The handling of radiogram traffic was the basis for the formation of ARRL, and a sizable segment of amateurs still makes this its principal Amateur Radio operating activity. Amateur radiogram service does not compete with other services, since there are no charges and can be no guarantee. Provided FCC and international regulations are complied with, messages may be accepted from anyone for sending by Amateur Radio.
What constitutes "legal" messages, or any other kind of third party communication, has been a matter of considerable discussion and various interpretations throughout the years. The pertinent regulations sections are 97.3b, which defines an amateur operator as being a person "without pecuniary interest;" 97.112, which forbids any remuneration or other kind of compensation for use of an amateur station; and 97.114, which details certain prohibitions on third-party traffic.
Generally speaking, unimportant, personal, non-business messages may be exchanged between different countries only after a special agreement has been reached between the countries. A list of countries which have signed such agreements with Canada and with the U.S. appears frequently in QST. In addition, most countries do not object to actual emergency radiograms being handled in the amateur bands if government or commercial facilities are not available at the time. Individual amateurs handle radiograms in a number of different ways. Some are "free lancers" who handle their traffic on individual schedules without recourse to regular nets. Most traffic operators, however, participate in nets of various kinds. The largest organized system of nets is the ARRL National Traffic System. Others include networks organized by individuals for traffic-handling purposes in which individual amateurs participate out of preference.
ARRL NUMBERED RADIOGRAMS
The letters ARL are inserted in the preamble in the check and in the text before spelled out numbers, which represent texts from this list. Note that some ARL texts include insertion of numerals.
NR 1 R W1AW ARL 5 NEWINGTON CT DEC 25
DONALD R SMITH AA
164 EAST SIXTH AVE AA
NORTH RIVER CITY MO AA
555 555 3968
ARL FIFTY ARL SIXTY ONE
For additional information about traffic handling, consult The ARRL Operating Manual, published by ARRL.
Group One: For Possible "Relief Emergency" Use
- ONE Everyone safe here. Please don't worry.
- TWO Coming home as soon as possible.
- THREE Am in ___ hospital. Receiving excellent care and recovering fine.
- FOUR Only slight property damage here. Do not be concerned about disaster reports.
- FIVE Am moving to new location. Send no further mail or communication. Will inform you of new address when relocated.
- SIX Will contact you as soon as possible.
- SEVEN Please reply by Amateur Radio through the amateur delivering this message. This is a free public service.
- EIGHT Need additional ___ mobile or portable equipment for immediate emergency use.
- NINE Additional __ radio operators needed to assist with emergency at this location.
- TEN Please contact ___. Advise to standby and provide further emergency information, instructions or assistance.
- ELEVEN Establish Amateur Radio emergency communications with __ on ___ MHz.
- TWELVE Anxious to hear from you. No word in some time. Please contact me as soon as possible.
- THIRTEEN Medical emergency situation exits here.
- FOURTEEN Situation here becoming critical. Losses and damage from ___ increasing.
- FIFTEEN Please advise your condition and what help is needed.
- SIXTEEN Property damage very severe in this area.
- SEVENTEEN REACT communications services also available. Establish REACT communication with on channel .
- EIGHTEEN Please contact me as soon as possible at ___.
- NINETEEN Request health and welfare report on ___. (State name, address and telephone number.)
- TWENTY Temporarily stranded. Will need some assistance. Please contact me at ___.
- TWENTY ONE Search and Rescue assistance is needed by local authorities here. Advise availability.
- TWENTY TWO Need accurate information on the extent and type of conditions now existing at your location. Please furnish this information and reply without delay.
- TWENTY THREE Report at once the accessibility and best way to reach your location.
- TWENTY FOUR Evacuation of residents from this area urgently needed. Advise plans for help.
- TWENTY FIVE Furnish as soon as possible the weather conditions at your location.
- TWENTY SIX Help and care for evacuation of sick and injured from this location needed at once.
Emergency/priority messages originating from official sources must carry the signature of the originating official.
Group Two: Routine Messages
- FORTY SIX Greetings on your birthday and best wishes for many more to come.
- FORTY SEVEN Reference your message number to delivered on at UTC.
- FIFTY Greetings by Amateur Radio.
- FIFTY ONE Greetings by Amateur Radio. This message is sent as a free public service by ham radio operators at ___. Am having a wonderful time.
- FIFTY TWO Really enjoyed being with you. Looking forward to getting together again.
- FIFTY THREE Received your ___. It's appreciated; many thanks.
- FIFTY FOUR Many thanks for your good wishes.
- FIFTY FIVE Good news is always welcome. Very delighted to hear about yours.
- FIFTY SIX Congratulations on your ___, a most worthy and deserved achievement.
- FIFTY SEVEN Wish we could be together
- FIFTY EIGHT Have a wonderful time. Let us know when you return.
- FIFTY NINE Congratulations on the new arrival. Hope mother and child are well.
- SIXTY Wishing you the best of everything on ___. *
- SIXTY ONE Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
- SIXTY TWO Greetings and best wishes to you for a pleasant ___ holiday season.*
- SIXTY THREE Victory or defeat, our best wishes are with you. Hope you win.
- SIXTY FOUR Arrived safely at ___.
- SIXTY FIVE Arriving on . Please arrange to meet me there.
- SIXTY SIX DX QSLs are on hand for you at the QSL Bureau. Send self addressed envelopes.
- SIXTY SEVEN Your message number undeliverable because of . Please advise.
- SIXTY EIGHT Sorry to hear you are ill. Best wishes for a speedy recovery.
- SIXTY NINE Welcome to the ___. We are glad to have you with us and hope you will enjoy the fun and fellowship of the organization.
*Radiograms be used for all holidays.
ARL NUMBERS SHOULD BE SPELLED OUT AT ALL TIMES.
Any amateur can originate a radiogram on behalf of another individual, whether such individual be a licensed amateur or not. It is the responsibility of the originating amateur, however, to see that the message is in proper form before its first transmission, because under most circumstances it is improper for a relaying or delivering station to make changes.
Each radiogram originated and handled should contain the following component parts in the order given:
- Number Every radiogram transmitted should bear a number. Keep a sheet with a consecutive list of numbers (beginning at 1) at your operating position. When a radiogram is filed at your station for transmission, complete all parts of the preamble except the number, leaving this blank. When you send the radiogram, assign a number to it from the number sheet, crossing out numbers on the sheet as they are used and making a notation, after the number, of the station to whom the radiogram was sent and the date. Such a system is convenient for quick reference purposes. Most traffic handlers start with number 1 at the beginning of each year.
- Precedence Every radiogram has a precedence in amateur procedure. This will normally be "Routine" (R). It is a separate part of the preamble and is transmitted as such, not as part of the number. Other precedences are "Emergency" (never abbreviated), "Priority" (P), and "Welfare" (W).
- Handling Instructions (HX) are available prosigns for use when or if desired by the originator or the originating station, whenever special instructions are required in the handling of the radiogram.
- Station of Origin The "station of origin" is the call of the station from which the radiogram was first sent by Amateur Radio and is included so that handling stations will be able to communicate with the originator if something interferes with the prompt handling or delivery of the message.
- Check The "check" is the number of words and numerals in the text of the radiogram. Handling stations should agree on the check before the message is considered handled. Full information on checking radiograms is given later.
- Place of Origin The "place of origin" is the name of the place (city or town) from which the radiogram was started, not necessarily the location of the station of origin. The preamble of a radiogram filed at League headquarters in Newington Conn., might read as follows: NR 457 R W1INF 21 NEWINGTON CONN 2057Z JUNE 11. If a message is sent to your station by mail or otherwise not filed in person, the preamble should show the place the radiogram originally came from. If the radiogram came to League Headquarters by mail from Wiscasset, Maine, the preamble would read: NR 457 R W1INF 21 WISCASSET MAINE 2057Z JUNE 11. Any radiogram received at an amateur station by any means other than Amateur Radio is an origination when put on an amateur circuit by that station.
- Time Filed The time filed is the time at which the radiogram is received at the station from which it is to be sent. Standard practice is to use UTC. This part of the preamble is optional with the originating station.
- Date The month and the day of the month that the radiogram was filed at the originating station. The year is not included. If the filing time is UTC, be sure the date agrees.
- Address The address is the name, street and number, city and state of the party to whom the radiogram is being sent. The telephone number should be part of the address. A complete address should always be given to ensure delivery. When accepting a radiogram for origination this point should be stressed. In transmitting the message by CW, the signal AA is used to separate parts of the address and the address is followed by BT or "break" on phone before the text is started. In street addresses where the words east, west, north, south are part of the address, spell out the words in full. Suffixes "th," "nd," "st" etc., are not recommended. Example: "19 W 19th St" should be "19 West 19 St." It is not good practice for the relaying station to change address format, but the originating station should observe the above practices to insure clarity in retransmission.
- Text The text consists of words in the body of the radiogram. No abbreviations should be substituted for the words in the text of the radiogram. The text follows the address and is set off from the signature by another BT.
- Signature The signature is usually the name of the person originating the message. The signature follows the BT or "break" at the end of the text. The abbreviation "sig" is not transmitted. After the signature, say "end" or transmit AR. If more to follow, say "more." On CW, use the prosign B. If no more, say "no more" On CW use the prosign N. Note that when filling out a radiogram on a radiogram form, the signature is placed below the lines marked for the text and above the recordkeeping sent-to/received-from blocks.
COUNTING WORDS IN RADIOGRAMS
The amateur radiogram "check" is the count of the number of words in the text only. It is essentially an "as sent" count. While it is assumed that the rules of grammar and spelling will be followed, the check count is determined principally by the spacing used by the transmitting operator in sending the text. Since the first operator to transmit the radiogram is the operator of the originating station who enters the check in the preamble, this check should carry through to destination. The relaying operator has no authority to change the check unless it is definitely determined that the check as he received it is incorrect, then he should confirm with the transmitting operator before making the change. When such a change is made, the original check should remain in the preamble. Example: an original check of 10 corrected to 9 would be sent "10/9" on CW and spoken as "ten corrected to nine" on phone.
The check is a means for ensuring the accuracy and completeness of your copy. It also indicates to the receiving operator how many words the radiogram he is about to copy will contain. Inclusion of "check" in a message preamble is not optional.
Numbers, ciphers, mixed groups and punctuation each count as one in the check, regardless of length. It is recommended amateur practice not to use punctuation, fractions or other unorthodox or seldom-used code symbols in messages as such, but rather to spell these out when used in the text of a message to avoid complications in checking. The letter X or “X-ray” is used in place of a period or semicolon and is counted in the check.
Special note: The ARRL-recommended procedure for counting the telephone number in the text of a radiogram is to separate the telephone number into groups, with the area code (if any) counting as one word, the three-digit exchange one word, and the last four digits one word. For example, 203 666 1541 counts as three words in the text of a message; 666 1541 counts as two words. Separating the phone number into separate groups also minimizes garbling.
The principle of counting words as sent can be illustrated by a few examples, as follows:
New York City 3 words
527B 1 word
NYC 1 word
H O Townsend 3 words
Fifty six 2 words
W1YL/4 1 word
A few rules have to be observed in sending words so this principle of "counting as sent" will not be abused:
- Make your spacing methodical and accurate on both phone and CW.
- Follow the dictionary wherever possible.
- Do not waste time in traffic nets arguing about "how to count" The purpose of the "check" in amateur work is to confirm the number of words or groups in the text. QTB is a useful signal in confirming check. Once you are sure that you have copied it correctly, QSL (on CW) or "roger" (on phone) the radiogram and get on with the next one, correcting the check when you relay the radiogram.
In copying traffic, whether by pencil or typewriter it is quite easy, with a little practice, to count the words in the text as you copy. When using pencil, copy five words to a line. At the end of the radiogram, you can readily figure the number of words by the number of lines (plus how many words over) you copied. By typewriter, it is more convenient to copy ten words to a line, and this can easily be done by copying five words, hitting the space bar twice (instead of once), copying five more words, then linespacing to begin a new ten-word line. At the end of the Radiogram a glance at the number of lines will show you how many words you copied. You can then query the sending operator if your figure does not agree with his.
When traffic is heavy and time is precious, it it not considered advisable practice to query a check unless you have reason to believe that a mistake was made, either in sending or copying.
Messages containing ARRL numbered radiogram texts (see form FSD-3) have the same form as any other radiogram, except that the symbol ARL (NOT ARRL) is used before the check. This symbol indicates that a spelled out number in the text of the radiogram refers to a complete text bearing that number on the ARL list.
In delivering a message with an ARL text, one of course delivers the complete text. It is therefore very necessary that the symbol ARL be included with the check to avoid the possibility of delivery of a meaningless number to the addressee.
Use of ARL text is a special tool for special occasions. When used, it should be used properly to avoid delays and confusion.
ARRL RECOMMENDED PRECEDENCES
Please observe the following ARRL provisions for PRECEDENCES in connection with written message traffic. These provisions are designed to increase the efficiency of our service both in normal times and in emergency.
EMERGENCY Any message having life and death urgency to any person or group of persons, which is transmitted by Amateur Radio in the absence of regular commercial facilities. This includes official messages of welfare agencies during emergencies requesting supplies, materials or instructions vital to relief of stricken populace in emergency areas. During normal times, it will be very rare. On CW/RTTY, this designation will always be spelled out. When in doubt, do not use it.
PRIORITY Use abbreviation P on CW/RTTY. This classification is for a) important messages having a specific time limit b) official messages not covered in the emergency category c) press dispatches and emergency-related traffic not of the utmost urgency d) notice of death or injury in a disaster area, personal or official.
WELFARE This classification, abbreviated as W on CW/RTTY, refers to either an inquiry as to the health and welfare of an individual in the disaster area or an advisory from the disaster area that indicates all is well. Welfare traffic is handled only after all emergency and priority traffic is cleared. The Red Cross equivalent to an incoming Welfare message is DWI (Disaster Welfare Inquiry).
ROUTINE Most traffic in normal times will bear this designation. In disaster situations, traffic labeled Routine (R on CW/RTTY) should be handled last, or not at all when circuits are busy with higher precedence traffic.
Note: the precedence always follows the message number. For example, a message number may be 207 R on CW and "Two Zero Seven Routine" on phone.