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Honoring the Best: The ARRL's A-1 Operator Club


First organized in May 1933, the ARRL A-1 Operator Club has a proud history and occupies an important place in Amateur Radio tradition. Communications Manager Ed Handy, W1BDI, announced its formation with these words in the July 1933 edition of QST:

Are you an A-1 Operator? Excellence in stations has often been emphasized. Yet, station performance, equipment, adjustment, etc., are but part of the story. The operation of the equipment, knowledge of procedure, and general communications technique are of very great importance in determining the results of any station. To bring attention to good operating as a paramount issue, and to give it something of the importance it deserves we are this month announcing in these columns the launching of a club for A-1 operators.

By early 1934, the roster of recognized A-1 operators had swelled to more than 400; by the end of 1938, to 1000. As of mid-2010 there are more than 6000 members of this special club! Then, as now, nominations were not made lightly; through the years, recognition as an A-1 Operator has represented an unsolicited acknowledgment of one’s high standing among one's peers.

Membership comes after nomination by two Club members who find the nominee qualified to be a member of this elite group. Nominations should be based on the following guidelines:

  • General considerations: Transmissions are stable, well filtered and occupying the minimum required bandwidth. On voice, the operator has clarity of speech, brevity and uses appropriate words and good grammar. On digital modes, clean tones and appropriate operating-frequency selection are exhibited. On CW, the operator uses proper character formation and spacing with appropriate speeds (high-speed ability is not a consideration).
  • Procedure: The operator always listens before transmitting. Appropriately short CQs, avoidance of unnecessary repetition, use of proper procedures and abbreviations recommended by ARRL and avoidance of common inanities in making contacts is evident. When operating a message forwarding system, the operator makes sure that traffic is routed to its destination.
  • Judgment and courtesy: The A-1 operator is courteous and considerate of the other operator’s point of view. He or she takes every opportunity to assist others, especially beginners. Patient and helpful at all times, the operator never knowingly operates in such a way as to lessen the pleasure of others.
  • Copying ability: This applies to all modes, for there is a knack to passing information through such difficulties as interference from other stations (QRM), atmospheric noises (QRN), fading (QSB) and the like.

You must be a full member of the A-1 Operator Club in order to nominate a ham for membership; prospective A-1 members must be nominated by two current members to join the A-1 Operator Club. Current members should check the nominees roster to see if someone has already been nominated.

If you find someone whose nomination you want to second, send an e-mail with your second. If you do not find your prospective nominee on the list, send your nomination to A1 Operator Club Desk, 225 Main St, Newington, CT 06111 or via e-mail. Be sure to include your name and call sign as well as the name, call sign and mailing address of the person(s) you wish to nominate. Names and addresses are particularly important for nominees, as over the years, many hams change their call sign. By sending in all information, this assures that the proper persons receive this distinguished recognition. Please take a moment to check the accuracy of the information you send, as it will avoid delays. Also, please include a comment on your nominee as to why you are making the nomination.

The A-1 Operator Club Desk is ready to receive your nominations and issue certificates! Please help the ARRL reach its goal of 500 new A-1 club members per year. Posthumous nominations are welcome.

Much is said about the handful of radio amateurs whose operating practices do not quite measure up. Not enough is said about those who, by contrast, lead by example -- those who set the standard for others to follow. By honoring those operators who exhibit the best operating practices, we honor them as A-1 Operators and in so doing, honor the best in Amateur Radio.



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