Saturday, June 26, 2010

What does the “Relay” in “American Radio Relay League” mean?

Q There has been some discussion lately about changing the name of the ARRL. As a new member I’m curious: What does the “Relay” in “American Radio Relay League” mean?

A In the early days of the League, hams (and everyone else) used frequencies at or below 200 meters (roughly 1500 kHz). The frequencies above 200 meters were considered useless, but hams were to disprove that quaint notion within another decade or so. Because of the limits of equipment and propagation at 200 meters and below, hams passed messages over great distances by relaying them from one station to another. This was one of the chief activities of amateurs in those days and it helped solidify Amateur Radio as a viable public-service network. So, it’s understandable that the founders of our organization would choose a name that reflected the nature of Amateur Radio at that time. If you want to read more about the early days of our hobby, I highly recommend 200 Meters & Down by Clinton DeSoto, W1CBD. See the ARRL Bookcase in this issue, or order on line at

From QST June 1999