Jargon

Some of the jargon ham radio operators use may be a bit confusing to newcomers. I’ll try to keep this page updated with the jargon that I use.

  • Appliance Operator: A ham radio operator who has little understanding of how his commercially-made radios work and who is unable to design and/or construct his own equipment.
  • ARES®: Short for the Amateur Radio Emergency Service®, a part of the national field organization of the Amateur Radio Relay League consisting of licensed amateur radio operators who have voluntarily registered their qualifications and equipment for communications duty in the public service when disaster strikes.
  • Balun: A transmission-line-transformer typically used for feeding an unbalanced antenna with balanced transmission line. “Bal” is short for “balanced,” and “un” is short for “unbalanced,” hence, “Bal-un.” Baluns are described in part by their ratio. A 1:1 Balun matches lines and antennas of similar impedance, while Baluns with ratios of 1:4, 1:6, etc. match lines and antennas of differing impedance.
  • Coax: Short for “Coaxial Cable,” coax is an insulated, two-conductor cable that has a center wire sheathed in dialectric material that is itself sheathed in braided wire. Coax is typically used as feedline between a radio and an antenna.
  • CW: Slang for Morse Code, CW stands for “Continuous Wave,” the kind of signal used for sending Morse Code.
  • Dipole: A horizontal antenna constructed of two wires of equal length joined together at the “feedpoint,” where the signal is fed to the antenna by the transmission line coming from the transmitter. If the wires are of different length, the antenna is called an “Off-Center-Fed Dipole,” or “OCF Dipole,” for short.
  • Duplex: Transmitting on one frequency and receiving on another frequency (unlike simplex). Required for repeater operation.
  • EC: Emergency Coordinator, a position in ARES® that is usually at the county level but sometimes at the city level. Appointed by the SEC (Section Emergency Coordinator, at the state level), the EC oversees ARES within his jurisdiction.
  • EchoLink: A computer program that connects a radio to the Internet, allowing Amateur Radio Operators to communicate over a radio using a computer or smart phone. It is also commonly used to link two repeaters together.
  • Elmer: An experienced ham radio operator who teaches others how to become a competent ham radio operator.
  • Extra Class: The “Amateur Extra” license issued by the FCC for operation of a ham radio station with full privileges.
  • Feedline: A two-conductor line used for connecting an antenna to a radio. Coax and ladder-line are the most commonly used feedlines.
  • HF: Short for “High Frequency,” the portion of the spectrum between 3-30 MHz.
  • Homebrew: To design and/or construct your own radio equipment.
  • Inverted-V: A dipole that is mounted so that it looks like an upside-down (hence, “inverted”) “V.”
  • Novice: Now deprecated, the “Novice Class” license was once the entry-level license issued by the FCC for operation of a ham radio station. Today the “Technician Class” is the entry-level license.
  • NTS: National Traffic System. A well-established and highly organized group of Amateur Radio Operators who have been conveying radiograms sponsored by the American Radio Relay League (ARRL).
  • OCF: Short for “Off-Center-Fed.” See comments under “Dipole.”
  • Paddles: Used with an “Electronic Keyer,” two vertically-mounted, parallel paddles are used for generating Morse Code. The left paddle generates a series of dots for as long as it is depressed, the right paddle, dashes. When the electronic keyer is in “Iambic Mode,” the paddles generate a series of alternating dits and dahs (dots and dashes) when depressed simultaneously.
  • QRM: Interference from other stations.
  • QRN: Interference from static, lightning crashes, nearby plasma TV’s, etc.
  • QRO: High-power, often 1,000-1,500 watts (1,500 is the legal limit).
  • QRP: Low-power, usually under 5 watts.
  • QSO: A two-way communication between two or more radio stations.
  • QTH: The geographical location of a radio station. For instance, my QTH is Granite Falls, MN.
  • Repeater: A radio that picks up your signal on one frequency, amplifies it, and then retransmits it on another frequency to extend your range. Repeaters usually have antennas mounted up high, like on a water tower, to cover a wide area. Most repeaters are designed to work on the VHF/UHF bands, though a few are designed for use on 10 meters (around 29 MHz).
  • RF: Short for “Radio Frequency,” RF refers to any electromagnetic signal with a frequency between about 3 kHz and 300 GHz.
  • RF Choke: A device designed to suppress some or all RF that exists on a wire.
  • Rubber duckie: A small, flexible antenna mounted on a handheld radio.
  • SDR: Short for “Software-Defined Radio,” a radio that does not have any dials or buttons, but is instead controlled by software running on a personal computer.
  • Shack: Also known as a “Ham Shack,” a radio station assembled at a fixed location (as opposed to a mobile station).
  • Simplex: Transmitting and receiving on the same frequency (unlike duplex).
  • SKED: Scheduled contact between two or more stations on a certain date, time, and frequency.
  • Straight Key: The old-fashioned, manually-operated switch used for sending Morse Code that belongs in every HF ham shack.
  • SSB: Single Side-Band, the most common method of transmitting a voice (as in, with a microphone) on HF.
  • UHF: “Ultra High Frequency,” the portion of the spectrum between 300 MHz – 3 GHz
  • VHF: “Very High Frequency,” the portion of the spectrum between 30-300 MHz.
  • XYL: “Ex-Young Lady,” a married woman. (My XYL’s name is Monica.)
  • YL: “Young Lady,” an unmarried woman.
  • 73: “Best regards.” A friendly way to end a QSO, 73 has a distinctively rhythmic sound when sent in CW: dah-dah-dit-dit-dit dit-dit-dit-dah-dah. (Note to fellow hams: it’s 73, not 73’s — “best regards,” not “best regardses.”)

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