[CQ-Contest] Call sign history

James Cain jamesdavidcain at gmail.com
Sun Jan 8 09:28:03 EST 2017

What's in a name?

40 years ago this week a very large group of us were applying to the FCC for the long-awaited "preferred Extra Class call signs."  The FCC opened the gate on January 1, 1977. Decisions, decisions. You were told to list four desired call signs. That sent everybody to the latest Callbook to see what was available. It depended on what Call Area you lived in. 1X2 call signs starting with the letter K had never been issued in most Call Areas. Some had been issued in Call Areas 2, 4, and 6. 

Lots of call signs starting with the letter W were available but all would be "re-issues." I don't think a 1X2 call sign starting with the letter N had ever been issued. 

Some of us had waited many years to dump our 2X3 call signs. We had been Extras for nearly 10 years. The prospect of fewer characters was exciting. But choosing a new call sign was agonizing! A lot of us chose a new call sign that had some connection with our checkered past. For many, the choice was mode-oriented. If you liked phone, phonetics were a big consideration. For CW operators, bauds mattered. And, if you prefer CW, do you really want a call sign ending in K?

A lot of us operated the first of two weekends of the 1977 ARRL DX CW Competition with our 2X3 call signs. What happens if our shiny new call sign arrives in the mail before the second weekend? (In those good old days, children, each mode of the contest was two weekends, a month apart.) Somebody I know really, really well, enquired about this, and the unofficial word from the FCC was if your new call sign/license arrives before the second weekend, just pretend it didn't. 

Jim Cain, K1TN (ex-WA1STN, WA9AUM)

More information about the CQ-Contest mailing list