My understanding of why movie characters say "break" and "over" during radio conversations is based on this answer, which says that people using half-duplex devices often will want to let others on the channel interrupt them with something more urgent rather than hogging the channel with a long transmission.

But why say "break" or "over" rather than have the devices chirp at the end of each transmission?

My only experience with walkie talkies has been with toys like Cobra and Motorola, which chirped whenever a user let go of the transmission button.

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Does the protocol of saying "break" only exist wherever devices don't support chirping?

I looked at https://ham.stackexchange.com/help/on-topic to see whether this question belongs on this site or elsewhere and couldn't tell.

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    $\begingroup$ Movie characters often say things that are nonsense. "Roger that. Over and out." $\endgroup$ – Pete NU9W Nov 15 '18 at 13:56
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    $\begingroup$ This is an operating procedure used by many amateur radio operators; a procedure that is not universally understood.That it is also used by others is tangential. I, for one, welcome the opportunity to address this question and respectfully hope others find it useful. $\endgroup$ – Chris K8NVH Nov 15 '18 at 21:51
  • $\begingroup$ @ChrisK8NVH Thanks. I was surprised to see it "put on hold" and am too much of a newbie to understand Mike's comment. $\endgroup$ – Ryan Nov 15 '18 at 22:04
  • $\begingroup$ Fixed that for ya, @ChrisK8NVH . The other moderators agreed with you. $\endgroup$ – Mike Waters Nov 15 '18 at 22:41
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    $\begingroup$ These are not amateur radios, and the equivalent of a CB "roger beep" microphone is not about the technology of radio. Roger beep mics and add-on modules were meant to mimic the necessary courtesy beep on repeaters, not necessary here. And Roger Beep was originally invented for the sole purpose of making CBers feel like a ham. However, hams in Australia use it, including Owen Duffy (-ex VK1OD) himself. I stand corrected. $\endgroup$ – Mike Waters Nov 15 '18 at 22:51

"Break" is commonly used among amateur radio operators to mean "I am not done speaking yet", such as when talking through a repeater that requires transmission breaks every minute or so.

"Over" has a specific meaning in military communications, "I expect a response from you". Amateur operators seem to more-or-less use it in this context also.

"Out" has a specific meaning in military communications, "This conversation is finished. Do not respond". This is not often used among amateur operators. The amateur equivalent is "Clear" which means something along the lines of a polite "I will not transmit again".

Notice that an auto-generated chirp cannot communicate the subtle differences between "break", "over", and "clear/out".

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    $\begingroup$ Nice. I'd have to say, with your clear explanations, the "subtle differences" aren't all that subtle :) $\endgroup$ – Marcus Müller Nov 15 '18 at 11:25
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    $\begingroup$ Just a small addition: "over" and "out" aren't just military. That's probably their origin, but they're commonly used in any disciplined setting. My amateur radio club manages communications for the Hilly Hundred, an annual weekend bicycle event that draws several thousand participants. We run a directed net, where all communications go through the net control operator. "Over" and "out" are important there. You're right that for typical rag-chewing and casual communications they're not used much. $\endgroup$ – Pete NU9W Nov 15 '18 at 14:02
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    $\begingroup$ Exact usage will vary depending on the frequency in use, too. Things tend to get a little casual on the 2 m and 70 cm bands. And CB users have their own way of speaking. $\endgroup$ – mrog Nov 15 '18 at 17:22
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    $\begingroup$ @PeteNU9W In over 40 years as an amateur, I have heard neither "out" nor "over and out". And seldom is "over" used. $\endgroup$ – Mike Waters Nov 15 '18 at 18:19
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    $\begingroup$ @MikeWaters -- in five years as an amateur I've heard and used "over" and "out" many times, in the context that I described. "over and out" is, of course, a contradiction. <g> $\endgroup$ – Pete NU9W Nov 15 '18 at 18:54

Break is actually discouraged in the amateur community here. Break indicates you want to break into the conversation, but frequently is too short for people to distinguish who you are which is a problem if multiple people try it at the same time.

Instead, just say your call sign.

Over might be used in simplex, but most repeaters have courtesy tones, which fulfill the same purpose, so it is strongly discouraged in that context.

Along with "clear" I frequently hear "clear on your final", which not only indicates that the speaker will not transmit again, but will wait for your last word.

Also, "clear and monitoring" which means the speaker has had their say and won't transmit again for a while, but is still listening.

  • $\begingroup$ In marine vhf use I have heard “break” used at the end of a list to indicate that the next word is part of a new thought, such as the end of a lat/long coordinate; and “wait” to mean i’m going to let up on the mike key for a moment to catch my breath (or to steer, or check my instruments) but i have more to transmit shortly. Not sure how widely these are standardized. In general I think operators in all domains adopt a relaxed whatever-works mode, and fall back on the formalities when things get ambiguous. $\endgroup$ – CCTO Dec 24 '18 at 19:52

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