Tag Archives: National Traffic System

Receiving Traffic – Radiograms One Step Off the Traffic Nets

Over the last few months I have had the pleasure of receiving around a dozen Radiograms.

This more messages than I had received in the 20+ years I’ve been licensed!!

Most made it the final leg by telephone, having been picked up off one of the traffic nets by a volunteer who then kindly took time to call me with the traffic.

Joining the Radiogram Yahoo Group is the source of this welcome traffic. An excellent resource, the group supports the traditional Radiogram Traffic ideals as a living & viable testament of “simplicity simply working” in a world leaning towards complex digital protocols & message systems.

You also can join in at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/radiograms/

There is also background on the National Traffic System and the ARRL Numbered Radiogram at:


Basically the Radiogram is “shared key” system of reducing the text actually passed along, adding a hash “check” feature, and standardizing the headers & routing information.

The Shared Key is the ARRL Number where saying in traffic, as an example “ARRL 11 K9ZW 1.895” fleshes out as “Establish Amateur Radio emergency communications with K9ZW on 1.895 MHz.”

Standard decoding increases accuracy, as the same ARRL number is always the same core message.

Simple system that is accurate, effective and from the number of people participating a lot of fun!

I’m an extremely rare traffic net participant – those interfering issues like “Work,” “Family,” “Chasing DX” and just “Life” make it very hard for my participation on scheduled nets. It is with great appreciation that I thank those who can do the nets for the extra effort to call the message to me.

Check out Radiograms and the Yahoo Group – you’ll be surprised how active & fun a simple idea is!



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National Traffic System NTS Training Manual

Are you also curious about the NTS (National Traffic System)?

Do you also wonder how it prospers despite all the naysayers that claim it is is a relic?

Do you have an interest in how technology is being used to do one of teh most basic Amateur Radio tasks – passing traffic?

Perhaps a read of the NTS Training Manual would fill you in:

National Traffic System NTS Training ManualBy R. Bruce Winchell, N8UTCopyright 1997

Permission is hereby granted for non-profit reproduction of this material provided this statement is included and the material is used in its entirety, or properly credited by same, if used in part.PURPOSE OF THIS MANUAL

Whenever the Authors have attended a class on the NTS, the instructor managed to “lose” 90% of his students in the first ten minutes.

They simply go into too much detail. The NTS is not a difficult service to understand.

There are, unfortunately, a lot of little details concerning the Radiogram forms. Most instructors get side-tracked by these details.

They drone on and on about details and their students feel overwhelmed.

The students seldom become involved in the NTS. They have been led to feel that there is too much to absorb.

We have addressed the need to keep it simple.

A definite attempt has been made to apply the KISS Keep It Simple, Stupid! principle to the main text of this manual..

Some of the manual contents were left in Outline format so that different concepts and statement relationships can be very clearly understood.

A set of Appendixes furnish the details on various topics . . . not the main text.

The purpose of this manual is to provide a simple teaching tool for you to use in learning about the National Traffic System NTS

PREFACE by John Freeman, KB8ZDX

The National Traffic System NTS seems, to a lot of operators, to be this big, huge, complex operation that is very difficult to understand.

Some of you may feel that you have to be an Extra with 20 years experience as a Ham to get involved in NTS because its all done on the HF bands and they use a language . . . so different that you need 20 years of just listening to understand it.


After going over this material, you will understand that it is not complicated or difficult to be involved in the NTS.

Its members are operators just like yourself.

You do not have to hold an Extra, Advanced, or General License.

There is a place for everyone in the NTS.

These materials are designed to teach you not only how to get involved, but how to be effective once you do get involved.

This subject will be broken down simply.

As you go through the manual, it will become more complex only because we put most of the details at the end.

If you start at the beginning and work your way through, you will have absorbed enough simple background information to make sense out of the rest.

The most important part of the NTS and this manual, is the part that the authors cannot include.

That part is you.

This manual means nothing unless you use it to improve yourself and your operating skills.

We welcome the opportunity to help you do that.

LINK via National Traffic System NTS Training Manual.



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National Traffic System – Pen Pal Program

From this month’s Wisconsin Section news update:

NTS Pen Pal Program
by Ivin Flint, W9ILF, NM and ORS

The purpose of the NTS Pen Pal Program is to gain new friends within amateur radio through the national traffic system. It will create a traffic flow back and forth between two stations. This traffic flow will become a consistent path through the NTS. It will very likely cross modes and forge a strong, reliable link between two points that may incidentally be beneficial in a time of emergency while two stations get to know each other though frequent correspondence.

To get this started I have created a yahoo group with a page to place interested operator’s name, call letters, city, & state. To gain a new pen pal simply look through the list and choose an area of the United States you would like to correspond with someone. Write a radiogram message to the individual you choose, inviting them to be your NTS pen pal. Next, just bring your traffic to any traffic net of your choice.

If you receive a request, respond with an agreement or a response as to why you cannot be a pen pal with this station at the moment. You may get multiple pen pal requests so keep the number to a comfortable amount. If you feel you have enough pen pals indicate you are not currently available for more on the web site. When you have an opening due to more time or a loss of one pen pal then indicate your availability again on the pen pal web site.

On the website there will be lots of information on how to correspond and “break the ice” to get started and ways to track your message to delivery.

Regular NTS participation with one or more traffic nets is encouraged as this will then ease delivery of your traffic. Daily check-in isn’t required but multiple times weekly is good. Local NTS operators will get to know what traffic net/nets you are most active with and will route your messages there.

The benefit the NTS pen pal program will have to ARRL traffic nets is that as traffic is routed to nets pen pal participants will show up eager to get their traffic from the net and inject more unique traffic into the system. Individual traffic is a joy to handle from a relay operator’s point of view so more operators will be interested in moving traffic along getting an expected message though. The more traffic two stations generate to each other the stronger and more efficient the path to get traffic delivered will become.

If you feel your message may not have been delivered and got stalled along the way, I would encourage you to follow up with the person you gave your message to. Good record keeping is important and part of the NTS system. Each relay station should be able to tell you who they gave the message to, the date and time. Most of the time the message will have been delivered or there is a good reason your message has gotten stuck. By your interest in following up it will encourage the relay station to hunt and find an outlet for your traffic. Once the outlet is established by a relay station they will use it time and time again. You can see then, how your regular traffic to a specific station makes the NTS path stronger.

Please do not use e-mail to contact your pen pal. If there is a reason a single letter has to be lengthy spend just a little money and send it via the United States Postal Service. They could use the extra letter and it is in the spirit of a good pen pal. Those I have been in correspondence with regularly have required a letter from time to time, but most of our communication has been through the NTS.

Chess was once a common use of the NTS. If you would like to add extra fun to your NTS experience then indicate you know the game and how to notate chess moves. It works very easily with NTS messages and it has been very enjoyable for me the few times I have tried it.
Adding a game into the mix of your correspondence is easy and adds to the anticipation of getting another message though with your next move.

Have fun and enjoy getting more involved with the National Traffic System.

What an excellent idea – will need to find me a buddy to do this with with whom I don’t email (much)!



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