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Straight Key Night


Objective: This 24-hour event is not a contest; rather it is a day dedicated to celebrating our CW heritage. Participants are encouraged to get on the air and simply make enjoyable, conversational CW QSOs. The use of straight keys or bugs to send CW is preferred. There are no points scored and all who participate are winners.

Contest Details


    Straight Key Night is held every January 1 from 0000 UTC through 2359 UTC.

    Terms Of Entry

    - Entrants agree to be bound by the provisions and intent of ARRL contest rules.
    - Entrants agree to be bound by the regulations of their national licensing authority.
    - Entrants agree to be bound by the decisions of the ARRL Awards Committee.
    - Log contents used to determine final score and awards will be available to the public.
    - All entries become the property of the ARRL.



    All authorized Amateur frequencies, but activity has traditionally been centered on the HF bands.

    Log Submission Deadline

    Entries for Straight Key Night must be received by January 31. Votes for ‘Best Fist’ and “Most Interesting QSO” will be tabulated and included in the results.

    Send your information to
or by mail to

ARRL Straight Key Night

225 Main Street

Newington, CT 06111

    Contact Information

    For contest information contact

    or (860) 594-0232


    Results from previous Straight Key Nights


A Straight Key Night Story:

By Dan Henderson, N1ND

In my early days in amateur radio, I was privileged to have three top-flight Elmers.  Each shared with me new interests and enthusiasm for different parts of the hobby.  The first, Col. Frank, WB4JMG, was special because we shared the same birthday and he taught me most of what I learned in those early days about electronic theory. The second Elmer, Everest McDade, W4DYW, was special because our families were so close – and as he was my principle mentor for on-the-air operations, especially CW traffic nets.

Unless your Elmer was one of your parents, you probably can’t say what my third Elmer would say about our relationship.  Dr. Mac, WA4VNV (later N4IX), would say he knew me my entire life.  Not only was he a dedicated amateur operator – he was my mother’s OBGYN (the man who literally “delivered me” to the world) -- then in later years he helped me find the world of amateur radio.

I had been attending club meetings with the old Asheville Radio Club for months before I was first licensed (Asheville RC later merged with the Buncombe County VHF Society to form the Western Carolina Amateur Radio Society).  Being the precocious teenager that I was, I jumped in with both feet.  In mid-1971 I agreed to take over as editor of the Asheville RC’s monthly newsletter, known as "Smoketest from Dr. Mac."  He agreed to help me as a regular contributor, but slyly with one caveat–he would only provide news stories for me for the newsletter if I would copy them over the air using CW, since I was only a Novice and had no phone privileges during those years.

I accepted his offer, and began two years of almost daily QSOs on 3725 KHz– because that was one of the few crystals I had for my Heathkit HW-16 (a rig that Col. Frank had been commissioned by my parents to build for my Christmas present in 1970).  It was a unique experience, yet one which served to continue building what became my passion for Morse code.  In later years I would follow in Dr. Mac’s footsteps once again when I became the ARES EC and RACES Radio Office for my county (but that’s a topic for another article).

Between the efforts of my three Elmers, my CW speed quickly increased from the nervous 5 WPM necessary to earn my license to being able to conduct a coherent rag chew in the 25-30 WPM range.  And the mantra of all three was simple – If you want to be competent in CW, you have to use it.

So each year from 0000 UTC to 2359 UTC PM on January 1st, I now have the chance to pay a small bit of homage back to my Elmers - via opportunity to participate in the annual ARRL Straight Key Night (SKN). This 24-hour event is not a contest; but rather it is a day dedicated to celebrating our CW heritage. Participants are encouraged to get on-the-air and simply make enjoyable, conversational, QSOs.  There are no points scored, and all who participate are winners.

In the decade since I wrote my first SKN announcement for QST, I have seen a marvelous metamorphosis occur.  The number of entries has grown almost ever year, even with the elimination of CW as a licensing requirement in the US.  Participants have also used this popular annual event for more than just demonstrating their prowess while pounding a brass key. Numerous participants use SKN to test and “show off” their vintage equipment.  Some will plug in their old CW “bugs” and join in the event. The common bond for all of them is to have fun in a more relaxed CW-enriched setting. You will even find CW enthusiasts do get on just to enjoy the rag chewing.

That’s the purpose of this popular operating event after all, so don’t get hung up about the equipment you use.

When participating in SKN, instead of sending RST, before sending the signal report also send the letters "SKN" to indicate your participation, and to clue in passers-by who may be listening (alerrting them that SKN is still going strong).  After SKN, send the Contest Branch a list of the stations you contacted, 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 that you monitored.

Don’t forget to post your comments and any interesting photographs from your SKN adventure to the ARRL Contest Online Soapbox. Entries should be emailed to the Contest Branch at or may be sent via regular mail to ARRL - SKN, 225 Main St, Newington, CT 06111. The Soapbox becomes an online album of stores and photographs to share with others.


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