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Ham etiquette and operating procedures

There was an interesting thread on the /r/amateurradio subreddit the other day. One response in particular stuck out to me. An older, experienced ham (an elmer) suggested reading the ARRL’s Ethics and Operating Procedures for the Radio Amateur.

This is a document that I had not been familiar with, and my son and I have been reading it and discussing it over the last few days. I think that, by and large, it’s a useful guide1, but some things really jumped out at me. Under II.7, “What do we talk about on the amateur bands?”, it says:

The subjects of our communications should always be related to the amateur radio hobby. Ham radio is a hobby regarding the technique of radio communications in the broad sense of the term. We should not use amateur radio to pass along the shopping list for tonight’s dinner…

Of course, there are no such restrictions on content in the FCC or international law. In fact, as I write this, I’m hearing two 1x2 hams discussing the local weather, a trivia contest, and the trials of raising teenage daughters. It seems perfectly appropriate to me, and I imagine that the hobby would be vastly more boring than it already is if we restricted our talks to only about radio. The only thing that’s legally restricted is commercial communication (such as trying to drum up business) and profanity.

What do you talk about on the air?


  1. though very slightly sexist, e.g., “Always be a gentleman.” [return]
Glen Campbell
May 12, 2014