De Copyright rechten van dit artikel zijn voor België exclusief toegekend aan de UBA, de Koninklijke Unie van de Belgische Zendamateurs.OPERATING PRACTICE 1Who among us has obtained his driving license by merely taking a theoretical exam ? Nobody has.In Belgium, until the basic ham license came along, there has never been any form of education on how to make a QSO. After the theoretical exam the newborn licensees are unleashed on the ham bands. The resulting operating was not always nice to listen to. In the analogy of taking a driver's exam, imagine you only take a theoretical exam, get your driver's license, and then you can hit the roads and drive a vehicle which you have never steered before. Well, this is exactly what is happening with hams.During the first years as a ham the author, just as anybody else, has made mistakes (he still does, but much less). With this article he wants to give a boost to both newcomers and old-timers to quickly sound as a 'pro' on the bands. The mistakes he made originated many times by listening to the 'not so good' operating practices of some of the old-timers. They are not to blame. Clear guidelines on how to communicate on ham bands have never existed.One must not underestimate the importance of good operating practices. In the end, all our transmissions can be intercepted by anybody, be it hams, listeners, official observers, etc. The technical aspect of our hobby is one matter. If we use our equipment and make on the air contacts, we enter the second matter, i.e. we represent our nation on the airwaves; we are very visible.To make successful transmissions on any frequency and in any mode some simple rules must be observed. Would you please follow me in the quest for good 'Operating Practice'?1. HAM LANGUAGEKnow the 'Ham Language'. Get acquainted with the correct Amateur Radio Language. Don't say 'Radio four', but 'readibility four'. Master the phonetic alphabet, CW abbreviations, the Q code and the number code (73/88) as if they were a second mother language before getting on the air.Always use the phonetic alphabet in a correct manner: A is Alfa, and not Alabama. This will be further discussed in chapter 8 (PILEUPS).2. LISTENAs a new ham you'd like to start transmitting as soon as possible, of course. Take it easy, take your time, stay away from that microphone, morsekey or keyboard. First get comfortable with ALL the functions of your transmitters/receivers before attempting any transmissions. The transmit part needs special attention, as it is here one can make his first 'on the air' mistakes.Initially learn to LISTEN. Whoever listens at first, will be much more successful in making good and enjoyable contacts. The chapter PILEUPS deals in depth with this important issue.3. CORRECT USE OF YOUR CALLSIGNUse your callsign in a correct way. You have to take a serious exam in order to enjoy this hobby. Be proud of your callsign, it is unique. Only if you use it in a correct way are you making legal transmissions. Ever hear the callsign 4ZZZZ on VHF? As far as I'm aware of, we are dealing with a transmission from a station from Israel and not from Belgium. ON4ZZZZ is the correct callsign. A callsign comprises of a prefix AND a suffix. Even on the HF bands this reprehensible practice can be heard. For analogy, if your car has been stolen, will you report half of the alphanumerics of the number plate to the police, or the complete lot?4. BE POLITE This is the shortest but undoubtedly most important chapter in this document. At all times, be polite! Your transmitted signal is being heard by a lot of folks and agencies. We'll elaborate on this issue in the 'Conflict Situations' chapter. You'll go a long way by being polite, in our little ham world or in the outside world.5. SOME TIPS FOR MAKING VHF/UHF REPEATER CONTACTSA lot in the following chapters is dedicated to specific situations while chasing for DX contacts (long distance) on the HF bands. A majority of these points also apply when working on the VHF/UHF bands.Specifically, on the VHF/UHF bands the use of repeater systems (relay stations) is primarily intended to increase the operational range of mobile and portable stations. Fixed station operators should keep this in mind. If two fixed stations can make a two-way contact without the use of a repeater, why would it be opportune for them to use a repeater for a long winded QSO?Whoever makes use of a repeater must take into account he has not the 'monopoly' on its use. This applies in fact for contacts on all frequencies. On non-repeater frequencies the 'first come, first served' (and somehow 'keep') principle is used. On repeater systems this principle should not prevail. Everybody must get a shot at this very useful medium, especially the mobile and portable stations.During a repeater QSO, it is a good (almost imperative) habit to leave a short pause in between 'overs'. In that way, someone else can make a quick call or intervene in the ongoing QSO. By immediately pressing the PTT (Push to Talk) button after an over, this possibility is effectively prevented. Think about it.6. HOW TO MAKE A QSO? WHAT CAN I TALK ABOUT? Some newcomers are astonished during their first encounters on the ham bands by the many QSOs in which only the callsigns and reports are exchanged. It doesn't have to be this way, of course. In the beginning I disliked this myself as I enjoyed long and elaborated QSOs. I was a real 'ragchewer'. There is nothing wrong with that. However, in time though I switched from long to very short QSOs. Everyone has their own preference.Although we exercise a mainly technical hobby, our QSOs do not have to be limited to purely technical matters. A healthy balance is necessary. Radio amateurism is not intended to chit chat about groceries. Let your common sense be your guide. Topics we must avoid include religion, politics and of course commercial advertisements. It is also forbidden to broadcast, ie. one way transmissions of either long winded announcements or music programs.The Belgian basic license manual implements for the first time an 'Operating Practice & Procedures' chapter and explains how to make a QSO. What follows is a concise repetition and some additions:•before commencing a transmission on a given frequency, always check thoroughly if this frequency is in use by other stations;•if the frequency is clear, call CQ (general call -CQ possibly derives from 'I seek you'-. Pat, W5THT has the following explanation on CQ from the pre-wireless days). See Chapter 7 'How to call CQ?' which expands in detail on the proper way to CQ;•the sequence on how to place callsigns during a contact is straightforward; first name the callsign of your counterpart, then yours. Example (you are ON4ZZZZ): 'Thanks OM, microphone back to you. ON4XXXX (de) ON4ZZZZ' (end of your transmission). An easy way to remember this: you always have to be polite.•Always end a transmission with your callsign. If making many short transmissions during a QSO, identify with your callsign at least once every five minutes (some countries: 10 minutes);•leave a short pause in between 'overs'. In that way, someone else can make a quick call, or intervene in the ongoing QSO. Keep in mind that one day 'you' may be the one receiving a distress call! Be ready for it.•Do not elaborate about a zillion things during one over. Keep your transmission short and concise as to give your counterpart ample time to respond to your topics before he forgets about what you were actually talking. Remember many times you are talking to someone in a language that is not their native tongue. Give them time to comprehend what you are saying;•on phone, say 'over' when you hand over the microphone to your counterpart. In amateur radio this is strictly not necessary, but often handy. Experience will teach you when to use 'over' and when not;•on CW, end your transmission during a changeover with the letter K (from 'Key'). Also 'KN' can be used; this is more specific and means you only want to hear the station whose callsign you just sent to come back to you;•on CW the end of a QSO is marked by the letter string 'SK' ('Stop Keying'). The QSO is completely finished after you sent 'SK';•on phone a QSO is never ended with 'over and out'. Either say 'over' during a microphone handover, or say 'out' at the very end of the QSO, which is then completely finished.Someone brought the following to my attention. As amateurs progress in their 'ham career' they seem to forget they were once newcomers themselves. Indeed, one can often hear amateurs call 'CQ DX' on the HF bands, after which they are called by a 'local' station (which is no long distance for them at that moment). Often this local operator gets a verbal beating and is left behind in disbelief or anger. This cuts both ways. The local newcomer should understand that if someone calls 'CQ DX' he shouldn't call that station at that point in time. On the other hand, the experienced ham should remember his early days when he did exactly the same because he wanted to work 'a new one', and be considerate towards the newcomer.In such a situation I usually give a short report, log the station and tell him that I'm actually looking for DX. The newcomer usually understands the hint and will pay better attention next time, while he's still happy to have logged a new one...and that's what counts! So...give everybody a chance for a QSO and don't forget your early days!7. HOW TO CALL CQ? Make sure the frequency you want to use is clear. You don't do this by mere listening but also by effectively asking if that frequency is in use. For example, on SSB after having listened for a while, ask 'Is this frequency in use?', followed by your callsign. If no response, repeat this question, followed by your callsign. If again no response, the frequency is yours to call CQ.On CW and RTTY send 'QRL?'. Some think a 'question mark' is sufficient. It is not as it can be confusing. If on a given frequency there is ongoing traffic (which you don't hear), someone else on that frequency may interpret your question mark as if you are asking for the callsign of a station on that frequency. A 'cop' scenario may arise (see chapter 12). 'QRL?' cannot be misinterpreted by anyone, it means you want to know if that frequency is clear for you to use. A question mark in this situation is meaningless and may mean several things.On CW you get possibly one of the following answers if the frequency is in use:•R (Received-Roger)•Y (Yes)•YES•QSYIf by coincidence you landed on a 'hot frequency' (especially if used by a DXpedition or a rare DX station), chances exist you may get shouted at. Don't worry, don't react, just move to another frequency. Or figure out -by listening, not by asking- who the 'DX' is and work him.Lots of problems can be avoided by following the first rule of operating (whether casual or DX): LISTEN. This golden rule used in combination with the magic word 'QRL?' will keep you out of trouble if you are looking for a clear frequency to call CQ.•When calling CQ, don't do as follows: call CQ ten times, followed by your callsign twice and then listen. Better to do this: call CQ twice and give your callsign ten times (I exaggerate, four times is sufficient!).•The most important aspect when calling is not the word CQ, but your callsign. If conditions aren't too good, it is important the station at the other side of the globe (yeah, cool!) hears your callsign rather than the word CQ. Too many times I've heard operators call CQ 15 times, give their call once, and then say 'listening for any call now'. This is senseless.Practice makes perfect. If you are not experienced, listen for a while to others to sharpen your teeth. You will quickly develop your own stye to make successful and pleasurable QSOs.Operating Part 2A man should keep his friendship in constand repair (Samuel Johnson (1755).
REMARKSON4WW, Mark does know exactly how to make things clear for Ham-operators. And I agree completely with his explanations.