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American Radio Relay League

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American Radio Relay League

American Radio Relay League
Abbreviation ARRL
Motto "The National Association for Amateur Radio"[1]
Formation May 1914[2]
Type Non-profit organization
Purpose Advocacy, Education

Newington, Connecticut

Region served USA
Membership 154,000[2]
President Kay C. Craigie, N3KN[3]
Main organ Board of Directors[4]
Affiliations International Amateur Radio Union
Budget $14,000,000[5]
Staff 120[6]
Website .orgarrl

The American Radio Relay League (ARRL) is the largest membership QST. The ARRL held its Centennial Convention in Hartford, Connecticut in July 2014.

The ARRL is the primary representative organization of amateur radio operators to the US government. It performs this function by lobbying the US Congress and the Federal Communications Commission. The ARRL is also the international secretariat of the International Amateur Radio Union, which performs a similar role internationally, advocating for amateur radio interests before the International Telecommunications Union and the World Administrative Radio Conferences.

The organization is governed by a member-elected, volunteer Board of Directors. Each director serves a three-year term and represents the members within their particular region of the country. The national headquarters facilities are located in Newington, Connecticut. Along with the administrative headquarters, the 7-acre (2.8 ha) site is home to amateur radio station W1AW. The ARRL Field Organization carries out local and regional activities across the United States.


The ARRL is governed by a member-elected, volunteer [3]

Local and regional operational activities of the American Radio Relay League are carried out through its Field Organization. The organization divides the 15 Divisions into 71 separate geographic regions called Sections. Each Section has a similar team of one elected, volunteer Section Manager and several volunteer positions. Section Managers are elected by the members living within the section for a two-year term. The Section Manager appoints a team of volunteers. A Section Manager may optionally appoint one or more Assistant Section Managers.[7]

An important function of the ARRL Field Organization is organizing Memorandums of Understanding (MOU) with governmental and relief agencies, and organizes regular practice exercises.

ARES has provided essential supplemental emergency communications innumerable times throughout the league's history. In 1989, hundreds of amateurs responded to the Hurricane Katrina disaster relief.[8]

Over 2,000 Amateur Radio clubs are members of the ARRL Affiliated Club Program.[5]


Hiram Percy Maxim, founder of the ARRL, ca. 1914.


In 1914, [9]

Maxim was a member of the Radio Club of Hartford, and he presented a plan for the organization of an "American Radio Relay League" (he had already decided on the name) to the club at its April 1914 meeting. The club agreed to sponsor the development of such an organization. Maxim and Clarence Tuska, the secretary of the Hartford Radio Club, developed application forms and sent them out to every amateur station they could think of. Although they limited membership to highly qualified amateurs only, the response was tremendous. By September 1914 they had over 230 stations on the roster.

In early 1915, disagreements began to surface as to the role of the Hartford Radio Club in the new organization, and in February the ARRL split off from the club and incorporated under Connecticut law. Finances were shaky, and most of the income came from sales of booklets, maps and message blanks. But the ARRL kept growing. By March 1915, there were 600 stations on the roster, and due to improvements in equipment and operating ability, some of the better stations were claiming communication ranges of up to a thousand miles. It was apparent that the ARRL now needed some kind of bulletin to stay in touch with its members, but there was no money for such a thing. Maxim and Tuska agreed to personally finance it, and in December 1915 the first, sixteen page issue of QST was sent free to all members. Further issues would be supplied through subscription at $1.00 per year.

In 1916, with ARRL membership nearing a thousand, Maxim set up six trunk lines of relay stations, both east-west and north-south, and individual managers were appointed. Messages were now being relayed over longer and longer distances, and in February 1917 a message was sent from New York to Los Angeles and an answer received in one hour and twenty minutes.

Also in 1917, the ARRL was reorganized. Up to that time it had been run entirely by Maxim and Tuska, but it was time for a more formal organization. A constitution was adopted, twelve directors and four officers were elected (including President Maxim and Secretary Tuska), and membership was opened to anyone interested in radio. No sooner had this happened than all amateurs received a letter from the Department of Commerce ordering them off the air and to dismantle all antennas, because the USA had just entered World War I.

During the war the ARRL facilitated the recruitment of amateurs into communications positions with the armed services, but had little else to do since all civilian experimentation with radio equipment was prohibited. In November 1918 the Armistice was signed, but at the same time, Congress introduced bills to put all radio operations in the United States under control of the Navy. The ARRL strongly opposed the bills, of course; Maxim testified before Congressional committees and the League organized an effective grass roots campaign with thousands of individuals contacting their congressmen in opposition. The bills were defeated, and in April 1919 amateurs were permitted to put up antennas again, but only for receiving.

Meanwhile, the League needed reorganization. With the long lapse in activity, the ARRL now had exactly $33 in the treasury. A privately financed, four-page miniature issue of QST was produced announcing the re-organization, and applications began to come in. A financing plan consisting of selling bonds to members was adopted and about $7500 was raised. QST was purchased from its owner, Clarence Tuska. ARRL continued to lobby Congress for the resumption of transmitting privileges, and after a number of protests and appeals, amateur radio was fully restored in November 1919.


ARRL radiogram delivery postcard, c. 1925

The 1920s saw tremendous technical growth in radio. Pushed both by wartime demands and by the growing commercialization of radio, equipment rapidly improved. The use of spark gap technology quickly disappeared as the more efficient continuous wave system of generating radio-frequency energy and transmitting Morse Code became standard. In 1923 a two-way contact between Connecticut and France bridged the Atlantic Ocean for the first time.

All this led to rapid growth in both the number of amateurs and membership in the League. With government uncertainty as to how to allocate both commercial and amateur frequencies, the ARRL kept discipline in amateur ranks so that spectrum was not unnecessarily occupied. They worked with Washington and the result was that amateurs received the orderly series of harmonic frequency bands that they largely hold today (originally 1.8, 3.5, 7, 14, 28, and 56 MHz; other bands have since been added and the 56 MHz allocation was changed to 50 MHz).

Other activities during this time included transcontinental relays to quickly move messages across the United States, communications assistance in several emergencies, and encouragement for an amateur radio operator on an Arctic expedition of Donald B. MacMillan—perhaps the first beginnings of DXpeditions. The League also began to act in an advisory capacity for the American delegations at international radio conferences. In 1925 the International Amateur Radio Union was formed, and it remains headquartered at Newington.

The 1930s was a more difficult period, as the Great Depression took its toll on development. Hiram Percy Maxim died in 1936. His callsign W1AW was licensed to the League and remains in use as the first-ever Memorial Station. In 1937 the DXCC Award, for working 100 countries, was established, and it still is the premier achievement in amateur radio. Operators, often under the ARRL Emergency Corps, helped at numerous disasters. The League's QST magazine acted as a forum for experimenters in voice, television, and very high frequency work.

History repeated itself during World War II with US amateurs being told to leave the air. The ARRL responded by developing the government-approved War Emergency Radio Service, a Civil Defense system. Thousands of League members, and many thousands more who received technical training through its publications, served in the conflict. When hostilities ceased the ARRL successfully lobbied Congress to reauthorize Amateur Radio and in late 1945 the bands began to reopen. The end of the war brought a tremendous expansion of amateur radio as large amounts of war surplus equipment was available, many recently trained operators became active, and experiments began in such newly developed modes as single sideband and microwaves.

The 1950s saw the continued development of amateur radio and consequent growth of the ARRL. New civil defense systems and procedures were developed by the League, including regular communications between isolated service members and their families. Equipment rapidly improved, although there was some trouble with television interference. The ARRL and many of its members cooperated with scientists during the International Geophysical Year in 1957, measuring the effects of solar activity on propagation in the VHF band.

A controversial idea was originated in 1961 when the League encouraged "incentive licensing", which sought reversion to the principle that higher levels of license privileges should require higher levels of demonstrated knowledge and CW skill but took away some amateur privileges until licensees requalified at higher levels; "incentives" are still in effect and only holders of the highest class of license ("Extra") maintain all amateur privileges. By 1964 the positive influence of the ARRL was so evident that the United States issued a commemorative postage stamp on its 50th anniversary. As the League prepared for the future a new headquarters building was opened at Newington.[10]


Regulatory advocacy

The ARRL has opposed regulatory support for Broadband over Power Lines, arguing that the power lines will radiate interfering radio energy, impeding amateur radio activities. The League has filed several interference reports with the FCC. The ARRL sued the FCC, claiming that the FCC violated the Administrative Procedure Act in creating its rules pertaining to BPL. On April 25, 2008, a US Court of Appeals agreed with the ARRL that the FCC violated the APA, especially by redacting data from the public that could have shed doubt on the FCC's decision. "It is one thing for the Commission to give notice and make available for comment the studies on which it relied in formulating the rule while explaining its non-reliance on certain parts," D.C. Circuit Judge Judith Rogers wrote. "It is quite another thing to provide notice and an opportunity for comment on only those parts of the studies that the Commission likes best."[11]


One of the many guest operators at W1AW's Studio One. (2004)

The American Radio Relay League offers several services to members that support their on-air operations. For members with an interest in Morse code training transmissions for those wishing to learn and also broadcasts a variety of bulletins of interest to radio amateurs. The ARRL/VEC (Volunteer Examiner Coordinator) sponsors amateur radio license examinations for the three classes of amateur license. License classes and examinations are held in various locations throughout the year. Although the FCC currently recognizes 14 different organizations as VECs, the VEC sponsored by the ARRL oversees about two-thirds of all U.S. amateur radio license examinations.


The ARRL provides several publications and journals to both members and non-members. QST is the organization's monthly membership journal, named after a Morse code web site that includes technical documents, expanded product reviews of amateur radio equipment, expanded contesting information, and a searchable database of all league publications. A flagship annual publication, The Radio Amateur's Handbook, has been published since 1926.[12] the ARRL also publishes a series of manuals designed to assist interested persons in obtaining an amateur radio license or upgrading to a higher class of license.


The ARRL sponsors numerous amateur radio contests throughout the year with the biggest of these being November Sweepstakes and the International DX Contest. Other contests and sponsored operating events include Straight Key Night, VHF Sweepstakes, UHF Contest, and 10 GHz and Up Contest. The ARRL also participates as a Headquarters station for the IARU HF World Championship. Field Day is an annual event organized by the ARRL that includes both a competitive element as well as an emphasis on emergency communications readiness and the promotion of amateur radio.


Criticisms of ARRL have included its support for less strict licensing requirements in the 2000s, which opponents consider a "dumbing down" of amateur radio or making it more like CB radio, moves allegedly made to gain additional membership.[13] Other critics have felt almost the opposite, however, arguing that the ARRL was slow to lobby for the removal or the easing of the Morse code proficiency requirements of the various license classes, a "conservatism" keeping otherwise qualified people out of amateur radio and thus threatening its future.[13]

Other critics have cited ARRL's support for segmentation of the HF amateur bands in the U.S. by bandwidth, rather than by mode, which some have claimed gives preference to users of the Winlink system[14] and manufacturer-specific proprietary modes such as Pactor 3, DSTAR and Wide-coverage Internet Repeater Enhancement System (WIRES). Regulation by bandwidth favors these proprietary technologies at the expense of narrowband and open-standard digital modes (such as JT65, PSK31, RTTY, and CW).

Many Amateur Radio operators who are seeking to develop and experiment with new technology see the ARRL as backing down too quickly on the regulation by bandwidth issue. Recent FCC rulings on the new soundcard mode called ROS point to the need to drop regulations that hinder experimentation and impede the development of narrowband techniques on the bands where they are most needed[15]

Elser-Mathes Cup

The Elser-Mathes Cup was created in 1928 by U.S. Amateurs Fred Johnson Elser (W6FB/W7OX) and Stanley M. Mathes (7OE/K1CY) to be awarded for the “First Amateur Two-Way Communication Earth & Mars”. The cup is a Philippine Igorot wood carving, a bowl supported by two standing figures.[16]


In the American Radio Relay League (ARRL) and the Radio Amateurs of Canada (RAC), the Section Manager is an elected volunteer who implements and manages programs in the section. The Section Manager is elected by the members of the organization who reside in the section and holds office for a two-year term. There are no term limits.

For each of the section's activities, the Section Manager appoints individuals to oversee the activities. These individuals are collectively referred to as the cabinet.

ARRL / RAC Section Organization Chart

Cabinet positions include:

  • Assistant Section Managers
  • Affiliated Club Coordinator
  • Bulletin Manager
  • Official Observer Coordinator
  • Public Information Coordinator
  • Section Emergency Coordinator
  • Section Traffic Manager
  • Section Youth Coordinator
  • State Government Liaison
  • Technical Coordinator

The Section Manager also appoints volunteers to serve within these program areas. The volunteers in any given Section serve at the pleasure of the Section Manager. The Section Manager also assists members with questions, issues or problems dealing with the organization's products and services; maintains liaison with the frequency coordinating body in the jurisdiction; maintains a relationship with the local field office of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)(US only), and maintains communications with members in the section via email bulletins, web pages, and personal visits to Amateur Radio club meetings, hamfests and conventions.

There are currently 71 sections in the ARRL,[17] (United States) and 12 sections in the RAC[18] (Canada).

An Affiliated Club Coordinator is the assistant to the Section Manager for radio club matters. One ACC is appointed in each section by the Section Manager to encourage club affiliation with the national organization on a section-wide basis.

The Section Traffic Manager is appointed by the Section Manager to supervise and coordinate traffic handling efforts within the National Traffic System and the section.

The Section Emergency Coordinator is the assistant to the Section Manager for amateur radio emergency communications preparedness. The SEC is appointed by the Section Manager.

See also


  1. ^ American Radio Relay League (1999). "W1AW Bulletin". ARLB047 July 20, 1999.
  2. ^ a b American Radio Relay League (2005). "About the ARRL". Jan. 5, 2005.
  3. ^ a b American Radio Relay League (2010). "Officers of the ARRL". Feb. 23, 2010.
  4. ^ a b American Radio Relay League (2008). "ARRL Divisions". Jan. 29, 2008.
  5. ^ a b American Radio Relay League (2008). Annual Report. Dec. 31, 2008.
  6. ^ American Radio Relay League (2010). About the ARRL. Feb. 23, 2010.
  7. ^ American Radio Relay League (2008). "The ARRL Field Organization". Feb. 1, 2008.
  8. ^ Amateur Radio Emergency Service (2008). "Katrina: The Untold Story". Retrieved February 14, 2008.
  9. ^ DeSoto, Clinton B. (1936). Two Hundred Meters and Down. West Hartford, CT: American Radio Relay League, Inc. 
  10. ^ "Fifty Years of A.R.R.L.", American Radio Relay League, 1965
  11. ^ FCC dealt setback in broadband-over-power-lines push | Tech news blog - CNET
  12. ^ Meier, Dave, N4NW ARRL Classic Publications, retrieved 7/26/2010
  13. ^ a b Moseson, Rich (2004). "They Just Want to Make More Money..." Zero Bias editorial column. CQ Amateur Radio. April, 2004.
  14. ^ Moseson, Rich (2004). "Regulation by Bandwidth" Zero Bias editorial column. CQ Amateur Radio. November, 2004.
  15. ^ ARRL Website, March 4, 2010 FCC Reaffirms Statement on ROS>.
  16. ^ Fred Johnson Elser W6FB/W7OX (Dec 1969). "That Planet Mars QSO Cup". QST (American Radio Relay League): 98. 
  17. ^ 'ARRL Sections'
  18. ^ 'RAC Sections'

Further reading

  • The ARRL Ham Radio License Manual, ARRL


  • De Soto, Clinton B., Two Hundred Meters and Down, the Story of Amateur Radio, Hartford: ARRL, 1936.
  • Fifty Years of ARRL, Newington, CT: ARRL, 1965.
  • Schumacher, Alice Clink, Hiram Percy Maxim, Father of Amateur Radio, Schumachers: Great Falls, MT, 1970.
  • Jahnke, Debra A. and Katherine A. Fay, eds., From Spark to Space, a Pictorial Journey through 75 Years of Amateur Radio, Newington, CT: ARRL, 1989.
  • Bartlett, Richard A., The World of Ham Radio, 1901-1950, Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2007.
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