New call sign, RIP KF6PBP

I got my amateur radio license on December 31st, 1997.

I was an undergraduate at the time. My friend and classmate Tony (KC6QHP) had been trying to convince me to get my ham license for months.

I finally decided to go for it over winter break. I picked up a copy of Now You’re Talking! from a local bookstore (remember those?) and crammed for a week. I took the test the following weekend and passed with a perfect score, 35/35. (The morse code requirement for the Technician license was eliminated in 1991.)

That Christmas I got a Kenwood TH-79A/D, a very modern-looking radio at the time. (I still think it looks great, but it has aged poorly, the controls are scratchy and the battery becomes disconnected easily.) I nervously waited for my new call sign to show up in the FCC database. (This was before the ULS existed, but there was a website where you could see the call signs that were issued each day.)

Imagine my horror when on December 31st my name came up listed next to the call




What’s wrong with that, you say? Sound it out. K F 6 P B P. Imagine trying to make a contact on the air with that call. PBB? BPP? PPP? I have even had operators struggle with the phonetic version (Papa Papa Bravo? No, Papa Bravo Papa. Easy, right? Wrong.) I remember some old-timers trying to console me when I first got my license by coming up with clever mnemonics such as “Peanut Butter Pretzels”, which I still chuckle at.

Admittedly, my frustration level has always been kept in check by the fact that I have never been very active on the air, and most of the contacts I have made have been with friends who had memorized my callsign anyway.

This year, after having the callsign KF6PBP for over 13 years, I finally decided to do something about it. I applied for a vanity call sign.

But which call to apply for? I’m an Amateur Extra now (I tested for General and AE in 2009 and 2010, respectively), so I could have tried to get one of the much-fought over 1×2 or 2×1 callsigns (like K6RF, W6TC, etc). I didn’t see any that were worth fighting (and waiting) for. So, I decided to take a different approach and searched for an easy-to-get 1×3 callsign that reflected my personality or interests. I found a few that I liked and narrowed them down to 2 candidates (one favorite and a backup in case someone else applied for the same call and I didn’t get it).

As luck would have it, I got my first choice. Last night, I was granted the new call sign


It feels a little bit weird to be saying goodbye to the call sign I’ve held for so long, but I’m looking forward to operating with my new call with fewer corrections. (The phonetic version has a nice ring to it – Whiskey 6 Oscar Hotel Mike.)

I’m getting back into amateur radio these days, so expect to see more posts on the subject. Maybe I’ll even get to chat with some readers of the blog on the air?

(Are you a ham?  Leave a comment!)


30 thoughts on “New call sign, RIP KF6PBP”

  1. Greetings! This is my first visit to your blog! We are a team of volunteers and starting a new initiative in a community in the same niche. Your blog provided us valuable information to work on. You have done a marvellous job!

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  3. Brilliant callsign choice, sir! I’m surprised someone else hadn’t snagged it.

    I’ve had the same call since 1976: WD8CIV. I was briefly WN8CIV because the FCC used to issue Novices callsigns with an ‘N’ in the prefix, but they stopped doing that and gave me a call from the regular pool about three months after I got my license. (That was around the same time Novice licenses became renewable. Before that you had a year or two to upgrade or else it expired.)

    For learning Morse, five or ten minutes a day seems to help it stick better than longer, less frequent sessions. It’s kind of like building muscle memory. You’re developing pathways that fade with disuse, so a quick refresh daily is more effective than relearning it (sort of) once or twice a week.


    1. What worked best for me, when learning cw, was to set aside a half-hour or so every weeknight to practice copying cw (I’ve always been better at sending than receiving). I enjoyed scanning the 20 and 40 meter bands for cw conversations that were a little faster than I was comfortable with and then just doing my best to copy it down. I found that real-life QSOs are different than pre-recorded or generated cw. Everybody that is keying by hand has a personality to their cw. Anyhow, 5 minutes was a little too short for me – a half hour to hour of live copying worked great and was fun.

  4. I know how you feel in regard to callsigns Jeff. I am ex KG4VPV…. Changed it the last week of the year in ’07 and had everything set up and transferred just before I went to Dayton in ’08 🙂

    -Eric, N5EBW

  5. Nice call! Looking forward to getting one of those QSL cards after a succesful PSK-31 contact.

    -Tony KC6QHP

      1. dadah dit
        dah didididit didit dahdit dah dididit
        didadah dit
        dahdit dit dit dadidit
        dadah dadadah didadit dididit dit
        dadidadit dadadah dadidit dit
        dididahdit dadadah dadit dah

        dadadididit didididadah
        dadidit dit
        dadidah dadidadit dadidididit dadit dah didadadit


  6. Nice story!

    I’m not a ham but decided to make a go for it. Been wanting it since I was 10 but always something got in the way. But better late then never:) Even though the CW requirement is dropped in Sweden I have started practicing. QRP CW seems like one of the most fun things 🙂 Until I get the license I have lined up some fun projects to build. A CW practice oscillator, a frequency counter, a 20m CW/SSB receiver. The coming year will be busy 🙂

    1. Daniel,

      I also plan to learn CW. I have the audio CDs and an iPhone application but haven’t found the time to use them. I need to set aside 30 minutes a couple times week and start studying, because I would also like to start building QRP radios.

      Have fun, 20m is the only band I am set up for right now and it is a lot of fun.

  7. Congrats Jeff. It is a fitting call in many ways.

    I changed my call recently also. I was originally licensed as KC8FNF in 1996. It has a nice rythem in CW, but phonetically it is a mouthful. So when I was ready to upgrade to Extra, I watched the FCC sequential listing until it was close to a call I would like. I tested and received my new all. Alternating Current 8 General Electric has a nice railroad significance to boot.

    Enjoy your new call. I hope to talk electronics over the air with you some time.

    73, Robert AC8GE

    1. Robert,

      FNF is a mouthfull!

      Something that I did not find an answer to in my research – does the FCC still issue new A, W, or N callsigns? Or are those prefixes “used up”? I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone under 40 who has a sequential call that starts with any letter other than K.

      1. They do issue “Group A” 2×2 calls starting with the “A” prefix. Currently, the next available calls in the 6 call area would be an AG6H*. Considering that you are in TX now, the FCC would likely force you to take a 5 call, which would be an AF5A*.

        I watched the website for what was the last call sign assigned in my call region. I actually timed my VE session for my call sign to be available next to be issued before testing. I was trying for something with a lower “morse weight” and easier phonetics.

        FWIW, I was originally licensed my freshman year of college (19 at the time) in 1996. I upgraded to Extra and received my new call April of 2010.

  8. How funny — my call sign from around the same time is KF6FBP. I keep thinking I’ll take the advanced and extra exams one of these days, but I never seem to get around to it. One of these days!

    Congrats on the new call, though!

    1. Mike,


      They got rid of Advanced, so you’ll need to pass General and AE. My advice would be to find a VE session, put it on your calendar, and use that date as a motivator to study. It worked for me. I didn’t take both tests at one time but took them about 3 months apart, and that worked well also.

      Good luck!

  9. Awesome! Congrats on the new call. I quick-tested my way up to Extra without making a contact (I certainly have since), but I’m now debating if I should apply for a vanity call sign before starting the VEC paperwork. Any thoughts?

    -Matthew Beckler KB3VDJ

    1. Matthew,

      If you’re thinking about changing it, I would do it sooner rather than later. Once you’ve made a lot of contacts, filled out VE paperwork, etc it will be a much bigger deal to change later.

      Jeff W6OHM

  10. Congrats on the new callsign, it’s a good one!

    Did you have to retire the old call to get the new one? Up here, we’re allowed to hold more than one, though at one point you had to pay extra to hold an additional call. I have my primary call, and a second one for a 10-meter beacon I used to run.

    73 de Stephanie, va3uxb

    1. Stephanie,

      In the US you automatically give up your old call when you apply for a new one. My old call shows up as “cancelled” in the FCC system and in 2 years someone else will be able to grab it (though I can’t imagine why anyone would want a 2×3 ending in PBP).

      I think the only way to hold 2 calls in the US is to be the trustee of a club callsign in addition to your own.

      1. Yep, that’s the only way, AND the rules have changed. You used to be able to be trustee of multiple clubs and callsigns. Now there is a one trustee limitation.

  11. Congrats. Oscar Hotel Mike has a nice ring to it.

    I was licensed as KF6KYI. It had some amusing mnemonics as well (Kenwood Yaesu Icom? Kiss Your Iguana?) but when I got my Extra, I decided to try for a 1×2 or 2×1. As it happened, K6TT was about to expire, so I applied for that along with 17 others). I didn’t get that one, but I had K6HX as my second choice, which I liked. My fallback was going to be WE6Z, which I like the sound of (Whiskey Echo Six Zulu). Hotel X-Ray isn’t too bad though. 🙂

    Since then, I haven’t seen any 6 calls that were nearly as good. 🙂

    1. Mark,

      That is a great call. No one has mentioned the fact that I kept a 6 district call even though I live in Texas now. I got a some flack for that from a Canadian operator I worked a couple weeks ago, apparently you still have to change calls when you change districts in Canada. My reasons – I was originally licensed in California, so I felt like keeping the original district, and if I changed calls every time I moved I’d be filling out FCC paperwork as a part time job… 🙂

  12. Jeff – congratulations on the awesome new call sign! Hope to catch you on the air with it sometime too!

    73 de W2AEW – (@AlanAtTek)

      1. Jeff,

        I got my call in 1984 and was happy as a clam when I got KA3OUT. I said great a radio word in my call. I was pretty happy for all those years. My local club runs a 10 meter contest in January where if you work a station with a word in the call you get a bonus of 10 points. Well this worked for many years. Then I got the bug to upgrade to Teck and Advanced. Well I kept getting notices from monitors telling me I was working out of band since I had a 2X3 novice call and should go back where I belong. After several of these I learned to just ignore them, they would find out eventually that I had the advanced class license. Well as time marches on I finally upgraded to Extra about a year or so ago. I started hunting for a new call. I looked for something like KA3AK or KT3TK the same going or coming. Well I eventually settled on K3AK ( Anthony Kobylski ) after some pressure from my friends. I knkow what you mean since I had the other call for 24 years it took a lot to let go. sometimes if I am not thinking real clearly I will pick up the mike in the car and say KA3OUT listening on 7.285. Just as the words rolled off the tounge I realized what I said. Oh well I guess I will get over that too one day. Good choice on your part for the OHM suffix. That makes for a really neat call also. Good luck with it and I will be looking for you on the air.

        73 and good DX,

        Tony Kobylski
        K3AK ( ex KA3OUT )

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