Frequently Asked Questions - FAQs
... and other common terms:
Signal Report or R-S-T
The signal report is one of the most commonly asked for reports and is made up of two parts for a phone (voice) contact (R-S) and three parts for Morse code or CW (R-S-T). The parts of the report are:
Readability - R - Readability is a qualitative assessment of how easy or difficult it is to correctly copy the information being sent and is graded from 1 to 5 as follows:
2. Barely readable, occasional words distinguishable
3. Readable with considerable difficulty
4. Readable with practically no difficulty
5. Perfectly readable
Signal - S - Signal Strength is a numerical assessment of how powerful the received signal is at the receiving location and is read from the radio's S meter or can be estimated if your radio does not have a meter (eg some HTs).
When operating through a repeater, remember that the audio and signal are actually from the repeater to you and are not a reflection of the signal that the other person is transmitting. What you can report is that the other station's transmission is reaching the repeater and that the audio is clear or otherwise. You could also report the quality of the signal is relation to others that are using the repeater.
Tone - T - The T stands for "Tone" and is measured on a scale of 1 to 9.
Tone only pertains to Morse code and other digital transmission modes and is therefore omitted during voice operations.
Types of Transceiver, Radio or Rig
Standing Wave Ratio (SWR)
FM - Frequency Modulation
AM - Amplitude Modulation
SSB (USB and LSB) - Single Side Band (Upper Side Band and Lower Side Band)
CW - Continuous Wave sometimes called Morse Code
DV - Digital Voice (Digital Mobile Radio (DMR), DStar, C4FM)
Digital Data - Digital Data modes such as PSK, RTTY, Olivia, FT-8 etc.
Using a Repeater
Radio signal repeaters (known as repeaters) are commonly used by Hams to make contacts over a wider geographic area, especially when working portable (ie with a hand held transceiver) or mobile (from a vehicle). The most common Amateur Radio band for repeater use is the 2m band, but other common bands are 10m, 6m, 1.25m and 70cm. In some areas there are repeaters on the higher UHF bands. Repeaters are usually established on high points such as commercial TV or radio antennas and therefore have the advantage of a greater coverage area.
Got questions about using a repeater? Devils Tower Amateur Radio Club has written a simple guide to using a repeater: [[http://www.wy7dt.com/Repeater_Guide/default.html]. Contrary to the comment in the paragraph titled "How do you call someone on a repeater?" stating "phrases like “nothing heard” or “no contact” are just a waste of time", those comments are essential as they let the station you are calling know that they are not being heard. Commonly this occurs because they have not set the correct offset or CTCSS tone, so they are able to hear the repeater but the repeater cannot hear them (and thus no one can hear them).
When calling on a repeater, always call at least twice with a short pause between calls (say 10 - 20 seconds) because most Hams monitoring the repeater may not hear your callsign or call the first time.
Always check that you have programmed the correct frequency offset and direction, along with the CTCSS tone (if the repeater has one).
A useful resource to find local repeaters anywhere in the world is the website Repeater Book at: https://www.repeaterbook.com/. There are also apps for mobile devices that can use your device's GPS to locate local repeaters.
Logging, including computer based logs and web based logs.
If you only make a few contacts you may be happy not recording those or just keeping a note on paper, or in a notebook. However, if you make quite a few contacts and like to keep track of who you have spoken to before, what power or antenna you used etc, then you will appreciate the many computer based logging options available. Many are free to use, some request a donation and others are a paid download. But, there are a myriad of options from Windows, Linux, Apple OS, Android and iPhone. Some are simple and only retain the most commonly kept information, like operator callsign, name, date and time, frequency and mode etc. Some are geared specifically to contesting and others to operating in parks or on summits (see POTA and SOTA).
If you plan to submit your logs for contesting you will almost certainly want to use a computer based log. Aside from automatically adding the date/time one important function is to check to see if you have already made contact with a station during the contest (on the same band and mode depending on the contest rules). This is called checking for 'duplicates' or 'dupes'. Dupe checking is laborious to do manually during or after the contest ends and, as the other stations in the contest will almost certainly be running a computer based log to check for dupes, you may find yourself feeling a little sheepish if you get called out for being a 'dupe' and the QSO ends abruptly (as the other station wants to move on to gain more points from stations that he has not contacted yet). You will also want to export your contest log and email it, or upload, it to the contest organiser to confirm your entry and score.
So, ask a few hams what logging software they use, download and try a couple and see how you get on with it. In the vast majority of cases you can export your log from one logging software and then import it into a new logging software, so you don't need to re-type your QSOs if you change software. There are also a number of options to upload your log to websites or online logging sites that are discussed below. These can either be a standalone log or can synchronise to your local computer based logging software.
Suggested logging software:
Before the internet became widely used, hams would mail printed QSL cards to confirm a contact that they had made (usually only for HF or 6m band contacts, or maybe for a special VHF/UHF contact such as a long distance contact). Many hams continue to send printed QSL cards and enjoy collecting them from far away places. It is a personal choice to have QSL cards printed and to mail them to your contacts. More commonly today, internet based services are used to confirm contacts and these are discussed below.
eQSL is a web based service that allows you to create a template electronic QSL card to be sent to your contacts. Often your computer based logging software will synchronise with eQSL, meaning that any contacts that you have added to your log will be uploaded to the eQSL website and will create electronic QSL cards that are customised with the details of the contact such as time, date, frequency and mode plus a short custom comment. The basic eQSL service is free, but you can only choose from a limited number of QSL card backgrounds. With a subscription you can customise the background with your own design.
LOTW (Logbook Of The World)
LOTW is a free service run by the ARRL that allows you to confirm the details of a contact with your QSO partner. To get a LOTW account, you need to be a bonafide ham and the easiest way is to get an invite from a ham that already has an account. You then upload your QSOs to LOTW and if your partner uploads his QSOs, LOTW will match them up and the next time you synchronise your log with LOTW you will get a confirmation of your QSO details.
LOTW is a great way for you to attain the many awards for making contacts such as the ARRL DXCC, WAS, WAC, VUCC etc. Uploading your contacts to LOTW also assists your QSO partner by confirming their contact with you, and so they can earn awards.
QRZ.com is a website for hams with a wealth of information and useful options such as a directory of (almost) all hams in the world, an online swapmeet (way to buy or sell ham radio gear), interesting articles, a discussion board and a personal webpage for you to tell other hams about your interests in ham radio and an online log for you. The basic webpage and log are free to use, along with a number of free lookups into the database of hams. Higher levels of membership offer more services and require payment of a subscription.
Groups.io and other scary sources of information (Facebook, etc.)
There are so many sources of information, it will likely be overwhelming! There are numerous websites, Facebook groups, groups on groups.io (which has all but replaced Yahoo and Google groups), video bloggers on Youtube etc etc. Here are a few of our suggestions:
We recommend that you cross check information using a number of different sources, so that you have the best likelihood of getting correct information.
One of the best sources of real user review is eHam. If you are researching a new piece of kit, it is always worth while browsing the reviews posted by hams on eHam. It is often fastest to put a search term eg "eham icom 7300" directly into your favourite internet search engine. You can also browse to their webpage at: https://www.eham.net/
Where to buy - Ham Radio stores Canada/US/Amazon/eBay/Kijiji/ONTARS/Clubs
Here's a list of our favourite bricks and mortar and online stores:
There are limited number of amateur radio stores in Canada, all offer shipping:
The US is well served with chains and individual stores, here are a selection:
Learn about POTA, SOTA and IOTA
Digital modes (FT-8, RTTY etc), Winlink global radio email
Awards for contacts