Automatic Level Control. A transceiver setting designed to prevent over driving the output signal when an audio input spike occurs.

amateur radio
An exciting hobby that blends an interest in radio with fun, experimentation, invention, and public service. Licensing is required, and based on the level of license achieved, rights to use certain specific portions of the spectrum are granted.

Amateur Teleprinting Over Radio. An improved form of RTTY which incorporates a basic error checking algorithm for improved accuracy of text communications.

American Radio Relay League. Now branding itself as the national association for Amateur Radio, it promotes interest in amateur radio, protects the interests of hams in legislative and administrative manners, and promotes friendship and high standards of behavior among members.

The width of a signal in the radio spectrum, measured in Hertz. The smaller the bandwidth of a signal, the more signals that can share the same band.

call sign
The unique identification of a radio station, whether amateur, military, or governmental. Amateurs in the US are assigned call signs (like K1GPL) by the FCC.

code test
Traditionally, a part of the examination to obtain a General, Advanced, or Extra class amateur license in the US, requiring the ability to at least be able to copy Morse code at a certain speed. As of February of 2007 a code test is no longer required, opening the upper license classes to a new generation of hams.

A call used like a call sign, but indicating the message is intended for everyone hearing the call, and inviting them to respond.

Continuous wave signal, used to transmit Morse code. The term is also used interchangeably with Morse code or simply code.

Long-distance communications as opposed to local contacts. Ham radio operators can talk with other hams all over the world if conditions are right and they have the proper radio and antenna setup.

One of the new digital modes, DominoEx is similar to MFSK, but offers a more robust (noise resistant) mode for keyboard conversations.

A digital mode of transmission where characters are represented by dots appearing on lines and columns, much like early LCDs displayed characters. Available now as a sound card digital mode.

frequency band
Amateur radio refers to its authorized operating bands by the wavelength of the signal rather than the frequency. The 80 meter band correlates to 3,500-3700 kHz, the 40 meter to 7,000-7300 kHz, and so on. Rights to use portions of each band are governed by the level of the license held, Tech through Extra.

An amateur radio operator.

The physical location of an amateur radio station, whether that be in the attic, at a desk, in a closet, or a physically separate structure.

The metric used to describe radio frequencies. A Hertz is equal to one cycle per second. Radio operating frequencies are normally stated in kHz.

High Frequency. Used to denote a particular band of the radio spectrum, which ranges from approximately 3,000 to 30,000 kHz. Commonly referred to as the shortwave band.

Also known as a "ticket," amateur radio licenses in the United States are issued by the FCC. Examinations for the various ham licenses (known as Tech, General, and Extra exams) are conducted by volunteers around the country on a regular basis.

"Lid" is a pejorative term for a rude, ignorant, or simply incompetent amateur radio operator.

mic gain
Mic gain is the setting on a transceiver which governs the amplitude of audio input from a microphone.

Morse code
The code used in telegraphy, consisting of dots and dashes, to represent alphanumeric and control characters. The letter A, for example, is represented by a dot and a dash, phonetically represented by "di-dah."

Another new sound card digital mode, invented in 2004, based on MFSK, which offers very robust keyboarding with very weak signals.

packet radio
The unifying force field bonding amateur radio and computer geeks. Packet radio began on ArpaNet and Aloha Net during the 60s, which was copied by Bob Metcalf to create Ethernet. Basically, packets of data from one computer are sent by radio to another computer, much like they would be sent over the Internet.

A digital mode developed during the early 1990s which is based on a mix of AMTOR and packet radio, and seeks to improve their robustness when weak signals are experienced.

One of several Phase Shift Keying modes which are rapidly becoming the darling of the HF set. Low power requirements, good DX ability, and narrow bandwidth consumption are all contributing factors to its growth and popularity.

Q Signals
Q signals are used as a form of shorthand by radio and telegraph operators. You can find many lists of Q Signals used by hams on the Internet, some more complete than others. Here is one of them.

A Q signal meaning man-made signals are causing interference, as opposed to QRN, which means the same thing except the interference is from natural causes.

A Q signal meaning Who is calling me?
A popular website with details on all US and many international ham operators available by call sign.

A Q signal indicating a contact between two radio stations.

A Q signal meaning "My location is..."

Slang for radio transceiver.

Radio telegraph, one of the earliest digital modes, now very popular as a sound card digital mode for DX contests.

sound card digital mode
Any of the new or traditional digital modes available to amateurs which can now be done by using computer software and a sound card in place of expensive, specialized equipment.

speed key
A speed key, also called a bug, or a paddle and keyer, provides Morse code operators with a way to send Morse code faster than is possible using a traditional telegraph key.

station log
The FCC does not generally require logging of activity by amateur stations, but many hams are fastidious about their logs and keep a record of every contact made, recording such things as the date, time, operating mode, frequency or band, distant contact's name, location, and call sign, strength of signal both sent and received, and any notes they might wish to add.

Another new sound card digital mode which uses FFT technology and a multi-tone signal to carry data.

Slang for amateur radio license.

A combination of radio receiver and transmitter in one unit.

A visual analog depiction of radio signals along a small portion of a band, common in software used to conduct "sound card digital" modes of operation.

Radio waves travel at the speed of light. The wavelength of a signal is the distance the wave travels during one cycle. The shorter the wavelength, the higher the frequency.