Amateur radio, News

What’s In A Call?


My new Amateur Radio call sign became active this week, and just like to others, it looks strange to me. I have had AK3Q almost since I became a ham, and it looks strange to see my new call (K4PKM) resting next to my name.

When I first became a radio operator I wanted a call sign which reflected my “Amateur Extra”status — not for bragging purposes, but because I was proud of the work I had done to achieve that license. Back then “A” calls were very limited, and especially short calls beginning with “A”, and so I took what I could get.

Because of my inexperience at the time, I did not realize 2×1 calls were somewhat problematic on SSB. When working contests or pileups on DX stations, operators are not likely to call “3-Quebec (or 3-Queen)” to identify a station; they might say “Quebec station come back” – with 4 or 5 other stations having “Q” in the call all jumping in.

Alone, that issue would not have been enough to make a change. What did prompt the change were the very strange occurrences where people would return my call phonetically as Alpha Kilo 3 Japan. Don’t ask me how one gets Japan from Quebec or Queen. I cannot make sense of that one. However, it happens enough on SSB that it has become an irritant, as well as slowing down contacts for me and the other operator.

Finally, I encounter the occasional old-timer who seems to get confused by my having a “3” call while living in 4-land — never mind this type of thing is common and been allowed by the rules for years and years. At least now I am a 4-call living in 4-land!

So how did I choose my call sign? Since 1×2 calls are very hard to get, I decided I would do a 1×3 call. The first priority was deciding between K, N, or W as the first letter. Both K and W have two syllables in their phonetics, while N has three (November). To my ear “Kilo” and “K” are more distinct sounding than “W” (and shorter to say the actual letter). So now I had “K4” as a starting point.

Then I worked out the last two letters I wanted. Again, distinct, clear letters was the goal, with hopefully short phonetics. I settled on “Kilo Mike” as good, clear phonetics, as well as being reasonably short for both phonetics and CW.

Then it was a matter of seeing what calls were available with that combination of letters at the beginning and end. K4PKM worked out as my first choice, with my second being K4VKM. While I like the sound of my backup call if the first suddenly wasn’t available, I am glad it worked out the way it did. K4VKM is too close to a friend’s call who passed away some years ago – I believe would have made me uncomfortable.

So there it is – what’s in a call? It all depends on the person and what are their goals. For some, they want their initials as part of their call. I have no particular attachment to my name, so this was not an issue for me. For others they want their state or a relative’s call to be a part of theirs. Sentimentality, practicality, or just locality — all are good enough reasons for a vanity call.

Here’s to hoping I can communicate in such a way I cannot be misunderstood! Cheers! Robert K4PKM

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