What Is 73′ in Ham Radio

What is A Ham Radio?

Ham Radio, or amateur radio, is a unique and intriguing hobby that connects people across the globe without the need for the internet or a mobile network. It involves the use of radio frequency spectrum for purposes of non-commercial exchange of messages, wireless experimentation, self-training, private recreation, radiosport, contesting, and emergency communication.

The term “amateur” indicates that individuals engaged in this hobby are not paid for their radio operations.

Ham Radio operators, often referred to as “hams”, come from all walks of life – they can be students, doctors, politicians, truck drivers, or retirees. What unites them is a shared interest in radio communication and technology.

Ham Radio operators communicate with each other directly or through repeater stations on a variety of frequencies and modes including voice, Morse code, digital modes, and even satellite.

This hobby is not only about personal enjoyment and connecting with others; it also serves a crucial role in disaster relief and emergency communication.

When traditional communication channels fail, Ham Radio operators often step in to assist with communications, providing a vital service to their communities and even internationally.

Importance of Understanding Ham Radio Lingo

Like any specialized field, Ham Radio has its own jargon and codes, which can be baffling to newcomers. These terms and codes facilitate efficient and clear communication, especially important during radio contests or emergency situations.

Understanding this lingo is not just about technical communication; it’s also a part of the culture and camaraderie of the Ham Radio community.

One such term is ’73’, a code that has a special place in the heart of every Ham Radio operator. It’s more than just a number; it represents a tradition and a courteous way of concluding a conversation.

Knowing such terms is essential for anyone who wants to be an active and respectful member of the Ham Radio community. It helps in making connections with fellow enthusiasts and in being part of this unique global fraternity.

What is ’73’ in Ham Radio?

Origin of the Term

The use of ’73’ in Ham Radio has its roots in the 19th century, specifically in the telegraph era. Telegraph operators used numeric codes, known as Phillips codes, to shorten commonly used phrases to speed up communication.

The number ’73’ was originally used to mean “my love to you” in the Phillips Code.

As time progressed and technology evolved from telegraphy to wireless radio communication, these codes were naturally adopted by early radio enthusiasts.

How it is Used in Conversations

In Ham Radio, ’73’ has come to signify “best regards” or “goodbye”. It’s often used at the end of a communication to express goodwill and friendly intent.

When a Ham Radio operator signs off with ’73’, it’s a sign of respect and camaraderie, a tip of the hat to their fellow operators. It’s akin to saying “farewell and best wishes” in the language of amateur radio.

The use of ’73’ is not just a formality; it embodies the spirit of the Ham Radio community – a community that values connection, cooperation, and mutual respect.

Whether an operator is concluding a casual chat, a contest exchange, or an emergency communication, ’73’ is a universally understood sign-off that resonates with warmth and friendliness.

In the world of Ham Radio, where communication transcends geographical boundaries and cultural differences, ’73’ is a symbol of universal goodwill.

It’s a testament to the hobby’s long history and its enduring ability to bring people together.

The History of ’73’

Early Use in Telegraphy

The history of ’73’ as a shorthand code is deeply intertwined with the history of telegraphy. In the mid-to-late 1800s, as telegraph lines began to crisscross countries, a need arose for efficient communication.

Telegraph operators, working with Morse code, developed a system of numeric codes to represent common phrases, which would speed up their work and reduce transmission time.

This system was known as the Phillips Code, after Walter P. Phillips, a Western Union telegrapher who popularized these shorthand codes.

In this code, the number ’73’ was used to signify “my love to you”, a warm and personal sign-off between operators who often spent long hours communicating with each other over the wire.

It was a sign of respect and camaraderie among these early communicators, who were pioneers in the world of electronic communication.

Adoption into Ham Radio Culture

As wireless technology emerged and the hobby of amateur radio gained popularity, many of the early Ham Radio operators were former telegraph operators or were familiar with telegraphic code.

They brought with them not only their technical skills but also their traditions and customs, including the use of ’73’.

In the Ham Radio context, the meaning of ’73’ evolved from “my love to you” to a more general “best regards” or “goodbye”.

This change reflected the wider and more varied community of Ham Radio operators, encompassing people from different backgrounds and cultures.

Despite this shift in meaning, the spirit of goodwill and friendship inherent in ’73’ remained a constant.

The adoption of ’73’ and other telegraphic codes into Ham Radio culture is a fascinating example of how language and traditions evolve and adapt to new contexts.

It also highlights the continuity between different eras of electronic communication, from the telegraph to the modern amateur radio.

Understanding Ham Radio Codes

Other Common Ham Radio Codes

Ham Radio is rich with various codes and abbreviations that make communication efficient and effective. Besides ’73’, there are several other codes commonly used by operators. For instance, ’88’ is used to send “love and kisses”, often in a more playful or affectionate context.

‘QSL’ is another widely recognized term, meaning “I acknowledge receipt” or “I confirm”, and is often used in confirming that a message has been received and understood.

‘CQ’, derived from the French “sécurité”, is a call for any operator who is available to respond, effectively an invitation for anyone listening to start a conversation.

Each of these codes has its unique place in Ham Radio communication, reflecting the hobby’s blend of technical efficiency and personal connection.

Understanding these codes is not just about mastering a technical language; it’s about integrating into the culture and community of Ham Radio.

The Significance of These Codes

The use of codes like ’73’ in Ham Radio goes beyond mere shorthand communication. These codes carry with them a sense of history and tradition, connecting today’s Ham Radio operators with the generations that preceded them. They foster a sense of belonging and identity within the Ham Radio community.

Moreover, these codes are a testament to the ingenuity and resourcefulness of early communicators who developed an entire lexicon to overcome the limitations of early technology.

In modern Ham Radio practice, these codes continue to be used not only for their efficiency but also as a nod to the rich heritage of the hobby.

Understanding and using these codes correctly can enhance the experience of being a Ham Radio operator, providing a deeper connection to the community and its history.

It’s a way of paying homage to the pioneers of electronic communication and keeping alive the traditions that have made the hobby what it is today.

’73’ in Modern Ham Radio Usage

How the Term has Evolved

Over the years, ’73’ has transitioned from a telegraphic code to a staple in Ham Radio communication, evolving in its usage while retaining its core sentiment.

Initially signifying “my love to you” in the telegraph era, it has become a universal sign-off meaning “best regards” or “goodbye” among Ham Radio operators.

This evolution reflects the changing nature of communication technologies and the expanding community of amateur radio enthusiasts.

In modern times, ’73’ is often seen in both voice and digital communications. It’s used in various contexts, from casual conversations between friends to formal net operations and even in Morse code transmissions.

The term has transcended its original usage to become a symbol of fellowship and goodwill in the Ham Radio community.

Current Relevance

Despite the advent of more advanced and quicker forms of communication like the internet and smartphones, ’73’ has maintained its relevance in the Ham Radio world.

It represents more than just a way to end a conversation; it’s part of the unique culture and etiquette of Ham Radio.

The continued use of ’73’ also symbolizes the enduring nature of Ham Radio as a hobby and a form of communication.

In an era where digital communication often lacks a personal touch, the use of ’73’ brings a human element to Ham Radio interactions. It is a reminder of the hobby’s roots in community, camaraderie, and personal connection.

Furthermore, ’73’ serves as a bridge between generations of Ham Radio operators. For newcomers, learning and using terms like ’73’ is an initiation into the rich heritage of amateur radio.

For seasoned operators, it’s a nod to tradition and a way to maintain the spirit of the hobby.

In a broader sense, ’73’ embodies the timeless appeal of Ham Radio – connecting people across distances and differences with a simple yet profound expression of goodwill.

Learning Ham Radio Etiquette

Importance of Proper Communication

In Ham Radio, communication isn’t just about transmitting messages; it’s about doing so respectfully and effectively.

Good etiquette is crucial, especially since the community is diverse and spans various cultures and age groups. Proper communication ensures clarity, prevents misunderstandings, and maintains the harmonious spirit of the hobby.

Etiquette Tips for Beginners

  • Listen First: Spend time listening to experienced operators to understand the flow of conversation and the use of codes.
  • Identify Yourself: Always start by clearly stating your call sign.
  • Be Clear and Concise: Avoid over-elaborating. Keep your transmissions short and to the point.
  • Respect Band Plans: Stick to frequencies allocated for your license class.
  • Use Codes Appropriately: Learn the meaning and proper use of codes like ’73’.
  • Acknowledge Others: When joining a conversation, acknowledge the previous speaker before introducing your point.
  • End Transmissions Politely: Use ’73’ to end conversations warmly and professionally.

’73’ vs Other Numeric Codes

Comparisons with Other Codes

While ’73’ is perhaps the most recognized code in Ham Radio, it’s part of a larger family of numeric codes.

For example, ’88’ (love and kisses) is used in more personal or affectionate contexts. ’72’ is used by QRP (low power) operators to signify “best regards with QRP”.

Each code has its own nuance and appropriate context.

Unique Aspects of ’73’

What sets ’73’ apart is its universal applicability and the warmth it conveys. It’s appropriate in nearly any context – from casual chats to emergency communications – making it a versatile and essential part of Ham Radio etiquette.

Impact of ’73’ on Ham Radio Culture

Its Role in Building Community

’73’ does more than end conversations; it helps build and sustain the global Ham Radio community. It’s a symbol of unity, a shared language that transcends geographical and cultural barriers.

Stories and Anecdotes

Many Ham Radio operators have stories about how ’73’ played a role in their experiences – from forming lifelong friendships to offering comfort during emergency situations.

These stories highlight the term’s significance beyond its literal meaning.

Technological Evolution and ’73’

Changes in Ham Radio Technology

Despite advancements in Ham Radio technology, from digital modes to satellite communication, ’73’ has remained a constant.

The Persistence of ’73’

This persistence demonstrates how tradition and modernity coexist in Ham Radio, with ’73’ serving as a bridge between different eras of communication technology.

Global Use of ’73’

Its Presence in International Communications

’73’ is universally recognized among Ham Radio operators worldwide, illustrating the hobby’s global reach.

Cross-Cultural Aspects

Its use across different cultures underscores the unifying power of Ham Radio as a hobby and a form of communication.

The Future of ’73’ and Ham Radio

Predictions and Trends

As digital communication continues to evolve, ’73’ is likely to remain a staple, adapting to new modes and technologies.

Digital Age Impact

The digital age has expanded the reach of Ham Radio, potentially introducing ’73’ to a new generation of enthusiasts.

Ham Radio Resources for Beginners

Books, Websites, and Clubs

There are numerous resources available for those new to Ham Radio. Books like “The ARRL Handbook for Radio Communications” and websites like arrl.org offer a wealth of information. Joining local clubs can also provide hands-on experience and mentorship.

Learning and Practice Tips

Beginners are encouraged to practice regularly, participate in local nets, and connect with the Ham Radio community for guidance and support.


Interviews with Ham Radio Operators

Insights and Personal Stories

To gain a deeper understanding of the significance of ’73’ in the Ham Radio community, several seasoned operators were interviewed.

Their stories reflect a rich tapestry of experiences and emotions tied to this simple yet profound code.

John, a Ham Radio enthusiast for over 30 years, shared how ’73’ was the first code he learned when he started. To him, it represents the welcoming nature of the Ham Radio community.

He recalls how ’73’ was the concluding part of his first successful transmission, marking the beginning of his lifelong passion for the hobby.

Emma, known for her involvement in emergency communications, highlighted the role of ’73’ in creating a sense of unity and support among operators during crisis situations.

She described an instance where ’73’ was not just a sign-off but a reassurance of solidarity and mutual support among operators coordinating in a natural disaster.

Alex, a younger operator who recently joined the community, expressed how ’73’ helped him feel connected to the larger, global network of Ham Radio enthusiasts.

He views it as a symbol of tradition and a reminder that he is part of a legacy that spans generations.

The Meaning of ’73’ to Them

For these operators, ’73’ is more than a mere code; it’s a symbol of friendship, respect, and a shared passion for Ham Radio. It embodies the spirit of the hobby – connecting people across distances and differences with warmth and goodwill. ’73’ serves as a reminder of why they fell in love with Ham Radio in the first place – the joy of communication and the sense of belonging to a worldwide community.


The journey through the world of Ham Radio and the exploration of the meaning of ’73’ reveals much about the hobby’s enduring charm and significance.

From its roots in telegraphy to its current role in a technologically advanced era, ’73’ has remained a constant, a testament to the hobby’s resilience and its ability to adapt to changing times.

’73’ is more than a code; it’s a part of Ham Radio’s DNA, representing the community’s values of friendship, respect, and a shared love for communication.

As Ham Radio continues to evolve, embracing new technologies and welcoming new enthusiasts, ’73’ will undoubtedly continue to be a significant part of this fascinating world.

For those interested in joining the Ham Radio community, understanding and using ’73’ is a step towards becoming an integral part of this unique global fraternity. It’s an invitation to a world of exploration, connection, and camaraderie – a world where ’73’ is not just a sign-off, but a welcome into a community that spans the globe.

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