I have written this article inspired by many amateur radio telegraphists that don’t use conventional “orthodox” CW morse code procedures. The problem begins where we need to use many abbreviations and prosigns, in order to make communicating faster. Unfortunately many operators, over time, have modifed some procedures.
CW stands for Continuous Waveform, and not for Continuous Wave. The adjective “continuous” is referred to the noun “form”. It is an electromagnetic wave of constant amplitude and frequency; a sine wave! A “Continuous Wave” may be a wave generated in AM or SSB phone mode too. The difference is that in this case the voice changes, so the waveform is not continuous. In a CW transmission, the waveform is continuous, independently from the keying speed. When this kind of wave is “on the air”, the form is continuously and constantly a sinusoid, even if it is constantly in terrupted at the rhythm of the Morse Code.
QRL? (with question mark) means “is this frequency in use?”. When you have foud a frequency you would like to use, you have to ask if the frequency is occupied by someone else. Some operators uses letter “C”or question mark “?” instead of “QRL?”. The problem is that they are not asking anything! If the frequency is already ocupied, equally properly the other operator has to answer “Yes”, “Y”, “QRL” or, if he is a little bit touchy, “QSY” (change frequency).
If the frequency is not occupied, you have to call CQ at the same speed you would like to be answered. Don’t key CQ faster then you can copy! Don’t be a hero! In my experience, since 2011 when I discovered this beautiful world of radio telegraphy, I noticed that many operators answer CQ faster then CQ has been keyed before. This it not a problem if someone answer at 25 WPM to a 20 WPM call, but this is a problem when you answer 15 WPM (or more) to a “beginner” that is keying at 10 WPM. This will cause to the slowest operator to send “PSE QRS” (Please reduce speed) as the next message.
The correct syntax to call CQ is “CQ DE IZ7VHF AR“ or “CQ IZ7VHF AR”. You can repeat CQ twice or three times, not more. The same for callsign. AR means “end of message”, “finish”. For “the end of message” I mean the end of every single message, not the entire QSO when you finish to work your reciprocal radio station. Its meaning comes from antique American Morse code used for landlines. In this ancient code, that you can look on the left picture, old operators used FN at the end of ech message, like “FiNish”. The letters FN had same sound of AR in the international Morse code. This is the reason why we are using AR. It remains a mystery, for me, the reason why it has not been decided to use RN, since the second letter is the same of FN in the old American Morse code.
Almost all operators call “CQ DE IZ7VHF PSE K”, but “K” means “over to you” and must be used only when you have already “hooked” a station and your QSO is going on. In other words, you can use K (at the end of a message) whenever after first CQ call. This is because, when you call CQ, you don’t know if there is anyone out there that is hearing you and would like answer you. Theoretically, in the moment you are calling CQ, you are calling the empty space, so you cannot yet say “over to you” to anyone, in this moment, till to someone will answer your call. In other words, there is nobody there yet whom you can turn it over to. Don’t use “PSE AR” instead of “AR” for the same reason: it hasn’t any added value.
Moreover, please don’t send a long series of CQ, like “CQ CQ CQ CQ CQ CQ CQ DE IZ7VHF”, because a long CQ series will not increase the probabilities of getting a response, besides being very boring to transmit. It probably has the opposite effect. An operator that may be interested in answering you first wants to know your callsign, and certainly is not interested in listening to a long series of CQ. If he tunes his transceiver to frequency you are on, and he has lost something of your transmission, he may ask you to repeat again. It is really better to transmit twice or three times the entire text “CQ DE IZ7VHF, CQ DE IZ7VHF AR”.
While replying to a CQ, some operators (lucky very few) don’t send the callsign of the station at which they are responding. Indeed, it is almost certain that he is answering to our call, but, since we don’t know what could have happened in the meanwhile we have broadcast the call, nor we cannot be certain to hear any third operator, it is a good practice to answer a CQ call sending the caller’s callsign: “IZ7VHF DE DL1GKE…“. It is true that we must try to reduce the length of our expressions, but we must not fall below a threshold that endangers the comprehensibility. If an operator answer to my CQ call without put his callsign, I cannot know if he is working/answering another station than me.
Updated January 23th, 2017.