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Author Topic: Why do we use "K"?  (Read 1852 times)
W7ETA
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« Reply #15 on: August 06, 2009, 04:14:27 PM »

An interesting question, why K out of all the possible letters?

When i used a straight key, never got the hang of a bug, I would elongate the last dah, dah dit daah.

73
Bob
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N0EQ
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« Reply #16 on: August 07, 2009, 09:21:21 AM »

AD7WN wrote:
"As to why do we use K, without going back to the story of creation, amateur and commercial and military operators have been doing this for many decades. They have found this is an efficient way of saying "over." "

Even the NYPD used to use "K" to indicate over. CHP used to use "BY". Lots of public service agencies did/do use some kind of term "go ahead" to indicate "I'm finished, now you talk".

I would guess that stems from very early public service radio services being a new form of simplex communications that not many people at all were used to.

If anyone/anything, ham radio sort of emulated military communications with their strict format and language/abbreviations. Even today, some ham net control operators almost chastise participants for not closing with their callsign, simply because "it's the format we use".

The most formatted comms are probably aircraft. They probably escape the need to say "over" or anything else because they simply hear all the required info, in the proper format and therefore know the other party is finished.

None of that addresses the question "Why is it the letter K and not something else", obviously. I don't know the answer to that other than "It's been that way for a long time in the two most populated radio services".

Craig 'Lumpy' Lemke

www.n0eq.com
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K5END
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« Reply #17 on: August 07, 2009, 03:53:20 PM »

It probably goes wayyyyy back to wire telegraph days.

I would look there if I had the time and inclination to research this.

We know it was already in international radio use by 1912 from the transcript of the last transmissions from the Titanic with other ships.

It would make a very GOOD article if someone would do some documented research and get some proof of where it started, what it meant initially and why "K" was chosen.

Yes, that would take a lot more time and effort than shooting from the hip with self-efficacious and self-aggrandizing speculation disguised as "knowledge."

It's a new concept for many, I know.

But it grows on you.

Try it.
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KE3WD
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« Reply #18 on: August 07, 2009, 05:50:11 PM »

As with most of this sort of thing, the history of it may explain the present day usage.  

"K" -- At one time was "OK" -- Meaning what it says, OK to transmit now, I'm throwing the transfer switch to receive and listening for you.  IN an age where the Tuned RF receiver or the Regenerative was the state of the art, plus noiser longwire or tophat wire antennas, this was likely a very necessary convention in order to tell any op getting ready to respond to your feeble call that you were done transmitting and now listening.  

Of course, with CW, the abbreviation is what it is all about, so it did not take long for ops to shorten it by dropping off the O, leaving just the K.  

OKN meant "Okay to transmit, Named station only" and was not intended to be used when calling CQ at all, something that should be rather obvious, but as with speech, some ops just can't stop talking or keypounding and add all sorts of needless stuff to their transmissions.  Won't get into that one, pro or con, its just a hobby.  


KE3WD
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K0OD
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« Reply #19 on: August 07, 2009, 08:40:15 PM »

"OKN meant "Okay to transmit, Named station only""

Do you have any citation for all those ancient 'facts?' Google has nothing on the subject and I can't recall hearing anything along those lines in my half-century in the hobby.


--
Last message from the Titanic (call MGY):
"CQD CQD SOS SOS CQD DE MGY MGY"

Note that was the first time SOS was ever used (which caused some problems)
 
Hear a reproduction of that spark message:
http://www.geocities.com/CapeCanaveral/Lab/8972/titanic.au

Very nice procedure I think.

A lot more info on the end of Titanic with emphasis on the radio communication:

http://www.solarnavigator.net/titanic_sinking.htm
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K0OD
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« Reply #20 on: August 07, 2009, 09:13:54 PM »

"Note that was the first time SOS was ever used (which caused some problems) "

Not exactly. While CQD was the common distress call before 1912, some use of SOS had occurred previously especially in Germany.



Lusitania signaled distress three years later with "SOS, SOS, SOS. COME AT ONCE. BIG LIST. 10 MILES SOUTH OLD KINSALE. MFA." {MFA is the call letters]

No mention of a K at the end
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N2EY
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« Reply #21 on: August 08, 2009, 04:50:09 AM »

K0OD: "Last message from the Titanic (call MGY):
"CQD CQD SOS SOS CQD DE MGY MGY" "

The lack of K at the end may be due to power failure. According to Harold Bride, the operator who survived, they kept calling for help until the power failed. This was only moments before the ship broke in two and sank.

I think it should be remembered that the engineering officers of Titanic all stayed below in the boiler rooms and engine room, keeping steam up and the generators turning until the very end so that the lights and wireless would keep working. None of them - not a single engineer - survived the sinking.

"Note that was the first time SOS was ever used (which caused some problems)"

No, it wasn't the first time SOS was used at all. SOS had been used at least as early as 1909, in a distress situation involving the ship SS Arapahoe. It may have been used even earlier.

There are many myths and legends about Titanic that simply aren't true. I don't know why that is, the reality is interesting enough. Some, such as Sarnoff's self-promoted legend, were done for obvious reasons.

The Titanic sinking had an enormous effect on radio in general, and specifically on amateur radio. Prior to 1912, there was relatively little regulation of radio, particularly in the USA. Licenses weren't required for amateurs, wavelengths and callsigns were often self-assigned, and there were at least three versions of Morse Code in use (International, American, and Navy).

There had been various bills proposed to regulate radio in the USA, but most had failed to pass and the rest were so watered-down that they had relatively little effect. In those laissez-faire times, the whole issue was seen as something to be left to the big wireless companies such as Marconi and Telefunken to work out on their own.

The Titanic sinking, and the role radio played in the rescue, put a new emphasis on regulations. Of particular interest was the fact that there was at least one ship (Californian) within sight of Titanic during the whole sinking, but because her sole radio operator had gone to bed before the first distress call, she played no role in the rescue.

The resulting 1912 radio regulations changed amateur radio enormously. Government-issued licenses were now required for all stations and operators. All stations were assigned callsigns by the government. With a few special exceptions for stations far inland, amateur stations were limited to wavelengths no longer than 200 meters and to power of no more than 1000 watts. International Morse became the standard code for radio.

Some sources estimate that at least half of the amateur stations on the air in early 1912 left the air because of the new regulations. Some thought that amateur radio would die out, partly because of the license requirements, but mostly because the 200-meter-and-shorter wavelengths were considered useless for long-distance communication, particularly with such low power as 1000 watts and the insensitive receivers of the time.

But in fact the opposite happened. While there were fewer amateurs, they developed better techniques within the regulatory limits. New technologies such as the Audion and the regenerative circuit were put to use to improve station performance. Organizations such as ARRL appeared to coordinate message relaying, technology and operating techniques, and to represent the amateur cause to the government.

73 de Jim, N2EY
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K5END
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« Reply #22 on: August 08, 2009, 06:26:56 AM »

Jim,

It looks like you (and others) have a good outline there just waiting to become a nice article.

I'd like to see more articles discussing or promoting use of "code" and CW.

In fact, I'd like to see code/CW promoted in any way possible. From my perspective, it is (still) the foundation of Amateur radio. I know I don't need to explain or sell that point here on the CW forum.

LK
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K0OD
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« Reply #23 on: August 08, 2009, 07:35:56 AM »

Titanic's chaotic and ineffective distress communications offer lessons that hold up even today. http://www.solarnavigator.net/titanic_sinking.htm

CQD or SOS? If only they could have used voice to scream "THIS DAMN SHIP IS SINKING AND I'M GOING TO DIE!" English speakers, at least, would have understood their plight perfectly. That's an example of why the jumble of 10-10 codes and other jargon are being dropped by many emergency services in favor of plain language.
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N2EY
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« Reply #24 on: August 08, 2009, 08:56:56 AM »

K0OD writes: "Titanic's chaotic and ineffective distress communications offer lessons that hold up even today."

The lessons hold up, yes. But the communications were neither chaotic nor ineffective.

The first distress call went out about 12:15 AM. Carpathia answered about 12:25 AM - just ten minutes later! Within a few minutes Carpathia had turned around and was heading at full speed (about 17 knots) for Titanic.

All the other ships on the air that night were much further away and could not get there any sooner. Titanic sank about 2:20 AM.

With one exception, "better" communications would not have made any difference, because other ships were too far away. The exception was Californian, which was within sight of Titanic but her radio was turned off.

"http://www.solarnavigator.net/titanic_sinking.htm "

contains a few mistakes. Most of them are in the chronology of events; the story jumps backwards and forwards in time for no reason. For example, Carpathia did not shut down radio transmission until after the all the survivors were on board and a list of their names sent to White Star.

"CQD or SOS?"

Doesn't matter. Everyone knew both meant trouble.

"If only they could have used voice to scream "THIS DAMN SHIP IS SINKING AND I'M GOING TO DIE!" English speakers, at least, would have understood their plight perfectly."

And it would have made no difference. The operators all knew Morse Code and all of them that mattered understood Titanic's situation. The essential info was Titanic's position, which determined which ships could best lend assistance.

Yelling on voice would not make the rescue ships go any faster, nor cause those with radios turned off to turn them on. The 10-15 minutes or so it took Carpathia to respond and turn around were of no consequence; getting there 10-15 minutes earlier would not have saved people who'd frozen to death in the water.

"That's an example of why the jumble of 10-10 codes and other jargon are being dropped by many emergency services in favor of plain language."

The only valid use of jargon is when it makes something clearer and more concise.

---

The whole Titanic disaster story is a near-perfect lesson in how a series of small and seemingly unimportant mistakes can add up to a major problem. The Titanic disaster didn't happen because of technology; it happened because people didn't use the technology correctly.

One story that I think would make a great movie is what happened on the Carpathia. Even before her captain had all the information, he ordered Carpathia turned around and headed for Titanic at full speed, even though it would take at least 4 hours to get there.

This meant he was heading right into the same ice field that would soon sink the world's biggest and most modern ship. And he was doing so on a moonless night in a much older ship. Fortunately Carpathia did not hit anything, but many times in that 4 hour dash she had to turn to avoid icebergs.

Carpathia was a Cunard ship, Titanic was White Star. (You can tell by the last letter of the ship's name).  

---

The movie to watch about Titanic isn't the 1997 blockbuster but the excellent 1956 British film "A Night To Remember", based on the book of the same name.

It does, however, have one mistake in the radio part.

In real life, one of the Californian's radio officers had learned the code and could copy pretty well. Often he would listen when the radio op was off duty.

After the regular radio op had turned in, the officer went into the shack and tried to listen in, at about the time the distress calls were going out.

But the Californian's receiver used a magnetic detector, which worked by a clockwork mechanism. The office forgot to wind up the detector, and so heard nothing. This is detailed in the book "A Night To Remember".

But in the film, the officer is shown hearing the Morse but not understanding it. That didn't happen.

73 de Jim, N2EY
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K0OD
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« Reply #25 on: August 08, 2009, 09:06:51 AM »

"This meant he was heading right into the same ice field that would soon sink the world's biggest and most modern ship. And he was doing so on a moonless night in a much older ship."

Good point
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W5HTW
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« Reply #26 on: August 08, 2009, 03:48:32 PM »

"K" is, and has been for many decades, an international prosign meaning, essentially, "over."  Or "it's your turn."  It was used in every CW radio service, including our and other military services, from the inception of wide range communication.  It was also used in RTTY.  It is NOT a "ham only" thing.  It is an international prosign.

I do not understand the propensity for today's hams to want to dispense with prosigns.  Now we hear calls like this:  CQ CQ CQ W5HTW W5HTW W5HTW   No "DE" which is another international prosign, and no "K".  Are we so rushed for time we can't use known and accepted prosigns?  What IS this logic?  Or non-logic.  

BTU, by the way, is NOT sent as one character.  It is three letters, and it does mean "back to you," though it has not always been used.  Also you will run into "BK TO YOU" and in this case the "BK" is NOT sent as one run-together character.  

"BK" as a single character means "BREAK"   It does not mean anything else.  Usually, though, if CW guys are using QSK, it becomes superfluous. A pause tells the other guy to go ahead.  

"AR" (one character) technically means "nothing follows."  That is true in all radio services.  Check out the W1AW bulletins.  At the close, they send 'AR" and that is what they mean.  "Nothing follows, not listening for a reply."  

So  a CQ ending with AR means 'I'm not listening for a reply!"

"KN" (one character) means I am listening for a reply ONLY from the station I am talking to.

"SK" (one character) means "This is my last transmission."  But it does NOT mean you are closing your station.  You may be open to someone else calling you.  

Neither KN nor SK are used in commercial/government services.

("SK" as separate letters means "silent key" - dead guy)

"CL" (two letters!)  Means "closing the station, I am not listening for calls from anyone else.."   This prosign is not used in commercial or government CW.

Some of the old timers used to wrongly use "K" on phone.  Instead of saying "over" they would say "Kay."  Like W3GAB this is W5HTW Kay"  It was pretty rare, but it was used.  At the end of a CQ the guy might say "Kay please."  In my opinion, it is not good operating practice.  And I almost never hear it anymore.  

"DE" (two letters) means "This is."  It is used in all services that use CW or RTTY.  It is a long established international prosign.  

Interesting info on the Titanic, by the way.  A lot of it I had never read before.  Thanks!

Ed
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K5END
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« Reply #27 on: August 08, 2009, 04:21:07 PM »

Speaking of "DE," you might find this humorous.

When I was first learning code I would listen to the bands and try to copy at least the call signs. Copying the "CQ" was a piece of cake, and knowing the call sign would follow I would try to copy the call sign. Usually I would just get the first couple of letters.

Upon my first attempt at this I was amazed at how many stations were from Germany. All of them were German--100%

After a few minutes I realized something must be amiss.

I'm still laughing at myself over that one.
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KE3WD
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« Reply #28 on: August 08, 2009, 05:12:55 PM »

>>by K0OD on August 7, 2009  Mail this to a friend!  
"OKN meant "Okay to transmit, Named station only""

Do you have any citation for all those ancient 'facts?'  <<


My citation would be my uncle and Elmer, long since SK, who held and operated not only amateur licensed CW but the old 1st Class Radiotelegraph License, both as ship's radio officer and as shore as well as having worked for commercial telegraph companies as an op and then there was his military experience.  

His way of teaching me the prosigns was to give me his version of the history of each one.  

You can do with that whatever you will.


KE3WD
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N2EY
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« Reply #29 on: August 08, 2009, 05:32:19 PM »

W5HTW writes: "I do not understand the propensity for today's hams to want to dispense with prosigns."

I don't either. I think part of the reason is that a lot of hams today didn't start out on CW, and never got a copy of "Your Novice Accent" and similar articles.

But the big reason is that a lot of procedure is no longer required by the regs, and is not on the test. IIRC, it used to be FCC regulation to use "DE" and to put your own call last. Not anymore!

""AR" (one character) technically means "nothing follows." That is true in all radio services. Check out the W1AW bulletins."

I have to disagree with that, at least in amateur radio. I can point you to QST articles and other publications to prove this.

"AR", per longstanding ARRL recommendations, has two uses:

First, "end of transmission" - recommended when calling a specific station before contact has been established. ("K" could be used for the same purpose.)

Second, and more important, to indicate the end of a formal message. This is why it is used at the end of W1AW bulletins; it tells you the bulletin has ended.

Typical use at the end of a message in formal message handling looks like this:

when there are more messages to follow:

"...AND PLEASE TELL DADDY TO SEND THE CHECK TOMORROW BT SUSIE AR B"

when there are no more messages to follow:

"...AND PLEASE TELL DADDY TO SEND THE CHECK TOMORROW BT SUSIE AR N"

"SK" (one character) means "This is my last transmission."

Last transmission in this QSO.

btw, SK derives from the same number abbreviations that gave us 73. Here's how:

In American Morse as used on the wire, "30" had a similar meaning. You will occasionally see it used as a form of "The End" in stories from a particular era.

"3" in American Morse is didididahdit
"0" in American Morse is daaaaaaah (extra long dash - American Morse had some features International doesn't)
Run them together and you get didididahdidaaaaaaah
Shorten up the last dah and you have SK

"ES" for "and" has a similar origin; "dit dididit" was the American Morse for "&"

"Some of the old timers used to wrongly use "K" on phone."

Yep. I always thought that was really silly.
 

""DE" (two letters) means "This is.""

It derives from the French word "de" which means "from".

"Interesting info on the Titanic, by the way. A lot of it I had never read before. Thanks!"

You're welcome! I can go on and on about it...

Here's some more:

The wireless ops Jack Phillips and Harold Bride were technically not ship's crew, and the wireless equipment was not White Star property. They worked for, and were paid by, the Marconi Company, and the equipment belonged to Marconi Co. White Star did that sort of thing quite a bit; many of the ship's personnel (the band, some of the restaurants) were actually contractors or concessionaires, not White Star employees. Of course everyone on the ship answered to the captain.

Having two wireless ops on a ship was unusual; most ships had only one, if they had wireless at all. Titanic and a few other big ships had two operators because of the large amount of private traffic handled for passengers. After the disaster, all ships over a certain size had to have wireless and had to carry at least three operators, which was a business boom for companies like Marconi but a big cost item to White Star, Cunard and the rest.    

Titanic had been designed to carry enough lifeboats for all on board through the use of ingenious new davits, but the boats would have cluttered up the boat deck, and they cost serious money, so it was decided to only carry as many as regulations required. Regulations did not require lifeboat space for all aboard because it was thought that a large ship would take many hours to sink, and that the main use of lifeboats was to transfer passengers between a stricken ship and rescue vessels. The biggest fears of steamship companies weren't sinking or crashing into things; they were fire and boiler explosions.

There was no separate power source nor emergency generator for the wireless, so the ship's engineers had to keep the main generators turning for the wireless to transmit. After the disaster, a separate, independent backup power source for the wireless was required.

After the disaster, Titanic's sister ship Olympic was quietly sent back to dry dock and given a double hull, watertight bulkheads higher than E deck, higher capacity pumps and of course more lifeboats. The third Olympic-class ship, originally to be named Gigantic but actually named Britannic, was still under construction in 1912 and had those features added.

If you haven't seen the film or read the book "A Night To Remember", be sure to do so. Except for not realizing that the ship broke in two they are very fact-based. The film was on YouTube last time I looked; the radio sequences are accurate down to the actual Morse and how spark sounds in a receiver (like a buzz, not a pure tone).

73 de Jim, N2EY
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