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Repeaters

For the license, you need to know who is in control of a repeater, who is responsible for legal use, a bit about offset frequencies, and thats about it. Certainly important information, but not quite enough to start using them. I'll try to take it from the test to actually using them.

For starters, you'll want to know "how to talk". I'll not write that part; as its already well stated here. It's a good read, and should open in its own tab so that you can easily get back here just by closing the tab when your done.

Basically, repeaters do what you learned for the license and as their name says - they repeat what you say on a different frequency. That in itself is not the purpose though; the frequency switches only to make it possible for a repeater to work.

Repeater DiagramThe advantage to using a repeater is that your station(even a handheld aka HT) now has the same capability as if you were using the repeater's radio and antennae. Typically, this is a much stronger setup than you have.

The frequency shift just keeps the repeater's transmission from drowning out your signal as its coming in. If the repeater were to use the same frequency(with no offset), it would have to record what you say until you're done and then retransmit it. That would create very annoying delays in the conversation; thus the idea of offsetting simultaneous frequencies is used.

In sticking with the water analogy that I like to use: You have a water balloon, but you can't see over the fence to soak your neighbors. Fortuneatly, you have a buddy(the repeater) standing up on your roof with a great view next door. You toss the balloon up to your buddy who then makes the perfect toss and starts the summertime fun. But, he's catching with his left hand(input frequency) and throwing with his right(output frequency) so that the bombardment is continuous.

So, how all this works in the real world: Everyone is "listening" to the output frequency of the repeater. When you press your mic button, your radio automatically (once programmed) switches to the "input frequency" and starts transmitting. The repeater hears this and immediately(almost - pause slightly before you start talking) starts re-transmitting your signal on the output frequency, which everyone is listening to, and your message is heard. When you let go of the mic button, your radio automatically switches back to listening on the output frequency so that you can hear the response in the same way.

Tones

You will hear a lot of talk about repeater tones. Sometimes they are called PL tones, CTCSS tones, etc. They simply help to block unwanted signals from being repeated. You program the tone into your radio to let the repeater know you want it to repeat your signal; and the repeater knows not to repeat any signals that don't have this tone. Your radio will automatically add the tone to your transmission at a very low level (you won't hear it).

Back to the water balloons. You have red ones and blue ones, with two buddies(repeaters) on the roof. Joe knows he only catches and throws the red ones; while Jim knows to only catch and rethrow the blue ones.

Tip: If you can hear the repeater, but can't seem to talk on it - check that you have the tone programmed correctly. You can usually tell if you are "getting into the machine" by listening for a quiet carrier signal right after you unkey your mic. If your radio isn't picking up this brief signal, you are probably not keying up the repeater. It won't be long before listening for this feedback will be second nature; and it will seem strange when you don't hear it.