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Geek Glossary



AM - Amplitude Modulation. A very simple way to convey intelligence by varying (modulating) the level (amplitude) of a radio signal.

AMTOR - AMateur Teleprinting Over Radio. A 7 level code used in Amateur communications. Two modes are commonly used: ARQ and FEC

Apache - The worlds most popular web server, Apache runs almost 70% of the web pages on the Internet, including this one.

Appliance Operator - A radio Amateur that purchases all of his equipment rather than building some or all of it. This lazy individual generally has no desire to learn anything new, and would rather throw money at a problem than figure it out for himself. See also homebrew.

ARQ - Automatic Repeat Query. Used in many digital modes, ARQ provides real-time error correction of the data stream.

ARS - Amateur Radio Service. Also known as Ham Radio, the ARS is the worlds best hobby.

APRS - Automatic Position Reporting System. Created by WB4APR, among its many uses are to track positions, disseminate weather information, and provide simple point to point communications using Packet radio.

APRSWXNET - Automatic Position Reporting System as a WX NETwork. The Amateur radio counterpart to CWOP, APRSWXNET stations generally send their home weather information via Packet radio.

Assembly - A low level computer language generally used when application speed is of the essence.


BASIC - Beginners All-purpose Symbolic Instructional Code. A simple computer language sometimes taught in primary schools.

BBS - Bulletin Board System. Once a very popular means of exchanging messages, files, and information in both Amateur radio and computer circles, BBSs have been replaced by the Internet and e-mail.

BPSK - Bi-Phase Shift Keying. A means to conveying information by varying the phase shift of a carrier by two distinct values.

Break in - The ability to receive signals between Morse code transmissions.

Browser - A computer program that interprets and displays HTML.

BSD - Berkeley Software Distribution. The grand daddy of most modern Unix. BSD has many offshoots, such as FreeBSD and NetBSD.


C/C++ - Perhaps the worlds most popular computer language, C and C++ have a relatively simple syntax. Applications written in these languages run almost as fast as Assembly language.

Checksum - A mathematical means to confirm that a given bit of data has been transmitted without error based on data length. See also CRC.

CRC - Cyclic Redundancy Check. CRC is generally uses a more robust mathematical formula than a checksum to validate data integrity.

CVE - Contact Volunteer Examiner. The single point of contact responsible for a VE test session.

CW - Continuous Wave. Synonymous with Morse Code, CW is perhaps the simplest and most reliable means to convey intelligence. CW generally uses on-off keying (OOK) but tone modulation of a carrier can also be used.

CWOP - Citizen Weather Observer Program. A group of dedicated home weather observers that periodically disseminate their information to a central collection server. This information is then shared with various agencies all around the world. See also APRSWXNET.


DOS - Disk Operating System. One of the first widespread operating systems used in the home market. DOS still has use in smaller packet systems


EME - Earth-Moon-Earth. Also known as Moon bounce, EME is the ultimate in Amateur satellite communications. Stations using rather large antenna systems bounce their signal off of the Moon, thereby greatly extending their communication range.


FEC - Forward Error Correction. Mainly found in AMTOR, FEC works by sending the same data twice, usually with some sort of checksum.

Feldhell - A relatively old form of communication, Feldhell is a cross between SSTV and RTTY. Instead of data being conveyed by individual characters, the text is displayed as graphic pictures. Some redundancy is built in by repeating the blocks of text above and below the main data stream.

FM - Frequency Modulation. A simple way to convey intelligence by varying (modulating) the frequency or phase of a radio signal. FM is commonly used with VHF and UHF mobile and hand-held radios.

Foxhunting - A radio sport that uses Radio Direction Finding (RDF) skills to locate a hidden transmitter. Sometimes used for downed aircraft location training.

FSK - Frequency Shift Keying. A digital means to convey information by varying the frequency of a carrier. A subset of FM modulation, FSK generally uses two frequencies to transmit data.

FSTV - Fast Scan Television. The transmission of real- time video pictures in the same manner that your home TV uses. In fact, most cable ready TVs can receive Amateur FSTV without any modifications.


G-TOR - Golay-Teleprinting Over Radio. A robust form of transmitting data over less than perfect radio links. G-TOR was quite popular in the early 1990s, but has been surpassed today by PACTOR -


Homebrew - To build electronic devices for Amateur radio use. Homebrewing used to be a time honored tradition of the ARS, but has become almost unknown to the newest radio amateurs. See also Appliance Operator.

HTML - Hyper-Text Markup Language. A markup language used to create most web pages on the Internet. Basic HTML has a relatively simple syntax, but good rendering is dependent on the browser used. Unfortunately, not every browser maker conforms to the recognized HTML standards, making it difficult at times to produce web pages that look good under various operating systems.



Java - A high level computer language, Java is unique in that the same file can be directly executed on virtually any computer platform. The price of this flexibility is that the Java applications tend to run slower than other modern computer languages.

Javascript - A scripting language that is commonly used in HTML authoring. Please note that it has NOTHING to do with Java. They are completely different.


KA-node - Developed by Kantronics, the KA-node is a very simple way to connect distant packet stations together. The main advantage of the KA-node is that packets are acknowledged from node to node, instead of end to end, making the connection much more reliable.


Lid - Amateur radio slang for a poor operator.

Linux - A free operating system that just plain works. Used extensively on the Internet, homes, and business offices, Linux is known to have a calming effect on IT professionals that spend a lot of time attempting to use Windows.


Meteor Scatter - A means to communicate long distances by using the trails of vaporized meteors. These trails typically last only a few seconds so timing is critical with this mode of communications. See also WSJT.

MFSK - Multi-Frequency Shift Keying. A new mode for many Amateurs, MFSK is generally used when the radio path is not optimal. MFSK is fairly robust under poor conditions.

Morse code - A means to convey information by patterns of long and short signals. At one time, every member of the ARS was required to know at Morse code at a rate of at least 5 WPM. See also CW.


Networking - A means to connect two or more computers together, usually via cable. Once connected, the computers can be setup to share data and accessories.


OOK - On-off keying. Used with simple transmitters to convey intelligence by the presence or lack of a signal.

OSCAR - Orbiting Satellite Carrying Amateur Radio. Amateurs have placed over 50 OSCAR satellites in orbit since the early 1960s.


Packet - A digital mode of communications that uses a very robust error detection algorithm to insure valid data transmission.

PACSAT - PACket SATellite. A group of digital satellites that use Packet as a means to communicate. Most PACSATs have a store and forward message system, which allows one to send traffic to anywhere on the planet.

Pactor - Packet Teleprinting Over Radio. Pactor uses ARQ to verify data transmission much like its cousin AMTOR. Pactor also uses a manner similar to Packet to validate the data stream, hence the name.

PERL - Practical Extraction and Reporting Language. PERL is a computer language with a syntax similar to a cross between BASIC and C. Used extensively with web pages, PERL is a great language for both simple and complex projects.


Q-signals - A three letter code, starting with the letter Q. Used to convey many responses commonly used in radio communications. For example, QTH? is "What is your location?" Conversely, QTH Montevideo means "My location is Montevideo."

QPSK - Quadrature Phase Shift Keying. A form of modulation that uses four distinct phases to transmit data. Frequently used in PACSAT work due to the robust nature of the mode.


Rag chewing - The fine art of conversation. Also known as chewing the fat and shooting the breeze, rag chewing is a time honored tradition of the ARS.

RST - A three digit representation of Readability, Signal Strength, and Tone. Based on a 1-5, 1-9, and 1-9 scale respectively with 599 being the highest possible report. RST is mainly used as a CW reporting scale, although it is also used in some of the digital modes. On voice, the Tone section is dropped.

RTTY - Radio Teletype. A digital mode that first used mechanical tele-typewriters, and now computers. RTTY is not nearly as popular today as it once was, with modes such as PSK31 and Pactor replacing it.


Sound card modem - Many of the digital modes used in Amateur radio can now be achieved via software in a PC and a sound card. This allows a radio amateur to easily operate modes such as Packet, PSK, RTTY, Pactor, SSTV, THROB, etc. without the expense of a dedicated modem.

SSB - Single Side Band. A form of amplitude modulation, frequently used by Radio amateurs on the HF band. SSB is very efficient as it uses one-half the bandwidth of a standard AM double side band signal. Most SSB signals suppress the carrier, further improving its efficiency.

SSTV - Slow Scan Television. A means to send still photos using standard voice grade radio equipment. SSTV is much like a slide show, as each picture takes from eight to over 60 seconds to send, depending on the quality.


TNC - Terminal Node Controller. A TNC is used to send and receive Packet. A specialize micro-controller, it is roughly analogous to a dialup modem on a PC.



VE - Volunteer Examiner. A certified licensed Radio Amateur that volunteers to proctor Amateur Radio tests. Most CVEs require the VE to be an Extra Class Amateur, as that class can proctor all tests.

VEC - Volunteer Examiner Coordinator. The central point of contact that the CVE and VEs report testing results. The VEC maintains complete records of every test given, and reports these results to the FCC.

VoIP - Voice Over Internet Protocol. A means to convert voice and data transmissions to a format easily passed over the Internet. Amateur operators use this technology with programs such as EchoLink and IRLP. In a similar manner, computer users use VoIP with programs such as Skype and the commercial Vonage.


Windows - The worlds most popular operating system. Known to cause extreme headaches in IT professionals that attempt to use it. See Linux.

WSJT - A suite of weak signal programs developed by K1JT. WSJT uses a sound card modem to provide a gateway to the application. Meteor scatter, EME, and troposcatter are just a few examples of what this program can provide.


Xastir - A completely free Open Source APRS program. Made primarily for Linux, but will work with many other operating systems.