Ham radios are powerful tools of communication. There are over 2.5 million ham radio enthusiasts across the world.
Networking is the most important function of amateur radio. You can use your ham radio to connect to hundreds of other radio operators. Once you find the right networks, amateur radio can be an extremely fulfilling hobby.
Read on to find more about the two kinds of networks and how to use them.
Rag chew and roundtable: what do they mean?
For two ham radios to interact, they both have to tune in to a specific frequency. This way, a connection is formed. This connection is called a ‘network’ or simply ‘net.’
A rag chew conversation features a network of two ham radios. This term is said to be a modification of the idiom ‘chew the rag,’ which means to chat freely for a long time. This type of networking is similar to making a phone call, except that your conversations can be heard by other people on the same frequency.
On the other hand, a roundtable conversation features multiple ham radios connected to the same frequency. This style of networking is widely used by ham radio enthusiasts to discuss similar interests.
How do these nets work?
You can find rag chew networks across all radio bands. Morse code conversations are found on the lower frequencies of a band, while voice communication usually happens on upper-level frequencies. Ham radio operators usually have set timings for rag chewing, which they regularly announce.
Roundtable conversations are slightly easier to find. Since they feature multiple networks, there are more announcements regarding these conversations. Roundtable networks mostly have regular meeting periods for discussion. They also usually utilize the same frequencies for every discussion.
How do I connect to a network?
Ham radio operators communicate using Q code. The Q code is a list of three-letter codes with specific purposes, all starting with the letter Q. You can use the same Q code to ask a query and to respond to one, simply by using or excluding a question mark after the code.
To connect to a ham radio network, simply send a request using the code ‘QSO?’ If the other ham wishes to accept your connection, they confirm your request with ‘QSO.’
There are multiple ham networks available for connection at any time. However, you will have better luck during the evenings and weekends. This is when operators who are students and day job workers find the time to connect.
What are rag chews and roundtable nets used for?
We have said that rag chew networks are similar to phone calls. Rag chewers usually list their topics of interest in their rag chew announcements. Some rag chewers even conduct chess matches!
Sometimes, rag chewers conduct radio contests. If you are looking to participate, you can simply connect to the rag chewer’s frequency at the set date and time. You can also use one-on-one connections to contact other ham operators for purposes like sharing news and information.
Roundtable networks function in a similar way to clubs. These networks encourage community bonding. People use roundtable nets to discuss books, music, or even watch sports together.
There are hundreds of radio networks in the USA which promote conversations on various topics. There are always opportunities to connect, even when you are traveling.
Before you connect to a ham network, listen. Make sure the network is unoccupied and then start interacting. Remember, politeness is key!