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 telegraphic 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 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 (overline above the letters) or by surrounding the run-together letters with angle brackets (such as <BT>), indicating that they are linked and sent as one contiguous sequence.
List of procedural signals / prosigns
||Space down one line (new line) (also, "ä" (a with umlaut) in some countries)||On typewriter; Carriage Return, Line Feed (CR-LF).|
||Stop copying (end of message)||Often written +||"All Received"|
||Wait. AS2 means wait two minutes, AS5 five minutes, etc.||Respond with C (Confirmed) or R (Received). For pauses of 10 minutes or longer, use QRX (see Q code)||"Just A Sec"|
||BreaK||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"|
||CLosing down||I am going off the air now||"CLear"|
||Attention, Commencing Transmission||Sometimes written as KA||"Copy This"|
||Shift to Wabun code|
||Invitation to a specific named station to transmit||"Go ahead, Named station" or "go oNly", signifying that only the specifically called station should reply||"oK, Named-station"|
||End of contact||Sometimes written as VA||"Silent Key"|
||Understood (also, "I made error, will transmit previous word again" in some cases; or in Wabun code, resume Morse code)||Sometimes written as VE||"Sho' 'Nuff"|
||Serious distress message and request for urgent assistance ( listen (help·info))||Emergency signal, must ONLY be used if there is imminent danger to life or destruction of property. See SOS|
An error may be indicated by a sequence of eight dots EEEEEEEE, or sometimes fewer spaced-out dots, the unusual 'broken' rhythm indicating an error.
"K", while not strictly a prosign, is normally used at the very end of a transmission to indicate "Go ahead". K, KN, and SK are also commonly used in text modes such as RTTY and PSK31. Notably, SK is also used by TTY/TDD users, though "GA" ("Go Ahead") is typed rather than "KN".
Having sensible and efficient conversations in Morse code involves more than simply knowing the alphabet. To make communication efficient, there are internationally agreed protocols or patterns of communication, and international abbreviations, or Q codes
Here is an example Morse code conversation between stations with the callsigns X1AA and X2BB:
X1AA: CQ CQ CQ DE X1AA X1AA AR
- Calling anyone (CQ), this is (DE) X1AA, end of transmission (AR).
X2BB: X1AA DE X2BB X2BB KN
- Calling X1AA, this is X2BB, back-to-you. (KN means you are inviting only the named party to reply)
X1AA: X2BB DE X1AA = GA DR OM UR RST 599 HR = QTH TIMBUKTU = OP IS JOHN = HW? X2BB DE X1AA 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, X2BB.
X2BB: X1AA DE X2BB = TNX FB RPRT DR OM JOHN UR 558 = QTH HIMALAYA = NAME IS YETI AR X1AA DE X2BB K
- Thanks for the nice report dear old man John. I read you 558.
- (Very readable (5), adequate, low-strength signal (5), good tone (8))
- 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).
X1AA: X2BB DE X1AA = OK TNX QSO DR YETI = 73 ES HPE CUAGN X2BB DE X1AA K
- Okay, thanks (for this) conversation (QSO) dear Yeti.
- Best regards (73) and hope to see you again.
X2BB: X1AA DE X2BB = R TU CUAGN 73 X1AA DE X2BB SK
- Understood. Thank you. See you again. Best regards (73). Signing off.(SK)
X1AA: E E
- A couple of dits typically ends a contact. This resembles the archaic English "pip pip"
In practice, X1AA and X2BB would be conventional amateur callsigns uniquely identifying each of the parties to the contact.
Quick, meaningful language-independent communication
With heavy use of the Q code, prosigns and standard Morse code abbreviations, surprisingly meaningful conversations can be had with relatively short transmissions, rather like "TXT speak" on cellphones. Note that very few full English words have been used in the conversation ("is" and "name"), with most words and phrases abbreviated. X1AA and X2BB might not even speak the same native language, merely learning to translate their native tongue into the correct Morse abbreviations.
Rag chewers are Morse code operators who engage in casual conservations with other operators discussing subjects such as: the weather, their equipment, and their families, etc. Of course, real rag-chewing (lengthy chats or 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 can also be heard in French, German, Spanish, Russian etc. Likewise, common words in these languages have their own abbreviations, such as "MCI BCP" for "merci beaucoup", "AWDH" for "auf Wiederhören" and "DSW" for "do svidaniya". It is courteous to use such simple non-English abbreviations in contacts with non-English speakers, although there is a slight risk that they might take it as a suggestion that you are fluent in their language!
Radio telegraph contact contests
Contesters are Morse code operators who engage in sometimes frenetic contest activity where transmissions are short and cryptic. 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), so they typically omit superfluous procedural signals and repeats.
For contests, accuracy is particularly important, especially for callsigns. To avoid points being deducted during the scoring process, good Morse operators regulate their style according to conditions and the other party (e.g. matching their speed). They also revert to using procedural signals and repeats when the band is noisy and/or the other party seems likely to have trouble copying correctly.
Radio telegraph message relay
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'. In the sense meant here the words 'record' and 'recorded' means manually hand written, or typewritten, on paper or else typewritten into a word processing file so that a more or less permanent record of the message is available. Morse code record traffic handlers may be radio amateurs 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. The American and Canadian national ham radio organizations, 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.
Dotty and Dashy Morse
Although Dotty and Dashy Morse were only briefly used during WWI, both of these Morse Code variants are special cases of prosigned Morse. In essence one adds a Dot or a Dash at the end of each Morse symbol to make it Dotty or Dashy. The Dot E or Dash T is never added at the beginning of the Morse symbol, as all prosigns are terminating not initial.
- "International Morse code Recommendation ITU-R M.1677-1". itu.int. International Telecommunication Union. October 2009. Retrieved 23 December 2011.
- 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!