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!)