Radio amateur activities
Awards and certificates
For any amateur radio, licensed or listener (SWL), after some months or years of activities, it is always with fierty that we paint the walls of our shack with our awards, Hi !, or that we display our plaques and cups on a shelf. When our room become too small to display all them, the binder still constitutes the best protection, beside the one protecting our most-wanted QSL.
Beside the call sign engraved on a 24k-gold electroplated badge (Max Armory) or in a piece of oak (K7BON), these plaques, cups or diplomas confirm that we worked hard to work these countries, DX-peditions, bases and other ship, on a peculiar time lapse or during a specific contest, a way to recognize certain qualities to the concerned amateur and that (s)he retaiedn the memory of that event.
Some awards are also attributed to hams and SWLs gratefully, e.g. to celebrate their fidelity after 20 years or more of activity, their frienship and ham-spirit in QSOs, to highlight a specific action that helped the communauty during disasters or to commemorate an famous anniversary. Of course these very special awards cannot be requested by individuals but only by national associations or by manufacturers (e.g. Eimac, Icom, etc). So they are very scared and probably more appreciated than any other price.
Nowadays awards and associated products count by thousands (see below) and for you and me it is not easy at all to compile a list of all them even browsing on the Internet 24h a day. Hopefully some amateurs keep going the good job is keeping one or more lists updated.
Most of these awards are dedicated to licensed hams; e.g. DXCC, WAC or WAS that are administrated by ARRL request to work a dual-way contact, what listeners cannot do. But hopefully, today there are much more awards available to SWLs than in the past and I think that they will be satisfied with the hundreds others they can get. Let's go in quest of these awards !
When patience is a virtue
Like most of you there are tens of awards that I have tried to get like the DXPA, ITU Zones, US counties, DCI, IOTA, etc. I already got several of them but others request some of the "Most Wanted DXCC" to be complete or to have their QSL in hand what can be very hard to achieve when these DXCC are Scarborough reef or Navassa... As you probably experimented yourself, the last DXCC are hard to win, and especially for a SWL that cannot emit a CQ DX. But on another side I am reassured when I learn that several tens of these KH and other ZK islands are wildlife refuges, have no residents, either visitors or ham. So now I know that I have to wait for several months or even years to get the last stations that should allow me to complete these awards...
These waitings in quest of the last call sign that should allow you to get one more award have not to be considered from a negative point of view. I think that this quest should not be so exciting if there was not these slow down and difficulties. These waitings can be quite long but they are also part of the fun of this hobby. There is no fun to get hundreds of awards in a few months. That should mean that these awards should be easy to get and thus without interest. On the contrary, the long running quest means that you will continue working on the air for long time and will still appreciate your hobby. In the meantime you will acquire a deeper knowledge of the hams activities on bands, about propagation and more.
Of course this quest can become a tedious task when you have to work or hear thousand or more stations from a same country (like some Honor Roll awards request). In this peculiar case it is up to you to appreciate this challenge, the potential pleasure you could derive in achieving this award vs. the constraints of working hours long on the air in place of being with your familly, doing sport, etc.
If amateurs can manage themselves their QSOs, listeners are faced to other kinds of problems. If you are an active listener and in a hurry to get a famous award, I suggest you this solution : either install a good antenna (longwire over 40m long, 8m long vertical with radials, shortened multi-band beam) to hear DX stations in good conditions, or make a regular sked on the air with a nearby ham who calls the DX for you... (you can even call him by phone, email or Echolink for checks). Some call this way of working a network, Hi !
Among the awards you can won as licensed ham or listener, some are closed as the event last only a few days or was only valid for one year when it celebrates a special event like an anniversary. In some cases they will not repeat before a millenium ! At last remember that these awards are not available for free. They cost each between 5 and 20 IRC/GS (the honor roll being the most expensive) for administration and charge. Some awards request also some patience. It is not unusual to wait 6 to 12 months to receive a plaque or the long-awaited roll of your dream. Note that as licensed ham, some authors are waiting their DXCC for over one year ! Patience is a virtue as one says...
But I have a good news ! Since 2003, ARRL accepts the electronic submission of logbooks to validate the DXCC and other awards. This procedure is integrated in a project called Logbook of the World or LoTW that matches your QSOs with all participants's logbooks.
End 2003 over 8 millions QSOs were stored in LoTW database. In 2015 this database included more than 600 million QSOs and over 84000 call signs (see also stats maintained by HB9BZA) !
However there is a drawback to this project. I am sure that thousands amateurs working from small entities will never confirm your "most wanted" QSOs as they are probably not connected to the Internet, but conversely, if you want to valide the most usual contacts, american stations or big DX-peditions, this procedure should be useful.
For your curiosity here are some of the awards that I won as listeners, some of them being now replaced by "worked" versions :
Tens of others are running, from JCC to US-counties award. If most awards request only a few months of patience to gather all required stations, some of them will probably request years to be achieved. For a licensed ham working with a small gun (omnidirectional, wire antenna) or a bare foot emitter (50-100 W), most famous awards can be hard to get. Awards like WABA Top Honor Roll (50 bases), the Class 1 Africa award (50 DXCC) or the Worked ITU Zones will probably run a few years before you can write your latest station, and some more years to get your QSLs... The ITU zone award for example requests working (or hearing) the 75 ITU zones, including several ones in Antarctica, in far east Asia (UA0) and on remote islands. But these contraints are parts of the challenge and I bet that most of you will get these awards one of these days.
In the meantime like me you can always increase your score on IOTA (to get a World award, 50 islands on each of the 7 continents or a Plaque of Excellence with 750 IOTA), on JCC or JCG (to get 600 cities or guns), on the US counties (to get all 3076) without to forget the DXCC Honor Roll that requires have worked and confirmed at least 326 entities (on 335) !
Desperately searching awards
In average there are more than 50 new awards each year, but in the meantime some are suspended or disappear for various reasons. Where to find the list of all these awards and their rules ? Many personal or association websites provide lists of national and international awards or certificates. In short, the most complete list is currently in the hands of Ted Melinosky, alias K1BV who publishes yearly a book listing... 3227 DX Awards (2004) edited by national organizations, societies or clubs, a must for both licensed amateurs and SWLs. Here is the link to order this best-seller : K1BV DX Awards Directory.
In addition to these awards, many organizations publish certificates to celebrate special events, like an anniversary, an open-door, sport events, and many others local or international events. Among them, there is for example the famous Museum Ships Special Event certificate (see above among my awards) that celebrates each year in July the USS Salem Radio Club, aka K1USN. This is a 24 hour event that allows you to get an original certificate from the Navy USS Salem Radio Club. Only one condition, to work 10 or more ships during that weekend event. Among them you have the opportunity to work with hams in Aircraft Carrier (WA4USN), Battelships (W4BPR, NJ2BB,...), Submarines (NY3EC, ON4BRN,...), Fregate (GB2PLY, OZ1RDN), and other Destroyers (VE0NED, VK2CCV, ...). Like most of these open-days, this event is accessible to SWLs too in the same conditions.
How to get such an information ? As usual the most complete list is available on-line from K1BV website in his section Realshort term awards. Another must for all active amateur radio.
But what should be an award without its related QSLs ? Collecting QSLs, these small cards confirming QSOs, is always a pleasure when you worked or heard a new DXCC entity or a very original call sign. Specially when you receive the famous QSL some weeks or months later... Check my QSL page for more detail.
Good luck and have fun !