Sunday, July 5, 2015

Bhutan's First QSL Card

It is called wireless and yet, no other communications device uses as much wire, as does the wireless transmitter/transceiver! Even the ground on which the antenna is hoisted is strewn with copper wires running to all directions - for better signal reception.

 The "wirelessness" inside a Ham Radio Shack containing radio sets and other paraphernalia

Bhutan started to take its baby steps towards modernization sometime towards the end of 1950's, and yet, by 1955, someone in Bhutan was already sending voice and data over the airwaves - exactly 60 years ago! A wireless instructor in the employ of the Royal Government of Bhutan by the name of N. Chhawna from the Indian State of Mizoram was happily communicating with people as far away as USA - in 1955, using wireless radio equipment.

Records available in various archives confirm that the following were two of Chhawna’s and, by default, Bhutan’s earliest QSO’s. The top one is a QSL Card logged with an amateur with the CallSign VS2BD - Edward B. Powell - operating from the erstwhile Federation of Malaya that ceased to exist as a country as of 15th September, 1963. Like Malaya, Sikkim was deleted from the countries’ list as of April 30, 1975 and Tibet saw its demise as of May 30, 1974.

Two of Bhutan's first QSL Cards

 The Card at the lower end was logged with an American ham radio operator using the CallSign W8PQQ - his name was Albert H. Hix from Charleston, West Virginia, USA. This Mr. Hix was an enigma in ham radio. This really ancient ham radio operator logged his first QSO on November 9, 1935. His very last QSO was on June 10, 2003 - meaning he remained active on the radio for 68 years! Upon his death on 25th June, 2003, he had accumulated 10 footlockers filled with close to 135,000 QSL Cards! This is an incredible average of almost 6 Cards every single day of his life as a radio operator!

The earliest recorded ham radio operation from Bhutan by a Chilip is credited to Mr. Gus Browning of USA. He is supposed to have first operated from Bhutan in July of 1963. He writes that he was back in Bhutan again in February - April, 1965. Frankly, there are so many inconsistencies in his operations; supposedly made from Bhutan, that I am not quite sure they are all true.

 Gus Browning with his wife and daughter

His wife Peggy writes that she too was here in Bhutan with her husband in 1965 and worked for a while at the Hospital in Langjopakha. I have been showing Peggy’s photo to people who worked at that old hospital of the 60’s - to see if they recognized her. No luck yet. My own aunty was a nurse during that time at the hospital across the Tashichoe Dzong’s cantilever bridge - but she says her memory fails her.

 Mrs. Peggy Browning, Gus Browning's wife photographed around the time she was supposed to have visited Bhutan

QSO : When two radio operators (hams) establishes radio contact, such a contact is called a QSO;

QSL : A written confirmation is required, to validate a radio contact between two operators.
           Such a written and signed confirmation, in the form of a printed Card, containing full details
           of the contact, is called a QSL.

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