Glossary

There are some terms in the Radio world that you may want to get familiar with. This page will be updated periodically.

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A

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 transmitter.

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B

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 transmitting data.

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C

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 truckers.
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 Code transmissions.

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D

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.

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E

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 license).

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F

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 programming.
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 place.

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G

Gigahertz(GHz) 1,000,000 Hz or 1,000,000 cycles per second.

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H

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.

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I

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 undesired results.
ITU : (International Telecommunication Union) An organization which works to standardise and regulate radio communications.

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K

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.

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L

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.

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M

Mayday: A distress call. Usually used in marine (boaters) as a call for help.
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.

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N

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 Buzzer.

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O

Operator (Amateur Radio): Person licensed to transmit on shortwave frequencies.

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P

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.

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Q

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 common phrases.
QSL Card: A postcard that is sent as confirmation that two HAM operators communicated over the radio.

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R

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

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S

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 noise.
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.

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T

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

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U

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.

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V

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.

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W

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 announced.

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X

XCVR: Transceiver

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