History of  The Amateur radio LOCATOR System

copy from http://www.iaru-r1.org/VHF_Handbook_V5_03.pdf page 108

The scoring in official IARU Region 1 contests as well as in most sub-regional contests is based upon the distance in kilometres between two stations making a complete QSO. To facilitate the measurement of this distance, at a meeting of the VHF Working Group in The Hague in October 1959 a code system was adopted for giving the location of a station. This was the QRA-Locator system, devised in Germany, originally based on a two-stage sub-division of geographical longitudes and latitudes starting from the Greenwich meridian and from 40 degrees North. At the Region 1 Conference in Malmo (1963) the system was refined by introducing a third sub-division, and in its final form the QRA-Locator consisted of a five-character code, viz. two capital letters, a two-digit number and a lower-case letter, for example CM72j.

OK1VPZ Note: the QRA Locator system (originally named QRA-kenner) was developed by DL3NQ and introduced on the DL VHF meeting in Weinheim (1958). OK1VR, OK-VHF Manager recommended to use this system for test in OK September VHF Contest 1958 with success. Next major VHF Contests in OK - July Field Day and September VHF Contest 1959 brings full success of use of that QRA-locator system during VHF Contests. He reported practical experience in 1959 Weinheim meeting - however due to "iron curtain" not personally. Positive practical experience in OK were behind submition as official recommendation of such system in The Hague VHF meeting in October 1959 , where this system was adopted as the IARU recommendation for EU Region. So, since July 1959, this system (later replaced by WW locator system) has used as a official recommendation in the rules for VHF Contesting in OK. Thanks to OK1VR (he is still active on VHF!), Czechoslovakia was the first country worldwide, using locator system for all VHF Contests.  See documents [1] and [2].

Many Region 1 societies developed maps based on this system, either of their own country or of larger parts of  Western Europe.

At a meeting of the Region 1 VHF Working Group in Brussels (1965) Dr. H.R.Lauber, HB9RG, VHF Manager of  USKA, showed the first prints of the Region 1 QRA-Locator map, issued on four sheets and made through his good offices at the request of the VHF Working Group.

At the Region 1 Conference in Opatija (1966) this map was adopted as the official Region 1 QRA-Locator map, while at the Region 1 Conference in Scheveningen the system was re-baptised with the more appropriate name QTH-Locator. In the meantime it had become very popular and was used not only during contests but also for general amateur work on the VHF/UHF/SHF bands. For instance, collecting "squares" (the first two letters of the QTH-Locator indicating a square of 2 degrees longitude wide and 1 degree latitude high) became one of the most widely practised sports .

When amateurs outside Region I, especially in North America (Region II), became interested in using a form of  QTH-Locator during their contacts, contests etc. and started investigating the system devised in Region I, they found this Locator system repeated itself several times around the globe. Hence they considered this
ambiguous system not very suitable for exchanging QTH information, for instance during EME contacts.

Furthermore, the QTH- Locator system was not very consistent in the set-up of sub-divisions, particularly with regard to the fifth character (letter). A more consistent system, if introduced, would be of use to the many amateurs who employed computers - from PC's to programmable pocket calculators - to calculate distances and determine antenna directions from QTH-Locators. For reasons like the ones outlined above, at a meeting of the IARU Region 1 VHF Working Group in Amsterdam (1976) SM5AGM, VHF Manager of SSA, proposed to start discussions on a better Locator system that could replace the existing one and would be usable world-wide.

As there would not be much sense in changing to a world-wide applicable Locator system in Region 1 if the other Regions would not adopt it, at the Region 1 Conference in Miskolc-Tapolca (1978) it was agreed that Region 1 would consult the other two Regions on this matter. This consultation resulted in an exchange of system proposals between the Regions, and at a certain moment more than 20 different systems and variations on systems, generated in the various Regions, were under consideration!

At the VHF Working Group meeting in Maidenhead (1980) it was felt that the time had come to make a choice, and it was agreed that the best choice would be the system devised by John Morris, G4ANB, be it with a modification concerning the starting point of the grid of the first sub-division. This system was widely published in amateur magazines of member societies in Region 1 as well as in the other Regions.

Thanks to the effort of Folke Rasvall, SM5AGM - aided, amongst others, by ZL2AMJ (Region III) and W1XX  (Region II) - agreement between the Regions could be reached and all Regions have now accepted the so-called Maidenhead Locator which henceforth will simply be known as the Locator.