Why I Log with Pencil and Paper

A fellow member of my club has very strong opinions about logging. He is an avid contester and uses N1MM for nearly everything – including POTA activations. At a recent presentation to club members he derided pencil and paper loggers and said “this is the 21st Century!”

I wasn’t offended; he said it in a bit of a tongue-in-cheek manner. We operated from the same CW station at our club’s 2022 ARRL Field Day site. We logged using N1MM (a popular Windows contest logger) but I brought along my pencil and paper logbook as backup.

When I am out in the Big Blue Sky Shack doing Parks On The Air activations I always log using pencil and paper. When I get home I transfer my logs to HAMRS on my tablet and then upload to the POTA website.

Play Guitar? Forget Touch Screens!

Why? Well, my fingers don’t work very well on the touch sensitive screens found on mobile phones and tablets. I am no Eric Clapton, but my humble strumming on an acoustic guitar results in finger tip callouses. When I am working a pile-up I don’t have time to stab at the screen of a mobile device several times in my attempts to get it to respond. With a pencil and a paper I can scratch and scrawl essential logging information in seconds with no mistakes.

So why not use a laptop with N1MM installed? Two reasons; N1MM is a Windows program and I am a Linux devotee. At home I use the excellent made-for-Linux CQRLOG software. While my buddy at my club activates parks from the comfort of his trailer with AC power, I like to hike down trails to find my operating site and I am not inclined to carry a laptop with me. My manpack is heavy enough already!

Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head

I have been a penny-pinching, cheapskate miser for as long as I can remember. I always bought notepads for logging at the dollar store. It seemed like common sense economics to me. Why spend the big bucks for Rite in the Rain branded notepads when I can get the same thing way cheaper? Then one day a personal experience helped me answer that question. Raindrops fell off a tree behind me and landed on my precious POTA activation logbook.

Fortunately I was able to retrieve the information before the ink completely dissolved into the paper. Now I swear by “Rite in the Rain” notepads for all my outdoor pencil and paper logging. And I use a good, old-fashioned, humble pencil. Not only will it write in the rain but it won’t smudge, the way ink does, if it gets wet later.

Pencils need frequent sharpening don’t they?

Yes. I guess I could use one of those new-fangled pencil-things that use uber-slender graphite ammunition and can be “re-sharpened” by clicking on the button on the blunt end. But they always seem to run out of ammo when I need them most. Nah! My way is to take good old-fashioned pencils, cut them in half and sharpen both ends. That gives me four nice, sharp pointy ends to work with. If that ain’t enough for a POTA activation log then I just had one heck of a good activation!

Why not just enter logs into HAMRS during an activation?

HAMRS is one heck of a good app for POTA logging. I absolutely love it. But remember what I said about my guitar fingers? I usually only take my mobile cellular phone on an activation and if I am lucky enough to have cell service HAMRS could validate each log entry by looking up the logged callsigns on QRZ.com as I enter them.

But, my phone won’t upload my logs to the POTA website. Apparently it doesn’t have sufficient screen resolution to do that (even if I turn it sideways as suggested). And my tablet has no cellular access for QRZ.com lookups. So when I get home post-activation I transcribe my paper logs into HAMRS before I grab that first cool, refreshing adult beverage.

That’s what works for me and I’m sticking with it – even in the 21st Century.

2 thoughts on “Why I Log with Pencil and Paper

  1. Stumbled across this site recently. Great content. I too log with pencil and paper. I actually find it easier than fussing with both a computer / cell phone and my rig at the same time. Also use HAMRS to upload my logs for POTA. Straight forward, no nonsense. Could be a little better for Winter Field day.

    Hope to catch you down the log!


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