HAM Radio 101

What Does “RTTY” Stand For?

The CQ World Wide RTTY DX Contest will be taking place in a few weeks (Sept. 28-29), so we’ve chosen RTTY for our Word of the Day. For the uninitiated, RTTY stands for Radioteletype, or in hamspeak, “ritty.” Prior to the dawn of PCs, Hams would use RTTY to send plain-text messages between electromechanical printers using the 5-bit Baudot code through an SSB transceiver. A decoder on the receiving end translated the two-toned audio signal (mark and space) and the text could be printed out by the recipient. You’ll still find plenty of RTTY enthusiasts on the air, some of whom use the mechanical teleprinters and tone decoders from decades ago. Many DXpeditions welcome this operating mode as well. Today, RTTY users more commonly employ computers and soundcards running software such as MMTTY.

AFSK is short for Audio Frequency Shift Keying—an RTTY mode where two audio tones are fed into the mic or auxiliary audio input to the SSB transmitter to create the two RTTY RF frequencies.

Whether you go old-school or modern, ask any RTTY fan and they’ll tell you: If you’ve never tried RTTY, you’re missing out on a fun operating experience.

Check out this video (“RTTY or Not, Here I Come”) from longtime RTTY aficionado and DX Engineering customer/technical support specialist, George, K3GP, for some of the basics of this fascinating and much beloved mode.


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