Get on the Air Now!

An outstanding resource for amateur radio operators, and new or prospective hams in particular, is a paperback book by Don Keith N4KC entitled, GET ON THE AIR…NOW!


There is something for everyone here: Folks who are interested in ham radio, those who just got a license, experienced hams who lose interest, and long-time hams who are looking for something to share with newbies. N4KC covers most of what current and prospective ham radio operators need to know and he does a great job of selling the hobby/interest. And no, he’s not pushing Morse code, although CW operation is one of the more interesting aspects of amateur radio.

The main emphasis of the book is encouraging licensees to actually get on the air and experience real ham radio, not to get frustrated with bad experiences and limited equipment and then give up on our hobby.  He addresses some of the common discouragements and steers us to realistic remedies.  Chapter five is a practical discussion of antennas and I particularly appreciate chapter six with Don’s concise description of what to expect on the HF bands.

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The second half of the book is a comprehensive dictionary of “ham-speak”–amateur radio terms, abbreviations and slang, useful to all hams, new and old.

About $19 with a Kindle version for $9.  Highly recommended and the first item listed on a new site page entitled Recommended 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.

73 What?

Usually near the end of an amateur radio conversation (QSO) the phrase “seven three” or “seventy three” will be heard.  New hams or unlicensed listeners will probably wonder, 73 what?  Here is more of that ham-speak stuff we are learning about and this terminology has a very particular meaning.



73 simply means, “Best Regards”.  It is a very common phrase used on the radio in voice, Morse code (CW), and data communication modes and is often used in emails and handwritten notes between hams.  73 is considered a polite and friendly way of signing off all forms of communications between hams or as a general show of respect.

The origins of 73 are not absolutely certain, but the prevailing idea Continue reading


Amateur radio operators have quite an interesting vocabulary.  This “ham-speak” may be called terminology, lingo, or jargon and it often includes many abbreviations.  If you don’t understand a term, just ask the person using ham-speak to explain it.  Don’t worry, you will figure these out over time.

A lot of the words are technical because hams use radios and electronics and antennas and cables and power supplies and meters and…well, quite a few gizmos that involve big and fancy words.

Other forms of ham-speak are more cryptic and non-technical.  Hams are equal-opportunity obfuscators; we can make an unintelligible mess out of anything!  Just kidding– there is often good reason for all of this terminology and abbreviation.

The technology part of ham-speak is largely unavoidable; there are no good alternatives for transceiver, impedance, modulation, propagation, and such terms.  There are, however, slang terms for some of these technical words and plenty of abbreviations.  For example, the word Continue reading