A nominal radio reform

The designation VHF has become such a mainstay of the mariner’s lexicon that most never think of the derivation of those letters. Very high frequency in relation to what?

Compared to low frequencies, of course. But a look at the frequency designations used in the radio spectrum reveals a worrisome escalation of superlatives: ultra high frequency (UHF), 300 to 3,000 MHz; super high frequency (SHF), 3 to 30 GHz; and extremely high frequency (EHF), 30 to 300 GHz. Luckily, the radio frequency spectrum is considered to end at around 300 GHz where it shades into infrared. One can only imagine the designator that might have been used if radio frequencies went above EHF: perhaps really really high frequency (RRHF), or out of sight high frequency (OOSHF), or even mondo molto high frequency (MOMOHF).

Why the cascade of designators like ultra, super, and extremely? One of the main reasons is that radio transceiver development took place well below VHF, not to mention UHF or SHF. Early radio units used frequencies of a few tens of kilohertz (kHz); it was only later that technology advanced to allow for the use of higher frequencies in the megahertz range (MHz). Eventually, oscillators were constructed that could produce radio waves in the gigahertz range (GHz). As the technical ability developed to make these higher- frequency, short-wavelength signals, the need also arose to give them some sort of band designation. Since radio types had already rushed ahead and impetuously used very, there was little option but to continue the war of words and use ultra. Of course, that required topping, and the powers that be had a flash of brilliance with the super designation. But extremely is stretching things a bitthey were casting about like a shipwrecked sailor.

As a way to bring some calm and decorum into the field of frequency band designations, I’d like to suggest new, less histrionic labels. The band below VHF3 to 30 MHzis designated high frequency (HF), so how about changing VHF to moderately higher frequency (MHF)? Proceeding upward (or downward if we’re looking at wavelength), UHF switches to clearly higher frequency (CHF); SHF becomes doubtlessly higher frequency (DHF); and the rather overwrought EHF is transformed to obviously higher frequency (OHF).

These changes might even reduce some of the annoying chatter on VHFer, I mean MHF. The very name moderately high frequency would serve to calm and soothe some radio users and cause others to become so relaxed that they would abandon the idea of radio communications altogether.

Tim Queeney

By Ocean Navigator