QRZ was founded in 1992 by Fred Lloyd, AA7BQ as a spinoff of what was once called the "Callsign Project", a cooperative effort designed to obtain and distribute FCC database tapes. The "Callsign Project" was born on the internet newsgroup rec.ham-radio (later rec.radio.amateur.misc), and it's initial sponsor was Rusty, Carruth, N7IKQ, who eventually turned it over to Fred when he became unable to continue the effort.
The "project" part of the callsign project consisted of obtaining the FCC data tapes and then making copies of it for distribution to other interested parties. Fred's first experience with the callsign project was largely uneventful since the total distribution consisted only of about 40 copies. At the time, each person requesting a copy of the database would send the Fred a blank tape along with $20 in an SASE. The $20 was to help to recover the cost of obtaining the data from the FCC, which at the time cost over $700 for the two large 9-track (12-inch) mainframe tape reels.
Soon, six months had gone by and again it became necessary to obtain a fresh set of FCC tapes. Tired of spending his spare time making tape copies, Fred began to wonder about CDROM - a new but emerging universal format. It didn't really seem possible since the cost of mastering a CDROM (about $2500) was prohibitive given the small number of potential internet customers from past experience.
Thinking 'outside the box', Fred began wondering if perhaps there might be an existing shareware CDROM already in publication that possibly had enough unused or spare space to accomodate the callsign data. At the time, the total size of the FCC database was only about 50 megabytes compressed, so it sounded like there might be a possibility.
With this in mind, Fred contacted a well known CDROM shareware publisher, Bob Bruce at the now defunct Walnut Creek CDROM, and popped the question: "Do you think you might have an existing CD with 50MB of free space available?". To Fred's surprise, Bob replied with "Why don't we just put together a Ham Radio CDROM? Just send us the material and we'll press it.". With this simple exchange on the phone, Fred started working on his first CDROM project. Shortly thereafter Fred decided on using the ham radio shorthand term QRZ as a name for the new product. It was short, catchy, and 100 percent ham radio!
Suddenly, worrying about how to keep the data as small as possible to fit on a shareware CDROM gave way to another, unexpeced problem: How were we going go fill up a 650 MB disc? Next, with the help of John Moore, NJ7E, a DOS-Based lookup program was developed (in about a week) and the QRZ database format was created.
To help fill up the disc, Fred went out to what could be called the old internet (the World Wide Web did not yet exist) and gathered every bit of ham radio shareware that could be found at the various FTP sites that existed at the time. He packaged this along with several years worth of ham radio newsgroup messages into a collection which was to become an integral part of the first edition of the QRZ CDROM.
Neither Fred nor Walnut Creek had any idea of how many of the new ham radio CDROM's would be sold. Walnut had printed 1000 copies of the new CD and privately Fred thought that this was probably a bit over-optimistic. After all, the last "callsign project" distribution had garnered only about 40 customers! Despite this, Fred jumped in and bought 100 copies anyway, probably because he liked seeing his name on the cover, and also because they just seemed like a cool product.
It took about 2 months to sell those initial 100 copies which went for $19.95 each. After that, the sales seemed to slow down quite a bit. At the time, to order a CD a potential customer had to first send a personal check by mail. Fred has always believed in hams and has always accepted their checks without first cashing them at the bank. It is perhaps a fine testament to amateur radio that of the hundreds of such checks that Fred has accepted, not one has ever bounced!
Meanwhile, unknown to Fred, back at Walnut Creek CDROM they were having a hard time keeping the new QRZ CDROM on the shelves. They were soon sold out of the first 1000 copies and had to order a second printing. Within a few months, the sales had topped the 5000 unit mark and Fred was now getting e-mail from new CDROM users from all around the world.
This activity generated a lot of excitement and soon Fred (a software engineer by profession), started to work on the second edition and a new Windows callsign program. Three years later Fred wrote the Windows 95 version of his program and QRZ became the first ham radio CDROM to ship with full 32-bit "designed for Windows 95" lookup software. During this same period the World Wide Web was born and on October 28, 1993, QRZ went online with http://www.qrz.com and a web based callsign lookup server. QRZ holds the distinction of being one of the first 5,000 websites in existence (there are many millions today).
By the fall of 2009, 33 editions and over 250,000 copies of the QRZ Ham Radio CDROM had been sold worldwide and it earned the title of the #1 bestselling amateur radio software product of all time. The QRZ CDROM has been used on all 7 continents (yes, including Antarctica) has been carried on the Space Shuttle, the MIR space station, and is in use today aboard the International Space Station.
QRZ remains a small business that is owned and operated by Hams. In 2012, Jaime Jeffries, KF7WIS joined the team as our General Manager, and in the spring of 2013, Alex Tarsha, N0AMT was brought on as our first full time internet engineer. These newer, younger hams are helping to insure QRZ's continued growth for many years to come.
And what do the letters QRZ stand for? Well, back in the days when radio telegraphy was widely used, QRZ was a shorthand code which meant "Who is Calling me?" It's still used today, even by voice operators during contests or when they simply didn't hear the complete call.
If you'd like to contact Fred by email, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org .
Thanks for visiting the site and for your support, both past present and future.
Fred Lloyd, AA7BQ