Historical Q Signals

L. B. Cebik, W4RNL (SK)

For those who have an interest in history or who are building a time machine, here are the international communications Q-signals from the 1930 American Radio Relay League Handbook.

1930 ARRL Handbook Q-Signal List (pp. 198-200)

Meanings abbreviated. With ?, = question; without = statement
Q-Signal Explanation
QRA Name of station
QRB Approximate distance from your station to mine
QRC Accounts for charges to station liquidated by xxx private company
QRD Where are you going; I am going to xxx
QRE Nationality of station
QRF Where do you come from; I come from xxx
QRG Your exact wavelength in meters or frequency in kilocycles
QRH My exact wavelength of frequency
QRI Is my tone bad; my tone is bad
QRJ Cannot receive you, signals too weak
QRK Receive you well, signals good
QRL Are you busy; I am busy
QRM Being interfered with
QRN Troubled by atmospherics
QRO Increase power
QRP Decrease power
QRQ Send faster
QRS Send more slowly
QRT Stop sending
QRU Have you anything for me; I have nothing for you
QRV Send series of Vs
QRW Advise xxx that I am calling him
QRX Must I wait; wait!
QRY Which is my turn; your turn is xxx
QRZ Who is calling me; you a being called by xxx
QSA Strength of signal (1-5)
QSB Strength of signal varies
QSC Signal disappears entirely at intervals
QSD Is my keying bad; keying is bad
QSE Signals distinct? Signals run together
QSF Automatic transmission good? Automatic transmission fades out
QSG Transmit telegrams by series of 5, 10, or xx
QSH Send telegram one at a time
QSI Send telegrams in alternate order without repetitions
QSJ Charge to be collected per word
QSK Suspend traffic and call again at (time)
QSL Acknowledgement of receipt
QSM Received acknowledgement of receipt
QSN Can you receive me now; cannot receive you now
QSO Can you/I can communicate with xxx
QSP Relay free of charge
QSQ Send each word or group once
QSR Distress call from xxx has been attended to by yyy
QSU Send on xxx meters (kilocycles) waves of Type A1, A2, A3, or B
QSV Shift to wave of xxx meters (kilocycles) for rest of communications
QSW I will send on xxx meters (kilocycles) waves of Type A1, A2, A3, or B
QSX Wavelength (frequency) varies
QSY Send on xxx meters (kilocycles) without changing type of wave
QSZ Send each word or group twice
QTA Cancel telegram # xxx if not yet sent
QTB Agree with word count? I do not agree with word count
QTC Number of telegrams sent
QTD Word count that you are confirming is accepted
QTE True bearing is xxx degrees
QTF Position of your station based on bearings is xxx
QTG 1 minute call signal for radio compass bearings
QTH Position in latitude/longitude (or any other indication)
QTI True course
QTJ Speed in knots
QTK True bearing relative to me is xxx degrees
QTL Sending signals to permit bearing with respect to the radio beacon
QTM Sending radio and submarine sound signals to permit bearing and distance
QTN Cannot take bearing of your station
QTP Going to enter dock or port
QTR Exact time
QTS True bearing of my station relative to you
QTU Station open from xxx to yyy (times)

The 1930's list from the American Radio Relay League Handbook is only a partial listing of Q-signals, even at that early date. Like lists in more current ARRL handbooks and operating manuals, the 1930 list contains only those signals thought to be of most use to radio amateurs.

A later (world War II) listing is fairly common among CW fans. My copy of the Combined Operating Signals, a joint U.S.-British production, dates from 1944 and contains only Q-signals, omitting the Z- series and, of course, ARRL's later N- series. My thanks to VE3DNY for sending me a photocopy. Virtually the entire set of combinations appears, with only a few left blank for future use. Each signal is listed twice: once on a left-hand alphabetical listing page and again on a right-hand topical page. The system begins to fold back upon itself. For example, QQP means "Check correctness of last QDR given." This is opaque unless one knows that QDR means "Your magnetic bearing in relation to me is xxx." However opaque the system may seem, the document contains the following warning: "These operating signals possess no security and must be regarded as equivalent to plain language. This must be borne in mind by all users and great care must be taken to avoid giving away information of value to the enemy." The enemy that the authors of the manual had in mind was NOT users of telephony in any of its forms or even non-hams.

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