Hints for Talking on the Radio

Why do you hear people say BREAK or PAUSE or some other similar term when talking on a Repeater? The reason they do that is to let the Repeater Drop -- because Repeaters have a 'time out period' and will DROP out and stop transmitting if you go past the time out period. The time out period varies from repeater to repeater depending on how it is set up by the owner but it is usually 2 or 3 minutes.

If you keep talking after the repeater times out and drops, no one will hear your 'profound words and insights'.

So that's why you will hear the Net Control, or the person talking in a conversation, or a person talking during training, or whatever say "BREAK" or "PAUSE" and then they (or you if you are the one talking) release the PTT (press to talk) button and wait till they (and /or you) hear the Repeater make a tone or a ding or a clunk or 2 beeps or some sound that means it is ok to continue talking again because the timer has been reset. This is known as a courtesy tone.

Do NOT key the Talk button again until you hear that tone or ding or clunk or beep or beeps or whatever. Only then is it ok to talk because otherwise the Repeater has not had time to reset.

However, one caveat re listening for the courtesy tone or ding or clunk or beep -- Not all repeaters have a courtesy tone. So if you don't hear one, just wait for a second or two before resuming or beginning to transmit again.

For example,

the 444.100 repeater that we often use for the YL Net does not have a courtesy tone

but the 442.650 repeater does have a courtesy tone.


Do you have to BREAK or PAUSE if you are using Simplex? NO


Why do you not have to Break or Pause when using Simplex? Simplex does not use repeaters so there is nothing to time out.


What is a "DOUBLE"? Often when people are talking on a repeater -- two or more try to say something at the same time. When that happens sometimes there is just noise and the person with the most powerful radio "wins" -- but you can hear that someone else was trying to say something. If neither "wins" it is usually staticy sounding noise and in both situations, this is called a DOUBLE. Sometimes people will double with you and you don't even know it because you were talking -- so when you finish talking someone will usually say "there was a double" -- so you and / or the two or more folks who doubled need to try again but only one at a time.

What is a Directed Net? Often you hear the Net Control person say "This is a Directed Net". What does this mean? According to this wiki website

A net or directed net, in radio-amateur operating procedure, is an organised meeting of multiple stations on a common frequency at a scheduled time. One station is designated to serve as net control; all requests to talk to and /or deliver message traffic to the net are initiated by sending an identifier (such as "Question" or "Comment" or their callsign to the net control station and then waiting for the Net Control Station to reply back and ask the station (you or whomever) before that station or you continues with what that calling station (or you) say what they need or want to say..

The directed net structure reduces the number of message collisions, where multiple stations attempting to transmit simultaneously could otherwise cause unwanted interference to communication within the group. "

Said in simplier terms: "This is a Directed Net" means that all communications are directed to the Net Control and stations should wait to be acknowledged by Net Control before saying whatever it is they want to say -- hence Net Control coordinates all communications instead of everyone just talking willy nilly.

How is a Directed Net different from just talking on the radio? With a directed net there is usually a purpose for the net (such as practicing for weather events or a net for fellowship such as our YL Net.) It is directed by the NC (Net Control person) because that provides continuity to the conversations instead of everyone just talking at once and producing doubles and confusion.

But if you are just chatting with friends as you drive to and from work or are "chewing the rag" in the evening or whenever, you just talk when you have something to say or just listen when you don't.

What is "chewing the rag"? This is a ham term that means you are chatting and fellowshiping as you would do if you were socializing at a party or at your neighbor's house, or talking on the telephone, or whatever. The only difference is that you give your call sign when you begin the conversation (not every time you talk), every 10 minutes or less during the conversation, and at the end of the conversation when you are going to stop talking. At the end of the conversation you give your call sign and then say CLEAR.

Chewing the rag is what most folks do on Ham Radio.

If you are using a Hand Held Radio (HT) and people say you are aren't clear or you are unintelligable, what can you do?

Note : HT = Handi Talkie / Hand Held Radio

There are several things to try:

1. Move to another location. Sometimes you need to move several feet but sometimes only a few inches will make all the difference in the world.

2. Hold the HT straight up so the Antenna is perpendicular to the ground. If it is at an angle or horizontal or close to horizontal, you will not get a good transmission.

3. Talk louder. People with soft voices, even with a perfect location and an upright antenna, are often very hard to hear. Also when you talk, hold the HT 2 or 3 inches from your mouth -- not way off at a distance.

4. Move to a location where you can 'see' in the direction where the Repeater is located. For example, move to the side of the house or building which faces the mountain or building or wherever the Repeater is located. Stand in front of a window or even go outside if necessary.

5. If you can go higher in the house or building, do so. The Higher the better is the rule for antennas.

6. When you find a location and position that works -- stay there. Do not pace around while you talk.

7. Use a different antenna. The 'Rubber Duck' antenna that comes with most HT radios is usually not very good. So most folks buy a better antenna and replace the Rubber Duck. You might even want to attach your HT to a Mobile antenna.

8. Use a counterpoise (Tiger Tail). To do this you add a short wire to the antenna's ground connector at the base of the antenna -- or add the short wire to a case screw that's electrically connected to the antenna's ground side.

How long should the Tiger tail be?

If your HT is VHF only 11.5 inches

If your HT is UHF only 6.5 inches

If your HT is Dual Band 19.5 inches

Note: the Dual band length is a compromise but should work quite well for most people.


How do you identify yourself when you talk on the radio?

You use your call sign to identify yourself. For example I would say "This is KK4EA0" or just "KK4EAO" because that is my call sign.

Most people use only their call sign but they also give their first name during a conversation if asked. Almost never does anyone give their last name because Hams are like friends and friends don't usually have to give their whole name because you know who your friends are. : )

So How do you find out a person's full name and Location?

There are several websites that provide this information. One of the most popular is QRZ. There is also a QRZ app for your smart phone that you can install and use. At the QRZ website or when using the QRZ app, you type in the person's Call Sign then hit enter -- and information will be provided about the person's name, address, when licensed, what License grade they have, and more.

How often do you have to Identify yourself with your call sign? This depends on what kind of conversation you are having.

If you are entering or starting a "rag chew" (casual conversation) you give your call sign when you begin. For example, if I want to start a conversation but don't know if anyone is listening -- I would say: "This is KK4EAO Listening" If anyone is out there and wants to chat, they will come back to me with their call sign and then we start talking.

If a conversation is already going and I want to join in, I would wait for a break in the conversation and then i would say "This is KK4EAO or I would just say KK4EAO". Someone will hear you and will invite you to join.

For rag chew and general conversations YOU MUST IDENTIFY with your call sign every 10 minutes (or preferably less) but if you go 10 minutes or longer without giving your call sign, you are in trouble with the FCC.

When I am finished chatting in a Rag Chew conversation with a group or even a one on one conversation, I would end by saying: "This is KK4EAO Clear"

If you are conversing on a Directed Net, you check in with your call sign (and anything else the Net Control (NC) wants you to give at sign in -- such as your name or your location, or your spotter number or whatever) and then wait to be recognized by the Net Control Person before you talk again.

When you are called again by the Net Control to provide conversation or information or whatever, you respond by giving your call sign (in my case I would say "This is KK4EAO") and then I would continue with whatever I was going to say in response to the question or request of the NC. When I am finished I would say something to the effect of "This is KK4EAO back to Net Control".

If I want to say something during a net (such as our YL Net) I wait for an appropriate pause and then say "KK4EAO with a question" or "KK4EAO with a comment" or some other similiar short one or two words that lets Net Control know I have something to add to the conversation. Or I would just give my call sign (KK4EAO) and wait for NC to recognize me.

Various nets have additional 'rules' to follow but that is a topic for another time. What we are considering mainly right now is the way our YL Net is handled.

The Person serving as Net Control in a directed net MUST IDENTIFY every 10 minutes or less.

Who is checking to see if you are Identifying properly (every 10 minutes or less)? Well, there are Hams who serve as OOs (Official Observers) and they are listening (Lurking) and noticing who is talking and IF they are identifying properly (every 10 minutes or less). If they find people who are using fake calls or not identifying properly, they will give them or you a warning (sometimes by mail) and if they or you persist -- severe consequences from the FCC can ensue. So, be smart and identify properly and at least every 10 minutes.