This is a regularly asked question about the hobby and also one that is not the easiest to answer. The conversation can be one of many types and, if you are talking to somebody for the first time it is probably best to let him give you an idea of how much he wants you to say (best obtained by listening to others contact him first).
Basically, though, there are three main types of contact. The first is
the 'ragchew', or traditional chat which, like any conversation,
can be about pretty much anything.
The late Ken, G0VUG, talks about fish on the GB3WD repeater
The Royal Signals Amateur Radio Society, G4CCF, on 40m
The second, and probably most common type, is a fairly quick contact
in which callsigns, signal strength reports, names, details of equipment
and the weather are all exchanged.
IZ1EGT (Fabio, Genoa, Italy) talking to SP8CR (Poland) on 20m
The CUWS trip to St. Kilda Island in 1989
The third type is often considered 'impersonal' but is best for a contact
with a rare station or during a contest, to give everybody a fair chance.
This type is a quick exchange of callsigns and signal reports (almost
always the maximum, '5 and 9') with a serial number if the contest requires
it. In the case of the contest featured below, the exchange is of a signal
report (59), serial number (370) and Cambridge's postcode (CB).
Me talking to OZ/DL4LVB on Lolland Island off Denmark
G6UW in the RSGB's 21/28MHz contest
To look for contacts, radio amateurs call 'CQ' and wait for a reply.
IZ1EGT calling 'CQ' on 20m
Amateur Radio Station R0MIR (The MIR Space Station) calling 'CQ' in 1996
Some of the speech to be heard in the Amateur bands is not in English
(although most is). This is particularly true when freak conditions allow
VHF signals from the near continent to reach our shores.
F1BCU talking on the Lannion repeater in Brittany, France
Most audio files on this page in RealAudio format. Some are in RealVideo format to enable subtitles to be provided. You will need RealPlayer to play both types of file.
(This page was originally written by me for the Cambridge University Wireless Society website. © 2002 CUWS)