As of December 19, more than 1 billion contact records have been entered into ARRL’s Logbook of The World (LoTW) system. And, while 1 billion QSO records represents a significant milestone, a more important statistic may be the nearly 187 million contacts confirmed via LoTW over its 15-year history.
The one billionth record was uploaded by 7X3WPL, the Sahara DX Radio Club, at 23:32 UTC for a 20-meter SSB contact with with Davide Cler, IW1DQS, that took place on December 28, 2016. The upload resulted in a match (QSL).
LoTW debuted in 2003 after a lot of behind-the-scenes planning and development. Initially LoTW got off to a slow start. While user numbers gradually grew to about 5,000, a lot of hams didn’t fully understand what LoTW was or how it worked, and opening an account could be cumbersome.
LoTW continued with few major changes until October 2011, when a perfect storm struck — a large ingestion of logs after the CQ World Wide DX Contest and a freak snowstorm that knocked out power for more than a week in most places.
Field Services and Radiosport Department Manager Norm Fusaro, W3IZ Fusaro said uninterruptible power source (UPS) back-up power quickly depleted in the days-long power outage. “When the system came back online, it was overwhelmed with the amount of data coming in and could not keep up,” Fusaro said. “The water was coming in faster than the pumps could pump it out. Crash!”
The disaster was a blessing in disguise, though, because it revealed weaknesses in the LoTW software and hardware.
Fusaro said the League spent tens of thousands of dollars for new hardware that was express-shipped and installed at HQ. IT Manager Mike Keane, K1MK, started implementing some code changes to expedite log processing by giving priority to small- to medium-sized logs and inserting mega-files as openings occurred. Fusaro said a lot of the large files contained duplicate data, bogging down the process so much that users were resending logs already in the queue. Through all of this not one QSO record was lost because LoTW uses a redundant backup process.
“A big problem was communicating to the public what was happening,” Fusaro said. An LoTW users’ group reflector and a queue-processing status page were set up. With better communication, Fusaro said, the system attracted additional numbers. Today, LoTW boasts some 112,000 users in all 340 DXCC entities, and 75% of all DXCC applications are filed via LoTW, which accounts for 86% of confirmations applied.
Now, ARRL is looking at the development of LoTW 2.0, Fusaro said. “Over the years we have added more awards that can be applied using LoTW QSL credits; VUCC, Triple Play, and two CQ awards — WPX and WAZ.”
“The service still has room for a lot of improvement, but it continues to grow and is the preferred method of confirming QSOs because it strives to protect the integrity of DXCC and all awards,” Fusaro said.
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