History of The RST System

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Have you ever heard someone, over an HF frequency, say random three-digit numbers? If you are new to this, you might not have the slightest idea what those numbers mean. Let us clear you up on that. They are using the RST Reporting System.

In the world of radio, having consistent signal reports goes a long way. It helps with easier transmitting and receiving signals. Giving and receiving useful signals helps guide you to conduct the contact.

How do you achieve that? You use a system, as mentioned above, known as the RST reporting system.

What is the RST reporting system?

Before going back to where it all started, let’s get down to the basics. The RST reporting system, as the name suggests, is based around the three alphabets. The R is for Readability, the S is for Strength, and the T is for Tone.

Note that the Tone is only used during Morse Code transmissions.

When is it used?

The RST System is used by radio hobbyists, amateur radio operators, and shortwave users. They use it to exchange information on the quality and consistency of a radio signal being received.

For Readability

The range goes from 1 to 5, code 1 being unreadable, and code 5 is perfectly readable.

For Strength

The range for signal strength is slightly more, going from 1 to 9. 1 being faint signals, barely perceptible, and 9 having extremely strong signals.

For Tone

The range is the same as Strength, going from 1 to 9. 1 being garbled with extreme disturbances and 9 having the purest note.

The code is a three-digit number, with each digit expressing the readability, strength, and tone, respectively.

Confused? Here’s an example. If you get a report of 599 on CW, the 5 shows perfect readability. The 9 displays that the signal is strong, and the last 9 means the note is extremely pure.

The History of RST System

The earliest radio communication was conducted by Morse Code. This went on till the 1920s when the radiotelegraph started coming into the limelight. The early voice radio signal reports changed their formats to telegraph report formats.

What was used before the RST System?

Before the RST System first came to be used, there was a different set of codes that were widely used. The 1912 International Radiotelegraph Convention Regulations listed the 12 Q Codes that were used for radio communication.

The latest QSA code was included in the Madrid Convention sometime before 1936. So, when was the RST System introduced, you may ask? It was in 1934 that the Amateur radio RST system signal report format was first developed.

Who developed the RST system?

The soon-to-be popular radio system was developed by an amateur radio operator, Arthur W. Braaten, W2BSR. The system was similar to the code that was codified in the ITU Radio Regulations in Cairo in the year 1938.

Almost ten years after the RST radio system was introduced, new phrases were made familiar in the radio world. In 1943, the U.S. and the UK military published a guide that included phrases such as “Weak but readable,” “Loud and clear,” “Strong but distorted,” etc. these phrases are now commonly associated with RST system.

Final Thoughts

The RST report system is a reliable way of communicating over the radio. It helps with troubleshooting problems faced with your station and has been used by Ham radios all around the world. The system is well known for being used by the military with slight modifications via reporting transmissions.

For new amateur radio operators, it goes without saying that knowing the roots and history of your interest goes a long way into mastering the activity.


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