New Ham Operator FAQ and Terminology

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An excellent companion to this article is our list of New Ham FAQ's (Frequently Asked Questions)!

#-meter Band

Amateur radio operators use the wavelength of certain frequency bands as shorthand when referring to parts of the radio spectrum they use.
160-meter band = 1.8 to 2.0 MHz
80-meter band = 3.5 to 4.0 MHz
60-meter band = 5 Mhz (organized in to five channels)
40-meter band = 7.0 to 7.3 MHz
30-meter band = 10.1 to 10.15 MHz
20-meter band = 14.0 to 14.35 MHz
17-meter band = 18.068 to 18.168 MHz
15-meter band = 21.0 to 21.45 MHz
12-meter band = 24.89 to 24.99 MHz
10-meter band = 28.0 to 29.7 MHz
6-meter band =  50.0 to 54.0 MHz
2-meter band = 144.0 to 148.0 Mhz
1.25-meter band = 222.0 to 225 MHz 
70-centimeter band = 420.0 to 450.0 MHz

10-minute Rule

FCC Requirement: give your FCC Amateur Call Sign every 10 minutes or less, during a conversation, AND at the End of the Conversation.
More at
more at


"So long!", typically used at end of a Ham conversation ("QSO")

Alphabet and Codes

Ham radio operators use a ton of jargon on the air. You will even see the same codes used on the Internet where hams frequent.
The Amateur Radio Wiki maintains a list of commonly used shorthand: 
Phonetic Alphabet
Morse Code
and more!

AGM Battery

AGM (absorbed glass mat) is a special design glass mat designed to wick the battery electrolyte between the battery plates. AGM batteries contain only enough liquid to keep the mat wet with the electrolyte and if the battery is broken no free liquid is available to leak out.
More at


A less common definition is radio receiver and transmitter implementations that are based on digital signal processing, but may transmit or receive analog radio transmission standards, for example FM radio.
More at


Automatic Packet Reporting System (APRS) is an amateur radio-based system for real time tactical digital communications of information of immediate value in the local area. In addition, all such data are ingested into the APRS Internet System (APRS-IS) and distributed globally for ubiquitous and immediate access.
More on APRS at
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The Amateur Radio Emergency Service® (ARES) consists of licensed amateurs who have voluntarily registered their qualifications and equipment, with their local ARES leadership, for communications duty in the public service when disaster strikes. 
More on ARES at

ARL (ref. NTS): ARRL Numbered Radiograms

Numbered messages have been established for some of the more common texts sent during emergencies and holiday seasons. When this common text can be used, an ARL NUMBER is substituted for the text and sent. The delivering station reads the actual text to the address, not the ARL NUMBER.
The letters ARL are inserted in the preamble in the check and in the text before spelled out numbers, which represent texts from this list. Note that "ARL" is included in the text before spelled out numbers, which represent texts from this list. Note that some ARL texts include insertion of numerals or words.
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More on Public Service abbreviations at

ARRL: Amateur Radio Relay League, ("The League")

ARRL is the national association for Amateur Radio in the US. Founded in 1914 by Hiram Percy Maxim as The American Radio Relay League, ARRL is a noncommercial organization of radio amateurs. ARRL numbers within its ranks the vast majority of active radio amateurs in the nation and has a proud history of achievement as the standard-bearer in amateur affairs. ARRL’s underpinnings as Amateur Radio’s witness, partner and forum are defined by five pillars: Public Service, Advocacy, Education, Technology, and Membership. 
The ARRL web site


an electrical device that converts between a balanced signal (two signals working against each other where ground is irrelevant) and an unbalanced signal (a single signal working against ground or pseudo-ground).
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In telecommunication, a band—sometimes called a frequency band—is a specific range of frequencies in the radio frequency (RF) spectrum, which is divided among ranges from very low frequencies (VLF) to extremely high frequencies (EHF). Each band has a defined upper and lower frequency limit.

Band Plan

A bandplan or band plan is a plan for using a particular band of radio frequencies, that are a portion of the electromagnetic spectrum. Each band plan defines the frequency range to be included, how channels are to be defined, and what will be carried on those channels.

What's the Band Plan for Western Washington Amateur Radio? web site
More about Bandplan at

Base Station (aka "fixed station")

A fixed ground station, usually using utility power and one or more external antennas.
An amateur radio station is a radio station designed to provide radiocommunications in the amateur radio service for an amateur radio operator. Radio amateurs build and operate several types of amateur radio stations, including fixed ground stations, mobile stations, space stations, and temporary field stations.

More on Amateur Radio Station at

An amateur radio station established in a permanent structure with equipment that is not intended for portable operation is referred to as a fixed station. This is the most common form of amateur radio station, and can be found in homes, schools, and some public buildings. A typical fixed station is equipped with a transceiver and one or more antennas. For voice communications, the station will be equipped with a microphone; for communications using the Morse code, a telegraph key is common; and for communications over digital modes such as RTTY and PSK31, a station will be equipped with a specialized interface to connect the transceiver to a computer sound card. While not a requirement for radiocommunications, most fixed amateur radio stations are equipped with one or more computers, which serve tasks ranging from logging of contacts with other stations to various levels of station hardware control. Fixed stations might also be equipped with amplifiers, antenna rotators, SWR meters, and other station accessories.

California Condor Connection (massively linked repeater system)

the Condor Connection web site

Call Sign (FCC-assigned)

An amateur operator's call sign is composed of a prefix, a separating numeral and a suffix. The prefix can be composed of letters or numbers, the separating numeral is one from 0 to 9, and a suffix is from one to four characters, usually letters… Prefix (within ITU assigned range) Separating numeral. Suffix.
More on Amateur Radio Call Signs at

Coax (cable)

Coaxial Shielded Cable, used for Antenna connections or jumper connections between RF components such as a transceiver and antenna tuner

Conventional Radio

Conventional system is the most basic radio communications system. Conventional, as its name implies, refers to a "traditional" method of frequency utilization. Conventional radios operate on fixed channels and each user group is permanently assigned a fixed frequency or a set of frequencies.
More at

Cross-band Repeater

Cross-band repeating is a relatively inexpensive means for extending the range of handheld radios.
Many mobile-type dual-band radios (VHF/UHF) can receive signals on one band, and simultaneously re-transmit on the other band.  With the proper settings, a dual-band FM mobile can "repeat", for example, signals heard from a VHF repeater at some distance away, to a UHF handie-talkie carried by an Operator inside a building, or down in a ravine, as well as in the other direction.
More at


"Continuous Wave" aka Morse Code transmission


a unit used to measure the intensity of a sound or the power level of an electrical signal by comparing it with a given level on a logarithmic scale.
(in general use) a degree of loudness: "his voice went up several decibels"

Digital Radio

Today the most common meaning is digital radio broadcasting technologies. In these systems, the analog audio signal is digitized, compressed using formats such as MPEG2, and transmitted using a digital modulation scheme.

More on Digital Radio at


A dipole antenna. Typically refers to long wire antennas used on HF bands.
Wikipedia article on dipole antennas


D-Star is a digital voice and data protocol specification for amateur radio. D-STAR compatible radios are manufactured by Icom, Kenwood, and FlexRadio Systems.


simultaneous transmission and reception;
e.g. Landline or Cellular Telephone

More on Duplex Communications at


Echolink is a computer-based Amateur Radio system distributed free of charge that allows radio amateurs to communicate with other amateur radio operators using Voice over IP (VoIP) technology on the Internet for at least part of the path between them.

More on EchoLink at [1]


An experienced Ham who helps a New Ham. How do I find an Elmer? (an Experienced Ham to help me Learn and Practice)


Emergency Communications


Earth-Moon-Earth radio-signal reflection, aka "Moon-Bounce"

Evergreen Intertie

The Evergreen Intertie is an interconnected group of amateur radio repeaters located in the Northwestern United States. FM repeaters operating in the VHF and UHF bands are interconnected (linked) by full duplex UHF radios. The network is open to all licensed amateurs, and access codes are available. Note-This is not true anymore,linking is done via IRLP. Please verify. The EI website is woefully out of date.
More at


The Federal Communications Commission is a government agency of the United States that regulates interstate and international communications by radio, television, wire, satellite and cable.


The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is an agency of the United States Department of Homeland Security, initially created by Presidential Reorganization Plan No. 3 of 1978 and implemented by two Executive Orders on April 1, 1979.
More at
Specific to EmComm: ICS online Education and Testing (see "ICS")

More on ICS Training and Resources at

Field Day

Field Day is ham radio's open house. Every June, more than 40,000 hams throughout North America set up temporary transmitting stations in public places to demonstrate ham radio's science, skill and service to our communities and our nation. It combines public service, emergency preparedness, community outreach, and technical skills all in a single event. Field Day has been an annual event since 1933, and remains the most popular event in ham radio.
ARRL Field Day


A suite of free software programs for sending/receiving digital information via Narrow-Band frequencies, including repeaters.
A collection of cross-platform applications for digital signals used on the amateur radio bands.
 see NBEMS
More on FL-Digi at site
Download FL-Digi programs here


(of a communications system or computer circuit) allowing the transmission of signals in both directions but not simultaneously.
During a radio conversation using a repeater, such as on UHF or VHF frequencies, the repeater is operating in Full-Duplex, meaning it is Transmitting on one frequency, and simultaneously receiving on another frequency.  The 2 (or more) Ham Operators are each either Transmitting or Receiving, but not simultaneously.

Ham Radio: What Is Ham Radio?

More at


"High Frequency", refers to frequencies between 3 MHz and 30 MHz.


"Handie-Talkie", a hand-held radio.

ICS: Incident Command System

The Incident Command System (ICS) is a standardized approach to the command, control, and coordination of emergency response, providing a common hierarchy within which responders from multiple agencies can be effective.

More on ICS at More on ICS at see also FEMA


The Internet Radio Linking Project, also called IRLP, is a closed-source project that links amateur radio stations around the world by using Voice over IP (VoIP). Each gateway consists of a dedicated computer running custom software that is connected to both a radio and the Internet.
More on IRLP at
[  More on IRLP at]


ham jargon for a Radio Repeater 
"I’m hearing you through the machine just fine!"

Mag-Mount Antenna (magnetic-mount, i.e. non-permanent base)

Message Form

Mobile Station

Morse Code (aka "CW")

Morse code is a method of sending text messages by keying in a series of electronic pulses, usually represented as a short pulse (called a "dot") and a long pulse (a "dash"). The code was devised by Samuel F. B. Morse in the 1840s to work with his invention of the telegraph, the first invention to effectively exploit electromagnetism for long-distance communication. The early telegrapher, often one who was at a railroad station interconnected with others along miles of telegraph pole lines, would tap a key up and down to send a succession of characters that the receiving telegrapher could read from tape (later operators learned to read the transmissions simply by listening). In the original version, the key down separated by a pause (key up) from the next letter was a dot (or, as it sounded to the telegrapher, a "dit") and the key down quickly twice in succession was a dash (a "dah" or "dit-dit"). Each text character was represented by a dot, dash, or some combination.
More on Morse Code at
More on CW at


Narrow Band Emergency Messaging Software (NBEMS) is an Open Source software suite that allows amateur radio operators to reliably send and receive data using nearly any computer (Windows, Mac, and Linux) and any analog radio without requiring a dedicated digital infrastructure or specialized modem hardware. NBEMS works on both VHF/UHF FM and on HF. 
NBEMS at the ARRL site
More software at
Download FL-digi programs from

NBEMS: digital modes on voice channels

More at
Examples of Digital Modes
Listen to Audio of various Digital Modes
More at
More at W1HKJ on Fldigi
Signal Identification Guide
List of Amateur Radio Modes
Digital Modes Samples
More at on Digital Data Modes
some Digital Modes on
More at on Digital Modes

Net Control Station

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.


an organized, often scheduled, group conversation on a frequency or repeater. There is more information in the What is a Radio Net? article.
Local Net schedule on Mike & Key site
More on Wikipedia
More on

NTS: National Traffic System

The National Traffic System (NTS) is an organized network of amateur radio operators sponsored by the American Radio Relay League for the purpose of relaying messages throughout the US and Canada.
National Traffic System - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Portable Station



To amateur radio operators, propagation describes the different ways that RF energy (radio waves) spread from the transmitting antenna. For more information, see the Solar Weather article.
View current solar conditions


"Procedure Words". Amateur Radio operators use the R-S-T Signal Reporting System. A chart explaining each component.


Telegraph operators developed a type of shorthand when they used Morse code. Today radio operators will use the same codes in voice transmissions.
Q-Codes at the Amateur Radio Wiki


Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service (RACES) is a radio service that can be activated during an emergency that would allow previously-registered stations to operate when others would not be allowed. RACES is a part of Emergency Communications.

Radio: What Is Radio?

More at on Radio


"Radio Emergency Associated Communication Teams" is a service concerned with Emergency Communications specific to a locale.
REACT International
REACT article on Wikipedia


Radio transceivers operating on VHF/UHF frequencies usually require line of sight between antennas for a contact to be made. To extend the operating range of a radio, a repeater does exactly that... repeats a signal it receives from a very convenient location such as a the top of a high-rise building or a high-elevation location like the top of a prominent hill.

Sealed Lead-Acid Battery

A VRLA battery (valve-regulated lead-acid battery), more commonly known as a sealed battery or maintenance free battery, is a type of lead-acid rechargeable battery. Due to their construction, they can be mounted in any orientation, and do not require constant maintenance. 
More at


Simplex: direct between 2 or more radios, no repeater involved.
Simplex communication is a communication channel that sends information in one direction only. A "duplex" communication channel requires two simplex channels operating in opposite directions.


In telecommunication, a band - sometimes called a frequency band - is a specific range of frequencies in the radio frequency (RF) spectrum, which is divided among ranges from very low frequencies (vlf) to extremely high frequencies (ehf). Each band has a defined upper and lower frequency limit.
More at


"TA": commercial radios use "Talk-Around" to refer to bypassing the repeater, i.e., Simplex Communication, direct radio-to-radio.   Generally a "TA" switch on the radio itself.

Trunking Radio

The concept of "trunking" is taken from telephone company technology and practice. It refers to the sharing of common "resources" among a number of different users on the same system without overhearing or interfering with each other’s conversations. "Trunked" takes advantage of the probability that in any given number of user units, not everyone will need "resources" access at the same time. Therefore with a given number of users, fewer discrete "resources" are required.
More on Trunked Radio at

UHF: Ultra High Frequency

Ultra high frequency (UHF) is the ITU designation for radio frequencies in the range between 300 MHz and 3 GHz, also known as the decimetre band as the wavelengths range from one meter to one decimetre. Lower frequency signals fall into the VHF (very high frequency) or lower bands.
More on UHF at

Vancouver Island Ham Network

aka "Island Trunk System"
The Vancouver Island Trunk System site


Volunteer Examiner


Volunteer Examiner Coordinator

Vertex Digital Protocol

Vertical Antenna

VHF: Very High Frequency

Very high frequency (VHF) is the ITU designation for the range of radio frequency electromagnetic waves (radio waves) from 30 MHz to 300 MHz, with corresponding wavelengths of ten to one meters.
More on VHF at

VLF: Very Low Frequency

Very low frequency or VLF is the ITU designation for radio frequencies (RF) in the range of 3 kHz to 30 kHz and corresponding wavelengths from 100 to 10 kilometres, respectively.
More on VLF at

WIN System: Western Intertie Network System

The WIN System is a series of 71 linked, or "Intertied" repeaters; most are 440, or UHF repeaters, but we have some 2-meter and 220 repeaters as well, that cover a great deal of California, 16 States, and four Countries around the world.  The WIN System is owned and operated by Shorty, K6JSI, with a lot of help from the faithful WIN System membership.
The WIN System is an OPEN Repeater system.  It is not a Closed or a Private system.
We like to call it a ‘member supported’ system.  We encourage all hams to stop in and get acquainted.  However it is the membership that keeps the WIN System ‘on the air.’  Membership is open to any licensed amateur radio operator who wants to get involved with a growing, vibrant group, on the leading edge of technology.
More at

Winlink 2000

Winlink 2000 is a versatile digital network messaging technology that allows radio operators to send e-mail messages over HF, VHF or UHF frequencies to other radio operators, and virtually every e-mail address available.
More at


Western Washington Amateur Relay Association: provides Frequency Coordination for the Western Washington region.


"Ex Young Lady", often refers to The Wife or Female Partner.

Yagi Antenna

a highly directional radio antenna made of several short rods mounted across an insulating support and transmitting or receiving a narrow band of frequencies.
Yagi Antenna article on Amateur Radio Wiki


"Young Lady"