Sometimes, I'll hear someone say "wait a moment, I'm getting a nickel," and then drop the carrier only to resume talking. Why?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Huh! That's a new one on me, which I'll file away in my ever-evolving database of ham lingo. $\endgroup$
    – rclocher3
    May 6 at 17:38

"Getting a nickel" is a reference to how metered pay phones work (worked?). You'd put in some coins, make your call, and when the time you'd payed for expired, the phone operator would demand another nickel to buy more time and keep the call going.

Repeaters on automatic control typically have a "time-out" function that acts as a protection mechanism from someone or something triggering prolonged transmission, like sitting on the microphone. The repeater time-out function will then trigger and turn off transmissions for a short time before resuming normal functions.

When an amateur radio operator "grabs a nickel," they're typically letting go of the microphone long enough for the repeater to reset its timer, and then picking back up to finish their transmission.

This self-interruption keeps the repeater from turning off, and lets other parties participating on the repeater know that Chatty Cathy isn't quite yet done.

Many radios have their OWN time out timer as well, and this same mechanism may be used to reset an individual operator's radio timer as well.

  • 10
    $\begingroup$ Source: am a Chatty Cathy who's grabbed his fair share of nickels. $\endgroup$
    – webmarc
    May 6 at 16:32
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ I often hear "let drop" -- never heard "get a nickel" -- but I'm old enough to remember pay phones... $\endgroup$
    – Zeiss Ikon
    May 6 at 17:57
  • 7
    $\begingroup$ In the UK you'll hear "get a K" as repeaters will send a Morse K (-.-) to tell you when the time-out has been reset. $\endgroup$
    – Graham Nye
    May 6 at 23:28

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