Reading Assignment

Read Chapter 6, Pages 6-1 to 6-35 in your text before you continue.


An amateur radio contact (called a QSO), is an exchange of info between two amateur radio stations. The exchange usually consists of an initial call (CQ = call to all stations).Then, a response from another amateur radio operator, and usually at least a signal report.

Contacts can be limited to just a minimal exchange of call signs & signal reports generally between amateurs previously unknown to each other. Very short contacts are usually done only during contests

while longer, extended 'rag chews' may be between newly met friends with some common interest or someone you have know for a long time.

The structure of a QSO includes: A greeting, identify who is participating, exchange information, generally taking turns, salutations and then ending the contact.

Remember to speak clearly and distinctly, ham communications paths are rarely in ideal conditions. Remember you are on a giant party line - choose topics accordingly, no swearing and arguing.

No one owns a frequency it is a shared use and everyone has equal right to it. Also, there is no privacy.

Be courteous, listen before you transmit and don't talk on top of someone else on frequency or very near.

Remember only one person can talk at a time, so you have to turn it back over to the other party. Usually we say the persons call sign & then from (Your Call sign). (We will cover repeaters & nets protocols later in this module)

You are obligated to identify your call letters at least once every 10 minutes and at the end of the QSO.

Different procedures apply to different modes and we will discuss some protocols in this module


Signals are not always perfectly readable (arm-chair Copy). So, we have some devices to help us understand one another.

Signal reports are generally given using the RST system, a great CW report being 599 & a great phone report being 59.(tone is not used in phone) View the RST system in Table 6-2 on page 6-3 of your text.

A modification of the RST system is sometimes used in digital mode communications. RSQ (Readability, Strength, Quality)is being used more often, because it is a better description of the signal. Quality being important in digital communications because it is easy to overdrive (over modulate) your signal and distort it.

So we can be better understood on phone we use 'Phonetics', Echo for 'E', for example. The Phonetic Alphabet is in Table 6-1 on page 6-2 of your text.

Another way of communicating in a kind of shorthand for CW and also to be understood in less than ideal conditions is to use Q-signals. You will find a list of some common Q-signals in Table 6-3 on page 6-5 of the text book.

Some Q-signals you will hear used often are:

  • QRM - Man made noise
  • QRN - Atmospheric noise
  • QRP - Low power
  • QRZ - Who is calling (is anyone calling?)
  • QSL - I acknowledge, QSL cards are cards exchanged to acknowledge a contact)
  • QSO - A contact
  • QST - A message to all amateurs, an announcement
  • QSY - Change Frequency
  • QTH - My location is, What is your location

Ham radio is self-regulated for the most part. You will find other Hams are willing helpfully point out any operating errors you make, so as to keep things running smooth.

Hams are very helpful and enjoy the sharing of knowledge of the hobby. They understand you might be new to ham radio or at least the mode, they were there themselves. Again if you just spend some time listening before you jump in, you will get most of the so-called rules.

The ARRL has volunteer "ARRL Official Observers" who will inform you of rule infractions that violate the FCC regulations.


Logging contacts was once a FCC requirement, but is no longer required. However, it is still convenient to log contacts for a variety of reasons.

A very popular (Socially Dictated) practice is to exchange QSL cards as an acknowledgement of making a contact. Many hams collect qsl cards especially those from distant stations.

Of course, now there are electronic QSL card programs, EQSL and LOTW (Logbook of the World) that allow you to acknowledge contacts without having to deal with having cards printed and pay postage.

There are several computer logbook programs that simplify keeping track of your contacts, especially the data mode contacts, so you no longer have to write the contacts in a paper logbook.


A natural extension of Logging & QSL cards is Ham radio's own paper chase; AWARDS.

There are various agencies, especially the ARRL that award a certificate of achievement for reaching certain goals like WAS (Worked All States). When you can verify that you have had a contact with a ham from each of the United States you are eligible for a WAS.

There are many more like WAC (Worked All Countries) etc.

Hams hold many limited time contests also. Typically a minimum of information is exchanged and points awarded for discrete contacts or other criteria. These contest may be for DX (Distant Station Contacts) or simply the number of contacts amassed in a set period of time.

The contests may cover several modes and frequency bands or may be limited to only one. A 10-10 contest where you try to amass as many contacts on 10 meters as possible. Or a PSK31 Roundup, where contacts are limited to the PSK31 mode.

There are many different activities available to you as a Ham, especially as a General Class Ham. (Notice how I plant the seed to get you thinking about your next level of license!)

You will hear or see, depending on the mode you are working, a reference to a particular contest and it will seem that the bands are full of hams making contacts. For example, hams will be calling or texting: CQ Field Day Sprint or something similar to that.

Again, listen, Google or ask what is going on and then join in the fun.


There are also Special Events, such as events commemorating the birthday of someone special in electronics, like Morse or Tesla etc.

Sometimes it may be a special day or location, such as the Queen Mary or some other icon.

There are times when Hams will travel to a very remote region and set up a station and make contacts for a few days. These locations may be on islands that are tiny and very remote. The event is called a DXpedition (DX + Expidedition). An example of this is Clipperton Island in Feb-Mar 2008. Clipperton Island is a coral atoll in the Easter Pacific Ocean. It is only 12 km in circumference and there are no permanent inhabitants other than small orange land crabs and a few birds. The DXpedition was awarded a special call sign of TX5C and issued commemorative QSL cards to those who made contact with them.

Special 1 X 1 Call signs are reserved for special events.


Radio Direction Finding (RDF) is simply finding your direction by using a directional antenna pointed to a station and then deciphering the direction to that station. Military and civilian aircraft have been using RDF for a long time. TACAN and OMNI are RDF type systems used in aircraft. They were very popular before GPS.

Hams have invented a fun way to use RDF to find a hidden camera. We call it a FOX Hunt! Someone goes out and hides, transmitting only intermittently every few minutes. Everyone else, uses direction finding to locate the 'Fox' or hidden transmitter. It is great fun

RDF is also used to locate sources of noise interference or jamming. It is not unusual for utilities to cause RF noise because of loose hardware on electrical lines. There are many sources of RF noise.


The FCC Rules determine what frequencies are available to different services including the Amateur Radio Service. The FCC Rules and Regulations also segregate the Amateur Radio Bands by mode and license class.

single band mobile
A band plan is a way of organizing the use of radio frequencies. It is an informal - gentleman's agreement that has come about by years of use and consent. It makes sense for those that want to do digital communications to all be in one spot, so it is easy to find others to contact. It only make sense to allow different modes to use a segment of the band and conversely obtain a segment for the modes you are interested in using.

The courteous sharing of the bands is in the best interest of all. A band plan for VHF is available in Table 6-4 on page 6-9 of your text.

Grid Squares

The Maidenhead Locator System is a geographic coordinate system used by amateur radio operators. Dr. John Morris, G4ANB, originally devised the system, and a group of VHF managers, meeting in Maidenhead, England in 1980, adopted it. Maidenhead locators are also commonly referred to as QTH Locator, grid locators or grid squares. A Maidenhead locator compresses latitude and longitude into a short string of characters. This position information is presented in a limited level of precision in order to limit the amount of characters needed for its transmission using voice, Morse code, or any other operating mode. It is a letter-number designator assigned to a geographic location.

Hams use the system to locate their location, to have programs automatically point direction antennas and more. A local Grid Square locator for Auburn CA is CM90xy which will translate into Latitude and Longitude.


We have already covered Repeaters in other modules, however we will review some terms and further define them. We will also point out the protocols for repeater use.

On repeaters: Simply say your call to establish contact

  • Repeater Terms and Definitions
  • Simplex Operating: Transmitting and receiving on the same frequency. Each user takes turns to transmit. Is the preferred method if it works.
  • Duplex Repeater Operation: Transmitting on one frequency while simultaneously listening on a different frequency. Repeaters use duplex.
  • Output frequency - the frequency the repeater transmits on and the one you listen to.
  • Input frequency - the frequency the repeater listens to and the one you transmit on.
  • Frequency split - the difference between the transmit and receive frequencies of the repeater.
  • + and - shift - the direction of the transmit frequency from the receive frequency of the repeater
  • Repeater access tones - Optional - To preclude unintentional access, some repeaters require a special subaudible tone to be present before the repeater controller will recognize the signal as a valid signal and turn on the repeater. These analog tones are called by various names (PL, QC, CTCSS). Access tones's are usually published along with repeater frequencies.
  • Digital Repeater Access Tone - The repeater receiver may require a DCS tone sequence for access. Same as ctcss but digital instead of analog.
  • Repeater Burst Tone - Optional - The repeater receiver may require an audio tone burst for access. The burst tone is a short duration audible tone. (something like 1800 Hz)
  • Just another way to deny access if the tone was not received.
  • Station identification (Morse code or synthesized voice) - Same ID requirements as you have. Every 10 minutes
  • Time-out protection - Sometimes called the alligator. Protects against continuous transmission in the event of a stuck PTT or long winded hams.
  • Courtesy tone - When used - Protocol is to wait after someone transmits until you hear the tone before you begin transmitting. Allows others to break in if necessary without being stepped on.
  • Repeater ID - Usually by their output frequency, sometimes the complete frequency 442.90 or just the numbers after the decimal. Go to the 94 repeater (146.94). Or even the club name SFARC repeater

Sometimes Hams use hand-held radios (HT) to communicate over repeaters. The limiting factor on an HT is the low transmit power. The receiver is not as limited because the repeater transmitter is much higher power output.

A way to mitigate this limitation, is to have receivers as several locations other than the repeater transmitter site. The received signal is then sent to the repeater transmit site for retransmission. A telephone line is one way to connect this signal. Another is to use a radio on a different frequency, 220 MHZ for example, to relay the signal to the repeater for retransmission. If a radio is used, it is called an axillary station.

At the repeater site a comparator is used to pick the best signal for retransmission.

Click here for Ham Universe Repeater tips  More Repeater Etiquette



Hams often make schedules with other stations. Often these are with one individual you want to talk with, a friend or relative perhaps. The parties pick a frequency and time and meet there.

Net is short for "Network". An amateur radio net, or simply ham net, is an 'on-the-air' gathering of amateur radio operators. Most nets convene on a regular schedule and specific frequency, and are organized for a particular purpose,or simply as a regular gathering of friends for conversation.

A formal, or directed net has a single net control station (NCS) that manages its operation for a given session. The NCS operator calls the net to order at its designated start time, periodically calls for participants to join, listens for them to answer (or check in ) keeps track of the roster of stations for that particular net session, and generally orchestrates the operation of the net.

A different station might be designated NCS for each net session. Overall operation and scheduling of NCS assignments and net sessions is managed by the net manager.

An informal net may also have a net control station, but lack some or all of the formalities and protocols other than those used in non-net on-the-air operation. Or, it could begin at the designated time and frequency in an ad hoc fashion by whoever arrives first. Club nets, such as ones for discussing equipment or other topics, use a NCS simply to control the order in which participants transmit their comments to the group in round-robin style.


Traffic nets operate primarily to relay written messages. For decades, amateur radio operators passed both routine and emergency messages on behalf of others as part of its public-service mission. Today, with inexpensive communication capability available to anyone, routine message handling has dwindled and is largely used for training purposes. During emergencies (such as natural disasters).

Used especially when normal communications channels are disabled or compromised,traffic nets (utilizing emergency-powered stations) are used to pass information into and out of affected areas.

Traffic refers to formal messages that are relayed via ham radio. There is a Formal structure to ensure accuracy - National Traffic System (NTS) with Procedures and Accountability.

The most important job of an amateur operator when handling emergency traffic messages is usually considered to be passing messages exactly as written, spoken or as received.

Read the section on Traffic Handling on page 6-22 of you text for more details.


EMCOMM - Emergency Communications

A public service net is one that is regularly scheduled and handles Amateur Radio formal messages. Here are examples of public service nets: Local and section nets that are affiliated with the National Traffic System (NTS); NTS region, NTS area, and independent nets that handle traffic; ARES?, RACES, SKYWARN nets that meet on a regular basis; net sessions that are activated during emergencies and threats of potential emergencies; public service and safety nets; nets that are established for training radio amateurs in public service and emergency communications.

EMCOMM Tips: Don't become part of the problem; You are a communicator, not a decision or policy maker; Don't give out unauthorized information; Know your abilities and limitations-keep yourself safe; Follow radio discipline and net procedures; Protect personal information - ham radio communications is a 'party line.'

If you are going to participate in EMCOMM, get training. Actively participate in EMCOMM activities. Attend community meetings and get involved in your community. Take ARRL EMCOMM, NIMS and FEMA courses.


EMERGENCY DECLARATIONS - FCC may declare a Temporary State of Communications Emergency. The declaration includes details of conditions and rules to be followed. Specifics are communicated through web sites and ARRL bulletins, the NTS, and on-the-air.

Avoid operating on restricted frequencies unless engaged in relief efforts.

Supporting Emergency Operations is one of the pivotal reasons for the existence of Amateur Radio. You will be licensed communicators. Get involved and use what you have learned. Know where you fit in the overall emergency management team.

Notice: The section on EMCOMM and your employer has had an FCC Rule change. A written wavier is no longer required for paid government employees to participate in a drill. A rule change removed, altogether the need for any waiver.


Field Day is sponsored by the ARRL and is an opportunity for hams to test out their equipment, communication skills and demonstrate these skills to the public. This is done out in the field without regular power sources or home antenna systems. Field day is also a contest adding some fun to the day. It is a nice opportunity for the whole family to enjoy a picnic with their ham relatives.


The Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service (RACES) is a standby radio service provided for in Part 97.407 of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rules and regulations governing amateur radio in the United States.

The concept of a standby "Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service" to replace the conventional "Amateur Radio Service" during wartime was developed in 1952 as result of input from the American Radio Relay League and the Department of the Army's Office of Civil Defense. During World War II, the Amateur Radio Service had been silenced and a new War Emergency Radio Service (WERS) had to be created from scratch in a process that took six months.

The resulting standby RACES service was designed to provide a quicker and smoother transition in the event the President ever needed to silence the regular Amateur Radio Service again when invoking the War Powers Act.

When so activated, the Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service will consist of only those amateur radio operators who have previously registered with State and local governments to provide emergency radio communications for them in times of emergency. Other amateur radio operations would be suspended and operations under the RACES rules might be restricted to certain frequencies within the amateur radio bands.

In addition to wartime communications, operations under the RACES rules can provide or supplement communications during emergencies where normal communication systems have sustained damage. It may be used in a wide variety of situations, including natural disasters, technological disasters, nuclear accidents, nuclear attack, terrorist incidents, and bomb threats.


In the United States and Canada, the Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) is a corps of trained amateur radio operator volunteers organized to assist in public service and emergency communications. It is organized and sponsored by the American Radio Relay League and the Radio Amateurs of Canada.

In practice, most amateur radio operators enrolled with their local government for possible operations under the RACES rules are also members of the Amateur Radio Emergency Service, organized by the American Radio Relay League. ARES provides emergency communications in the conventional Amateur Radio Service without the need for an emergency declaration from the government.

Communication failures have been a defining part of natural disasters and even some human-generated events. Amateur radio provides a means of communication "when all else fails". An example is Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans when all the cell phone communications, land lines and conventional communications became inoperative. Hams are all over the place and can set up equipment anywhere and anytime with almost no notice.


Threats to life and property - an amateur station may use any means of radio communications at its disposal for essential communications in connection with immediate safety of human life and protection of property

If you need to make a distress call. Observe the following: Rule number one - speak in plain language! Mayday (voice); SOS (Morse code) are flags; Identify yourself; Give the location; State the situation; Describe assistance required; Provide other important information;


Tactical communications are communications on behalf of an entity such as a 10 K run or a 100 mile horse ride etc.

It is much more clear to identify yourself as Race Headquarters, Robinson Flat Rest Area, etc. When using Tactical calls you are still obligated to follow the 10 minute ID rule with your own call sign and remember to ID at the end of the contact. In practice this is fairly easy to do. For example: (RF)Robinson Flat to Race Head Quarters - (RH)Go ahead Robinson - (RF) Blah blah - (RH)Copy KG6TY - (RF)Standing BY KQ6ZA What happened there was after the conversation ended both stations signified the end of the communication with their actual call signs. They fulfilled the FCC Rule and made it clear to each other that they had nothing further to say at this time.

Providing Tactual Communications to non-profit organizations is a important public service to the community by hams.


It is a good idea to put together 'Go-kits' consisting of Portable ham radio equipment, Emergency power sources and Personal survival supplies and equipment. Field Day is a great time to use this equipment and get some practice.


OSCAR - Orbiting Satellites Carrying Amateur Radio.

The FCC Part 97 definition of a space station is an amateur station located more than 50 km above the Earth's surface

  • Operating Modes: FM; Analog (SSB and CW); Digital
  • Mode - bands satellite is using for uplink and downlink (eg Mode U/V = 70 cm uplink, 2 meters downlink)
  • Uplink - Earth stations transmit to satellite
  • Uplink transmitter power - The minimum amount of power needed to complete the contact with the satellite or space station
  • Downlink - Satellite transmits to stations on Earth
  • Beacon - signal from satellite with information about satellite operating conditions
  • Doppler shift - shift in frequency due to relative motion between satellite and Earth station - like a train whistle going by where you stand
  • LEO - Low earth orbit
  • Spin fading - caused by rotation of satellite
  • Tracking software - gives beam heading and times when satellite is in view
  • Pacsat - satellite packet radio - most common used method of sending signals to and from a digital satellite.
  • Telecommand - A one-way transmission to initiate, modify or terminate functions of a device at a distance. (Not just for satellites)
  • Telemetry - A one-way transmission of measurements from instruments sent to a distant receiver (Not just for satellites)

What can a ham do using an amateur radio satellite? Talk to amateur radio operators in other countries.


Slow Scan TV (SSTV) is an amateur television mode that sends still pictures.

Amateur TV (ATV)- Similar to old analog commercial TV imagery. Also known as Amateur Fast Scan TV. The analog fast scan color TV signal is categorized by the term NTSC (National Television System Committee)

The final subject in this module is to lightly touch on Radio Control (RC). There are special amateur frequencies on the 50 MHz band to control models. Telecommand signals are one way transmissions to initiate, modify or terminate functions of the controlled device. Telemetry are also one-way transmissions but in the other direction, from the controlled device back to the controller. Amateurs can use up to 1 watt of power.

The requirement in place of on-air station identification when sending signals to a radio control model using amateur frequencies are simply affixing a label indicating the licensee's name, call sign and address to the transmitter.


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Recommended reading

Click here for Ham RC Model Information.

Review the Term Glossary in Chapter 10 of your Ham Radio License Manual

Practice Exams are available at and there are links to many other test practice sites also.