Barcodes on QSL cards, an idea

I was recently designing labels for the few qsl cards that I have to sent. I’m not making 3000 plus qso’s a year, so my share in the sorting service is limited.

But I learned that the qsl cards for UBA members are sorted in The Netherlands. The guys over there type in the callsign and the software tells them in which box the card has to go. Sometimes this goes wrong, very wrong. In our local club we have a member with the callsign ON4AVP, the cards we receive are for ON4AUP. Not everyone writes clearly, including myself :-).

The other day I was thinking about improving this. Generating labels via your computer is one option. The qsl bureau still have to read them manually. Why not adding a barcode to the label ?


Here is an example created online via the website You can clearly see my old callsign via my current callsign.
The symbology is code 128B. Code 128A is also possible.

The differences :

  • 128A – 0-9, A-Z, ASCII control codes, special characters
  • 128B – 0-9, A-Z, a-z, special characters
  • 128C – 00-99 (double density encoding of numeric only data)

I prefer 128B because it can contain small and capital letters.

In this example I used the text “on2bbp via on3jt”. So the qsl card to on2bbp should go via on3jt.
In technical terms for generating/reading :
– if the via field is filled in, display the word VIA and the <via_callsign>
– use the space character or the word via in a “split” function
– the “split” will give an array back containing the data

Once I had a barcode reader, the data was sent to the pc via the keyboard. I mean, the barcode reader was inserted in the keyboard slot of the pc and the keyboard itself in the reader. Everything I scanned was sent as keyboard strokes. Simple.

Is this idea possible ?
I would say yes, but only on generated labels/qsl cards.

update from april 18 2008 : I just noticed that I’m not the first one with this idea. In 1995 a DX-pedition to the Easter Island used the same technique. The difference is that they encoded the whole qsl data in a barcode. With code 39. Read more on their websites :