Your Grid Square

If you are active on HF or non-repeater VHF/UHF frequencies, you should know your operational grid square when making contacts.  Many hams need to know your exact location for logging and awards purposes.  The grid square system was adopted by the IARU for specifying amateur radio station location in a relatively small area.


The planet is divided up into 32,400 grid squares roughly 100mi wide by 70mi high (in continental USA) per the Maidenhead Locator System.  More detail here.

Basically, our planet is divided into 18×18=324 fields identified by two letters (AA-RR)
Each field is 20° longitude (east-west) and and 10° latitude (north-south). The first letter represents longitude and the second latitude as shown below.

Maidenhead fields

Each field is sub-divided into 10×10=100 squares starting again in the southwest counting north in columns of tens and shifting east for the next ten.

If you look carefully at field IO above (encompassing most of the UK and Ireland), you can see this refined grid.  It looks like this in a more geodetic (less flat) view:


maidenhead field IO

Here you can clearly see square 00, lower left and 99, upper right with the other 98 squares everywhere in between.

This combination of field plus square gives us the basic grid square system.  It follows the specific format as shown below.

Maidenhead detail

Of interest to most readers of this site, the continental United States (CONUS) is Continue reading

Change of Address

Have you moved since you got your amateur radio license?  This is a common concern for renters or apartment-dwelling hams and revocation or suspension of your license is the ultimate consequence of failing to notify the FCC.

If you have relocated your QTH from one place to another, or if you have otherwise changed your mailing address, you are obliged to update your postal address with the FCC in the United States.  The FCC needs to know where to reach you by mail for either operator or station license questions or issues.

It’s also common courtesy to other hams who want to send QSL cards or just to know where you are located based on your call sign.


US Code of Federal Regulations 47 C.F.R Section 97.21 requires you to file timely for an update of the license as necessary to show your correct mailing address, name, club name, license trustee or custodian name. Revocation of your station license or suspension of your operator license may result when correspondence from the FCC is returned as undeliverable because you failed to provide the correct mailing address.

In the US you can update your address online (filing electronically) at Continue reading


Back in the ham-speak topic we noted that ham radio vocabulary includes plenty of jargon and lingo.  As mentioned there, it is best to not use too much ham-speak on the air, since plain language is preferred for voice modes (phone) but in reality you still hear many code words and abbreviations being used.


You will run across many terms on the air as well as in books and magazines and perhaps in email that are cryptic to the new or prospective ham.  To help you with this we will present the topic of Q-codes here.

The Q code (or Q-code) is a standardized collection of three-letter codes, all of which start with the letter Q, where each code has a particular meaning. These brevity codes were originally developed for commercial radiotelegraph use but were quickly  adopted by amateur radio operators.  Although Q codes were created when radio used Morse code exclusively, they continued to be employed after the introduction of voice transmissions. Some history on Q-codes can be found here and here and here.

Listed below are ten Q-codes the average ham is most likely to hear (in the author’s opinion), along with their meaning and common usage:

  • QRM- Man-made interference, interference from other stations.
  • QRN- Natural interference, typically static or crashing from thunderstorms.
  • QRP- Low power transmit, generally 5W or less.
  • QRT- Quitting; stopping transmission or shutting down station.
  • QRZ- Who is calling me?
  • QSB- Fading signal.
  • QSL- I acknowledge receipt; also confirmation of contact.
  • QSO- Conversation, radio contact and exchange.
  • QSY- Change frequency.
  • QTH- Location.

You should be familiar with at least these and perhaps some others as well.  Comprehensive lists of Q-codes can be found here and here and here and here.t21b10





The main point here is not for you to learn Q-codes to use them, but to understand them when you inevitably hear them.

That’s all for now so 73 and I’ll be QRT.