What is a LID?

While doing some work on my computer my good old R-390 receiver was running tuned to 40 meter CW which was fairly quiet. Suddenly there was a pile up. I am not sure who or what the station being called was but it did show that the band was not really dead. While everyone was giving their call hopping to be the next one called I heard those three little letters LID sent by a 599 signal. Having had more experience with this word then most ham operators I had to laugh because the real “LID” just announced to the whole world that he himself was one.

First things first, some readers may not know what is meant by the term “LID.” The term is older then radio; it dates back to the early days of telegraph. With CW we have a nice tone to copy but the telegrapher only had a clicking sound to copy. The armature would go from up to down making a click then back up making another click. The length of time between the down click and the up click determined if it was a dot or a dash that was being sent.

As the number of operators grew they would operate side by side and while the older operators could copy their sounder the newer operators found it difficult to distinguish between clicks of their sounder and the clicks of the sounders next to them. The problem was solved by placing a tobacco can lid between the armature and the coils of the sounder. By bending the lid it would sound different to the other sounders near by because they too would bend their lids to give a distinctive sound. The older operators would tell them they should be able pick out their own sounder and not have to use a lid. They called them lid operators as a derogatory term.

In time the term came to mean any bad operator. I really don’t know when, where, or why but the comma sent by itself (da da di di da dat), usually at a slower then normal operating speed, became the accepted expression for LID. As a CW operator in the United States Coast Guard I heard that comma frequently sent over 500 KHz, the distress and calling frequency for ship shore CW.

Someone might make a call during silent period (15 minutes before and 15 minutes after each and every hour lasting for 3 minutes). This would almost always prompt a comma being sent by one or more self appointed airwaves critic who by the mere act of sending that comma broke proper radio periodical. The first 2 minutes and 45 seconds of a silent period are for distress signals only and the last 15 seconds may be used for emergency or safety messages. This action would almost always prompt a reply of “U” (di di dat) either from the original offender or from another self appointed critic.

The operators on 500 KHz were professional radio operators yet, in my opinion, they were acting very unprofessional. This is not a practice we need to follow on the Amateur bands. People make mistakes lets learn to get over it and go on because some day, some where we are going to make a mistake too, maybe even more then one.


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