Radiogram How-To

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
BT
ARL FIFTY ARL SIXTY ONE
BT
DIANA
AR

For additional information about traffic handling, consult The ARRL Operating Manual, published by ARRL.

Group One: For Possible "Relief Emergency" Use

Emergency/priority messages originating from official sources must carry the signature of the originating official.

Group Two: Routine Messages

*Radiograms be used for all holidays.
ARL NUMBERS SHOULD BE SPELLED OUT AT ALL TIMES.

ORIGINATING RADIOGRAMS

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:

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:

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.

ARL Check

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.