[CQ-Contest] IDing During a CQ

LRod at pobox.com LRod at pobox.com
Tue Dec 12 02:37:24 EST 2000

Here's something I know a little bit about. I've been in aviation for nearly 35 
years, ham radio a little more, and I was an air traffic controller for 30 years. I 
am thoroughly indoctrinated in the ICAO alphabet, having used it a lot virtually 
every day for a third of a century!

What was said about the development of the alphabet is essentially true; words 
were selected to accommodate different languages, etc. Now let me tell you 
about amateur communication. A couple of huge differences in what we do and 
what I did are 1) ATC talk is universally and by law in English. amateur radio 
may be defacto, but it isn't de jure; 2) most communications are on VHF AM in 
relatively local conditions (even the HF operations are relatively high readability 
circumstances); 3) virtually none of the commercial uses of the phonetic 
alphabet involve digging an unknown callsign out of the mud or pileup, they are 
primarily to eliminate misunderstanding of a user (same as us only different).

I had the call WB9UQX at the beginning of my DXing career, and I am here to 
tell you that X-Ray is not very effective in digging calls out. It is definitely good 
for clarification for someone that thought they had worked an "S" or an "F" in a 
non-phonetic rendering of a call, however.

U is no bargain. Uniform just doesn't cut through the noise, nor do any cutesy 
alternatives; united, uraguay, union, etc.

Q is tough, and if I had remembered how tough, I wouldn't have my present call. 
Kweebec is hard on foreign ears; it just doesn't register. Kaybec (the correct 
pronounciation, by the way) often results in "K". Queen, quiet, quick, etc., are 
just variations on a theme, and queer just isn't an option.

Then for 20 years I had N9AKE. The vast majority of my DXing was done with 
that call, plus most of what little contesting I've managed, but I found Alpha 
Kilowatt Echo to be quite effective, but there was no good alternative. Kilowatt 
seemed to resonate with hams for obvious reasons, and it was clearly better than 
the official kilo.

When the great callsign lottery was held, I had a number of selections ready but 
I was smacked down to my number 11 choice which turned out to be N4SI. I 
had a whole litany of reasons why it was on my list, but they all evaporated in 
my first phone contest and again in my first CW contest. 

There is no good phonetic for I. India (the official one) has no punch at all. Try 
coming up with an alternative. Italy isn't it, trust me. When I couldn't get Dave-
of-many-calls to hear me on 40M phone from 10 miles away in the Sprint when 
he knew me, my call, and that I was on, I kissed it goodbye. When he and I did 
SS CW later that year and he sent the CQ message twice because N4SI was too 
short!, I kissed it goodbye again.

I selected K4QG to replace it, and I haven't wrung it out on phone, but I do 
know that quebec is better following a number, but golf sucks, leaving george, 
germany, gerontology, etc.

So, the bottom line is this; start with ICAO. But if you find yourself struggling 
making your call understood, try another phonetic. You need to spend some 
time at this; not just a pileup for A5. You need to try several pileups. Mult 
pileups in CQWW and DX pileups. You need to be aware of propagation, band, 
operator skill, the competition, well, just about everything you need to know 
about radio operating anyway. What you are looking for is what effectively and 
reliably gets the job done over the long run, like "kilowatt."

If you can't find any that work, change calls.

73, Rod K4QG     |  It's pronounced
                          |  "jig-a-byte" 
                          |  Look it up.

Never be afraid to try something new; 
remember amateurs built the Ark, 
professionals built the Titanic

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