any day.

  • Layne AE1N:


  • Elwood WB0OEW:

    I’ve been a ham for, gosh, 43 years now and I can only recall having maybe 2 ragchews the whole time, and those were dreadfully awkward and stressful. The fun for me is electronics, antennas and HF propagation. The only reason I ever get on the air is for experimenting and for that privilege I am grateful this hobby exists. With the advent of the autonomous digital modes I can now enjoy it even more without having to think what to talk about with a total stranger.

  • John M0HTE:

    I agree with Mike. A nice rag chew using cw is its own reward. I also enjoy ‘nets’ such as the Sideswiper net where I meet old friends on a Sunday evening.

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