In the Ham Radio world, Q-Codes are used to help make communication between ham radio stations faster by reducing the amount of actual data that must be sent during each transmission. Every code has a specific meaning to the ham radio operator on the other end of the conversation… kind of.
The QRP Q-Code has multiple meanings. Depending on the conversation, it could mean “Please reduce your power” or “Should I reduce my power”. But, the most common meaning is “Low Power Operating” which is a general term that commonly means you are operating your station in one of the ham radio modes using 5 watts of power or less. With a few exceptions, ham radio operators are allowed to use up to 1500 watts of power when transmitting. The most common power level used is 100 watts which seems like low power operating compared to 1500 watts but, under the right conditions, 100 watts is generally enough to work (contact) ham radio stations all over the world. However, under the right conditions, 5 watts is also enough power to work (contact) stations all over the world. So, in this article, we will use the QRP Q-Code to define operating a ham radio station using 5 watts of power or less. We will talk about the “conditions” I mentioned in another article but I am sure you are wondering why you would choose to use 5 watts when you can use 100 watts or 1500 watts. There are a lot of reasons for using only 5 watts but two of the most common reasons are the challenge and portable operating. To most QRP operators, it is a thrill to contact a station 5000 or more miles away using only 5 watts because it can be a challenge to do so. It can also be rewarding to know that you did with 5 watts what others are using 100, 500 or more watts to do. It can also be a thrill (and a real challenge) to contact a very rare or popular station when there are at times, hundreds of other hams trying to contact them. I mentioned portable operating. It is very common to see portable operations in parks, the top of mountains or other high areas, campsites, or anywhere you can set up an antenna and operating area. Portable operators usually operate QRP (5 watts or less) because small “QRP” radios are limited in how much power they can output to save weight and size because many of those operators have to carry their equipment to the operating location. The QRP radios usually run on battery power because commercial power is not usually available to them.
I mentioned earlier that there are different modes that a ham radio operator can use. The most common modes are Phone (voice), CW (Morse code with a key or keyboard) and digital which usually involves a computer to properly format and send the data. The computer then decodes the data when a response is received. There are advantages and disadvantages to each mode. That too could be the subject of an article in itself.