HAM Radio 101

“Best Regards,” “Love and Kisses,” and “the End” Decoded 

If you’re a newbie to Amateur Radio, you may be having some scratch-your-head moments when you leave a meet-and-greet or sign off of a voice communication only to have a Ham jovially shout “73” at you as you leave. As you eye them suspiciously, keep in mind they’re merely bidding adieu by using traditional Ham lingo that originated from the 92 Code standardized by Western Union in 1859.

The code functioned as a time-saving system made up of the numbers 1-92, each with a different assigned meaning—typically, one word or a phrase. “73” meant “best regards” and was often used to conclude a correspondence. For more familiar good-byes, “88” could be used for “love and kisses.” The condensed messaging was of great benefit, reducing bandwidth over telegraph lines and speeding up transmission time.

Later, the 92 Code was incorporated into the Phillips Code, a far more comprehensive list created by Walter P. Phillips that was made up of more than 4,000 abbreviations (see the full list here) including ones still recognized today, like SCOTUS (Supreme Court of the United States) and POTUS (President of the United States). Phillips developed the code for quick transmission of wire news stories during his time at the Associated Press. “30,” meaning “no more—the end,” was used to signify the end of a news story well into the teletypewriter age.

Today, the Phillips Code has fallen into disuse with the notable exception being its use in the Amateur Radio community, where certain wire signals are still regularly integrated into casual conversations. It is not uncommon to hear “73” exchanged between Hams at an in-person event or “88” transmitted on the air, keeping this special tradition alive.

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