Print this page

::.  RULES

ARRL Straight Key Night
The Sounds of Our Hobby...

Announcing the 2005 ARRL Straight Key Night



Let’s journey back to years gone by when an aspiring young amateur was being coaxed by his Elmer to "go ahead, put your hand on the key and try sending a few letters".

As the youngster gathered his courage, he gets the feel of the key. "You don’t literally have to ’pound’ brass to send code" the Elmer admonishes after the death grip the kid has on the keyer nearly forces it through the desktop.

"Relax, take it easy. You know the letters in your mind. Now, let your fist transfer the characters to the key".


With a little practice the kid is finally ready to try a QSO on the air, under the watchful tutelage of the faithful Elmer.

With a "cheat sheet" in hand - the text of what the young operator will send carefully written out - the painfully slow first letters - "C" "Q" are transmitted.

The side tone of the radio mesmerizes the new operator as he realizes "WOW... I just sent my first CQ...." And the kid was hooked...


We tap the code out in our licensing classes as we learn "dits and dahs". While sitting in traffic, we translate the words on billboards or the letters on license plates into Morse. The short and long sounds become easy to distinguish at slower speeds, with some practice.

As we gain some confidence in our skill to copy, we speed up. And the music of the key becomes our anthem. We tune across the bottom 50 KHz or so of any of our HF bands. Like the rhythmic cadence of drums in the distance, the almost ominous sound of a weak CW signal beckons those that love "the code".


In this era of digital communication, keyboarding, FM and electronic keys, once a year many excellent operators bring the past to the present and participate in the annual ARRL Straight Key Night.

The object of this friendly event is to enjoy some good, old fashioned QSO fun, using straight keys. The emphasis is on rag-chewing rather than fast contest-type exchanges.

 5) Date and time:

SKN 2005 begins at

7:00 p.m. EST December 31
and runs for 24 hours through
7:00 p.m. EST January 1

(0000 - 2400 UTC January 1, 2005)


In many circles SKN has been expanded to encompass vintage radio equipment as well.

Reminiscing about their early days in our hobby, many operators use SKN as the "excuse" to refurbish their old Viking, Heathkit, or Scout. You will hear as many vintage radios on the air during SKN as you will variety of keys. And you will hear signals generated using old-fashioned bugs, a variation of the straight key.

SKN is the time amateur radio recalls the past, transporting it to the present.


When participating in SKN 2005, instead of sending RST before sending the signal report send the letters SKN, to indicate your participation, and to clue in passers-by who may be listening that SKN is going strong.

After SKN, send the Contest Branch a list of stations worked, plus your vote for the best fist you heard (it doesn’t have to be one you worked). Also, include your vote for the most interesting QSO you had or monitored.

 8) Entries:

Don’t forget to post your comments and interesting photographs from your SKN adventure to the ARRL Contest Online Soapbox at

Entries should be emailed to the Contest Branch at:


or may be sent via regular mail to:

Mailing address:
225 Main St

The Soapbox becomes an on-line album of stores and photographs to share with others.

 9) Deadline:

Entries for SKN 2005 must be received by January 31, 2005.

Votes for ’Best Fist’ and "Most Interesting QSO" will be tabulated and included in the April 2005 issue of QST.

If you have questions about SKN, please visit the Contest Branch Web Page at or contact


Last year we had 227 entries submitted for SKN - the most ever for Straight Key Night.

Why not dust off the key, clean the contacts and light up the ether with the beautiful melody of hand-created CW?

Sweeter music is hard to find.

Date of info: December 25, 2004
Original rules modified: October 5, 2004
Source: ARRL Web Site - SKN rules
Top of page

Text-only page    ARRL Contest Branch

Please send corrections/changes/new rules/results to:
Jan-Eric Rehn - SM3CER

Copyright © 1996-2005 Jan-Eric Rehn - SM3CER
This page was created December 30, 1996
Most recent revision December 25, 2004