Morse Code Telegraphy History

A ham radio friend shared this information with me via email.  While reading, I found the original source of several morse code shortcuts that are commonly used by ham radio operators.  Hams call these shortcuts “prosigns”.

The information seems to have originated from the winfldigi forum.  Those are the people who should be credited with providing and sharing the knowledge reproduced below.

First, let’s look at the history of the prosign “AA” (di-dah-di-dah).  Those above a certain age may recall when it was common practice to place a comma after each line of an address, or so it was taught in many one-room school houses.  This practice, of course, long ago fell by the wayside.  

When the nascent telegraph industry began developing standards for transmitting telegrams, they imported this then standard practice.  It had the added benefit of acting as a prosign indicating where the address or signature line ended.  Because the telegraph industry in North America used the original American Morse Code, the American Morse Code comma was used for this purpose (di-dah-di-dah).  

When wireless telegraphy first emerged, American Morse was commonly used for radio communications.  As a matter of fact, for the first decade of the 20th century, American Morse Code was the standard on the Great Lakes and for many coastal steamship companies.  The reasons are obvious; there were plenty of well trained telegraph operators around. all of whom were proficient in the American Morse Code.  Of course, eventually, the Continental Code (International Morse) was adopted as standard for maritime communications due to it’s international nature, issues of safety of life at sea, and so on.  However, many of the earlier telegraph procedures were imported into commercial wireless telegraphy and Amateur Radio.  Here are some prosign examples:


AR (di-dah-di-dah-dit) is actually “FN” in American Morse Code representing “FINISHED.”  This was sent at the end of a telegram, and it continues to be used at the end of ham radio transmissions, which are essentially telegrams themselves which are just part of a conversation or group of message exchanges.


SK (di-di-di-dah-di-dah) is actually “30” in American Morse Code.  In the Western Union wire codes, “30” represented “close of work.” It was commonly sent at the end of press stories, at the conclusion of transmitting a file of telegrams, or similar practices.  Hams today use it to indicate the conclusion of a QSO in much the same way.


ES (dit di-di-dit) is actually the ampersand (&) in American Morse Code.  Like many American Morse characters, it has an internal space, which is slightly shorter in timing than that used between individual characters.  In this respect, it shares this characteristic with other Morse characters having internal spaces, such as C, R, Y, Z and O.


One still occasionally hears hams use the Morse letter “C” (di-di  dit) to ask if a frequency is in use or to indicate it’s in use.  


…..and so on.  


So, when radio amateurs began handling message traffic, they simply imported the techniques of commercial operators and adopted the “AA” prosign, or American Morse comma to indicate the end of a line in an address.  



13 Colonies Special Event Webinar

(Lightly edited from an eMailed announcement on the topic)


The 13 Colonies Webinar:

The ARRL Eastern Pennsylvania Section Manager George Miller, W3GWM, and Bob Josuweit, WA3PZO will be hosting a special Zoom Webinar on June 15th for the 13 Colonies Special Event.

Ham Radio Station WM3PEN trustee, Bob Josuweit, WA3PZO, will talk about the 13 Colonies Special Event and WM3PEN’s participation over the past 10 years, and efforts to get hams, who do not have HF capability, involved with special event operations.

He will also discuss how incoming QSL card requests have opened up doors to talk about ham radio to people who are
not familiar with the hobby.

Join us Monday, June 15, at 7:30 PM for a presentation on the 13 Colonies Special Event.

Registration for this event is necessary. Email to register and receive log in information.


The 13 Colonies Event:

The annual Original 13 Colonies Special Event will mark its 12th anniversary this year. This on-the-air event gets under way on Wednesday July 1 at 1300 UTC and runs through Tuesday July 7 at 0400 UTC. 

Special event stations with 1 × 1 call signs will represent the original 13 US colonies, including K2M in Pennsylvania, plus bonus stations WM3PEN in Philadelphia and GB13COL in Durham, England.

Participating stations try to contact at least one or all 13 Colony Stations plus the two bonus stations. Earn a nice certificate and collect unique QSL cards.

Additional information about the event can be found at:

Original announcement was sent by:

ARRL Eastern Pennsylvania Section
Section Manager: George W Miller, W3GWM

EPA Field Day Competition

The ARRL Eastern Pennsylvania Section Manager announced this friendly competition as an extension of the traditional Field Day on-the-air event.

The short version of this announcement is:

Operate Field Day according to your own objectives.  Make your plans and have a good time.
Submit your Field Day results and documentation to ARRL for reporting in QST Magazine.

In addition, send a report to ARRL EPA Section Manager George Miller, W3GWM

Clubs located in the EPA Section should tabulate the aggregate scores of their members.  One club officer or other designated individual should submit a single report.

Operators located in the EPA Section who are not part of any club should submit their own individual scores.

The submitted report should contain all the information George Miller will need and nothing more:

• “Club Category” — Your Club Name

• Club Entry Division.  Choose one from the list below…
   Club Division 1.)  Greater Than 50 Participants
   Club Division 2.)  Between 25 and 50 Participants
   Club Division 3.)  Fewer than 25 Participants

• Combined Total of all participant scores (one number) using all the same scoring calculations and methods as the participants submitted to ARRL.

Email these three components to:   Do this on or before July 31, 2020


• “Individual Category” — Your Station Call Sign

• Individual Entry Division.  Choose one from the list below…
   Individual Division 1.)  Power Level greater than 100 watts
   Individual Division 2.)  Power Level less than 100 watts and greater than 10 watts
   Individual Division 3.)  Power Level less than 10 watts

Please note — by these instructions there is no provision for stations running exactly 100 watts or exactly 10 watts.  Do the right thing.  If you look closely and make careful adjustments I think you will agree that your watt meter likely showed 99.9 watts or 10.1 watts and you will know which Individual Division to select.

• Your Total Score (one number) using all the same scoring calculations and methods as you submitted to ARRL.

Email these three components to:   Do this on or before July 31, 2020


Full detail, as provided by George Miller, W3GWM follows:

As Field Day 2020 (June 27 and 28) approaches it appears likely that we will be unable to hold our traditional events.

I’d like to purpose a friendly competition within the Eastern Pennsylvania Section. This is strictly for fun with a little rivalry between clubs and individuals in the EPA Section.

We will follow the ARRL Field Day Rules for 2020 (, with one exception. Since most of us will be operating from home or a portable location as Single Operator Stations each club will combine total scores from all participating club members.

All scores must be tabulated and send them to W3GWM for tabulation by Friday, July 31st.

For our EPA Section Competition, we will award certificates for three Divisions in the club category and three Divisions in the individual category. This part is slightly different than the ARRL Field Day but should work for our purpose.

Club divisions will be divided into the following divisions:

  1. Clubs with greater than 50 participants
  2. Clubs with greater than 25 but less than 50 participants
  3. Clubs with less than 25 participants

We don’t want to leave out people operating as individuals and not reporting scores to clubs, we will include a category for single operator stations.

Individual Divisions will be divided as follows:

  1. Stations running greater than 100 Watts
  2. Stations with less than 100 Watts but greater than 10 watts
  3. Stations running QRP, less than 10 Watts

All bonus points will be the same as in the ARRL Rules.

No logs or score sheets are required. This is simply a fun contest to make Field Day a little more interesting this year.

Credit for this idea must be given to Penn Wireless. They are running a similar competition with clubs in their local area. I “borrowed” this idea after attending one of their meetings via Zoom.

Collect the scores for club entries an people participating as an individual station not reporting scores to a club can send totals to me at w3gwm. I don’t need anything except an email with your score. Since this is a fun event, everyone is on the Honor System.

Get on the air, have fun and report your scores.


George Miller W3GWM
Eastern Pennsylvania Section Manager

Are you an active ham?

Good day!

The United States leads the world in having the greatest number of licensed amateur radio operators.  There are about 763,000 among all US License Classes.  About 8,000 of those have Novice licenses, 387,000 have Technician Licenses, 179,000 General, 38,000 Advanced and 150,000 Extra Class.  About 160,000 people, not all licensed, are members of the American Radio Relay League (ARRL). 

The US is 4th place (behind Japan, China and Thailand) in the percentage of the total population holding an amateur radio license.  It’s about 0.23%.  A tiny number.  And, for those looking for comparisons, more Americans have been diagnosed with the COVID-19 virus in 2020 than the number of Americans who have a ham radio license. 

Pennsylvania has about 24,000 licensed amateurs.    That’s about 0.19% of the state population, so PA trails the national average.  California not only has the greatest number of licensed hams among all US states at over 106,000, and also has the greatest percentage of the state population licensed at 0.27%.  Texas has over 53,000 and 0.24% of the population licensed.  Alabama has barely 12,000 but 0.25% licensed and Virginia has over 20,000 and 0.24% licensed.

How many of these licensed ham radio operators are active?  No one really knows.  Some are Silent Keys (ham radio jargon for deceased) whose licenses have not yet expired or cancelled.  Many students got a ham radio license for extra credit in high school Physics class, and never really had much intention to ever getting a radio station on the air.  Some started out with great intentions, then either left the hobby or put it on hold as life interrupted.  Many of today’s “new hams” were licensed 20 or 30 years ago, left the hobby, and as they become “empty nesters” or look for a retirement hobby they return.

If you are an active ham, what are you doing to encourage others to become more active?  If you are an inactive ham, is it involuntary, or have you simply not found the time? 

If it is the later, What is required to get you back on the air?  Stealth antennas?  Portable operations?  Satellite activity?

Even if you don’t have a ham radio station or antenna you can enjoy some aspects of the hobby by using EchoLink.  EchoLink is PC-based software which uses the Internet in conjunction with traditional ham radio.

Our own club – the Cumberland Amateur Radio Club – conducts some of its activities using the Zoom Web Meeting application.  If you would like to familiarize yourself with the type of activities that are of interest to today’s ham radio operators I invite you to connect into one of our Wednesday evening 8:00 p.m. get-togethers.

eMail  to tell us what is on your mind and to request a meeting invitation with ID and Password.  We are glad to help and will welcome you.

Check out our Know-How Resources tab for some ideas and more information!


See ya down the log!

Frank KB3PQT

Good Day,

A close friend shared with me an announcement of Special Event Station K2H.  If you are among the millions of Americans who Stay-At-Home due to the COVID-19 closures this special event may be of interest to you.

The K2H operations will take place during the month of May 2020 in honor of the HEROES who are dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Information about the special event can be found at this URL:

There are so many more details at that web page than I can capture in my small blog page.   Go see for yourself.  Enjoy.

Short version — the event sponsoring group has a goal of putting every New York county on the air.  Stations will sign as K2H stroke [County Name].   The sponsoring group will have a process you can use beginning June 15, 2020 which will enable you to download a certificate recognizing your accomplishment.



Recently it was my privilege to participate in a presentation given by Jim Idelson, K1IR, on the topic of Tower Safety.  Jim has performed research and analysis into how and why amateur radio enthusiasts suffer injuries and fatalities while erecting, maintaining, and removing antenna towers.

My brief summary of the presentation barely does justice to the effort Jim Idelson put into his research and the presentation.  Hopefully, my words will capture your interest and you will seek the original material to develop and build your own understanding of the topic.

The presentations can be viewed on YouTube.   You may wish to search for K1IR Tower Safety.
Or, this link will take you to a recording of a recent presentation given by Jim Idelson:

Short version — Amateur Radio enthusiasts are exposed to injury or death at a rate of about four times greater than experienced by commercial tower workers.  Factors that .

  • Safety Equipment that does not meet current standards.  The leather climbing belts of days-gone-by no longer are suitable for tower workers.  A full fall-arrest climbing harness is today’s standard.  A hard-hat safety helmet and gloves are vital additions.
  • Safety Equipment that is used incorrectly or inconsistently compared to good safety practices.  The tower climber needs to be secured to the tower at all times.  This involves the use of dual lanyards and hooks — one of which must be properly secured to the tower while the other is being repositioned.
  • Planning, preparation, and skills of the climber as well as the ground crew need to be top notch.  Allow ample time in order to do the job right.  Don’t take shortcuts.  Don’t rush the job.
  • Never underestimate the need for proper guy wires at all times when working with guyed towers  When raising or removing a tower, even the first (or last) ten foot section of tower needs to be guyed using materials and methods as good as the permanent guys.


Jim Idelson is the founder of the Zero Falls Alliance.   

For more information about the Zero Falls Alliance and Tower Safety visit    Take the pledge.


Lightning Strikes

Since retiring my wife and I have been regular visitors to the nearby Carroll Township (York County PA)  park where we start our day by making a couple of traverses around the walking path (weather permitting).

The other day the skies were clear and temperatures were seasonally mild following an overnight thunder and lightning storm.

As we entered the third leg of our four-legged journey we noticed a portion of the path was littered with tree bark and splintered tree wood as if a tree had fallen in that spot.  But, there was no tree lying on the ground.

Closer examination of the nearby trees showed one tree with an exposed bare wood scar that ran from top to bottom.  Presumably this tree had been struck by lightning during the storm.  The force of the lightning blasted all the bark off an approximately four inch wide strip of the tree and deposited the debris on the walking path.

I captured some photos showing the damage inflicted on the tree and the debris that rained down on the path.


Posted by:  AF3I


Memory Aids for Ham Radio Call Signs

What on earth is this doing here?  It will make sense after you read the story.

Some people find memorizing things is easier if they associate it with something else. This is how a lot of acronyms come in existence and how “memory experts” sell their tips. 

Their memorization techniques generally don’t work for me.  If your name is Karen, your chosen career is a Nurse, and I cannot remember something as simple as that how does thinking of Karen as “Carin’” as in A Nurse Cares For Someone help?   The steel sieve leaks enough! 

The other night I was happily working FT8 (A popular digital mode.  See the Know-How Resources tab for more articles on that topic).  A call from a grid square I don’t have confirmed popped up.  I looked at the call and did a double take — K3LA.  I had to work that one!.  

Why?  I am a train enthusiast.  The Nathan K3LA air horn is one of the most common and widely used locomotive horns in the USA.  The Nathan K5LA, with 5 trumpets, is less common but even more impressive.  The ham radio call sign K3LA belongs to Chester located in Sharon, PA.  His QRZ page gives no biography info, so I have no clue if his call sign was an available 1×2 call, or perhaps Chester really likes Nathan air horns, or trains in general. 

I was watching some other interesting call signs. 

W0BLE.   is that “Wobble”? “Wobbly?”  or W0 Bessemer [&] Lake Erie [RR]?

M0WIT.   “Mow it”? or “Mo’ Wit”? 

K3GPS, a member of our own ham radio club and now a Silent Key, was famous for his love of technology.  The call sign fit him perfectly.

What interesting calls have you seen?


See ‘ya down the log.

Frank KB3PQT




Social Distancing

One side effect, or is it unanticipated outcome, of the various “”stay at home” orders issued as a result of the COVID-19 epidemic is an increase in ham radio activity.

Especially since Thursday (March 26, 2020 — ed.), the email traffic on the WSJT-X, WINFLDGI and N3FJP reflectors has sky-rocketed.  WSJT-X activity seems to have increased as well.  I am seeing more “new calls” on FT8.

So, if you are home and getting tired of watching reruns and Netflix, try something new —  a new-to-you mode, a new band, a new beam antenna heading, etc.

Set goals!   “10 FT8 QSOs a day keeps the doctor away!”  May not be true… but staying at home seems to help.  

If you are going to at home anyway you might as well play radio! 


See ‘ya down the log.

Frank KB3PQT




Lightbulb QSO Party

Do you have what it takes to be TOP BULB?

Find out in the 2020 Lightbulb QSO Party.

The ultimate challenge in ham radio.

August 22, 2020 16:00 UTC through August 23, 2020 16:00 UTC.

2 categories of competition… HOUSEHOLD and FREESTYLE

Objective: to build and use an antenna constructed with a lightbulb as the main radiating element and
make as many CW, Phone, and Digital QSOs as possible in a 24 hour period.

Complete rules, details, and information on constructing and using a lightbulb
as an antenna can be found at:

Helpful Hint for FM Repeater Users

I was listening to a conversation on the Frederick, Maryland W3ICF 146.730 MHz repeater this morning.  The gentlemen I heard shared a helpful hint for those, like me, who were listening.  The hint follows….

There are hams who use the SCAN function of their VHF/UHF transceiver to monitor several repeater frequencies.   Sometimes the ham is in front of the transceiver.  Sometimes the ham is nearby, within hearing distance of the transceiver.

The gentleman I heard on the air mentioned that some hams configure their transceivers to resume scanning a few seconds after the frequency goes quiet.  If you key the repeater and announce yourself, saying something such as:   “This is AF3I, Listening” the other ham, who was out of the room at the time, probably has no idea on which of the several repeater channels you were speaking.

His suggestion:   If you key the repeater and announce that you are listening you may wish to include a few additional words to convey on which repeater or on which frequency it is that you are listening.  For example:   “This is AF3I, Listening on the 146.730 Repeater.”

Sounds good to me.  Give it a try.




QWH ?  Should I Wash My Hands?

QWH     You Should Wash Your Hands

This is a little bit of ham radio humor.  Please enjoy.

Q Signals are a type of shorthand used among ham radio operators.  Always three letters beginning with Q.  The Q Signal conveys a lot of information in a very small radio communication.  When followed by a question mark, the Q Signal is a question.  Without the question mark, the Q Signal is a directive or a reply to a previously asked question.

Radio Organizations publish extensive lists of official Q Signals.  From time to time ham radio operators introduce their own humorous or clever unofficial Q Signals. 

Here is one of those unofficial Q Signals that is making the rounds while so many of us are staying at home and maintaining low profiles to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Thank you to my good ham radio friend, K3SWZ, for sharing this with me.



Corona Virus Blues?   Play Radio!

If you are unable to attend activities because they have been cancelled, or you just don’t feel like going out in uncertain times, play radio!   It’s the perfect “Social Distancing”  hobby!

So whether you simply want to rag chew with friends on the air, or make contacts with other countries (DX), now is a great time to do it. 

While you are at it, try something new!  A new-to-you band, an as-yet untried mode, or something digital. 

Looking for ideas?  Know-How Resources and our own How Do I… series of articles right here on this web site is a great start.


See ‘ya down the log.

Frank KB3PQT



Share The Airwaves


It’s OK to just want to play radio! 

This weekend, as I was watching an email thread unravel on a ham radio reflector, I was reminded of one of my nephews.  He was about 4 years old, maybe he just turned 5.  We’ll call him Younger Precocious Nephew, or YPN for short.  YPN was at his older brother’s Little League game.  YPN was bored and was playing quietly under the bleachers with his little green army men. 

Another little boy, about 3 years old, came over and looked enviously at YPN.  YPN generously offered to let the boy, NK for short, play.  But YPN had a serious question that needed answered first. He asked NK: ” Do you want to play World War I, Waterloo, or the American Revolution?”.  NK had no clue.  So YPN tried again and NK still had no idea. He just wanted to play with the toy soldiers.

YPN was becoming frustrated when his mother intervened and explained that NK had no clue what the question was and YPN should just pick one and move on.  YPN reluctantly did that. 


What does that have to do with radio?  The thread I was watching with someone making a very reasonable request to attempt to practice their emergency communications (emcomm) skills outside of the weekly emcomm net.  That’s all.  As the thread played out, one poster replied that rather than do simplex messaging (station to station) they should learn how to relay messages from one station to another to get to the final destination. Then when they “mastered that technique worry about simplex”.  And you guessed, that poster didn’t offer to set a sked (schedule) to help the newbie emcomm operator do that.


I don’t know how many times I have heard some variation of ”I don’t…” 

  • “I don’t make QSOs with QRP stations (low power). 
  • “I don’t talk to anyone who I do not have “perfect armchair copy on”. 
  • “If you are less than 59, I cannot {won’t] hear you”. 

And so on.

Really?  Have we become that unfriendly?  Then we whine the air waves are “dead”. 

Come on folks!  This is a hobby.  Sometimes we don’t share common interests:  CW, EMCOMM, moonbounce, SSTV, all have niches.  But ‘ya know what?  At the end of the day, it’s all about Amateur Radio.

So share the airwaves!  You just might learn something too.

See ‘ya down the log.

Frank KB3PQT