How time changes things - Checking if frequency is in use on CW

Discussion in 'On-Air Operations - Q&A' started by KG5NII, Jul 2, 2017.

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  1. SM0AOM

    SM0AOM Ham Member QRZ Page

    Actually, there isn't. QRL? means "are you busy?", meaning if the operator is available to service my traffic.

    Commercial or military radiotelegraph operators do not just "turn up" on a random frequency and make calls, but instead we follow net procedure which entalis listening before transmitting and waiting for your turn.

    For what I can recall from Army radiotelegraph operator's school in 1975, military operators never "asked" if a frequency was occupied, neither did the maritime Morse operators I met during my Coast Radio days. They listened at the coast station frequency, and if the "CQ slip" was on, the receiving frequency was available for calling. Should more than one ship be calling, they were given a QRY or turn number.

    The use of "dit dit" was mostly if you operated in full duplex, as maritime circuits were. Here it was common practice by experienced operators to
    send "dit dit" if they missed a word or group, and the operator at the other end (usually the coast station) just retransmitted the last word and went on.

    This became a complication when designing software for computer handling Morse traffic in coast stations.
    Most Morse transmitting interfaces queue up many characters before transmission,
    and it must be possible to break the flow and instantly go back in real-time.

    This was handled by designing the software using a flow control protocol in which only one character was queued at each time.
    At Gothenburg Radio/SAG the handling of parallel transmissions of 16 independent HF Morse streams by up to 6 operators was possible.
    A lot of programming effort went into this system during the early/mid-80's, only to be scrapped when HF Morse was closed in 1991.

    KA0REN, M6GYU, K6FNI and 1 other person like this.
  2. KC3RN

    KC3RN Ham Member QRZ Page

    I've been a CW op since the early 90's, and was taught that the proper method was "QRL?". I've never heard "dit dit, dit" in use.....
  3. N8AFT

    N8AFT Ham Member QRZ Page

    No I E (didi dit) ever heard here either.
    QRL? is proper proceedure in current use.
  4. WD4IGX

    WD4IGX Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    First licensed in 1977 and operated mainly CW for years (partly because my first rig was an Argonaut and CW does great on QRP compared to SSB) and I never heard of di-dit, dit either. While I knew about QRL? I don't think I ever heard anyone use it. Use of a single question mark was pretty common, and makes sense to me. It's way quicker than "QRL?" yet makes some intuitive sense unlike "IE."
  5. WG7X

    WG7X Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    Sounds like the votes are in and the result would indicate that what the OP was taught is a local thing, kind of like the fellow in 5 land who thinks everyone only needs to use a call sign suffix.

    Isn't the internet fun? Its the best way to unearth these local foibles and urban myths.
    KA0HCP likes this.
  6. WG7X

    WG7X Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    Sounds like the votes are in and the result would indicate that what the OP was taught is a local thing, kind of like the fellow in 5 land who thinks everyone only needs to use a call sign suffix.

    Isn't the internet fun? Its the best way to unearth these local foibles and urban myths.
  7. WG7X

    WG7X Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    Speaking of which, somehow got a dupe there. QRZ seemed to hang for a minute, and when he smoke cleared, two posts instead of one!

  8. SM0AOM

    SM0AOM Ham Member QRZ Page

    Once upon a time, radio amateurs were considered as assets in conscript forces, because they self-trained and learned to observe proper traffic net rules and protocol by themselves. Amateur radio traffic was considered so similar to the commercial and military counterparts that amateurs with the highest licence classes were expected to be able to handle military traffic without much retraining.
    Our good standing with the Authorities was in large parts derived from this viewpoint.

    This of course relied on that amateurs used proper protocol and prosigns and refrained from making up
    "homegrown" procedures. In my opinion, most amateurs today would not be usable in formal net traffic
    where adherence to proper protocol is of paramount importance.

    KA0REN, KG5KOG and AA7EJ like this.
  9. KA0HCP

    KA0HCP XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    Well where is any formal traffic being conducted, today in CW, phone or RTTY?

    Most hams could be given a short class of message format, and traffic handling with practice and be put to work. But then, the military doesn't even do this anymore. "Necessity is the mother of training".

    Likewise, once upon a time, amateurs were expected to be a ready source of operators who were competent in tuning and operating spark transmitters including vibrator, vapor quenched, air quenched and rotary type. Now nobody knows how to do this. "How we have failed"!!! :)
    KF5KWO and AG5DB like this.
  10. W0IS

    W0IS Ham Member QRZ Page

    I was first licensed as a novice in 1974, and I wasn't told to send anything. I was just told to listen first. I'm not sure how scrupulously I followed that rule. After all, I only had one crystal when I started, so if the frequency was really in use, I was off the air.

    Then, at some point, I read in some ARRL publication that I was supposed to ask first. And the recommended procedure was, indeed, "didit dit", which they reminded us was the American Morse letter C. So perhaps it's an old landline tradition. But I do distinctly remember that it was the ARRL that was promoting this. I do not remember reading about, or anyone using, "QRL?" until later, perhaps the 1980's. Maybe someone was doing it, but it wasn't on my radar screen.

    And from that admonishment in an ARRL publication, I also remember the proper response. If the frequency was in use, the answer was a single dit. But there was also a response to use when the frequency was not in use, and that was two dits.

    Now, you are undoubtedly wondering who is supposed to send the negative response. I wondered the same thing myself, and never came up with a satisfactory answer. (Although there have been a couple times when I had the radio sitting on an unused frequency and someone sent QRL? So I replied with "NO." The frequency was silent after that.) But this got me thinking, and I came up with a theory.

    I was familiar with the "shave and a haircut" tail ending to QSO's, and used it frequently. I also realized that the short version of this was just "didit", and the short version seemed a lot more businesslike. So I assumed that "didit" was the right way to do tail ending. And in that context, "didit" means that the frequency is now available, the exact same thing it means in response to a "didit dit" query.

    So my theory, with absolutely no documentation to back it up, is that this is how tail ending came to be.

    A few years later, when I heard about QRL, I had never heard it in use before, and I don't think it was even a Q signal that I knew. (Notably, it was not one of the five or so Q signals that were covered on the novice test.) When I looked it up, it said that it meant "are you busy." So I assumed that it was a recent adaptation of a largely unused Q signal. Like the original poster, I noted the problems with the much longer version. But by that point, the "didit dit" had largely disappeared, QRL had become the norm, and that's what I started using.
    K6FNI likes this.

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