Prosigns for Morse code
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In Morse code, prosigns or procedural signals are dot/dash sequences that do not represent text per se, but have a special meaning in a transmission: they are generally not copied down, they are a form of control character. They are used to indicate formatting of the text being copied or to indicate operational changes in transmission. They may be written as if they were composed of one, two or three ordinary alphabetic characters but they are sent "run together", omitting the normal inter-character spaces that would occur if they were being sent as normal text. These ligatures are often represented in print either by a ligating bar or overline above the letters, or by surrounding the run together letters by angle brackets (for example such as <BT>) thus indicating that they are linked and sent as one contiguous character.
||Space down one line (new line)||On typewriter; Carriage Return, Line Feed (CR-LF).|
||Stop copying (end of message)||Often written +||"All Received"|
||Wait||Respond with C (yes). AS2 means wait 2 min, AS5 5 min, etc. For pauses of 10 min or longer, use QRX (see Q code)||wait "A Sec"|
||BreaK||Often indicates "BacK-to-you". Used for fast exchange between two stations.|
||Space down two lines (new paragraph)||Often written =, On typewriter; Carriage Return, Line Feed, Line Feed (CR-LF-LF)||"Begin Two lines"|
||Going off the air||"CLear" or "CLosing down"|
||Start copying ("Attention", start of transmission)||In practice, indistinguishable from KA||"Copy This"|
||Shift to wabun code|
||"go" or "over" - another station is invited to reply||"oK" (as in, "'K, go ahead")|
||Invitation to a specific named station to transmit||'K' means "go" or "over;" KN is short for "go oNly" and signifies that only the called station should reply.||"oK, Named-station"|
||End (end of contact)||In practice, indistinguishable from VA, and sometimes written thus||"Silent Key"|
||Understood||In practice, indistinguishable from VE, and sometimes written thus||"Sho' 'Nuff"|
||Serious distress message and request for urgent assistance ( listen (help·info))||Not to be used unless there is imminent danger to life or destruction of property. See SOS||"Save Our Souls"|
Although these are not really prosigns, an error may be indicated by some series of Es:
||Error, correct word follows (six or more dits in a row)|
||Error (easily identifiable by "broken" rhythm)|
Having sensible and efficient conversations in Morse code involves more than simply knowing the alphabet. To make communication efficient, there are many internationally agreed patterns of communication.
A sample CW conversation between station 1 (A1AA) and station 2 (A2BB) might go roughly like this:
A1AA: CQ CQ CQ DE A1AA A1AA AR
- Calling anyone (CQ), this is (DE) A1AA, end of transmission (AR).
A2BB: A1AA DE A2BB A2BB KN
- Calling A1AA, this is A2BB, back-to-you. (KN means you are inviting only the named party to reply)
A1AA: A2BB DE A1AA = GA DR OM UR RST 599 HR = QTH TIMBUKTU = OP IS JOHN = HW? A2BB DE A1AA KN
- Good afternoon dear old man. You are RST 599 here.
- (Very readable (5), very strong signal (9), very good tone (9))
- I'm located in Timbuktu. The operator's name is John.
- How do you copy? Go ahead, A2BB.
A2BB: A1AA DE A2BB = TNX FB RPRT DR OM JOHN UR 558 = QTH HIMALAYA = NAME IS YETI AR A1AA DE A2BB K
- Thanks for the nice report dear old man John. I read you 558.
- I am in the Himalayas. My name is Yeti. That's all for this transmission (AR), go ahead.
- (K without the N potentially invites other callers to break in).
A1AA: A2BB DE A1AA = OK TNX QSO DR YETI = 73 ES HPE CUAGN A2BB DE A1AA K
- Okay, thanks for this conversation, dear Yeti.
- Best regards and hope to see you again.
A2BB: A1AA DE A2BB = R TU CUAGN 73 A1AA DE A2BB SK
- Understood. Thank you. Best regards. Signing off. (SK)
A1AA: E E
- A couple of dits typically ends a contact.
In practice, A1AA and A2BB would be conventional amateur callsigns uniquely identifying each of the parties to the contact.
With heavy use of the Q code, prosigns and Morse code abbreviations, surprisingly meaningful conversations can be had with relatively short transmissions, rather like "TXT speak" using SMS on mobile phones. Note that very few full English words have been used in the conversation ("is" and "name"), with most words and phrases abbreviated. S1 and S2 might not even speak the same native language, merely learning to translate their native tongue into the correct Morse abbreviations.
Of course, real rag-chewing (lengthy conversations) cannot be done without a common language, a lingua Franca. On the worldwide amateur bands this is most often English but long Morse contacts may occasionally be heard in French, German, Spanish, Russian etc. Likewise, common words in these languages have their own abbreviations, such as "MCI" for "merci", "AWDH" for "auf Wiederhören" and "DSW" for "do svidaniya". It is considered courteous to use such simple non-English abbreviations when completing a contact with a non-English speaker.
Contesters often use an even shorter, stylized format for their contacts. Their purpose is to complete as many contacts as possible in a limited time (e.g. at a rate of 100–200 contacts per hour). They typically omit superfluous procedural signals and repeats unless the band is noisy and/or the other party seems likely to have trouble copying correctly. Accuracy is particularly important, especially for callsigns, to avoid points being deducted during the scoring process so good Morse operators regulate their style according to conditions and the other party (e.g. matching their speed).
Traffic handlers are Morse code operators who send and receive—or 'handle'—recorded text messages for relay and delivery to third parties. The message information in such formal traffic handling is called 'record traffic'. Morse code record traffic handlers may be radio amateurs ('hams') or professionals (ship's radio operators or military radio operators). In North America (USA and Canada) amateur radio operators ('hams') are permitted to handle such third party traffic as a non-profit public service, however such traffic handling on behalf of third parties by amateurs is forbidden by law in much of the rest of the world. In Canada and the USA the 'national' ham radio organizations, such as the ARRL (American Radio Relay League) and the RAC (Radio Amateurs of Canada), publish manuals that standardize procedures for such record communications. Record traffic handlers (both professional and amateur) traditionally use several of these Morse code prosigns to format the text of the messages as recorded on the page (written by hand or typwritten). When record traffic handlers receive formal message traffic by Morse code they do not write or type the prosigns, instead they take page and text formating action upon receiving the prosigns to properly format the recorded message on the page. For example when hearing the prosign <CT> ("Copy This") the operator will begin copying down all that comes afterword, immediately expecting a message header to follow. When hearing <BT> ("Begin Two lines") within a message, the traffic handler starts a new paragraph on the page (spaces down two lines). When hearing the prosign <AA> within a message, the traffic handler spaces down one line on the page (e.g. starts a new line for each line of a street address or postal address). Upon hearing the prosign <AR> the operator stops writing down or recording the message text, but continues listening without recording, etc.
See also 
- ARRL Staff 2011 (American Radio Relay League Staff) "NTS Methods and Practices Guidelines" (NTS MPG), attached to the ARRL "Public Service Communications Manual" (PSCM) as Appendix B, available in print from ARRL or from the ARRL web site. This Appendix is the working reference manual on Traffic Net and Message Handling Procedures in the ARRL National Traffic System (NTS)
- Field, Don (2010). The Amateur Radio Operating Manual. Potters Bar: RSGB. p. 92. ISBN 1-905086-00-8.
- Devoldere, John; Demeuleneere, Mark. "Ethics and Operating Procedures for the Radio Amateur". The International Amateur Radio Union (IARU). p. 21. "Do not end your CQ with ‘AR K’: it means ‘end of message, over to you’. There is nobody to turn it over to yet. End your CQ with ‘AR’. It is true that we often hear ‘AR K’ on the band, but it is not a proper procedure!"