Logging & what to do with those logs

I’m sitting here working on the websites and doing paperwork for work, and the thought comes to me, why do we hams keep logs and what do we REALLY do with them?

Well in the beginning the FCC required us to keep logs of our stations and what we did on the air. Even all the way down to unfruitful CQs, for those that don’t know a CQ is “calling any station” its a general call to say I want to chat. But this has not been a legal requirement for most situations in the USA since June 6, 1983 as published in the ARRL’s QST magazine article from the Aug 1983 issue titled “Most Logging Eliminated” in the happenings section by Carol Smith AJ2I.

So, with that being said, why do we and what do we do with them. I had a few thoughts, and I know what I use them for but I thought it’d be fun to ask in a FB group and see what other operators said they used them for also. I’ll outline those below after I’m done outlining how I use them.

First, its a record of stations that I have had contact with, what rig, antenna, and power i used and from where. In many cases its also a record of where the other station was either because they told me during the QSO (contact) or due to an automatic data retrieval of my logging software. So now I not only know who but where I talked to and now I can graphically represent that using one of the QSO mapping software or website resources. This comes in handy for other analysis spelled out later.

So now we know who, and where we can confirm our contacts either digitally through QSO confirmation services like QRZ, LOTW, or eQSL (there are some others) or by paper either through the bureau, a QSL manager, or direct. Once that is done we are set to “chase paper”. Meaning we can apply for awards like Worked All States, DXCC, Worked All Continents and the list goes on and on. Some serious contesters will also get awards for placing well in the contests this way.

But, aside from the fun have we found a REAL use for them yet? One that would help us in times of an emergency, or in setting up our stations? Well yes we have, we have also found a use that helps us gauge the performance of our station as a whole. Especially one we can use to gauge how well the most important piece of physical equipment we own is performing, the antenna!

Remember the map? Yes of course you do, with that piece of information out of our logs, we can now, especially if we’ve done a good job of keeping up with what rig/antenna combination was used for each contact can begin to filter these logs to select what antenna, or power level, or rig, or microphone, etc was used and we can look at the maps generate and see where the signals have gone using those specific pieces of equipment. When examining the Microphone for example, we can look and compare the signal reports we’ve received. Ham Radio signal reports are typically a three digit report expressing Readability, Signal strength, and Tone (RST). Typically on phone this is shorted to a 2 digit number signifying Readability, and Signal strength. 599 would be a perfect signal.

If we are testing new antennae, we can use the maps over a period of time and be able to say hey this antenna does better for reaching Europe but typically skips over most of the US so NOW we know, beyond a shadow of a doubt what that particular antenna is capable of, and depending on where the emergency traffic is coming from or going to we KNOW reliably that this is, or is not the antenna we want to use. Also if we’ve built a replacement antenna that we are testing and are considering taking down an old antenna now we can easily compare and examine the performance of both and see what, if any, improvements we have made. Highly powerful tool if we examine the data correctly!

Many contesters use the logs to check for “dupes” where multiple contacts with the same station either doesn’t gain them points or actually costs them. They also use it to score, and all good contest logging software will calculate and keep track of their scores for submission based off the rules of the contest. Handy, if you like to do competitive radio. Bet you never thought of radio as a competitive sport before!

Now let’s take a look at some of the responses I recieved in the Facebook group.

A real logging program will track so many things. Progress on WAS DXCC by band among many other awards. Who has returned a QSL, either hard card or lotw. Print qsl cards or labels, spot new stations. This list goes on and on!! -Paul
I log as a reminder of all kinds of things;
Received 1st license
Different radios
Upgrade license classes
Call sign change
Active periods
Inactive periods
Different modes used

Not every single contact is logged as in nets or scheduled roundtables but basically every digital contact on HF gets logged.

A very unique contact on VHF/UHF will be there; however, not via digital modes such as DMR or Fusion. Those contacts are not logged unless requested by the other party.

Here I am an 75m conversation on social media. -Russell
 I keep mine locally on my PC. I don’t upload to anything because it’s a pain in the behind.
I like looking back at the places I talked to by exporting parts of my log to Google Earth. For example I can sort by output power and just look at QRP transmissions, or grab just the stuff from a contest weekend. -Markus
I’ve been pursuing DXCC awards since the day after I got my license in January 1990. Logging makes it easy to identify active stations that are “needed” for award progress, and to automate the “paperwork” of confirming QSOs and submitting confirmations for award credit, freeing more time for DXing.

Logged QSOs are a source of data that reveals secondary band openings from my QTH that I can exploit to work “new ones”. -Dave
 I keep two logs. One for contacts and also a “station log”.

I log contacts as a kind of diary. Most entries have nothing special but some have comments about an interesting rag chew, a fun location if portable, something neat that happened during the QSO.

I also log because unlike me a lot of hams are paper chasers. If I was able to enjoy my hobby then I feel like a little effort to help them enjoy an aspect of theirs is warranted.

My “station log” records settings I ended up using in special circumstances, passwords to a new radio program I installed, changes to antennas, different radios, new station accessories, etc. -Tim
I have always looked at it as a diary of my on air activities. -Chris
Just a few of the responses to the question.