Good Golly Miss Molly, what's this all about?
One might hear “N4ZZZ this is K6XXX, Good morning OM, welcome to San Diego. Handle here is Jack, --  Juliet Alpha Charlie Kilo, QTH is El Cajon. You’re not quite full quieting into the machine, about 20% path noise. Your deviation is fine. This repeater W6NWG Whiskey Six Nothing Works Good is located on Mount Palomar. The repeater gets very busy during commute hours so let’s QSY to 146.075, plus offset with a PL of 107.2, QSL”. This is followed by a beep, a quiet period, then the repeater drops off the air. Good Golly Miss Molly, what's this all about? We will cover all this jargon and terminology throughout the book, but here are quick answers so you don’t have to flip through the Chapters.


Typically the new licensee purchases a Handi-Talkie (HT) for VHF/UHF, but later find they are using their first radio mostly in a mobile or at a home base station. A mobile rig can be easily switched back and forth between the vehicle and a base location and offers considerable advantages over an HT. Keep in mind that the VHF/UHF radios are for the most part line of sight transmission and reception; however, repeaters can extend the range considerably. HF is the spectrum for long-range skip communications.

This is not to bad-mouth the HTs, they are great for carrying in your shirt pocket or belt clip for pedestrian use, public relations activities, and traveling light. Just be aware of their limitations and intended use. They certainly can be used for base and mobile applications, but better antennas and DC power sources are definitely something to consider when you settle in on an HT.


The communication range between Amateur VHF/UHF FM mobile and hand held radios at ground level, operating simplex (direct) is about five to fifteen miles for mobiles, and just a couple of miles for hand held transceivers. The range depends on the band of operation, transmitter powers, antenna heights, obstructions, antenna gains and receiver sensitivity or noise figures. Essentially it is line of sight.


Half duplex (Semi Duplex) - a communications mode in which a radio transmits and receives on two different frequencies but performs only one of these operations at any given time. In half duplex, only one station can talk at a time. Your VHF or UHF radio is operating half duplex when set up for standard repeater use. Example you transmit on 146.13 MHz (can't hear the other station while transmitting). Then you listen on 146.73 as the other station transmits. Your radio automatically transmits on 146.13 MHz when you press the PTT switch and reverts back to 146.73 MHz to listen when you release the PTT.

CTCSS Continuously Tone Coded Squelch System, also known as Subaudible Tone and "PL" (Private-Line, a Motorola trade name). Commonly used for repeater access. These are specific frequencies between 67 and 254.1 Hz. Hereafter referred to as PL for shortness and common use. PL has encode and decode functions. Encode sends PL to the repeater. Decode is set in your receiver to detect the PL from the repeater - see Tone Squelch below. PL frequencies and corresponding ICOM and Motorola numbers are given at the end of this chapter.  In Amateur Radio, many repeaters require users to send the correct PL tone continuously to use the repeater. In fact, some coordinating groups insist on Pled repeaters. This may mean the repeater is "closed," for use only by members, or it may simply be used to avoid being keyed up by users of another repeater on the same frequency pair.  Usually PL is required for phone patching.


Four ways to program an HT, Base, or Mobile Rig:

1. Using the manual -- usually the sequence is scattered throughout the manual. Have fun. Boggles many a mind. But programming some rigs are more intuitive than others.

2. Read the manual thoroughly and make up your own cheat sheet. Step by step instructions made by you to be used by you.

3. Get a programming cable and software for your rig. Now you can easily enter all functions in your computer then upload to the rig. This really simplifies the process.

4. Buy a Programming guide - a cheat sheet pre-made for your model rig. See N6FN Nifty Accessories - URL:

Maybe best to walk before you run. First tackle the easy one, program a simplex channel. Then try programming a non-Pled repeater. Next, program in a Pled repeater. Then a Pled repeater with tone squelch. For a simplex channel, first determine how to access the VFO and put in the desired frequency. Next, find the information for offset. Check that the offset is neither plus or minus, i.e., it is in simplex, then memory write all.

For a Pled Repeater, invoke the VFO mode and enter the repeater output frequency, set the offset value (e.g., 600 kHz) plus or minus as required. Next enter the tone frequency, tone activation, then memory write all. Many beginners enter the tone frequency, but forget to activate the tone. See Chapter 4 for definitions of VFO, offset, PL, etc. Here is HT programming for a popular model, the ICOM IC-T2H.


ANTENNAS: Tests show the rubber duck has about minus 5db gain (see decibels below) compared to a quarter wave antenna held at shoulder height. In terms of effective radiated power (ERP), a 5-Watt HT with a rubber duck antenna, held at shoulder height radiates an effective power of about 1.5 watts. Placing the HT on your belt could attenuate the signal another 20db, reducing ERP to only 15 milliwatts! UHF results were even worse.

VSWR: Modern solid state radios hate high VSWRs and you must check the VSWR when installing antennas. VSWR is an indication of forward and reflected power. Reflected power is undesirable and results from a mismatch in impedance between the transmitter and the antenna. If the antenna is too long, it will resonate at a lower frequency than desired, conversely if the antenna is too short, it will resonate at a higher frequency than desired, analogy - like short and long guitar strings.

DECIBELS:  The decibel (1/10 Bel) or dB, is a means of expressing the gain of an active device (such as an amplifier) or the loss in a passive device (such as an attenuator or length of cable). It is simply the ratio of output to input expressed in logarithmic form. It is also used to express the gain of an antenna relative to a reference antenna. Without getting too far into the math, here are some handy easy to remember rules of thumb.

Sealed Lead Acid (SLA). These batteries use the same technology as your car battery. They are relatively inexpensive, and provide 200-500 recharge cycles depending on usage. SLA battery packs give high capacity but are fairly heavy, and are more sensitive to temperature and deep discharge/overcharge than other batteries. SLA batteries should be stored in their charged state as leaving them uncharged for long periods can cause permanent damage. Some very high capacity battery packs are available and can be easily adapted to Amateur transceivers -  such as a 6 amp-hour battery used for car models.

POWER SUPPLIES: A mobile or an HT can be operated in a base situation by using a DC power supply to convert 117VAC to the level required by the radio. Many are available with a 12VDC output to directly power a mobile radio. Powering an HT from a 12-Volt supply will require building a regulator circuit to achieve the proper voltage. Be sure and check your manual for the maximum voltage input and current requirements.


If the repeater is quiet, key your transmitter and announce "AC6V listening", this is short hand for "AC6V listening for any call". Or “AC6V listening - anyone on frequency?" Some just announce simply "AC6V". Others give an idea of their situation - "AC6V Mobile", "AC6V Maritime Mobile". Although not as common today, "AC6V monitoring" was at one time used by control operators and in some areas may still be the case, but this seems to have given way to where monitoring and listening are now synonymous.

Don't call CQ on repeaters (HF Band Stuff) -- many VHFers don't savvy it and just isn't used on FM repeaters (on VHF SSB OR CW - Yes). If you insist on calling CQ on a repeater, it is not against the rules – but 16 old time VHF hams will come back to you with the lecture “We don’t use CQ on repeaters”.


PHONETICS: The recommended phonetics for Amateur Radio use is the ITU phonetic alphabet. These are generally understood by hams in all countries on all bands of operation. See Table of ITU Phonetics. These are a must for emergency use and should be used for routine communications as well.

Some folks use DXing phonetics -- such as King Six Japan Norway instead of Kilo Six Juliet November. This is common on HF but not on VHF/UHF. Others use police phonetics, King Six Adam Mary, but both DX and police phonetics best not be used on VHF/UHF as many are not familiar with them. And still others use cutie phonetics, Karl Six Always Killing Time; these make a person's callsign easy to remember and are often used.

Q-SIGNALS: Expert Ham CW ops use upwards of 50 Q signals, but only 9 of them are common on VHF/UHF FM repeaters. Other Q-Signals are discouraged only because many repeater users have no idea what they mean. QTR -- What ?? (Just ask for the time!) What's your 10-84   --- huh? (Just ask for their phone number!). And 10 codes smack of CB lingo.


Can you communicate with ... direct or by relay?

I can communicate with ... direct (or by relay through ...)
Common Usage -- A 2-Way Contact, a conversation.

CALLSIGNS: There was a time when you could tell where a Ham was residing by their district number. But this was changed to allow Hams to keep their callsign when they relocated. In the USA, the time is long past that you can tell where a USA ham resides. You can have a W2 call (NY & NJ) and live in California (W6). Following are the USA District numbers and states.


CAPTURING: If two stations are transmitting at the same time (doubling) on the same frequency – it creates problems. If the two stations are about equal in strength to the repeater, both may be heard, typically with a heterodyne or beat note. When one of the stations is stronger than the other, the stronger station "captures" the weaker one and the strong guy wins. This is in contrast to AM or SSB where both may be heard. So if you have a weak signal and double with a strong station, you will not be heard!

DEVIATION: Often heard is “I'll raise power so I'll be louder”. Since repeaters are frequency modulation not AM or SSB, as long as your signal has engaged the repeater limiters (full quieting), an increase in power will not make you louder, since the audio is proportional to the FM deviation (swing) and not amplitude. It may help get rid of path noise. Another is “I’m near the repeater, so that’s why I am so loud”. Nope – as long as you are full quieting – distance doesn’t affect volume.


If a jammer appears or some one not identifying, swearing, throwing carriers, etc --- DON'T acknowledge them, they are looking for attention -- don't give it to them. IGNORE IGNORE is the drill. It doesn't happen often, but it does happen -- it's a big world out there, and there are some nuts. Some of them find a Ham Radio now and then, and discover the delight of offending an audience and the power of holding down the PTT key. The key word here is audience, they are seeking to disrupt and get into a bru-ha ha.


A key factor in keeping the transmit energy out of the receiver is a duplexer which allows the repeater to operate on a common antenna and transmit and receive simultaneously on fairly close frequencies. Several types are in use, but a typically one is a notch duplexer. Notch duplexers are large cavity type filters with very high Q and narrow bandwidth to the two frequencies involved and use tunable notches.

Assume that we modulate with a constant 1000-Hertz pure sine wave with the amplitude near the maximum allowed in repeater systems, then the RF signal would swing back and between 146.126 and 146.134 MHz at a 1000-Hertz rate. The carrier frequency increases during the positive cycle of the modulating signal and decreases during the negative portion. The difference between 146.126 and 146.134 MHz is +/- 4 kHz and is termed deviation. The modulating frequency could well be a PL tone e.g., 107.2 Hertz. but with less amplitude hence less deviation, typically +/- 500 Hz.

This deviation is proportional to the AMPLITUDE of the modulating signal. Note that this does not affect the AMPLITUDE of the transmitted FM signal – only its frequency. When you speak softly the deviation is low, conversely shouting will increase deviation. If the radio is misadjusted or you shout too loud – the system deviation limits are exceeded and may result in distortion. In Amateur Radio FM radios, the maximum deviation is typically +/- 4.5 kHz. Deviation limits for CTCSS tones are typically +/- 500 Hz.


Cross band repeating (CBR) is a feature with some VHF-UHF dual band radios that simply repeats what it receives on one band and automatically retransmit it on the another band. This might be used when hiking or camping. Your vehicle is on a hill and you are in a valley below. You can take an HT with you and transceive to your mobile radio which will amplify and cross band repeat to a repeater or other users. Some HTs can control the mobile rig allowing frequency changes and voice feedback of the changes. Several configurations can be used; Simplex-To-Simplex CBR, Simplex-To-Repeater CBR, One-Way-CBR, and various modes of duplexing, simplex, half, full, etc. Be sure to read the FCC rules regarding cross band repeating. See Part 97.119 (a) Identification; Part 97.201 Auxiliary Stations.

VoIp: Ham voice internet connections are a recent introduction and are great for everyone, but especially those that cannot get on HF. They use a network protocol called VoIP (Voice over IP). These allow Amateurs to contact other Amateurs worldwide. Currently, modes are IRLP, ILINK, ECHOLINK, and WIRES IITM. We will discuss the three most popular modes, IRLP, EchoLink, and WIRES IITM


base loading - A loading coil at the bottom of an antenna to achieve a lower resonant frequency.

beam - an antenna that gives a directional beam pattern. See Yagi. Page 6-1.

bleed over- Interference caused by a station operating on an adjacent channel

BNC - Coax connector commonly used with VHF/UHF equipment -- Bayonet Niell-Concelman (standard connector type used on COAX cable, named for its inventors).

boat anchor - antique ham equipment -- So named because of weight and size.

bootlegger - Someone, usually not a Ham but a wannabe, making up a callsign, one usually not in the callbook, and getting on the air. Sometimes it is someone who already bought a radio, took the test and flunked, and then gets on the air anyway. Page 10-2.

break - (Repeater Term) used to interrupt a conversation on a repeater to indicate that there is an emergency or urgent message. If non-urgent, simply interject your callsign. Page 7-8.

break break (Repeater Term) used to intercede in an existing conversation with emergency communications. Page 7-8.

brick, a power amplifier used for VHF/UHF systems. Page 6-4.  


Last Updated January 18, 2010