Operating tips

  • User Tips for FM Operating
  1. Be sure the frequency (or “channel”) is not busy before you transmit.  How would you like it if someone interrupted your conversation?  Please don’t interrupt an on-going conversation.
  • User Tip: when you turn to a repeater or a simplex frequency, listen for at least thirty (30) seconds before transmitting.
  1.  Be sure to learn the usage, protocol and/or policies of repeaters you are using.  Just because a repeater is “there” does not mean that you are welcome to switch to it and use it for long, extended rag-chews.  Some repeaters welcome newcomers, some do not.  A sensible person does not want to spend time where they are not welcome.  Even though your license allows you to operate on any frequency within the bounds of your license class, a wise amateur avoids “closed or private” repeaters, and repeaters that are operated by small, unfriendly groups.
  • User Tip: listen to a repeater for a while before you make a decision to use it. You might even ask someone on the repeater if you are welcome to use it for occasional conversations.
  1.  Using Q-signals too often is bad form.  Although Q-signals have a very valuable place in Amateur Radio, they are not universally accepted on FM voice channels.  Using them during EVERY TRANSMISSION is really annoying.
  • User Tip: use Q-signals sparingly.Once in a while.  Not very often.
  1.   Using the phrase “clear and monitoring” is not really necessary.  Neither term is required by the FCC or anybody else.  If you call another amateur, using their call sign and yours, and that person does not answer, it is not necessary to advise “clear and monitoring.”  You have already identified your station and any other identification is superfluous.
  • User Tip: Under normal circumstances, when you are finished with a contact but will continue listening, it is sufficient to merely say your call sign.If you are shutting down operation and will not be there to answer any subsequent calls, then “clear’ is the appropriate sign-off. 
  • User Tip #2: If you attempt to contact someone and there is no answer, you can notify others that you are finished by saying, “K6xxx clear,” or “no contact, this is K6xxx clear the WIN System repeater.”This allows someone who may have been standing by to go ahead and make his or her call. 
  1.  Using the term “for ID” is not necessary.  There should be no reason to transmit your call sign other than to identify your station.  Identification is required every 10 minutes during a conversation, and at the end of a conversation or series of communications.  Conversations need not come to a halt while you identify.  “Stand by, everyone, while I say my call sign.” Simply say your call sign once within 10 minutes.
  • User Tip: while talking, say your call sign once every ten minutes. Don’t say “This is K6xxx for ID, or worse, for identification.” Also, don’t say “This is K6xxx for license preservation purposes.”Identify properly, but do not over-identify.
  1.  Long ago, FCC rules required mobile hams to not only say their call sign, but to say where they were operating, giving both the city and the call sign area.  You may hear some hams saying, “…mobile 6” or “…mobile 3” after their call sign.  This means that they are operating “mobile, in call sign area 6” or “mobile, in call sign area 3.”  This is no longer required but it is sometimes good to know.  When leaving their home state, some hams will keep track of what call sign area they are in, and say, “…mobile 7,” or “…mobile 1,” or whatever.
  • User Tip: it’s not necessary, but it’s not wrong.
  1.  Certain types of jargon are easily recognizable as being “CB” terms.  “What is your first personal?” when you mean “what is your name?”  “I’m on the side,” when you mean you are “listening” or “monitoring.”  Although there is nothing “wrong” with CB, these terms are neither generally used nor appreciated on Amateur Radio frequencies.
  • User Tip: avoid CB-style jargon and terms.Generally speaking, plain English is better.  For example: “my name is Shorty, what is yours?” 
  1.  Different repeater groups handle emergency communications in different ways.  A general guideline is this: if you are on an unfamiliar repeater and you have emergency traffic, say so!  Example: “Can someone help me contact the Highway Patrol?” or “I need help contacting the Fire Department.  Asking “is anybody monitoring?” may sound like an attempt to start a casual conversation.  On many repeaters, you could be ignored.  However, if you state that you have emergency traffic, people on many repeaters will drop what they are doing to help you.  Note: if you are monitoring a repeater and someone asks for emergency assistance and you cannot help, BE SILENT!  There are few things stupider than someone breaking in to say that they would help except that they forgot the codes, or that they left their radio with the DTMF pad at home, or that their home phone is busy so they can’t make the call for you.
  • User Tips:
  • If you have emergency traffic,say so immediately.
  • If you can help,please do.
  • If you cannot help,do not transmit.
  1.  In this day of scanners, scanning mobile radios, scanning portable radios, dual-, triple- and quadruple band radios, and multiple radios in the car or shack, you could miss making contact with someone because your radio is scanning several channels or bands.  If you know that the person you are calling is sitting next to the radio waiting for you, you can make your call very simple: say their call, then your own.  However, if your friend has a scanning radio, or listens to several radios, it is very possible that they could miss your call.  You should call twice: say the other station’s call twice, then your own call sign once.  Pause for a half-minute or so and try again.  It might also be a good idea to try again in 4 or 5 minutes, in case the called person’s scanner was stopping on a long, drawn-out conversation.  And if you know that the called station is listening to more than one frequency, you can call and say “on The WIN System” to give them a hint as to which microphone to pick up or which band to select.
  • User Tip: call twice.
  1.  You may hear people using the term “73” meaning “best wishes.”  There is no “s” in the salutation “73.”  Other hams may use the term “88” meaning “love and kisses” typically used between husbands and wives.  These shortcuts were developed years ago as a way to communicate common thoughts quickly.  You may hear others saying “73s” and “88s”(wrong!)  You might even hear someone saying [cringe!] “threes and eights and all those good numbers!”  Yecch!
  • User Tips:Proper usage would be similar to this:
  • Voice: “OK, Dan, seven-three and I will talk to you later. (pause) K6JSI.”
  • Voice: “73 for now, K6JSI clear.”
  • CW: “W2EOS de K6JSI CUL OM 73 SK.”
  • CW: “N6xxx de K6xxx 73 88 SK.”
  1.  There is no specific requirement for keeping logs of the use of your amateur radio station, except for International Third-party Traffic.  However, a good way to keep track of your communications is to use a Log Book, available at some amateur radio dealers.
  • User Tip:One method is this: make an entry in the “date” column for each day you operate your station. Each time you contact a “new” station, make entries for call sign, name, frequency, mode and any other information you think necessary or interesting. You probably have no need to make log entries for people you talk to every day, with the possible exception of logging emergency traffic that you may handle for others.
  1.  Sometimes while talking to another station, it is necessary to ask the other person to “stand by.”  This may be caused by (a) a driving situation needing immediate attention to avert a crash, (b) a spouse or child walking into the “shack” with a message, (c) placing your order at a drive-up window, etc.  The proper response, when requested to “stand by,” is silence. Generally it will only take a moment and the other station will be back.  If you really feel it necessary to say something, then say, “[call sign] standing by.”  If you respond to “stand by” with a long, drawn-out acknowledgement, it serves no purpose and the person asking you to “stand by” is probably not listening anyway.
  2.  One of the most important things for new hams to learn is to “K-H-T.”  That is “key, hesitate, talk.”  You must consciously learn to push the microphone button, pause slightly, and then begin speaking.  If you push the button and speak simultaneously, the first word or the first part of a word may be cut off.  This does not facilitate effective communications.  Hopefully, if you learn to do it correctly from the first day, it will become subconscious and you will do it automatically.  If this is the case, you will earn the respect and admiration of your peers.  If not, you will be forever labeled as a sub-standard operator.
  3.  Try to keep your language polite.  Profanity and discussions of bodily functions should be off limits – not because of government rules, but because it’s the right thing to do.  Generally, other hams and their family members do not want to hear conversations that are not of the “G-rated” variety.
  4.  Keep in mind that when you are operating in a noisy environment, you do not have to be able to hear yourself talking.  There will be those instances where you are helping with emergency communications for a disaster, or communications support for a parade, or you are at an airport or other noisy place.  If you shout into the microphone loud enough to hear yourself, you are distorting the signal so badly that the person on the other end may not be able to hear or understand you.  Instead, practice speaking into the microphone in a normal tone.  It can be very difficult to operate under these conditions (loud background noise), but it is a skill that you would do well to learn.
  • HT Operating Tips
  • What is Simplex

(S)=Simplex, same frequency for tx and rx and no (+) on your display meaning no offset.
If you can not hear the other station using that same simplex station you are using that only means you are out of range of that other station because a simplex station is not repeating what you say locally. The RF is traveling from that other station to you and not being repeated through a repeater. But you will hear the stations calling in from the IRLP, All-Star because that is coming out of the simplex radio to which you are tuned.

  • How to Operate Through a Repeater

Howdy Newcomers,
And welcome to amateur radio.  I have been asked to write a White Paper outlining the steps to successfully operate through a repeater.  The first thing you need to know is the repeater output frequency, its offset, and PL tone.
Our WIN System repeater frequencies, off-sets, and PL Tones are all listed on the “Repeaters” section of our winsystem.org website, and they are accurate and up-to-date for the most part.
You need three (3) things to successfully operate through a repeater:
    One 1) You must have the correct receive frequency in your radio VFO.  For instance let’s say you were trying to use our Northern California Loma Prieta Repeater, you would need to enter 442.900 MHz into your radio VFO. Since virtually all new radios come with the VFO “channel steps” set to 25 kHz frequency steps, you should find the menu option for changing the frequency “channel steps” and be certain it is set to 25 kHz steps.  If you were in Southern California, the channel steps on UHF (440 MHz) are in 20 kHz steps, so you would want to change your channel step to either 5 kHz or 20 kHz channel steps, instead of 25 kHz channel steps in order to get on a 20 kHz channel, like or Santiago Repeater which is 448.060 MHz.

    If you want to change the channel steps to 20 kHz steps, be certain you make the change when your VFO is on an even channel.  For instance, you should have you VFO channel on 448.000, or 448.100, or 448.100, some even channel.  The reason for this is that the VFO will place your channel ‘step’ in the increment you choose on the ‘channel step’ menu from your present channel.  If you have your VFO set for an odd channel, like 448.025, or 448.050, or 448.075, then the new ‘channel step’ you program will begin with whatever is ‘in’ your VFO at that time.  Let’s say you have your VFO on 448.025 when you move your ‘channel step’ from 25 kHz to 20 kHz. Your VFO would then begin counting 20 kHz from your starting point of 448.025, which would result in your channel steps to be 448.025, then 448.045, then 448.065, and so forth, every click of your channel step will increase or decrease you frequency by 20 kHz, which would end up on a x25 channel, simply because you started on an un-even x25 channel, and they will all be useless.  Be sure you start on an even channel, so you end up stepping your channels at 448.000, then 448.020, then 448.040 and so forth.  That will work.

    Two 2) You must have the correct transmit frequency “Offset”.  Since all repeaters use two radios at the repeater site, one to receive on, and one to transmit on, repeaters are, by nature duplex devices, which means they receive your signal on one frequency and simultaneously re-transmit your signal on another frequency, at the same time.  In fact, how they work is that they take your signal (which they receive on let’s say 447.900) and re-transmit it on a different frequency (let’s say 442.900), at the same time.  So, in the Loma Prieta case above, our repeater transmitter operates at 442.900, which is where your radio receiver VFO must be tuned to so you can hear us.  Our Loma Prieta repeater receiver listens 5 MHz above that, or 447.900 MHz, which is where your transmitter must be transmitting on so we can hear you.  That is called the “Repeater Offset” and you must make sure two things are set properly in your radio to assure we can hear you:

    (1) That the direction of the “Repeater Offset” is “UP” or plus (+), and not “DOWN” or negative (-).  The Repeater “Offset” in your radio usually automatically moves your transmit frequency DOWN or UP from your receive frequency that you set in your VFO display depending on whether you see a little “Minus” (-) sign, or a little “Plus” (+) sign in your display.  That tells you if your Repeater “Offset” is turned ON, and it also tells you which direction it is going.

     You can confirm this by pressing the PTT switch on your radio and transmitting. Look at the transmit frequency when you are transmitting (it normally changes from the receive frequency displayed that you are receiving).  It should display 447.900 when transmitting, and 442.900 when receiving.

(2) The “Offset” needs to be 5.000 MHz, not 0.600 MHz.  On the UHF Band (440-450 MHz) the Offset is 5.000 MHz.  On the 2-meter Band (144-148 MHz) the Offset it 0.600 MHz.  So, it must be 5.000 MHz UP, or (+) i9n this case.

Three 3) You must have the correct CTCSS tone (which stands for Continuous Tone Coded Squelch System), or sub-audible tone.  Which is really two operations:

(1) the CTCSS is turned ON and there is a little “T” or “Enc” for Encode displayed in your window; and

(2) that it is set to the correct tone, which is 162.2 Hz in our case at Loma Prieta.  CTCSS Tone can be run in Encode, which means it is present when you transmit (which is what we want); or Decode which means the repeater must be sending CTCSS Tone for you to hear it (which we don’t want).  We don’t normally send CTCSS out our repeater transmitters, so you would not hear WIN System repeaters in Decode mode.  You should simply use Encode, or Tone, not Decode.

So, that’s it.  You need three things to successfully operate through a repeater:

(1) The correct receive frequency;

(2) The correct Offset; and

(3) The correct CTCSS (or PL) Tone.

That’s all there is to it.

Our Loma Prieta repeater is listed as:  442.900 (-) 162.2 Hz.  With that information, you should now know how to set up your radio properly.
Good luck.

Shorty, K6JSI

March, 200

  • When to “ID”

There has been way too much discussion on the WIN System about use of call signs. When you are using any linked system you are tying up lots of stations. 100 plus visitors in the case of the WIN System. Please read the regulation below and ID accordingly. Note that there is no mention of using a call sign at the beginning of a conversation. Also when folks say their call sign followed by “for ID” that is redundant. Why else would a station give their call sign?

§ 97.119 Station identification.

(a) Each amateur station, except a space station or telecommand station, must transmit its
assigned call sign on its transmitting channel at the end of each communicationand at
     least every 10 minutes during a communication, for the purpose of clearly making the
source of the transmissions from the station known to those receiving the transmissions.
No station may transmit unidentified communications or signals, or transmit as the station
call sign, any call sign not authorized to the station.

  • How to Make a Contact