Q code

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The Q code is a standardized collection of three-letter message encodings, all starting with the letter "Q", initially developed for commercial radiotelegraph communication, and later adopted by other radio services, especially amateur radio. Although Q codes were created when radio used Morse code exclusively, they continued to be employed after the introduction of voice transmissions. To avoid confusion, transmitter call signs are restricted; while an embedded three-letter Q sequence may occur (for instance, VE3QRP is a radioamateur station dedicated to low-power operation), no country is ever issued an ITU prefix starting with "Q". The codes in the range QAA-QNZ are reserved for aeronautical use; QOA-QOZ for maritime use, and QRA-QUZ for all services.


[edit] Early developments

The original Q codes were created, circa 1909, by the British government as a "list of abbreviations... prepared for the use of British ships and coast stations licensed by the Postmaster-General". The Q codes facilitated communication between maritime radio operators speaking different languages, so they were soon adopted internationally. A total of forty-five Q codes appeared in the "List of Abbreviations to be used in Radio Communications", which was included in the Service Regulations affixed to the Third International Radiotelegraph Convention. (This Convention, which met in London, was signed on July 5, 1912, and became effective July 1, 1913.)

The following table reviews a sample of the all-services Q codes adopted by the 1912 Convention:

First Twelve Q Codes Listed in the 1912 International Radiotelegraph Convention Regulations

Question. Answer or Notice.
QRA What ship or coast station is that? This is ____.
QRB What is your distance? My distance is ____.
QRC What is your true bearing? My true bearing is ____ degrees.
QRD Where are you bound for? I am bound for ____.
QRF Where are you bound from? I am bound from ____.
QRG What line do you belong to? I belong to the ____ Line.
QRH What is your wave length in meters? My wave length is ____ meters.
QRJ How many words have you to send? I have ____ words to send.
QRK How do you receive me? I am receiving well.
QRL Are you receiving badly? Shall I send 20 ...-. for adjustment? I am receiving badly. Send 20 ...-. for adjustment.
QRM Are you being interfered with? I am being interfered with.
QRN Are the atmospherics strong? Atmospherics are very strong.

[edit] Later usage

Over the years, modifications were made to the original Q codes to reflect changes in radio practice. In the original international list, QSW/QSX stood for "Shall I increase/decrease my spark frequency?", however, spark-gap transmitters were banned in the United States in the 1920s, rendering the original meaning of those Q codes obsolete. Over a hundred Q codes were listed in the 'Post Office Handbook for Radio Operators' in the 1970s and cover subjects such as meteorology, radio direction finding, radio procedures, search & rescue and so on.

Some Q codes are also used in aviation, in particular QNH and QFE, referring to certain altimeter settings. These codes are used in radio conversations with air traffic control as unambiguous shorthand, where safety and efficiency are of vital importance. A subset of Q codes is used by the Miami-Dade County, Florida local government for law enforcement and fire rescue communications, one of the few instances where Q codes are used in ground voice communication.

The QRA...QUZ code range includes phrases applicable to all services and is allocated to the International Telecommunications Union.[1] The QAA...QNZ code range includes phrases applicable primarily to the aeronautical service, [2] as defined by the International Civil Aviation Organisation.[3] QOA...QQZ are reserved for the maritime service and QVA...QZZ are not allocated.[4] Many codes have no immediate applicability outside one individual service, such as maritime operation (many QO or QU series codes) or radioteletype operation (the QJ series).[5]

Many military and other organizations that use Morse code have adopted additional codes, including the Z code used by most European and NATO countries. The Z code adds commands and questions adapted for military radio transmissions. For example, "ZBW 2" — change to backup frequency number 2 — or "ZNB abc" — my checksum is abc, what is yours?[6]

Used in their formal "question/answer" sense, the meaning of a Q code varies depending on whether or not the individual Q code is sent as a question or an answer. For example, the message "QRP?" means "Shall I decrease transmitter power?", and a reply of "QRP" means "Yes, decrease your transmitter power". This structured use of Q codes is fairly rare and now mainly limited to amateur radio and military morse code (CW) traffic networks.

[edit] Amateur radio

Selected Q codes were soon adopted by amateur radio operators. In December, 1915 the American Radio Relay League began publication of a magazine titled QST, named after the Q code for "General call to all stations". In amateur radio, the Q codes were originally used in Morse code transmissions to shorten lengthy phrases and were followed by a Morse code question mark (..--..) if the phrase was a question.

Q codes are commonly used in voice communications as shorthand nouns, verbs, and adjectives making up phrases. For example, an amateur radio operator will complain about QRM (man-made interference), or tell another operator that there is "QSB on the signal"; "to QSY" is to change your operating frequency.

Q Codes Commonly Used by Radio Amateurs

Code Question Answer or Statement
QRG Will you tell me my exact frequency (or that of ...)? Your exact frequency (or that of ... ) is ... kHz (or MHz).
QRI How is the tone of my transmission? The tone of your transmission is (1. Good; 2. Variable; 3. Bad)
QRK What is the readability of my signals (or those of ...)? The readability of your signals (or those of ...) is ... (1 to 5).
QRL Are you busy? I am busy. (or I am busy with ... ) Please do not interfere.
QRM Are you being interfered with? I am being interfered with.
QRN Are you troubled by static? I am troubled by static.
QRO Shall I increase power? Increase power
QRP Shall I decrease power? Decrease power
QRQ Shall I send faster? Send faster (... wpm)
QRS Shall I send slower? Send slower (... wpm)
QRT Shall I stop sending? Stop sending.
QRU Have you anything for me? I have nothing for you.
QRV Are you ready? I am ready.
QRX Will you call me again? I will call you again at ... (hours) on ... kHz (or MHz)
QRZ Who is calling me? You are being called by ... on ... kHz (or MHz)
QSA What is the strength of my signals (or those of ... )? The strength of your signals (or those of ...) is ... (1 to 5).
QSB Are my signals fading? Your signals are fading.
QSD Is my keying defective? Your keying is defective.
QSK Can you hear me between your signals? I can hear you between my signals.
QSL Can you acknowledge receipt? I am acknowledging receipt.
QSM Shall I repeat the last telegram (message) which I sent you, or some previous telegram (message)? Repeat the last telegram (message) which you sent me (or telegram(s) (message(s)) numbers(s) ...).
QSN Did you hear me (or ... (call sign)) on .. kHz (or MHz)? I did hear you (or ... (call sign)) on ... kHz (or MHz).
QSO Can you communicate with ... direct or by relay? I can communicate with ... direct (or by relay through ...).
QSX Will you listen to ... (call sign(s) on ... kHz (or MHz))? I am listening to ... (call sign(s) on ... kHz (or MHz))
QSY Shall I change to transmission on another frequency? Change to transmission on another frequency (or on ... kHz (or MHz)).
QTA Shall I cancel telegram (message) No. ... as if it had not been sent? Cancel telegram (message) No. ... as if it had not been sent.
QTC How many telegrams (messages) have you to send? I have ... telegrams (messages) for you (or for ...).
QTH What is your position in latitude and longitude (or according to any other indication)? My position is ... latitude...longitude
QTR What is the correct time? The correct time is ... hours

Some of the common usages vary somewhat from their formal, official sense. QRL? is often sent to ask "Is this frequency in use (or busy)," though sending the Morse letter "C" (dah di dah dit) for "Clear?" is the traditional method used for doing this. There are also a few unofficial and humorous codes in use, such as QLF ("try sending with your LEFT foot") and QSC ("send cigarettes", not the official meaning of "this is a cargo vessel"). In the question form, QNB?, is supposed to mean "How many buttons does your radio have?" A reply of the form QNB 45/15 means "45, and I know what 15 of them do." QSJ is sometimes used to refer to the cost of something - "I would like an FT9000 but it is too much QSJ". (QSJ actually means "What is the charge to be collected to ... including your internal charge?").

QSK - "I can hear you during my transmission" - refers to a particular mode of Morse code operating in which the receiver is enabled during the spaces between the dots and dashes, which allows the receiving operator to interrupt transmissions. Many modern transceivers incorporate this function, sometimes referred to as full break-in as against semi-break-in in which there is a short delay before the transceiver goes to receive.

A conversation or contact via amateur radio is often referred to as a QSO, while QSL cards are collected by both radioamateurs and shortwave listeners as confirmation of having received the signal of a particular station.

[edit] Aviation

Although the majority of the Q codes have slipped out of common use, several remain part of the standard ICAO radiotelephony phraseology in aviation.

Altimeter Settings

Code Meaning Sample use
QFE Atmospheric pressure at airfield elevation Runway in use 22 Left, QFE 990 millibars
QNE Pressure altitude in the International Standard Atmosphere (1013.25 mbar at sea level)
QNH Atmospheric pressure at mean sea level (may be either a local, measured pressure or a regional forecast pressure) Request Leeds QNH / Request Barnsley regional QNH

Radio Navigation

Code Meaning Sample use
QDM Magnetic bearing to a station (callsign) request QDM (callsign) [7]
QDR Magnetic bearing from a station (callsign) request QDR (callsign) [8]
QFU Magnetic bearing of the runway in use Runway 22 in use, QFU 22
QTE True bearing from a station True bearing, True bearing, (callsign) request QTE (callsign) [9]
QUJ True bearing to a station

Radio Procedures

Code Meaning Sample use
QSY Free-call another frequency (no longer an official part of the standard phraseology, but still heard regularly) Golf Alpha Bravo QSY Doncaster 126.225

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  1. ^ www.globalsecurity.org/military/library/policy/navy/nrtc/14244_ch4.pdf
  2. ^ http://www.airwaysmuseum.com/Q%20code.htm
  3. ^ ICAO PANS (Procedures for Air Navigation Services) Doc 8400 : The ICAO Q Code.
  4. ^ http://www.portland-amateur-radio-club.org.uk/resources/q-codes.pdf
  5. ^ http://kyalami.homeip.net/qcodes.htm
  6. ^ ACP 131(E), COMMUNICATIONS INSTRUCTIONS - OPERATING SIGNALS, March 1997, chapter 2 contains a full list of 'Q' codes
  7. ^ http://www.caa.co.uk/docs/33/CAP413.PDF
  8. ^ http://www.caa.co.uk/docs/33/CAP413.PDF
  9. ^ http://www.caa.co.uk/docs/33/CAP413.PDF

[edit] External links

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