TU es 72: A QRP Handshake…

Have you noticed a lot more POTA and SOTA ops ending their exchange with “72”–?

I have! And I think it’s brilliant.

When I started performing field activations in CW a few years ago, I gravitated from using 73 to 72 at the end of my exchange. I saw it as a simple and clear way to let the other op know I was running QRP.

I got so many questions about my use of 72, though (as in a few emails or comments per week) I finally wrote this blog post so I could link to it in my replies.

These days, I hear 72 being used routinely and I love it!

72 is like a simple calling card to tell the other op know you’re running QRP power.

It’s all the better when both sides sign with 72–then it feels more like a QRP handshake!

72 de K4SWL

17 thoughts on “TU es 72: A QRP Handshake…”

  1. Fully agree. 72 is a meaningful handshake to show low power.
    Now, how about we all send realistic RSTs to meaningfully indicate the quality of transmission…? ? Thomas, you may recall the Campaign for Real Ale in the UK. Why not a Campaign for Real RST in QRP radio? ?
    72, Scott VO1DR

  2. I do likewise. I’m not sure if everyone who responds with 72 is also QRP, but most are. CW ops already have a kinship, and QRP ops even more so.

    I now make a concerted effort to respond to the weakest station in a pileup, not only to snag DX ops but also to show some love to my fellow QRPers.

  3. Thomas,

    Thanks for the positive post!

    With tongue-in-cheek, let me point out that you’ve strayed into the “living language” territory for ham radio grammar. The 3rd rail of the “dead language” view is using 73 with a plural notation: 73s, 73’s, etc. Even though Maxim used 73’s at the time, the Dead Language enthusiasts (think Latin) tend to rage about this usage. (See, for instance, eHam Forums.)

    They tend to use grammatical substitution rules to take the original shorthand definition of 73 as “best regards” to infer that 73s/‘s is the same as saying “best regards’s,” a silly thing that only the Cat in the Hat might do. This rigid grammar training assumes that early telegraphy shorthand is a completely dead set of denoted abbreviations. Somehow, the Soup Nazi episode from earlier Saturday Night Live days comes to mind.

    I’ve searched high and low in the academic world of linguistics about what are common understandings about the grammar of such symbolic representations. The Linguistic Society of America told me that they have NO members who claim expertise in the grammar of symbols. Even my social media contact Grammar Girl declined to weigh-in on this matter! Thus, THERE ARE NO ACCEPTED RULES for conjugating telegraphy symbol representations by anyone who has actual expertise in the matter of linguistics or grammar. These “substitution rules” are created out of thin air. And it ain’t in Strunk & White either!

    I’ve done keyword searches periodically in eHam and QRZ for “73” and “73s” or “73’s”. I was careful to isolate 73 without the s or ‘s. The results always show between 40-55% using a plural form of 73. There is clear evidence of a living language cultural usage pattern by contemporary amateurs in those Forums.

    One social linguist who didn’t want to go on record because of the lack of published evidence in the matter offered an interpretation that I as a professional Sociologist agree has merit.

    The original use of 73 was not intended for the spoken or written language but solely for the mode of Morse Code communication. By comparison, try using SSB but only saying letters instead of enunciating full words. Clearly, this would be a different language format. The fact that some CW ops don’t “hear” letters but words or abbreviations in the dits-and-dahs underscores a living vs dead language.

    But once in common (and understood) usage, the SYMBOL of 73 began to stand on its own, only mildly tethered to the original cheat sheet reference for these early shorthand representations. Remember, they were created solely to save the poor telegrapher’s ligaments and time hogging the party-line wire. Thus, the “substitution method” invoked by some hams has NO grounding or support that I can find from the professionals in linguistics or the most famous grammarian of the day, Mignon Fogarty (aka Grammar Girl).

    A contemporary analogy is the emoji. How “should” we conjugate an emoji symbol? There is no grammar syntax for doing so now or perhaps in the future because these symbols are very much only VAGUE representations of “emotions.” Any claims right now by supposed emoji grammar police would quickly get rebuffed as illegitimate.

    I’ve facetiously written from time to time this version, just to aggravate the grammar PoPo: 73’s, one to each of you! This ties in knots the logic of the substitution method since each and every single person technically gets one “73” while being acknowledged that there are many recipients being spoke to. Clearly, this is nonsense that only Dr. Seuss would embrace. And Hiram Percy Maxim embraced the distinction between CW symbols and using them in written form as stand-alone terms in his widely reproduced QSL cards.

    Congratulations on promoting the use of 72 to represent QRP transmissions. Symbols like this are living language artifacts based on cultural change. Thanks for helping to move this along! Viva le 72! (Hmm. Is this really gendered?)

    Best Regards’s,


  4. A ‘fun’ signal report & exchange, to be meaningful, should include the variables…

    I love to hear 72, and the RIG, especially from field operators. Knowing a location, Wx, and Antenna are a bonus…

    72 de W7UDT

  5. I use 72 for my QRP operations, and I love getting it back from other QRP ops. Remember two things about signal reports: (1) 5NN can be real for a QRP transmission, because band conditions rule. (2) Give new operators some grace — if they can send 5NN and complete the contact, celebrate their success!

  6. It’s so much better to use 72 rather than ‘callsign/QRP’. For one thing, the use of /QRP isn’t legal in most jurisdictions and another is that it’s awful in pileups for everybody – the DX, the caller and the rest of the pile. OfCom’s [UK] latest idea to allow /’anything’ after callsigns is outrageous! Hopefully, it’ll be one of the things to be thrown out or clarified. If not, I fear a lot more /QRPs and very lengthy ones will emerge [including /POTA, /SOTA, etc., etc.] out of the UK. Ugh.
    What’s really needed is a way to place the QRP bit in the report; summat like H549 – indicating ‘Honest and QRP’. Oh no. What hath Paul wrought????!

    1. Talking to myself 🙂
      Did you know that in high power circles 74 is used and that, like the QRP magazine ‘SPRAT’, there’s always been a fun movement for there to be a ‘SPLAT’! 🙂

  7. I do like the in-joke on 72, and will be using it on qrp hikes this winter. Still about 80F here in the piney woods of NW FL, but the forecast calls for things to cool down early next week. Got to get the 817 out and practice some with the UI this weekend.

  8. I like hearing stations saying 72 instead of 73. I like 73 also, but 72 means running low power. I see so many doing POTAs with 100W rigs and large batteries or from their car. Good to hear those running low power and the sign of 72 gives a good indication of the station. 72, ron, n9ee

  9. I read this before going to the park and using about 4 watts all day. I sent 72 each time for the spirit of QRP. I’m going to keep it up.

  10. Fascinating post and discussion thread! I heard a 72 on SSB recently and knew it had some sort of alternate meaning and origin which had escaped my memory. So thanks for this and those who’ve responded as well. Might just put it to some use as I operate exclusively QRP.

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