Codes and Alphabets

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Phonetic Alphabet

A number of phonetic alphabets exist. The NATO version is most common and can be considered to be the "international" phonetic alphabet.

Letter Code word Pronunciation
A Alfa AL FAH
B Bravo BRAH VOH
C Charlie CHAR LEE
D Delta DELL TAH
E Echo ECK OH
F Foxtrot FOKS TROT
G Golf GOLF
H Hotel HO TELL
I India IN DEE AH
J Juliett JEW LEE ETT
K Kilo KEY LOH
L Lima LEE MAH
M Mike MIKE
N November NO VEM BER
O Oscar OSS CAH
P Papa PAH PAH
Q Quebec KEH BECK
R Romeo ROW ME OH
S Sierra SEE AIR RAH
T Tango TANG GO
U Uniform YOU NEE FORM
V Victor VIK TAH
W Whiskey WISS KEY
X X-ray or
Xray
ECKS RAY
Y Yankee YANG KEY
Z Zulu ZOO LOO
Number Code word Pronunciation
0 Zero ZE RO
1 One WUN
2 Two TOO
3 Three TREE
4 Four FOW ER
5 Five FIFE
6 Six SIX
7 Seven SEV EN
8 Eight AIT
9 Nine NIN ER

Morse Code

Main articles: morse code, Wikipedia:Morse code

Morse code is a way to encode text through the generation of a carrier wave (CW). It is used to communicate over long distances or with low power (QRP).

You do not need to learn morse code to obtain a radio license or operate an amateur radio station anymore.

The code is composed of 5 elements:

  1. short mark, dot or 'dit' (·) — one unit long
  2. longer mark, dash or 'dah' (–) — three units long
  3. intra-character gap (between the dots and dashes within a character) — one unit long
  4. short gap (between letters) — three units long
  5. medium gap (between words) — seven units long
Character Code Character Code Character Code Character Code Character Code Character Code
A · — J · — — — S · · · 1 · — — — — . · — · — · — : — — — · · ·
B — · · · K — · — T 2 · · — — — , — — · · — — ; — · — · — ·
C — · — · L · — · · U · · — 3 · · · — — ? · · — — · · = — · · · —
D — · · M — — V · · · — 4 · · · · — '' · — — — — · + · — · — ·
E · N — · W · — — 5 · · · · · ! — · — · — — - — · · · · —
F · · — · O — — — X — · · — 6 — · · · · / — · · — · _ · · — — · —
G — — · P · — — · Y — · — — 7 — — · · · ( — · — — · " · — · · — ·
H · · · · Q — — · — Z — — · · 8 — — — · · ) — · — — · — $ · · · — · · —
I · · R · — · 0 — — — — — 9 — — — — · & · — · · · @ · — — · — ·

Q-Code

These codes were originally developed to shorten transmission times when using CW, but are frequently used in voice transmissions. (eg. I am going to go QRT, thanks for the QSO.)

The QRA...QUZ code range includes phrases applicable to all services and is allocated to the International Telecommunications Union. NATO's ACP 131(E), COMMUNICATIONS INSTRUCTIONS - OPERATING SIGNALS, March 1997, chapter 2 contains a full list of 'Q' codes. Other 'Q' code ranges are allocated specifically to aviation or maritime services; many of those codes have fallen into disuse as voice displaces CW in commercial operation.

The Q-code was originally instituted at the Radiotelegraph Convention held in London, 1912 and was intended for marine radiotelegraph use. The codes were based on an earlier list published by the British postmaster general's office in 1908.[1] More information about the history and usage of Q-codes can be found here.

Code Meaning Sample use
Q Codes Commonly Used by Radio Amateurs
QRG Exact frequency HE TX ON QRG 14205 kHz
QRI Tone (T in the RST code) UR QRI IS 9
QRK Intelligibility (R in the RST code) UR QRK IS 5
QRL This frequency is busy. Used almost exclusively with morse code, usually as a question (QRL? - is this frequency busy?) before transmitting on a new frequency
QRM Man-made interference ANOTHER QSO UP 2 kHz CAUSING LOT OF QRM
QRN Natural interference, e.g. static crashes BAND NOISY TODAY LOT OF QRN
QRO Increase power NEED QRO WHEN PROP POOR
QRP Decrease power QRP TO 5 W (As a mode of operation, a QRP station is five watts or less, a QRPp station one watt or less)
QRQ Send more quickly TIME SHORT PSE QRQ
QRR Temporarily unavailable/away, please wait WILL BE QRR 30 MIN = THAT STN IS QRR NW
QRRR Land distress A non-standard call proposed by ARRL for land-based or railroad emergency traffic in situations where response from ships at sea (which listened for SOS) was neither needed nor desired.[2][3] Now deprecated.
QRS Send more slowly PSE QRS NEW TO CW (QRS operation - a slower dot rate - is useful during weak-signal conditions; a QRSS mode uses an extremely low code rate on a channel less than 1Hz wide to allow reception under extreme QRP conditions)
QRT Stop sending ENJOYED TALKING 2 U = MUST QRT FER DINNER NW
QRU Have you anything for me? QRU? ABOUT TO QRT
QRV I am ready WL U BE QRV IN UPCOMING CONTEST?
QRX Will call you again QRX @ 1500H
QRZ You are being called by ________. QRZ? UR VY WEAK (Only someone who has previously called should reply)
QSA Signal strength UR QSA IS 5
QSB Fading of signal THERE IS QSB ON UR SIG
QSD Your keying is defective QSD CK YR TX
QSK Break-in I CAN HR U DURING MY SIGS PSE QSK
QSL I Acknowledge receipt QSL UR LAST TX = PSE QSL VIA BURO (i.e. please send me a card confirming this contact).
QSM Repeat last message QRM DROWNED UR LAST MSG OUT = PSE QSM
QSN I heard you QSN YESTERDAY ON 7005 kHz
QSO A conversation TNX QSO 73
QSP Relay PSE QSP THIS MSG TO MY FRIEND
QST General call to all stations QST: QRG ALLOCS HV CHGD
QSX I am listening on ... frequency QSX 14200 TO 14210 kHz
QSY Shift to transmit on ... LETS QSY UP 5 kHz
QTA Disregard last message QTA, DID NOT MEAN THAT
QTC Traffic STN WID EMRG QTC PSE GA
QTH Location QTH IS SOUTH PARK CO
QTR Exact time QTR IS 2000 Z


RST code

The RST code, in its original form, is intended for CW operation. On SSB, the final digit (tone) is normally omitted.

Number R - Readability S - Strength T - Tone
RST Code Commonly Used by Radio Amateurs
1 Unreadable Faint signal, barely perceptible Sixty cycle a.c or less, very rough and broad
2 Barely readable, occasional words distinguishable Very Weak Very rough a.c., very harsh and broad
3 Readable with considerable difficulty Weak Rough a.c. tone, rectified but not filtered
4 Readable with practically no difficulty Fair Rough note, some trace of filteringfrequency
5 Perfectly readable Fairly Good Filtered rectified a.c. but strongly ripple-modulated
6 not used Good Filtered tone, definite trace of ripple modulation
7 not used Moderately Strong Near pure tone, trace of ripple modulation
8 not used Strong Near perfect tone, slight trace of modulation
9 not used Very strong signals Perfect tone, no trace of ripple or modulation of any kind

In CW operation, individual digits may be abbreviated by substituting as follows: 1 = A, 2 = U, 3 = V, 4 = 4, 5 = E, 6 = 6, 7 = B, 8 = D, 9 = N, 0 = T (for instance, RST 599 could be sent as 5NN - a shorter message in CW). These are referred to as "cut numbers" and are obtained by replacing all of the dashes in a CW digit with a single dash. Cut numbers are not suitable for transmitting data which already contains mixed alphanumerics, such as callsigns.[4]

RSQ code

Often used to describe reception and quality of digital modes such as PSK31

Number R - Readability S - Strength V - Quality
RSQ Code Commonly Used by Radio Amateurs
1 0% copy - undecipherable barely perceptible trace splatter over much of the spectrum
2 20% copy -occasional words distinguishable not used not used
3 40% copy - readable with difficulty, many missed characters Weak trace multiple visible pairs
4 80% copy - Readable with no difficulty not used not used
5 95%+ copy - Perfectly readable Moderate trace One easily visible pair
6 not used not used not used
7 not used Strong Trace One barely visible pair
8 not used not used not used
9 not used Very strong trace Clean signal - no visible unwanted sidebars

RSV code for SSTV transmissions

Number R - Readability S - Strength V - Video
RSV Code Commonly Used by Radio Amateurs
1 Unreadable Faint signal, barely perceptible Picture unreadable
2 Barely readable Very Weak picture barely visible
3 Readable with difficulty Weak Readable with flaws
4 Readable with no difficulty Fair Very good picture some flaws
5 Perfectly readable Fairly Good Perfect picture no flaws
6 not used Good not used
7 not used Moderately Strong not used
8 not used Strong not used
9 not used Very strong signals not used

In fast-scan amateur television (ATV), signal-to-noise ratio is reported as one of:

P0 - all image detail lost
P1 - 3-8dB, barely legible
P2 - 8-20dB, definitely noisy
P3 - 20-35dB, somewhat noisy
P4 - 35-45dB, slightly noisy
P5 - 45dB+, no discernible noise[5]

CW Abbreviations

These abbreviations are commonly used in CW transmissions to shorten transmission times. Not all CW operators use all of them - most will use very few. As a general rule most operators do not abbreviate unnecessarily, especially when communication with an operator that they do not know or whose experience is unknown. In contest conditions, abbreviations are common as operators try to gain as many contacts as possible over the competition period.

Abbreviation Meaning Abbreviation Meaning
CW Abbreviations
AA All After OB Old Boy
AB All Before OC Old Chap
ABT About OM Old Man
ADEE Addressee OP Operator
ADR Address OPR Operator
AGN Again OT Old Timer
AM Amplitude Modulation PBL Preamble
ANT Antenna PKG Package
BCI Broadcast Interference PSE Please
BCL Broadcast listener PT Point
BCNU Be seeing you PWR Power
BK Break in PX Press
BN Between, Been R Received, Are
BT Separation RC Ragchew
BTR Better RCD Received
Bug Semi automatic key RCVR Receiver
C Yes, Correct REF Refer to
CFM Confirm, I confirm RFI Radio Frequency Interference
CK Check RIG Station Equipment
CKT Circuit RPT Repeat, Report
CL Closing Station, Call RTTY Radioteletype
CLBK Callbook RST Readability Strength Tone
CLD Called RX Receive, receiver
CLG Calling SASE Self addressed stamped envelope
CNT Cant SED Said
CONDX Conditions SEZ Says
CQ Calling any station SGD Signed
CU See you SIG Signature, Signal
CUL See you later SINE Personal initials or nickname
CUM Come SKED Schedule
CW Continuous Wave SRI Sorry
DA day SS Sweepstakes
DE From, From this SSB Single Sideband
DIFF Difference STN Station
DLD & DLVD Delivered SUM Some
DN Down SVC Service
DR Delivered T Zero
DX Distance TFC Traffic
EL Element TMW Tomorrow
ES And TKS & TNX Thanks
FB Fine business TR & TX Transmit
FER For T/R Transmit/Receive
FM Frequency Modulation, From TRIX Tricks
GA Go ahead, Good afternoon TT That
GB Goodbye, God Bless TTS That is
GD Good TU Thank you
GE Good Evening TVI Television interference
GESS Guess TX Transmitter, Transmit
GG Going TXT text
GM Good Morning U You
GN Good Night UR You're Your
GND Ground URS Yours
GUD Good VFB Very Fine Business
GV Give VFO Variable Frequency Oscillator
HH Error sending VY Very
HI HI Laughter W Watts
HR Hear WA Word After
HV Have WD Word
HW How, Copy? WDS Words
IMI Repeat, say again WKD Worked
LNG long WKG Working
LTR Later WPM Words per minute
LVG Leaving WRD Word
MA & MILLS Milliamperes WX Weather
MSG Message TXVR Transceiver
N No, Nine XMTR Transmitter
NCS Net Control Station XTL Crystal
ND Nothing Doing XYL, YF Wife
NM No More YL Young Lady
NR Number YR Year
NW Now , Resume transmission 73 Best Regards

In 1859, Western Union standardized on the "92 code", a series of telegraphic abbreviations in which numbers (originally 1 to 92) were assigned meanings.[6] These were later included as part of the "Philips Code", a series of abbreviations first published in 1879 by Walter Phillips of the Associated Press for use in the telegraphic transmission of press dispatches.[7]

While most of the codes have fallen into disuse, the form 19 and 31 train orders remained in railroad use long beyond the end of landline telegraphy, the use of '30' at the end of a news wire story was continued through the teletypewriter era and the '73' and '88' greetings remain in use in amateur radiotelegraphy.

Abbreviation Meaning Abbreviation Meaning
Western Union codes
1 Wait a minute. 25 Busy on another wire.
2 Very Important. 26 Put on ground wire.
3 What time is it? 27 Priority, very important.
4 Where shall I go ahead? 28 Do you get my writing?.
5 Have you business for me? 29 Private, deliver in sealed envelope.
6 I am ready. 30 No more - the end.
7 Are you ready? 31 Form 31 (permissive) train order.
8 Close your key, stop breaking. 32 I understand that I am to ....
9 Priority business. Wire Chief's call. 33 Answer is paid.
10 Keep this circuit closed. 34 Message for all officers.
12 Do you understand? 35 You may use my signal to answer this.
13 I understand. 37 Inform all interested.
14 What is the weather? 39 Important, with priority on through wire.
15 For you and others to copy. 44 Answer promptly by wire.
17 Lightning here. 55 Important.
18 What's the trouble? 73 Best Regards.
19 Form 19 (absolute) train order. 77 I have a message for you.
21 Stop for meal. 88 Love and kisses.
22 Wire test. 91 Superintendent's signal.
23 All stations copy. 92 Deliver Promptly.
24 Repeat this back. 134 Who is at the key?

Two non-standard codes, rarely-used, were coined within the amateur radiotelegraph service. The Young Ladies Radio League (YLRL) organized in 1939 and quickly coined '33' as "Love sealed with mutual respect and friendship between one YL and another YL".[8] More recently, '72' has been used in QRP operation to signify a '73' sent with reduced transmitter power.

See also

Operating procedures
Operation Callsigns and ITU prefixes * Codes and Alphabets * Modes * Morse code * Nets * UK licensing * Terminology
DX and Contesting Awards and Certificates * DXCC * DX cluster * Field day * Gridsquares * Logging * QSL and QSL Bureaus * Records - Distance
Emergencies Emergency Frequencies * ARES * IRESC * SATERN * Weather spotting
QRP Trail-Friendly Radio
Utilities Beacons (/B) and Time Beacons
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