So you now have your license and you are ready to get on the
air. The most important thing to do before beginning is to
listen and observe how other hams are making their contacts. As
different modes and bands seem to have slightly different
approaches it helps to have heard a few exchanges on a band
before you make that first contact.
Depending on your radio and license you may have to decide on
where and how you want to begin operating. If you are using a
hand-held transceiver you may begin through a local repeater or
direct (simplex) on the VHF and UHF bands. If you passed a CW
test you may begin on some of the HF bands using CW or SSB. So
let's give a quick run-down of each of these operations.
a HT and a Repeater
Many amateurs begin by getting the Basic (Canada) or
Technician (U.S.) class license. By far the most common mode of
operation for them is the HT through a local repeater. Assuming
you have the HT set up to the appropriate frequency, offset, and
if necessary, CTCSS tone then you are ready to make your first
It may seem obvious but you need to know your call sign
before you begin. You might also want to review the appropriate
phonetics in case someone asks you to clarify your call sign.
To Initiate a Call
For this instruction let's assume you live near the
U.S./Canadian border and use a repeater that services hams in
both areas. Areas such as Buffalo, Windsor, Vancouver and others
all have this characteristic.
1. Press the mike button on the HT and say "VE3BUC
listening." Of course you would use your own call sign.
That might be all you need for a response. But if there is no
response (which is quite likely) then you might try again but
this time say "VE3BUC is monitoring
and listening for a call."
Usually you don't need to call CQ on a repeater although
there is nothing wrong with that. We will look at calling CQ
2. You get a response something like "VE3BUC
this is W2AXL in Buffalo returning. My name is Phil. Back to
At this point you want to wait for the repeater's tone to
indicate it is okay to proceed.
3. Press your mike button and respond. At this point the
discussion can be whatever you make it. Give your name and
location and any other information you wish to Phil and when you
are ready say "Over" or
"Back to you."
It is a good idea and the law to give your call sign frequently so after
a longer transmission you would say "W2AXL
this is VE3BUC. Over."
The use of the terms "over" or "back to
you" are a courtesy that lets the other operating know that
you are finished talking and are turning the operation back to
him or her.
|4. At the end of
the contact you would finally say goodbye or 73 and sign
off by saying "W2AXL 73, this is
VE3BUC clear and monitoring." That is if you
intend to continue to monitor. If not you could say "...clear
and QRT" instead.
Q signals are commonly used
in CW to abbreviate questions or statements.
Although not many are used in Phone, QRT is quite
common. See Q
Signals Explained for details.
To Respond to a Call
To respond to a call over the repeater with a HT you would
take on the role of the opposite person in the above discussion.
You hear W2AXL calling on the repeater so answer as follows
after the repeater tone drops:
1. "W2AXL this is VE3BUC. Good
morning my name is Don and my location is Niagara Falls. Over to
2. Basically the exchange would proceed as discussed above.
Be sure to identify your station occasionally and identify yourself at the end of the contact as explained above.
Making Direct Phone Contacts
Whether you are operating HF, VHF or UHF without a repeater
the procedure is essentially the same. In each case you will be
transmitting directly by radio waves to another amateur's radio.
You only need to set the operating band and frequency without
the need for an offset or tone to access a repeater. However,
depending on your radio and antenna it may be necessary to tune
the antenna before beginning.
Calling CQ to Make a Contact
Let's assume your license permits you to operate SSB on 10
1. Begin by finding a clear frequency such as 28.460. Speak
clearly into the mike and ask "Is
this frequency in use? This is VE3BUC." If you get
no response you might ask a second time just to be sure. Again
if there is no response then proceed to step 2. If someone says
that the frequency is in use then just move to another clear
frequency and try again.
2. Now call "CQ CQ CQ. This is
Victor Echo 3 Bravo Uniform Charlie calling CQ CQ CQ. This is
Victor Echo 3 Bravo Uniform Charlie, VE3BUC calling CQ and
waiting for a call."
Now you listen for the return call. Being on an HF band (10
meters) it is possible to get a call ranging from very strong to
3. You might hear "VE3BUC this is Papa
Yankee 1 Alpha November Foxtrot PY1ANF calling."
respond by saying "PY1ANF
(using phonetics is best) this is
VE3BUC. Thanks for the call your signal is 59. My name is
Don and my QTH is Ontario. So how do you copy? PY1ANF this
is VE3BUC over."
You have made your first HF contact. At this point you
can make the contact as long or short as you like
depending on the band conditions and what you find to
discuss with your new friend in Brazil.
Amateurs use the RST system
for reporting signal strength and readability. See
Explained for details.
5. You end an HF contact by giving both call signs and
signing off. For example: "... thanks
Luis for the contact and 73 to you and your family. PY1ANF this
is VE3BUC signing off."
What do you do if more than one station responds to your
call? If you hear one call clearly then simply respond to that
station as discussed above. If you hear only parts of call
signs, maybe "Alpha November"
then in step 4 begin by saying "the
station with Alpha November make your call." Once
you have heard the complete call sign you can proceed as in step
Responding to a CQ
Begin by tuning within the range of frequencies that you are
permitted to operate and find a station calling CQ. To respond
to the station you take on the role of the other station in the
above exchange. The one difference is that after you call you
may find out that other stations are also calling and that your
call is not immediately recognized. If so wait until the
stations complete their contact and then try again. If you don't
want to wait then tune for another station calling CQ and answer
Making a CW contact is very similar to making a phone contact
except of course you are using Morse Code. The process of CQing
and exchanging information is about the same although CW
operators use more abbreviations to make sending faster.
1. Call CQ as follows: "CQ CQ CQ
de VE3BUC VE3BUC VE3BUC K" and wait for a response.
Note the abbreviations used. "de" means "this
is" and "K" means "go." You do not need
to use phonetics in CW.
2. The other station may respond as "VE3BUC
de PY1ANF PY1ANF K"
3. Now it's your turn. "PY1ANF de
VE3BUC GM UR RPT IS 599 599 NM IS DON DON ES QTH IS TORONTO
PY1ANF DE VE3BUC KN"
confusion I have left out the punctuation in the above
line. Normally punctuation is not used for casual contacts
to reduce the amount of sending needed. It usually is
quite obvious to both operators where the punctuation
Notice the use of abbreviations. de, GM, UR, RPT, NM,
ES, QTH, KN are all commonly used. The table shows the
meaning of common abbreviations used in CW.
The underlined codes are sent without a pause between
||from or "this is"
||your, you are
4. The exchange of information continues as for phone except
that CW operators will use the abbreviated form of words on a
regular basis during their exchange.
5. At the end of the contact you might finish as follows:
"... tnx Luis fer the QSO 73 es gud
DX. PY1ANF de VE3BUC SK"
Again several abbreviations were used but these are obvious I
hope. "fer" instead of "for" is simply less
keying and "gud" for "good" also saves the
Now that you have made some contacts you might want to begin
exchanging QSL cards. A collection of cards can be one of the
most satisfying aspects of ham radio. The section on QSL
Cards introduces this aspect of the hobby.
© 2001 - 2010 Don Cassel VE3XD