By Steven R. Hurst, KA7NOC
Amateur Radio is a radio service that anyone can get involved with . Amateur radio is also known as " Ham " radio, you may have heard of it at one time or another. No one knows for sure why amateur radio operators are called hams, the original meaning has been lost over the years. Many theories exists as to the meaning of "ham" , but nothing concrete. Amateur radio operators have been around since the beginning of radio, but the Amateur Radio Service did not come along until the advent of a licensing body. Currently that licensing body in the United States is the Federal Communications Commission. During the beginning of radio, around the turn of the century, many basement experimenters built radio transmitters and receivers. These were called Spark Gap transmitters. They occupied a very wide bandwidth when transmitting. These stations would interfere with ship to shore communications on several occasions with their wide bandwidth transmissions. After years of complaints from these ship to shore stations, ( among other concerns ) it was decided that this new technology needed a structure and regulation. Hence the F.C.C. was born, I believe that it was called something else at that time . Then the name was changed sometime later. Band segments were set aside for each specific service that was created and the "amateurs" enjoyed their own segments of the radio spectrum. Extending up into the HF , VHF and UHF bands, which at that time were considered "worthless" ! Hams enjoy worldwide communications daily using homemade as well as commercially built equipment. Amateurs do not broadcast transmissions, they have two-way communications with other amateurs. In fact , it is illegal for amateurs to broadcast information for the general public on the amateur radio bands or communicate with non-amateurs. Every amateur radio station has a callsign issued by the F.C.C in the United States. Other countries have their own licensing body , and just about every country in the world has an amateur radio service. Internationally, the requirements for obtaining a license are similar. A ham in China is required to take a test similar to that of a ham in the U.S. , although the licensing structure may vary with regards to license classes. All amateurs are restricted to the same bands or frequencies depending on his or her class of license. Just like all air traffic is controlled on the same frequencies around the world. It would be very difficult if you didn't know where to look for other amateurs !
Amateurs provide emergency communications when disaster strikes around the world. Floods , earthquakes, fires, tornadoes etc. have all called the active ham into public service. Providing emergency communications when ordinary communications are out of service. Thereby making the amateur radio service a vital source for communications when needed. Many lives have been saved over the years because of amateur radio, vital life saving information has been passed through amateur radio stations. It is a hobby and no monetary gains can be made from the use of amateur radio, it is strictly prohibited. Amateur radio is not CB radio. Citizens Band ,or CB, is a completely different service altogether . One of the goals of amateur radio is to spread " international goodwill" around the world amongst other hams, it is kind of like a brotherhood of sorts. Countless friendships have grown through the means of amateur radio. Hams on one coast become friends with hams on the other, people that otherwise would have never known about each other have met while enjoying their hobby . Sure, there are times when someone will do or say something on the air that invokes an argument or rude behavior. But like any aspect of the human society, we learn to deal with it and make amends. For the most part , hams are ladies and gentlemen, and respect the wishes of others. Most hams will welcome you into their "roundtable" at anytime , provided you follow good operating practices. Many are very willing and eager to help a beginner with his or her station operation or getting licensed.
Have you recently received your amateur radio operators license and don't know what to do with it ? Why not check out your local radio club and find an "elmer" ? Don't know what an "elmer" is ? Then keep reading . I have been asked to provide some "insiders" information as to what some of the lingo which you hear on the bands means. So hopefully I can answer some of your questions here and clear up some of the "mysterious" words and phrases you will encounter while tuning the ham frequencies. Most phrases and "codes" come from communicating via morse code. It is much faster to send a series of code letters or numbers than it is to spell each word out one at a time. Therefore, a group of codes was derived to make it easier on the morse operator during his/her sending . I will not list them all as most are not relevant to your operating practices, but will list the most common ones heard on the bands today. The meanings carry over to phone ( SSB, AM, FM ) as well as the digital modes . I try to refrain from using the " Q " codes on phone unless the band conditions are really poor. Why ? Because if you a communicating with someone else who speaks your same language (which is most likely) there is no need to use codes as they will better understand you if you speak plain English ( or whatever language you are speaking ! ).
An "elmer" is a kindly ham who helps newcomers get started in amateur radio. Many are happy to invite you into their " shacks " for a demonstration as to how an amateur radio station operates. Others enjoy helping with the testing procedures, and getting a station set up and on the air. Many elmers can be found at your local ham radio club, contact the ARRL for information on any clubs you may have in your area.
Common " Q " codes
QSL....... I acknowledge receipt . When followed by a question mark, it becomes..... Can you acknowledge receipt ?
QTH....... My location is... When followed by a question mark, it becomes...... Where are you located ?
QRS....... Should I send slower ? .... When followed by a question mark , it becomes....... Can you send slower ?
QRU....... I have no traffic for you ..... When followed by a question mark, it becomes....... Do you have any traffic for me ?
QRT....... I am going off the air ...... When followed by a question mark , it becomes....... Are you going off the air ?
Short hand phrases used during CW transmissions (The "secret handshake" stuff !)
73...... Best regards.... ( notice it's not 73's ! Why you ask ? 73 means best regards, its already plural ! If you sign with 73's , what you are saying is best regards's . One of those pet peves of mine , sorry ! )
0....... Number zero. Some hams send a zero by holding the key down longer than usual. About three T's in length, this is done when several zero's need to be sent. Like when they give their power output, i.e. 100 watts would
be sent like, dit dah dah dah dah / daaaaaaaaaaah / daaaaaaaaaaah .
WX...... Weather. Used by most ham's when they have nothing better to talk about !
OM...... Old Man..... ( hams refer to each other as old man no matter what their real age ! )
YL...... Young lady.
XYL..... Married lady.
Error... A mistake during CW is corrected by sending a string of dits at once. Eight dits is the correct number , but some hams get carried away and send at least ten !
TNX..... Thanks ( sometimes TKS ) .
BK...... Break or Back . ( sent as one single code , -...-.- or dah dit dit dit dah dit dah)
BKTU.... Back to you. ( sent the same way as BK , with the TU added on the end )
SK...... End of transmission ( sent as one , with no space between S and K )
KN...... Over, only the station you are in contact with need respond. Sent as one string, as dah dit dah dah dit.
AR...... End of transmission. Sent as one string , as dit dah dit dah dit.
CQ...... General call for anybody to answer.
DX...... Distance ( generally referring to stations outside of one's own country )
Rare DX.... Stations which you have not contacted yet ! ;-)
OF...... Old Fart ! ( sometimes sent right after OM. As in .... this OM is an OF ! ) .
599..... A signal report given to all rare DX stations no matter how good their signal really is , in hope of receiving a QSL card !
5 by 9.... Same as above only used on phone !
DE...... From ( also can mean "this is" ). Example; WB7DUO DE KA7NOC
FB...... Fine Business. As in , good job OM, fine copy , very good .
FER..... For. Like , tnx fer the call OM. ( an E is shorter than sending an O ! )
GL...... Good Luck.
GM...... Good Morning.
GA...... Good Afternoon.
GE...... Good Evening.
GN...... Good Night.
TU..... Thank you . ( can also mean To You )
HW..... How. ( as in Hw cpy om ? )
LID..... A lid is a poor operator. Not to be confused with "solid cpy", i.e. , "so lid cpy ? " !
Wid..... With .
Strange ham lingo !
Destinated..... You will only hear this term used on two meter repeaters, it's kinda like a secret oath thing !
By Golly....... Mostly heard during the afternoon on 40 meter nets. Very rarely heard after 9:00pm.
At the end of most CW QSO's ( you should be following along by now with the lingo ! ) , you will sometimes hear a strange musical sound of dits sent by each op. It sounds like " Shave and a hair cut " , dit di-di dit. Then the other op will send ; dit dit " two bits " ! That is the camaraderie shared by CW ops the world over , its one last good bye before each op goes his ( or hers ) seperate way on the bands. Kinda cool , eh ?
I'll be adding more to my list as I think of them, hope you enjoyed and will use them properly ! They will become second nature to you once you get on the
air and engage in some contacts !
Amateur radio offers a variety of activities for the vast interests of individuals. From talking across town to talking around the world. Bouncing signals off the moon to communicating through satellites. Communicating using the classic morse code to using high tech. computers, amateur radio has it all !