Arrgh FAQ

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 FAQ's started on the Internet because on the second day of the USENET newsgroups being available, many people asked the exact same questions that had been answered on the first day. That was back in 1980 and here 30 years later the same thing happens. So, here are some answers to the perennial topics that constantly come up on CQ-Contest and other mailing lists, year after year, with the same answer (or lack thereof) every time. The next time one of these threads pop up, rather than flaming away and just increasing the eventual length (and annoyance level) of the thread, just politely reply "Take a look at the Aargh FAQ" and then just stop reading the thread.

  • Where can I find information on {something that is easily found online}? - Simply point them to where you have substituted their trivial topic for the 'something+easy+to+find' in the "Let Me Google That For You" URL
  • Do I have to use the actual last two digits of my first year licensed as the Check in Sweepstakes? - You should, because the rules say that the Check consists of "The last 2 digits of the year of first license for either the operator or the station." But nobody really cares if you don't.
  • The Sweepstakes rules seem ambiguous. Do I really have to send my callsign as part of the exchange in Sweepstakes? Yes, unambiguously.
  • Why does everyone send 599 or 59 in contests that require RST? Because it is easier. If you would like to send something else, feel free but no one really cares if you do.
  • But, if RST is always 599 isn't sending it kind of meaningless? True, much the way saying "Hello" when you answer the phone is pretty meaningless - but it is a comforting ritual.
  • Isn't {insert latest new technology here} the death of contesting? No, generally new technology is always incorporated in all forms of competition. If you choose not to use any particular new technology, feel free - it is your choice.
  • Doesn't {insert such and such rule from such and such contest} mean that someone could interpret this as {insert apocalyptic interpretation here} and cause the death of contesting? Yes, but since no rational person would ever interpret it that way, no one really cares.
  • Wait a minute: I actually do interpret {such and such rule from such and such contest} to mean {apocalyptic interpretation}. Please look here for a good definition of "rational."
  • Aren't the rules of {such and such contest} unfair to me? Yes, probably - if it bothers you, perhaps you shouldn't operate in that one.
  • Contesters are all 80 years old and no new blood is coming in - isn't this going to be the death of contesting? Probably not, but if you feel that way do some Contest Elmering to bring some younger hams into the contesting fold. Wringing your hands here probably just scares potential contesters away, much the way cranky bocce ball players have caused all the teenagers to want to play Farmville on Facebook instead of getting out on the lawn and throwing those bocce balls.
  • Isn't winning a contest all about who has the biggest antennas, the most powerful amplifiers and the fastest computers? Usually not. In fact, to paraphrase Bum Phillip's quote about long time Alabama football coach Bear Bryant: "Most of the perennial contest winners can take his'n and beat your'n, and then he can turn around and take your'n and beat his'n."
  • Do QRP stations have to use mediocre antennas? Or can they use towers, beams and stacks? QRP refers to power, not antennas. You can use 5 watts with the Russian Woodpecker's antennas and it would be within the rules of almost every contest in existence.
  • What will put me into the assisted category of a contest? Generally, using outside assistance such as packet or internet cluster spots, chat rooms, email, social networks or similar to get QSO spots will place you in the assisted categories. Most times using wideband decoders like skimmer will put you there too. Contest rules vary slightly, so when in doubt, read the rules of the contest.Sounds simple, no? Look here at Rule 6 for a good example of just how simple it really is...
  • Is it OK to just start calling CQ on a frequency if I listen and don't hear anyone using it? Well, if you listen long enough that is probably OK. Most feel it is better to send QRL? or ask "Is this frequency in use?" once or twice. Think about it this way: if you were going to take the last scoop of mashed potatoes from the bowl at dinner, wouldn't you at least ask "Are these potatoes in use?" However, this is one of those religious debates where some sneer at QRL? and others are aghast at anyone who would not QRL? There are rules against intentional interference in Amateur Radio, but there is no definition of what you have to do to avoid causing intentional interference.
  • I have a followup question on frequency use. Yes, go ahead.
  • There seem to be certain frequencies that you are not allowed to use in contests. What's up with that? Well, on some of the low bands like 160 and 80, there are recognized DX "windows" from back in the day when working DX on those bands was rare and exotic. So, today generally only non-US stations are supposed to call CQ in those windows. There are also other frequencies that are used by groups like SSTVers or pig farmers or bean bag collector nets that tend to get upset if anyone else uses "their" frequency. While the reality is that no one owns any particular frequency, life is short - there are other frequencies to run on and rather than give the haters a reason to hate both the players and the game, courtesy is to just QSY. Also, when there are any emergency operations going on, it is more than courtesy to avoid interfering - it is core to our hobby. AC6V has a pretty good guide here.
  • Don't real (tm) hams identify after every single contact? Isn't it annoying when someone is running and doesn't identify every time? Not to those who have been listening longer than you have, and not to the DX station who is has a huge pileup that already seems to know his call. If you find the wait too long, move on or be a crow on SSB (shout "Call call") or send cl? on CW. But accepted contest etiquette is to identify every 3rd or 4th QSO which keeps the rate up and the wait for ID reasonable. as George K5TR points out, Dick N6AA gave the definitive answer here.
  • What is the best contesting transceiver? Invariably, the next one you buy will be the best rig - that is why you chose it. But, once you have been contesting about 20 years you will begin to believe that the first radio you used was actually the best. However, if someone tried to make you operate a contest today with a TS 830 or the Drake twins you would go run screaming out of the room.
  • Why is Context X scheduled for the same weekend as Contest Y? Shouldn't Contest Y move to another weekend? Well, there are only 52 weekends in a year and there are approximately, oh say way, way more than 52 contests each year. This pretty much dictates multi-contest weekends,and if Contest Y is moved it will land on Contest V and Z. Though if all contesters really are 80 years old, every day is a weekend for them - maybe we can just change the definition of "Contest Weekend" to include all weekdays.
  • When I reply to a thread on a mailing reflector, isn’t it a good idea for me to include a copy of the entire previous thread, with > inserted as line breaks indicating the old lines, with my thoughts added somewhere in there without > in front of it?
    > When I reply to a thread on a mailing reflector,
    >isn’t it a good idea for me to include a copy of the entire previous thread, with
    > inserted as line breaks
    >indicating the old lines, with my thoughts added somewhere in there without > in front of it?
    No, please don’t do that.
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