Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Long and the Short of It

Thought for the day: We once had a beautiful Persian cat whose hoity-toity papers said his name was something like Lion Paw of North Hampshire. But we always called him Smokey.

[THEME: Amateur radio]

Did you happen to see the Tonight Show episode from a few years back in which a couple young gun telephone text messengers competed against a couple veteran amateur radio operators using Morse code? They both sent the same message, and guess what? The old-timers and their 100+ year-old Morse code technology  won.

I'd love to share that video with you, but NBC has a strict copyright on it. That doesn't mean you can't find the video online. But it DOES mean you won't find it here. (sigh)

Anyway, the fact is, some CW operators can copy and send at 50 WPM and higher. Most of us can't, but even for the lightning quick operators, shortcuts make a Morse code conversation much more relaxed and efficient. Much like texters, Morse code operators use a lot of abbreviations, too, and they also use something called Q SIGNALS. 

In the course of a contact, some questions and responses are fairly standard, so why take the time to send the same sentence in its entirety over and over again? Instead, we can send a three-letter group. For example:

  • QSL?       Do you acknowledge receipt, or did you copy that?
  • QSL         I acknowledge receipt, or I copied that.
  • QTH?      What is your location?
  • QTH         My location is _______
  • QRZ?       Who is calling me?
  • QRZ         You are being called by _______
  • QRL?       Is the frequency in use?
  • QRL         The frequency is in use.
And so on. There are many others, and even a few silly ones, like QLF? for Are you sending with your left foot? which, trust me,  is not exactly a compliment.

In addition to a host of common abbreviations and Q signals, we also have a few numbered shortcuts, too. Like 73 means best regards and 88 means hugs and kisses. My favorite, though, is 33, which expresses the special bond between females who enjoy, and thrive in, this historically male-heavy domain.

                                       Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other. 



    Too confusing for my muddled mind.

  2. I'll have to remember #33 and QLF! It's amazing how this is like belonging to a special secret agent club! Julie

  3. This is fantastic. It's shorthand and I imagine requires a devoted study just as the old Gregg shorthand used to demand when I was young.

  4. I can't even understand texting talk. I used to think lol meant little old lady.

  5. So cool! (I realize I've said that about a lot of your posts!) QLF? honestly? That's so funny :)

  6. CQ means we are seeking you and is the name of my sister's business in San Bruno, California, CQ's Art for Kids. But did I know this, no, CQ are my sister's initials.

  7. Susan, I loved this post. I have enjoyed your A - Z so much and, though I'd been exposed to, I believe, everything you've written about so far -- at least nominally -- the Q signals were completely new to me.

    I laughed out loud at your description of the texting/coding competition and definitely want to track down a link! Can you point me in the right direction?

    Finally, your last sentence speaks, 'you.' This is the spirit with which you have transmitted every communication.


  8. I'll have to remember QLF for future use. :)

  9. Fascinating. Twitter has gotten me better at short codes.

  10. Jon- Oh, fiddle-dee-dee! All you need is a cuppa coffee.

    Julie- HA! In a way, you're right. We use a lot of jargon, too, so whenever we're interviewed by a reporter, we have to be very careful to "watch our language", so to speak.

    Mr. C- Sounds like you may need a cuppa coffee, too?

    Manzie- Exactly! Although there's a whole long list of Q signals, most of us only use a handful of the more common ones.

    Delores- Doesn't it? (HA!)

    Udita- Cool is good! You can say it as often as you'd like.

    Carrie- Or two headless snowmen...

    Loverofwords- You're exactly right. That's neat. One of our amateur radio magazines is called "CQ", too, so you can tell your sister a magazine is named after HER.

    Suze- Aw, shucks. How sweet of you. As for finding a copy of that video, I did a google search to find it. Can't remember the exact words I entered, but something along the lines of Jay Leno Morse code versus phone texters, or some variable thereof.

    Rubye- Hmmm, now you have my curiosity piqued as to when that expression might come in handy for you ...

    M- I'll bet it has. Some of the abbreviations people use on there have me scratching my head.

  11. Qcool.I always wanted to learn Morse code. I doubt if I will, though. I still have trouble tying my shoes. Thank God for velcro.


  12. Janie- Morse code isn't difficult to learn, especially if you approach it in the same way you'd approach a foreign language ... by sound. Some people claim that having a musical background is helpful, too, because the rhythms come more easily. My husband swears that's why it was so much easier for me to learn the code than it was for him. (He has the proverbial tin ear, and can't chew gum and clap hands at the same time.)

  13. This was very interesting, I'd heard of QSL but not its exact meaning. I heard CB radios were very popular years ago but I don't hear about them anymore.
    When I got drafted they tried to teach me 4 morse letters and then use them in a timed setting. I couldn't get it.

  14. I cracked up about QLF. :D

    Yesterday when I was driving home from work I noticed the license plate on the car in front of me had "Amateur Radio Operator" written across the top of it. I got a big smile thinking about your series! I don't know if I even would have noticed that before the start of this challenge. I couldn't help but wonder if you'd ever communicated with this person I saw.

  15. just found you - great posts although I haven't understood all the words!:) fascinating - also dipped into your over the hill blog def made me smile - it's not so bad on the way down.

    Happy A-Zing.

  16. That's interesting because I play the piano, sing, and have a facility for languages. Maybe I will learn Morse code one of these days.


  17. I like the comment about "Secret agents" above. This is so cool! Now I have even more secret codes to use with you, because what do I always say? Big hugs! and now I get to through in a kiss too - 88!

    For now I will just try to remember 12:34. heehee Magic time!

    Thanks for this. I am truly going to be so, so sad when this over. But I am so anxious to see what "x" and "z" are going to be, since "q" was fascinating. I am still researching amateur radio on the net, thinking if I have the energy and can retain anything in my muddled [for now] brain I can surprise Pooldad with something neat [and starter like] for his birthday in July to get him started. I just KNOW how much he would love this, my only fear being I will lose a husband in the process. Ah well, I can always "blame" you. giggle


  18. Anthony- Glad you found it interesting. You're right about CB radio. It was pretty popular in the '70s, but now, it's mostly only long-haul truckers who still use CB, but even a lot of them have left the "dark side" and come over to amateur radio. Interesting about the military trying to teach you some Morse code when you were in the service. Guess it just wasn't your thing.

    Julie- All RIGHT! If nothing else, I'd hoped to at least raise some awareness of the amateur radio community and what we do. Now that you're more aware, you'll be surprised how many of us are around you.

    Alberta- Thanks for stopping by. I do appreciate it, and I'm glad you found something here to make you smile.

    Janie- Super! I bet you'll enjoy it. Guess you'll have to get your amateur radio license, too, if you want to actually USE the code, huh?

    Skippy- I can't tell you how thrilled I am that you've been enjoying this series of posts on amateur radio. Maybe, just for you, I'll keep on doing an amateur radio post every now and then. 12:34, kiddo. I hope you have a super weekend.