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When I was at a local radio club today, I witnessed a bit unusual response by a station calling CQ using BPSK31, that is to say phase-shift keying, not the regular A1A telegraphy, on the 20 meter band.

The communication looked something like this:
CQ CQ CQ DE XYZ1ABC CQ CQ CQ DE XYZ1ABC PSE K
XYZ1ABC DE ABC2XYZ KN -- our reply
ABC2XYZ DE XYZ1ABC SK SK -- their reply

After a minute or so of pause, the station called CQ again.

Rest of the guys at the club weren't sure what the other station meant by SK so we interpreted it as not being interested in a contact and moved on.

Objectively looking, the other station had no reason why not to be interested: Looking at the last few months of the log, there weren't any contacts with it. It wasn't calling DX or any specific territory and the distance was reasonably large, in the range of 3000 km.

So my question is: Is the interpretation of SK as used here correct? Is there some standard response to such a reply?

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    $\begingroup$ It may have been operator error (e.g. using the wrong macro, not understanding what SK means). Did the other station make any other contacts that you observed? $\endgroup$
    – W5VO
    Commented Apr 29, 2014 at 4:50
  • $\begingroup$ @W5VO No. I do remember seeing it calling CQ few times, but I don't think I saw anyone respond to the CQ or any pieces of conversation. Then again, I wasn't very focused at that particular station so I can't say that it didn't have any other conversations. I just didn't notice any. $\endgroup$
    – AndrejaKo
    Commented Apr 29, 2014 at 6:34
  • $\begingroup$ In ( BPSK31-Binary Phase Shift Keying 31 Baud) SK is used to signify the end of a conversation. K means over. $\endgroup$
    – Old_Fossil
    Commented Jun 2, 2016 at 3:43
  • $\begingroup$ I think he probably just didn't realize what SK meant. $\endgroup$
    – Tut
    Commented Sep 1, 2016 at 17:33
  • $\begingroup$ @Tut That could also be true! $\endgroup$
    – AndrejaKo
    Commented Sep 1, 2016 at 18:05

7 Answers 7

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I guess that means other operator was just rude.

If contact with you was not interesting for him, he should show respect by exchanging report and making quick contact, as, maybe, contact might be important for you.

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    $\begingroup$ Rude, or just stupidly clicking macros. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 29, 2014 at 11:06
  • $\begingroup$ Probably rude but I agree that the operator wanted to end the QSO immediately (before it even started) and using SK was maybe his way of ending it with as few characters to transmit. $\endgroup$
    – K7PEH
    Commented Jun 2, 2016 at 3:06
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SK generally means "silent key" meaning the conversation is over.

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  • $\begingroup$ I'm well aware that it's used to signal end of conversation. What I'm trying to ask is: What's the point of responding specifically with only SK? From what I've read so far, if someone uninteresting responds to a CQ, normal procedure is to ignore the response and wait for someone more interesting. This leads me to believe that there could be more than just not being a good candidate for a QSO. $\endgroup$
    – AndrejaKo
    Commented Apr 25, 2014 at 20:36
  • $\begingroup$ SK doesn't stand for "silent key", and SOS doesn't stand for "save our souls". They are just Morse code prosigns with pre-agreed meanings that sound like the letters run together with no space between the letters. SOS could also be referred to as VTB, for instance; it's only a convention to refer to the prosign as SOS instead of VTB. $\endgroup$
    – rclocher3
    Commented Aug 31, 2016 at 4:57
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In Morse communication, SK is a so-called prosign - see the entry in wikipedia - meaning "end of contact". It's what you normally send when you have finished with another station. The KN you used at the end of your call, meaning "go ahead only" is another such prosign.

Lots of these morse prosigns are carried over to other modes like digital...but maybe not always used correctly, I suppose.

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When I have seen SK used in CW it's meant Straight Key. Those whacky guys like to talk to other whacky guys, I guess :)

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  • $\begingroup$ Perhaps I was unclear, here BPSK31 was used, it's generally not possible to generate signal by hand. $\endgroup$
    – AndrejaKo
    Commented Apr 25, 2014 at 20:22
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    $\begingroup$ After more than 50 years of CW, I have never heard SK sent by a CW operator to mean "Straight Key". $\endgroup$
    – K7PEH
    Commented Jun 3, 2016 at 0:49
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What you heard was a ceremony and tribute to a silent key Silent key is a ham that has passed away , The ceremony is called, The Final Call

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  • $\begingroup$ Any references? This is first time I've read about something like this. $\endgroup$
    – AndrejaKo
    Commented Jun 1, 2016 at 6:34
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As mentioned, it might have been an SKCC member just calling for others. He might have done better to use the full 'SKCC' acronym to avoid confusion.
I say this as a rookie CW and new SKCC member.
The SKCC website mentions 21.050 14.050 7.050 as hot spots for us. Btw I think paddle keyers refer to SK as signifying 'Slow Keyers' (hi hi)

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  • $\begingroup$ Hi there and welcome to the site! I hope you like it here. Anyway, back to the question: Did you perhaps miss the calling CQ using BPSK31 part? $\endgroup$
    – AndrejaKo
    Commented Aug 30, 2016 at 13:58
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eHam Silent Key

But it wasn't done in a tradional way, at least the way I read it, because if it was a silent key ceremony, where was the silent keys' callsign?

KC2JLJ

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  • $\begingroup$ That was the unusual part for me as well, if it was a commemoration ceremony. To me it really did look like they're just calling regular CQ. $\endgroup$
    – AndrejaKo
    Commented Jun 1, 2016 at 18:52

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