20 Words for Field Day!

20 Jun

20 words for Field Day

Ham radio operators like lingo – here are some terms you may hear around a Field Day “shack”

  1. Amateur or “Ham” Radio: amateur radio operator are often called “hams.” They are fully licensed by the FCC in the US, and by other national governments to operate radio stations and manage sophisticated radio equipment often capable of communicating around the world, with satellites, and even bouncing signals off the moon. Amateur radio operators are strictly non-commercial, and use their licenses and skills to advance technology, education, and public service.
  2. Analog: Analog signals are characterized by a continuously changing wave in contrast to sending numbers representing “real” information in a digital signal.
  3. ARRL: The national association for amateur radio in the United States.
  4. ARES: The ham radio emergency communications service that helps with public events, and communications during emergencies.
  5. Bandwidth: the amount of “room” that a signal takes up. There is a limited amount of frequencies available. Each service like amateur radio and commercial users are assigned limits on the range of frequencies that they can use. Some modes like CW are very efficient, so many CW signals can “fit” in the same space that a single voice signal would use.
  6. Commercial radio station: a radio station licensed by the FCC to operate on a particular frequency for business use, or to make money (such as by playing music and ads).
  7. CW: “Continuous Wave” – also known as Morse Code. Morse code is still used today, and remains one of the most effective types of signal when conditions are poor or low power is used.
  8. Digital: Digital refers to using numbers to communicate. These signals are often generated and received by computers, allowing files or text to be sent and received. Morse code is actually a type of digital signal. It is either “on” (1) or “off” (0).
  9. DX: ham radio shorthand for a foreign country – also used to refer to contacts very far away.
  10. FCC: The US Federal Communications Commission that legally governs and licenses the use of radio waves in the US.
  11. Frequency: a measure of how many times an electromagnetic wave changes its polarity every second. A signal that changes 95,000,000 times every second is 95 MHz – part of the FM band on a car radio. Electromagnetic waves of different frequencies have different properties and can all share the same environment while carrying different signals like voice, digital, or morse code.
  12. HF: frequencies below 30MHz that are characterized by long distance communications made possible by bouncing off the ionosphere.
  13. Ionosphere: The layer of charged particles in the atmosphere off which lower frequency signals can be “bounced” to enable communications beyond the horizon.
  14. Modes: AM and FM on a car radio are two modes – ways information (such as music) can be sent. CW (morse code) and digital techniques are other modes. Each mode has different advantages and disadvantages in terms of the amount of power they take, how much information can be sent, and how much “room” (bandwidth) they consume.
  15. QSO: a conversation.
  16. QTH: your station location.
  17. Repeaters: a radio station that automatically extends the range of other radio systems. Repeaters work by listening to the signal put out by these stations, and re-transmitting them. Repeaters are put on mountains and tall buildings to give smaller stations (like handheld radios) more range.
  18. Skywarn: the National Weather Service program to spot and report dangerous weather, the “trained eyes on the ground” – many of whom communicate with the Weather Service over amateur radio.
  19. Transceiver: instead of having separate receivers and transmitters, many hams use transceivers. A transceiver has both a transmitter and receiver inside it and switches between the two functions – a “two way” radio.
  20. VHF/UHF: Different frequencies are grouped into categories. HF is below 30 MHz, VHF is in the 30-300MHz range, UHF is from 300-3000MHz. Above that are microwaves. These categories have different properties, such as the ability to bounce off the ionosphere, penetrate it easily, how easily they travel through air and buildings, and how much information they can carry.
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