# CW contact content

I received my license and built and tested my first CW transceiver. I've spent the last weeks learning Morse code. Now, time has come to make the first contact.

But what is a typical CW contact? When you've found each other, what information is typically communicated and in what order?

Or isn't there something like a format?

In any case, my advice for situations such as these is simple: Listen!

Since you have a transceiver, just listen and try to find QSOs where you can hear both sides of the conversation, listen to them, copy down all information they send and try to analyze it. This will help you familiarize yourself with local operating customs, so you'll have a good answer for your immediate location. There's also this SDR site, whose receiver shouldn't be too far away from you (in SW terms at least).

If you want some "generic" advice, look up QSO templates. You mentioned that you practiced code, so you should already be a bit familiar with them. If you aren't, do practice them! It will make things much easier than if you haven't.

Once you get the basic template, the rest is just listening. Some people may want to just "rubber stamp" QSOs, other people may want to have longer conversations, so that's something that you need to prepare for by listening. This way, you can get to know the locals who are often on the band, before actually establishing communication with them.

If you really want another one of those QSO templates, I'll try to provide one with comments along the way.

QRL?

Then you want for a while, to see if you're emitting on a frequency that's already in use. If there's no response, move to next step.

QRL?

Once again, ask if the frequency is in use and listen for a couple of tens of seconds.

QRL?

If nobody responds, you can start calling CQ.

CQ CQ CQ DE YU1NKA YU1NKA YU1NKA K

Point of the CQ is to draw attention to yourself and not to the fact that you're calling CQ. What the other side wants to hear is your callsign. Depending on your callsign, it might be a bit difficult to copy on the first try. Then wait for a while and see if anyone is responding. If not, call again. Repeat this step until someone does respond, but do keep in mind that you need to leave enough time between your calls for someone to actually respond.

So let's assume that someone heard the CQ and wants to respond. He'll go something like this:

YU1NKA DE AA1BBB AA1BBB K

Important point for the other guy is to send your callsign, so that you can recognize that he's talking to you and to send his callsign, so that you can copy it. Some people may send callsign only once, or they may do it several times. After that, there's the end of relation sing. Some people send K, some send KN, some may send AR. In any case, these procedural signs are send without a space between letters, that is, as if they are just one letter.

At this point, the "connection" is established and it's up to you to respond. So here's my example again:

AA1BBB DE YU1NKA GM OM TNX FER CALL UR 599 599 QTH BELGRADE BELGRADE BT NAME ANDREJA ANDREJA BT HW CPY? AR AA1BBB DE YU1NKA KN

So in this part, it's important to send the procedural information, such as report, location and name, which are usually send in that order. The BT (sometimes written as =) prosign is often used as a sort of spacer between different sections of a QSO. I've seen some people use full stop there as well, but BT is a bit faster to type. Note some abbreviations used here as well. O is quire a bit longer than E, so in some cases such short-hands are used as a from of "TXT speak" which allows faster sending. Often, in the report, letters will be used instead of numbers. There's a whole set of equivalences between letters and numbers, but the most popular seems to be N for 9, so you may see report sent as 5NN. Near the end of relation, you should ask for the same procedural information from the other side. Sometimes, just HW? is used to ask for report.

Then the other side will reply something like:

YU1NKA DE AA1BBB R GD OM UR RPRT 5NN 5NN BT QTH EXAMPLETOWN EXAMPLETOWN BT NAME BOB BOB AR YU1NKA DE AA1BBB KN

With this part, the formal start of the conversation is over. Do note the R used here. It's used to show that you copied whole previous relation. Now you can talk about whatever you want, if the other side is also interested. Some people may skip this part.

AA1BBB DE YU1NKA R BLA BLA MY TRX IS BLA BLA MY ANT IS BLA BLA BLA WX IS BLA BLA BLA I LIKE WRITING HAM.SE ANSWERS AT 4 AM IN THE MORNING BLAH BLAH BLAH AR BK

Some people may just send BK at the end of a relation instead of sending full callsigns. Just keep in mind how often you're required to identify yourself when you're doing something like this.

Finally, there's the conclusion part. In this part, you usually send best wishes, wish for another QSO soon, wish for good DX or something like that and you end the conversation. Sometimes people may throw in a word or two in the language used in the country of the person you're talking to, if you happen to know them. Also it may be a good place to negotiate sending of QSL cards, if that's something you're into.

So the end would look like this:

AA1BBB DE YU1NKA R OK TNX DR BOB FER ALL BT WILL SEND QSLL VIA BURO BURO BT HPE TO CU AGN ES ALL BEST FER U ES UR FAMILY IN 2015 BT TNX FER QSO 73 SK AA1BBB DE YU1NKA CL

Here again, we have R, to show that whole last relation came through. Next, I mention that I'll send my QSL card (do note QSLL) through QSL bureau and I wish all the best in the new year and thank for the QSO. In the end, we have 73, which is commonly used. Then there's the procedural part. I send SK, meaning that I'm ending the conversation and I send CL, meaning that I'm closing down my station.

The other side will provide a similar transmission. Sometimes, at the very end, people will send E E and E after the final official relation. Sometimes other people listening to the conversation may also send E E as well as a sort of informal greeting.

Here are some interesting sites I've noticed:
http://fistsna.org/pdfdocs/A%20BASIC%20CW%20OPERATING%20MANUAL.pdf
http://www.skccgroup.com/member_services/beginners_corner/
http://zs6ez.org.za/tutorial/cw-qso.htm

There's also this book about Morse Code theory and background: http://www.tasrt.ca/bookdown.html

Hope this helps somehow and good luck with CW QSOs!

• Maybe rules are different in different countries. I have a novice license in the Netherlands and didn't need to know much about this (maybe some Q-codes though, don't remember exactly). Thanks for your extensive answer! – user885 Jan 11 '15 at 17:37
• Does your novice license allow you to operate CW? – sessyargc.jp Jan 13 '15 at 9:19

CW contacts have largely the same format as other contacts.

Nearly always exchanged:

• call sign
• signal report (RST format)
• location
• name

In a contest, it's usually just call signs and a "signal report" which is always 599, and usually a location or any other information which might be relevant to the contest (like multipliers for mobile operation, etc).

Friendlier contacts usually include topics that hams seem to enjoy talking about:

• station description
• antenna
• transmit power
• the weather
• insightful, deep, personal remarks, like your age and what you ate for breakfast

If you want a longer QSO, just keep elaborating on these things. Talk about whatever is most important to you. If you are old, talk about your age and how long you've been a ham. Maybe make some remarks about how things were in the stony ages so everyone understands how much experience you have. If you are a gear head, talk about all the expensive station equipment you have and how great it is. Be sure to take turns so the other person can brag about what's important to them, too.

If you want to sound like a real ham, be sure to use these as much as possible:

• FB: "fine business", or "uh-huh, yeah."
• OK: just "OK". Used when you need a fresh semantically null filler because "FB" is getting a bit played out.
• OM: "old man". Because literally, most hams are old men. Used to make sure all women and anyone young feels excluded from the community.
• YL: "young lady". If you must acknowledge a woman, use this to indicate that you imagine that she's young and attractive, thus again making sure women are at least uncomfortable.
• TNX: "thanks". Be sure to thank the other person for each and every transmission.
• HI (usually repeated): Contrived, symbolic laughter. Everyone is entitled to thinking they have a good sense of humor.
• R: "message received". Be sure to send it at least three times near the start of each and every transmission so the other person knows you understood them, even when conditions are really good and you've already exchanged 599 signal reports.

Also be sure to know all the prosigns and Q codes. Use them as much as possible. If you can use two or three redundantly, even better. Bonus points for using the ones designed for the wireless telegraph days which have only tangential relevance to amateur operation.

• Is it really common to send grid squares in CW contests? I must admit that I don't have much experience with them, but I did listen to a few and I haven't seen grid squares being exchanged in any (in contrast to say VHF contests). – AndrejaKo Jan 11 '15 at 16:23
• @AndrejaKo Yeah... I guess it really depends on the parameters of the contest. – Phil Frost - W8II Jan 11 '15 at 16:43
• I have worked almost all CW contests (well, those commonly done in North America) and I have never had to exchange grid square. Indeed, I have never exchanged grid square at all. My ops are better than 95 percent CW -- I so rarely use SSB that I forget how to talk.:-) – K7PEH Jan 11 '15 at 17:58
• There are VHF contests that score based on distance communicated, and those will want grid squares in the log. – Phil Frost - W8II Jan 12 '15 at 13:35

Another answer more geared to contests or DX hunting.

Contests are designed to be fast and short and with CW, they are very fast at times. If you like CW, this is a great place to learn to copy at faster rates. My regular CW dialog is at 20 to 25 wpm but during a contest it is 30+ wpm and sometimes up to 40 wpm. Learning to copy a call sign at 40 wpm usually comes quickly in a contest.

So, typically, a contester looking for contacts starts with a special CQ:

CQ CQ CQ TEST DE K7PEH

Where the TEST is short for Contest (it is not saying I am testing here). To respond to a contest you never use the other's call sign. Let's say that W7IZ (a friend of mine) wants to reply. His reply is merely:

W7IZ

And, usually once and only once if you are in a pileup.

Then when K7PEH comes back to you he will give his exchange right away. Say the exchange is just RST plus state (assuming US):

W7IZ 5NN WA

Often they do not even include their own call sign (takes too much time). You reply to that by:

TU 5NN OR

And, you can if you want add your call sign at the end but by that time the contester has probably left you go to pick up the next station. TU is the more common way of saying Thank you or QSL as it is faster than TNX and it is faster than QSL.

Last night was the North American QSO Party CW contest. The exchange was name and state (for US participants at least). A lot of abbreviations are used on names. For example, if the contesters name is GEORGE, he will likely only send the first parts, like GEO.

I used to hate contests but now I am motivated by CW contests for two reasons: (1) a way to pick up QSLs on DX or other rare QTH; and, (2) a means to stretch my skills at copying fast CW. I have never sent in my logs for a contest -- I don't care about the competing thing. I do upload to LOTW for others to use as credit though. But, I am lazy and I don't upload as often as I should.

Addendum: Above where I say that TEST is used with CQ in a contest I should clarify or expand. TEST is not always used, sometimes some abbreviation for the contest is used. Such as in the North America contest last night, the CQ CQ CQ NA was used where NA was used in place of TEST. Often the NA or TEST (or whatever) also comes after the call sign such as in:

CQ CQ CQ DE K7PEH TEST

And, sometimes, different people working the same contest will use different things such as in the NA contest you also heard some saying TEST and others saying NA QP (for QSO Party). In a state QSO Party, you will here something like WA QP if it is Washington state. Actually, the official Washington State QSO party is named Salmon Run so the letters SR are used instead of WA QP.