There are some terms in the Radio world that you may want to get familiar with. This page will be updated periodically.
AM: Amplitude Modulation. Usually used for voice and sometimes for music.
Amateur Radio: A hobby of listening (and sometimes transmitting) on
shortwave radio frequencies. Also known as "HAM" Radio.
ARDF: Also called Transmitter Hunting, Fox Hunting or Bunny Hunting
(and other terms). This is a contest where people try to locate a hidden
Band: A range of frequencies that are set aside for different purposes.
Beacon: A signal that is transmitted either continuously or in pulses
commonly used in locating the transmitter.
BPSK: (Binary Phase Shift Keying) A digital modulation method used for
Call Sign: A unique ID that many use to identify themselves. For CB
Radio, it is a handle made up and adopted by the user. For HAM Radio, it's a
combination of letters and numbers given to them by the FCC as part of their
license to operate a station (ie. transmit over the radio).
CB: (Citizens Band Radio) This is a group of radio frequencies for
the use by the general public for limited communications (US FCC laws limit to
5 minutes at a time with one minute breaks). A license is no longer required to
operate and transmit with a CB Radio. However, these radios are (by law) low
powered and are not to have a very long range. When CB Radio first started,
FCC did provide licenses to operators and households for a fee. This has been
discontinued and thus radio operators no longer use call signs but instead use
creative handles as their call sign. CB radio is also most commonly used by
CQ: HAM (and sideband CB) Radio code for "Calling all stations".
Used by operators looking to have a conversation with anyone that can hear them
and is able and willing to respond back.
CW: (Continuous Wave) This is a mode that is used primarily for Morse
DPSK: Differential Phase Shift Keying (a form of BPSK)
DSP: (Digital Signal Processing) This means processing signals on a
computer or other digital device using digital filters, noise reduction, etc.
DTMF: (Dual Tone Multi Frequency) This is what old Touch Tone phones
used and also some other digital devices such as air raid and alert sirens. It
is also used in HAM radio to remotely control devices such as repeaters,
Echolink nodes, and other devices.
DX: HAM (and sideband CB) Radio code for "distant station". This is
usually used with CQ by an operator seeking to make contact with someone out of
their area or in another country. Usually paired as CQ DX.
Elmer: An experienced HAM Operator who is a mentor of a newly
licensed operator (or maybe even someone who wants to learn the hobby and get a
FCC: The US Federal Communications Commision,
which regulates US Citizens' and Business' use of the radio frequency spectrum.
FM: Frequency Modulation. Usually used for music and other public
Frequency: The amount of complete waves that pass a certain point in
a second. The unit of measure is in Hertz (Hz). It also can refer to Frequency
Bands, which are the group of frequencies in which radio communications take
Gigahertz(GHz) 1,000,000 Hz or 1,000,000 cycles per second.
HAM: (or Amateur Radio) This is a group of frequencies for the use by
FCC Licensed operators. A HAM operator must pass a test (there are different
levels of testing and licensing) in order to obtain a license and be allowed to
transmit over these frequencies. While Morse Code is also used, it is not
required to know in order to pass the test for a license. Also listening to HAM
radio (but not transmitting) does not require a license.
Hellshreiber: (or just plain Hell) A digital mode used for
transmitting and receiving Faxes.
Hertz: A frequency is measured in Hertz
(Hz). Heinrich Hertz
was the one who created this unit of measure.
HF: High Frequency in the range of 3 MHz - 30 MHz. This is also known
as Shortwave (or HAM Radio)
hi hi: Or
.... .. .... .. (4 dots, 2 dots, 4
dots 2 dots). The Morse code equivelent of laughing.
Ionosphere: The ionized part of the Earth's upper atmosphere. This
area is used to refect or bend radio waves (ionized gasses in the ionosphere
make this possible) and then direct those radio waves back to Earth.
Interference: When an undesired frequency combines with the frequency
you're trying to listen to, often distorting or overpowering the signal.
Intermodulation: The mixing of two or more frequencies which produce
(International Telecommunication Union)
An organization which works to standardise and regulate radio communications.
Key or Keyer: A device used for sending Morse Code. A Keyer also
could be the person using a manual device to send Morse Code.
Kilohertz: (KHz) 1,000 Hz or 1,000 cycles per second.
LSB: (Lower Side Band) Used commonly for digital or Morse code
transmissions but can also contain other types of transmissions. This mode
operates below 10 MHz on the 40m (40 meter), 80m, and 160m Amateur Radio Bands.
Mayday: A distress call. Usually used in marine (boaters) as a call
Megahertz: (MHz) 1 million Hz or 1 million cycles per second.
Microwave: Signals above 1 GHz frequency.
Mode: The way that Electromagnetic waves are changed so that certain
types of transmissions are possible.
Modulation: The process of adding information to a carrier signal.
Morse Code: A code used by HAM and military for communication. This
is comprised of short and long beeps or pulses. In HAM (Amateur Radio) this is
done in CW (Continuous Wave) mode.
Numbers Station: A (usually shortwave) broadcast station that
periodically broadcasts crypic numbers or words. This is said to be used by some
military entities and others to transmit sensitive information to personnel in
compromising locations. One famous Numbers Station is the UVB-76 or Russian
Operator (Amateur Radio): Person licensed to transmit on shortwave
Packet Radio: Digital radio mode used for transmitting data.
Phonetic (or Spelling) Alphabet: Using a standard set of words or
names in place of letters of the English Alphabet. This is used to clarify
important information and call signs.
PSK: (Phase Shift Keying) A digital mode used to send text data.
Q Codes: Three-letter codes that start with a Q and used by Amateur
(HAM) and Sideband Citizens Band (CB) radio operators as a shorthand for
QSL Card: A postcard that is sent as confirmation that two HAM
operators communicated over the radio.
Repeater: A device that amplifies a low power signal and retransmits
it at a higher power so that the signal can reach longer distances.
RF: Radio Frequencies which are frequencies that pass through space
as electromagnetic radiation.
RTTY: Radio Teletype
RX: Receieve or Receiver
Shortwave Radio: Radio transmission on frequencies around 1.6 - 30
MHz just above the medium wave AM broadcast band. Shortwave radio is used for
transmitting voice, music, data, and morse code over large distances. A shortwave
radio operator in the USA is required to obtain a license from the FCC in order
to transmit on these frequencies.
Sideband: One of two frequency bands on either side of a RF carrier.
Skip: (or Skywave or Skywave Propagation) The method by which radio
waves travel through the Earth's ionosphere and then are reflected or refacted
by the ionized gasses back down to the Earth's surface. This is usually
upredictable and is used by operators in an attempt to make contact with others
in foreign countries.
SOS: Morse Code distress call.
Squelch: An adjustable circuit in a radio which masks out unwanted
SSB: (Single Sideband) A mode used mainly in High Frequency (HF) bands
such as CB Radio.
SSTV: (Slow Scan Television) A mode used for sending image data.
SWL: (ShortWave Listener) SWLs aren't always licensed operators. Also,
SWLs can submit reception reports in order to recieve QSL cards. On VHF, UHF and
above, a listener is also known as a scanner operator.
Third-Party Participation: This is when an unlicensed person can
legally communicate on shortwave (HAM) radio. A control operator must be present
with this person to ensure they comply with FCC rules and regulations.
Ticket: Slang for an FCC Amateur Radio License
Transceiver: A radio that can both transmit and receive.
TX: Transmit, transmission or transmitter
UHF: Ultra High Frequency in the range of 300MHz - 3,000MHz (3KHz). This
at one time was used by TV Broadcasters for over-the-air transmissions.
USB: (Upper Side Band) Used commonly for voice on SSB (Single Sideband)
radio (such as CB and Shortwave radio). This mode operates above 10 MHz on the
20m (20 meter), 17m, 15m, 12m, and 10m Hight Frequency (HF) Amateur Radio Bands
as well as all the VHF and UHF bands.
UTC: (Universal Coordintated Time) This is a verson of GMT (Greenwich
Mean Time) that is kept accurate via atomic clocks.
VHF: Very High Frequency in the range of 30MHz - 300MHz
VOX: Voice Operated Transmit. A device with VOX capability will start
transmitting when it hears a voice or sound.
WPM: (Words Per Minute) Usually used in Morse Code (CW) lessons.
WSPR: (Weak Signal Propagation Reporter)
A computer program used for weak-signal radio communication between amateur radio
operators. There is also a Weak Signal Propagation Reporter Network
WX: Abbreviation for Weather.
WWV: Call sign for the United States National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Atomic Clock in Fort Collins, Colorado
USA. This is broadcast on 2.5 MHz, 5 MHz, 10 MHz, 15 MHz, or 20 MHz as chime
tones and clicks every second, followed by voice announcement of the time
(in UTC) each minute. Occasionally weather and other phenomena updates are also