Formula of CW QSO

A portion of CW QSO is comprised of a series of formulae which have been formed for the whole history of CW communication. Some of them are regulated by our law such as how to call another station etc. These formulae may seem overregulated or simply too abundant to some CW operators now. They are going to neglect certain formulae in CW QSO.

One of the examples is omitting sending the callsigns of own and the other's;IDs in the end of transmission.  I have mentioned of this recent trend of operation in this blog before. I would consider what it means in this article.

They finish their messages abruptly with a word "BK". It always surprises me and makes me hurried somehow. It sounds like being compelled to hurry up. Actually, those guys seem to want to go away sooner. I always tell them that he/she seems to rush somewhere so I won't keep him/her any longer. In a minute, we go on into the end of the QSO as the guy wants.

This omission of formulae may simply mean they would cut the time of a QSO portion which seems unnecessary to them. But lessons of QSOs with those people tell me a bit more. They won't exchange other than reports/QTH/handles. Exchanging these informations is good enough for them. Finishing transmission with "BK" always means they won't go on to exuberant possibilities of further steps of a QSO. They may be concerned about getting a QSL only or recording a QSO data in his log.

This could be a way of enjoyment in ham radio, I should admit. But I am not for this way of omission in operation. It could lessen the possibility of communication. Meeting a guy through ham radio is not an ordinary routine in the world at all. A rare and valuable thing in our lives.We should take such a chance of meeting a person in that way. I would like to ask those neglecting the operation formula "So what after getting a card or a QSO record?"

Further, omitting sending IDs in the end of transmission prevents us preparing for answering to him/her in our turn. For a few seconds spent for sending IDs, we could compile in our brain the data or the informations we give to the other in the next transmission. And, of course, sending IDs could help the audience to know who we are. There could be a number of audience for a particular QSO all around the world in radio communication on HF bands. Omitting sending IDs could discourage them very much.

In the history, formulae in culture have been sometimes neglected or even denied by some people, mostly, young and not experienced. But there could be reasons why such formulae exist. CW communication is not an exception in this regard.


  1. Hi Shin

    I understand your sentiments. I was not properly trained in the amatuer regulations, coming from a sea-going backgound, and often follow what I hear on the air. In my case some bad habits have been assimilated.

    I agree that the proper exchange of callsigns is pleasing to the ear after lengthy transmissions in a serious QSO, but exchanges between CW operators are now so short that the sending of callsigns at the end of each transmission would take up too much time. Many CW operators are only interested in 5NN TU, or if pressed, an exchange of names and WX.

    I am still learning. At radio college we were taught that VA, although an official prosign, was never actually to be used because it had the connotations of "I have finished with you - go away". So I never use it and I still wince when I hear it. It seems so abrupt. It was never used at sea unless the coast station operator was in a very bad mood.

    But I realise that these negative connotations are not perceived by most amateurs, and that VA is a perfectly acceptable ham prosign.

    It is strange the way nuance and subtlety is ingrained in CW, even now after so many years. It is indeed similar to learning another language and being aware of correct usage and etiquette.

    In the case of the exchange of callsigns, I think the old norms of polite usage are eroding as the digital age marches on.

    Take Twitter for example, where only short statements are encouraged, or the empty, rather superficial one-line messages we see on Faceboook.

    Let us struggle on in our traditional way. Good communications are never out of fashion.

    Have a great New Year Shin san.

    PS - antenna still to be erected, and back to sea next week, so still QRT here.

  2. Shin,*
    Since I have frequently communicated with you via CW, much of your news was already discussed between us. However, reading it again reminds me of these events as I heard about them from you.

    Since you and I have been acquainted over the years via this Wireless CW communications, we have shared many events and life changing situations.
    Our growing older has changed both of us, I hope for the better. But not all of the changes have been as dramatic as the events you experienced this past year. I was truly concerned when I first heard about the great
    earthquake that affected your country, and like you watched the news video's of the devastation and loss of life and property. This was soon followed by more concerns and problems with Nuclear power facilities in your country.
    Since I have had training in field of public safety in the Nuclear Radiation
    field, this horrible situation also concerned me, especially for the contamination of the areas around the Nuclear Power Plant and the concerns for low level radiation exposure for those living in and around the Nuclear Power Plant.

    Perhaps one day I will share with you a bit of my experience and education in this area. Then your loss of your mother was just as serious as these other matters, but also much more personal and emotional. These were all in such a short time period along with trying to continue life in a respectable way made it difficult indeed.

    I was happy to hear that you were giving much though toward retirement or partial retirement in the near future. Since we discussed your knee injury and your automobile accident, it was not news to me, but your feelings were underlying at that time and were not discussed at length.
    So this information was new to me and your reasoning causes me to think a bit on the matter. Your knowledge as a doctor makes you more aware of the body and its aging processes. From our ongoing communications, I was familiar with your daily concerns about your patients and their
    So it is not difficult to understand your concerns for your own future as
    you continue to age. I am truly glad you were able to find someone to accept your medical practice, and to be able to continue on a part time basis as you wanted to do. Retirement gradually as you are doing it, will make it more
    enjoyable instead of another shocking event.

    I am truly glad we have been acquainted because of our ham radio hobby for this long period of time. I also must say you have given me good advice with my aging processes, which has made our time briefly chatting definitely
    worth while, both professionally and as friends. My wish for you and your family
    is to have a great year and to gracefully move into your senior years.


    *Bob Gates*
    *Mesa, AZ*

  3. Hi John,

    Reading your comment, I feel both of us belong to the same old generation. I totally agree with you. But I just want to emphasize the meaning of the formulae, that is a kind of frame, of CW communication. The meaning of abbreviations or Q codes etc may change in time. But the way we communicate with this mode should remain the same as for the formulae.

    I surely miss you with your powerful bug. i hope to hear you in the next vacation. A healthy and pleasant year to you. See you soon.

    Hi Bob,

    After having pasted your comment from your mail to this space, I realized it should have been put to the previous article. And lining your sentences looks a little bit messy here. Sorry for that.

    Thanks for your warm words. Yes, senilty creeps into us without our being conscious of that. Fortunately, I became aware of that with the event/accident you mentioned. I might be able to go on working a few more years. But I could make some serious trouble in my profession. That was the reason why I decided to retire.

    Anyway, I would go forward for any good prospect in life. Let's keep in touch. Your old bug always makes me feel relaxed. Have a very happy and healthy new year.


  4. Shin,

    Thanks for your comments, and as usual your perspective is always welcome.

    As for CW operations, I have observed most of these operations, especially the "BK" without any prior mention of wanting you to respond. Like you it often hits me without preparation and takes the fun away from the contact. Using the "BK" after a question is OK in my book and since most of who are dedicated CW users we have only to hit the key to transmit a response and with a question being presented it is not quite the same as talking about your rig and then sending "BK"!!

    However, in reading both your blog and comments I find I am guilty of Failing to following some old tried and true standards of communicating with CW. I am not always carefull to make sure I sign off with my call sign, and there are other mistakes I have begun to fall into. Yes, getting in a hurry is often a fault, but when DX ing don't we all try to rush the process of sending information quickly so that others can also contact the station we are talking with. I offer this only as a
    reason, not an excuse, because as we age it is easy to fall back into patterns of operation without giving much thought to the process.

    I recall many QSO's when I was in my teens with older gentlemen operators who often coached me and told me some of the more important operating rules
    which should be followed, just like they would tell me my spacing between letters or words was off for the speed I was sending, etc. Today, I find I am rarely able to coach someone who is new and trying to become a respectable CW operator. Usually I try to be positive in all that I say, telling them to keep up the good work in improving their CW operations. I fear that telling these new CW people would cause them to re-think the use of CW and we truly need to insure that they ultimately gain the operating standards that we accept as being good for true CW operations.

    I recall many years ago being the first ham radio cw contact for a new novice ham across town. I was still a kid at the time and patiently waited for each exchange. No e-mail in those days so I did not hear from the man for a few days when I got an envelope with a QSL card and many words of thanks for my patience and perseverance with him when I was talking to him on CW. 50 years later I sat in this man's home where I met him for the first time. He told me
    again how thankful he was that I truly tried to make thing easier for him during that first contact. He then admitted that was his first and only contact via ham radio using CW that he feared he would not find someone else who would be as patient. So he dilligently practiced to reach 13 WPM so he could get his General Class License and use Voice over ham radio.
    I was so shocked by that statement that I truly did not know how to respond as
    I had worked him via voice several times in years that followed our CW contact.


  5. Shin,

    In your comments from John, he mentions the prosign "VA" and says in Radio School for sea going operations it was
    frowned upon.

    In my stage of learning CW operations this prosign was called "SK" instead of
    "VA" and it was to be used at the end of text messages before the call sign exchange or at the end of a QSO after
    the final call sign exchange.

    But either name is OK by me, and I continue to use it at end of text messages and/or after the call sign exchange ending the QSO.


  6. Hi Bob,

    Yes, we have some occasions when we should use "BK". But, in my observation, quite a nmber of operators omit sending the IDs. They won't go on conversing on CW any longer. This doesn't seem a favoraqble thing to me.

    There are less mentors of elmers on the air now. I am sure you have been one of them to many beginners thanks to your great fist as well as your friendly and warm personality. Nowadays, on the other hand, those beginners won't ask the old timers for help or lessons, or even listen the bands for QSOs they should learn from. They mistake the CD of code practise or the net sources for such man to man learning process.

    Do we belong to the generation in the past which should disappear soon? Or are we right in these observations? I am not quite sure. All I could do is to go on in my own way.