New User Tips for VHF-UHF Operation

by Dave Schultheis WB6KHP
San Josť, California

Be sure the frequency (or "channel") is "clear" before you transmit. Think how you would like it if someone interrupted your conversation.
Using Q-signals too often is bad form. Although Q-signals have a very valuable place in Amateur Radio, they are not universally accepted on F.M. voice channels. Using them during EVERY TRANSMISSION is really annoying.
Using the phrase "clear and monitoring" is not really necessary. Neither term is required by the F.C.C. or anybody else. If you call another amateur, using his/her callsign and yours, and that person does not answer, it is not necessary to advise "clear." You have already identified your station and any other identification is superfluous.
Be sure to learn the usage, protocol and/or policies of repeaters you are using. Just because a repeater is "there" does not mean that you are welcome to switch to it and use it for long, extended rag-chews. Some repeaters welcome newcomers, some do not. A sensible person does not want to spend time where s/he is not welcome. Even though your license allows you to operate on any frequency within the bounds of your license class, a wise amateur avoids "closed" repeaters and repeaters that are operated by small, unfriendly groups.
Using the term "for I.D." is not necessary. There should be no reason to transmit your call sign other than to identify your station. Identification is required every 10 minutes during a conversation and at the end of a conversation or series of communications. Conversations need not come to a halt while you identify. ("Stand by, everyone, while I say my call sign.") Simply say your call sign once within 10 minutes.
Long ago, F.C.C. rules required mobile hams to not only say their call sign, but to say where they were operating, giving both the city and the call sign area. You may hear some hams saying, "...mobile 6" or "...mobile 3" after their call sign. This means that they are operating "mobile, in call sign area 6" or "mobile, in call sign area 3." This is no longer required but it is sometimes good to know. When leaving their home state, some hams will keep track of what call sign area they are in, and say, "...mobile 7," or "...mobile 1," or whatever.
Certain types of jargon are easily recognizable as being "CB" terms. "What is your personal?" when you mean "what is your name?" "I'm on the side," when you mean you are "listening" or "monitoring." Although there is nothing "wrong" with CB, these terms are neither generally used nor appreciated on Amateur Radio frequencies.
Different repeaters handle emergency communications in different ways. A general guideline is this: if you are on an unfamiliar repeater and you have emergency traffic, say so! Example: "Can someone help me contact the Highway Patrol?" or "I need help contacting the Fire Department." Asking "is anybody monitoring?" may sound like an attempt to start a casual conversation. On many repeaters, you could be ignored. However, if you state that you have emergency traffic, people on many repeaters will drop what they are doing to help you. Note: if you are monitoring a repeater and someone asks for emergency assistance and you cannot help, BE SILENT! There are few things stupider than someone breaking in to say that they would help except that they forgot the codes, or that they left their radio with the Touch-Tone (tm) pad at home, or that their home phone is busy so they can't make the call for you.
In this day of scanners, scanning mobile radios, scanning portable radios, dual-, triple- and quadruple-band radios and multiple radios in the car or shack, you could miss making contact with someone because your radio is scanning several channels or bands. If you know that the person you are calling is sitting next to the radio waiting for you, you can make your call very simple: say his/her call, then your own. However, if your friend has a scanning radio or listens to several radios, it is possible that he/she could miss your call. You should call twice: say the other station's call twice, then your own. Pause for a half-minute or so and try again. It might also be a good idea to try again in 4 or 5 minutes, in case the called person's scanner was stopping on a long, drawn-out conversation. And if you know that the called station is listening to more than one frequency, you can call and say "on [such-and-such] repeater" to give them a hint as to which microphone to pick up or which band to select.
You may hear people using the term "73," meaning "best wishes." There is no "s" in the salutation "73." (Other hams may use the term "88," meaning "love and kisses." Typically used between husbands and wives.) These shortcuts were developed years ago as a way to communicate common thoughts quickly. You will hear others saying "73s" and "88s" (wrong!) You might even hear someone saying [cringe!] "threes and eights and all those good numbers!" Yecch! Negative!
There is no specific requirement for keeping logs of the use of your amateur radio station except for International Third-party Traffic. However, a good way to keep track of your communications is to use a Log Book, available at some amateur radio dealers.
Sometimes while talking to another station, it is necessary to ask the other person to "stand by." This may be caused by (a) a driving situation needing immediate attention to avert a crash, (b) a spouse or child walking into the "shack" with a message, (c) placing your order at a drive-up window, etc. The proper response, when requested to "stand by," is silence. Generally it will only take a moment and the other station will be back. If you feel it necessary to say something, then say, "[call sign] standing by." If you respond to "stand by" with a long, drawn-out acknowledgement, it serves no purpose and the person asking you to "stand by" is not listening anyway.


Keep in mind that when you are operating in a noisy environment, you do not have to be able to hear yourself talking. There will be those instances where you are helping with emergency communications for a disaster, or communications support for a parade, or you are at an airport or other noisy place. If you shout into the microphone loud enough to hear yourself, you are distorting the signal so badly that the person on the other end may not be able to hear or understand you. Instead, practice speaking into the microphone in a normal tone. It can be very difficult to operate under these conditions (loud background noise), but it is a skill that you would do well to learn.


One of the most important things for new hams to learn is to "K-H-T." That is "key, hesitate, talk." You must consciously learn to push the microphone button, pause slightly, and then begin speaking. If you push the button and speak simultaneously, the first word or the first part of a word may be cut off. This does not facilitate effective communications. Hopefully, if you learn to do it correctly from the first day, it will become subconscious and you will do it automatically. If this is the case, you will earn the respect and admiration of your peers. If not, you will be forever labeled as a sub-standard operator.


Try to keep your language polite. Profanity and discussions of bodily functions should be off limits - not because of government rules, but because it's the right thing to do. Generally, other hams and their family members do not want to hear conversations that are not of the "G-rated" variety.


Thanks to KA6TGE, NT6S (formerly KB6LUC) , KI6NI and the West Valley Amateur Radio Association. Adapted from a version revised on April 9, 1990.
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Page created on May 28, 1996. Last updated on August 22, 2003.
David W. Schultheis, San Josť, Silicon Valley, Santa Clara County, California, USA