Is This Frequency In Use?
A Radio Fable For Our Time…


Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, lived a Troll named Og. Og was the Net Control Operator for the weekly, 17 Meter, Unicorn Sighting Net. Every Sunday morning at 22:17 Zulu he would flip on his radio and without ever bothering to listen for any activity on HIS frequency, he made his announcement:

“QRZ QRZ, QRZ, this is the weekly 17 Meter Unicorn Sighting Net, and I am your Net Control Operator, Og 666OG!”

Sometimes he would transmit this warning earlier – for everyone to be aware and ready for the Unicorn Net. He never seemed interested whether anyone might already be using the frequency, after all it was his (he had ‘dib’s’on it, or something like that).

Propagation conditions were poor, and the use of the band was sparse, so it just wasn’t a problem.

But one day, it was the ‘17-17 Contest’ in which a group of 17 Meter enthusiasts attempted to contact each other. They were trying to do that on Og’s frequency before Og turned his radio on.

Og, who had been adept at “King of the Hill” as a child, knew in his heart that he owned this frequency “lock stock and barrel” because he used it in the past? Finder’s keepers?, or some cliché like that, he wasn’t that sure –but he was sure that he owned that frequency.

An argument ensued, but Og stood upon his constitutional right, or whatever it might be…

If this was a complete fairy tale it would end with Og being dragged away from his radio by a magical dragon and imprisoned in the ignominious ‘Island of Lids’, but this is based on real life, so the people who were using the frequency first simply complained to each other on the frequency and then went elsewhere.

The moral of the story is, especially on HF, “Always ask if the frequency is in use” before beginning your own radio conversation. Propagation conditions can cause fading, and sometimes you might only hear one of the people involved in a QSO, so silence does not necessarily mean that the frequency is free for your use. Prior usage, or scheduled usage does not give anyone the right to “plant their flag” on any given frequency and call it their own.

This is nothing new, it goes back to something called ‘The Radio Amateur’s Code’ first published in 1928 by Paul M. Segal, W9EEA:

CONSIDERATE….. never knowingly operating in such a way as to lessen the pleasure of others.

LOYAL….. offering loyalty, encouragement and support to other amateurs, local clubs and the American Radio Relay League, through which Amateur Radio in the United States is represented nationally and internationally.

PROGRESSIVE….. with knowledge abreast of science, a well built and efficient station, and operation beyond reproach.
FRIENDLY….. with slow and patient operation when requested, friendly advice and counsel to the beginner, kindly assistance, co-operation and consideration for the interests of others. These are the hallmarks of the amateur spirit.

BALANCED….. Radio is an avocation, never interfering with duties owed to family, job, school or community.

PATRIOTIC….. with station and skill always ready for service to country and community.

Ah, those were simpler days, right?
It’s all still great advice, if you ask me!

-The Editor-