Seventy Three

Like many technical activities, amateur radio has its own set of jargon and protocols used both on and off the airwaves. As part of our Technician license course, we cover basic jargon but also encourage the use of plain language. A new Technician recently asked about the use of the term “73″ on the local FM repeater, so I am posting this short piece.

Much of amateur radio history and practice is rooted in Morse Code, which traces back to the electrical telegraph. Two shorthand codes you’ll hear on both voice and Morse Code communications are:

73 means Best Regards

88 means Love and Kisses (sometimes Hugs and Kisses)

These codes originated with telegraph operating and are listed in the Western Union 92 Code, a set of numerical shorthand codes. On voice (phone) transmissions, you often hear something like this:

“Great to talk to you, Joe. Thanks and Seventy Three. This is K0NR, clear.”

Since 73 is often used at the end of a radio contact, it almost takes on the meaning of “best regards and goodbye.” “Eighty Eight” is used in a similar manner but is heard much less frequently on the ham bands.

Sometimes you’ll hear 73 expressed as “Seven Three”, which corresponds to how the Morse characters were sent. It is incorrect to say “Seventy-Three’s” since this would literally mean “Best Regards’s”. Of course, most of us have made this error from time to time, very similar to grammatical errors in the English language. (“Somes time we forget to talk good.”)

QRP operators often use 72 instead of 73 because low power operating is all about getting by with less. See W2LJ’s blog.

And I normally use 73 at the end of most ham radio related email messages.

73, Bob K0NR

Bob Witte, KØNR, is a regular contributor to and writes from Colorado, USA. Contact him at [email protected].

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