Tag Archives: History

Obtaining Your Free Vanity Callsign

Background: My first callsign, K0SLD, was received in December 1958 after passing the General Class 13 WPM code test and written exam before an FCC examiner in Denver. Back then if you moved to a new call area, you were required to get a callsign from that area. So when we transferred to Wake Island in 1962, I was K0SLD/KW6 for a while before receiving KW6DG. In 1971, when I started as an Air Traffic Controller in Utah, I became W7HOI. Later, when I passed my Extra Class in 1996, I applied for and was assigned K7GN. I transferred to New England in 1981. By that time you could keep your callsign regardless of where you lived.

I was determined to keep K7GN but two things were happening. Either a Ham would hear “K7” and turn their beams out West; and/or they would copy “NV” instead of “NH” and turn their beams westward. Plus having a ‘7’ callsign in the First Call Area became problematic working contests. I finally paid the fees and applied for a vanity callsign and obtained AE1N in 2002. Now over 25,000 QSOs later, I am very happy being AE1N.

So there you have it! Now Uncle charges no fees for vanity application

 Are You Not Happy With Your Callsign?

For what reason would any Ham want to change his callsign anyway?

  • A call easier for your friends to remember. John, W1MBG (‘Many Beautiful Girls’)
  • You don’t like the way your call sounds or looks, e.g. KJ4JPY, KC9FKU, KC7PQJ
  • I moved to a new call area. I said I would never give up my callsign, K7GN, when I moved to New England and I kept it for a while but got frustrated at times. Two things happened: Hams would hear K7GN, swing their beams West and I would lose them, or I would send QTH NH and they insisted in copying NV and turned their antennas to Nevada. In addition, it was more difficult for contesting, Europeans were disappointed and Japanese stations ignored me!
  • License Upgrade benefit. I worked hard for my Extra and I want others to appreciate my work.
  • Shorter calls. For Example, KC9NJU (Kilo Charlie Niner November Juliet Uniform) upgrades and obtains N9GM (November Niner Golf Mike)
  • Something easier to use in contests. Whether on Phone or CW, I always copy Bud, AA3B, on his first call.

How to Determine Your Ideal Vanity Callsign

  • Club name: California Highway Patrol, W7CHP
  • Favorite operating mode: W3PSK, W1UHF
  • Initials – One of my old calls, k0sld, was later selected by Steve L Dunlop.
  • Location – Guess where these hams hail from N1NH, WA2NYC, K5ARK, K1MVA.
  • Names – Jim Griffin is K2JIM; Karen is KA1REN
  • Nicknames – N1KIM, N6EVA, W1GUS
  • 1 or 0 to spell visually: K0RN, K1TE
  • Abbreviations: W1OM, W1YL, K0ANT, K0HAM, K1GHZ
  • Acronyms: K8LED, W7NPN, N4BFD
  • Actual Initials: W8FBI, K1IBM
  • Phonetically interesting: NE1R (‘New England One Radio’)
  • Humorous: N5BFT-Big Fat Turkey; K1ESE (dit di di dit dit; after the old jingle ‘Shave and a Haircut’.)
  • Visually appealing: W1XX
  • Words: KP4PIE
Optimized Character
  • Easy to send or receive – N1EEE, NN0SS, NN5XX
Factors In Selecting Your Ideal Call
  • # of Characters: AE1N (vs KC0QJY)
  • # of CW Elements (dots and dashes): N1NN
  • CW or phonetic ease in pile-ups: (Last letter ‘K’ confused with ‘K’ meaning ‘Go Ahead’.
  • CW rhythm: how it sounds at various speeds. If a letter ends with a dash, the next should be a dit; if a letter ends with a dit, the next should begin with a dash – K1ARM, W1SMV
  • Letter clarity without phonetics: B, D & E sound alike; R, O, and X are unique sounding
  • Length or weighted characters (dits x1 plus dashes x3) – AE1T, NE1R
  • Phonetic clarity: How callsign sounds & easily pronounced: N4FOG, K1ORO
  • Visual appearance (how it looks on QSL card or License Plate): K4USA, N5LUV

Vanity Callsign Application Process

The latest information can be found here:


Groups and Comments

I would not recommend doing applications by mail. You can list up to 25 desired calls. I suggest putting using your top 25 desired calls on your application, especially if competing for 1X2 and 2X1 calls.


Group D – Novice, Club, and Military Recreations Station (Primary stations licensed to Novice class operators, and for club and military recreation stations.) 2X3 with K or W prefix: K#XXX or W#XXX

Group C – General, Technician and ‘Technician Plus’ Classes (Primary stations licensed to General, Technician, and Technician Plus class operators.) 1X3 with K, N, W prefix: K#XXX, N#XXX or W#XXX

Group B – Advanced Class (Primary stations licensed to Advanced class operators.) 2X2 with K, N W prefix: KX#NN, NX#XX, WX#XX

Group A – Amateur Extra Class (Primary stations licensed to Amateur Extra class operators.) 1X2 with K, N, W prefix and 2X1 with A, N K, W prefix

  • Group A can choose from A, B, C, D groups; Group B from B, C, D Groups; Group C from C & D Groups.
  • Note: Some calls are reserved for Caribbean and Pacific Areas.
 Special Eligibilities
  • A close relative of the former holder – You may display the call sign of a deceased spouse, child, grandchild, stepchild, parent, grandparent, stepparent, brother, sister, stepbrother, stepsister, aunt, uncle, niece, nephew, or in-law on your primary station license. An “in-law” is limited to a parent, stepparent, sibling, or step-sibling of a licensee’s spouse; the spouse of a licensee’s sibling, step-sibling, child, or stepchild; or the spouse of a licensee’s spouse’s sibling or step-sibling.
  • Former primary station holder – You are eligible to have the call sign, which appears on your primary license displayed on your new vanity license if you are a former primary station holder.
  • Primary station preference list – You may request one or more call signs that you provide in the correct Commission format in the order of your preference. ULS will validate the format of each call sign on your list in turn and select the first call sign in the correct format that is not already assigned to another licensee.
  • The “W” prefix was started in 1928. So if you want to become an instant “OLD TIMER”, just get yourself a W#XXX callsign. There are many, many ‘choice’ W#XXX callsigns immediately available.
  • The first “K” calls appeared in 1947; the first “WA” calls in 1958, and the first “WB” calls in 1962. It wasn’t until the time of Incentive Licensing that the appearance of “A” and “N” prefixes arrived.

NEEDLESS TO SAY: 1X2 and 2X1 calls are in HUGE demand. My favorite vanity callsign help site is http://www.radioqth.net/vanity/available

[As of this writing, September 2017, the following typical 1X2 and 2X1 vanity callsigns were becoming available: KZ1I, NB1A, ND1C, NU1Y, WI1S, AL1U, N1HR, AND W1MM. And many, many 1X3 W#XXX calls were available]

 Special 1X1 Callsigns

These days one can hear such callsigns as N1E, W2Q, K7U from special events. Rules are specific. I myself have operated using K1I N1O N1E N1U W1O and K2K. It is a lot of fun seeing the interested generated by these 1X1 calls. For the New England ARRL Convention in Boxboro, W1A was activated.

For details go to http://www.1x1callsigns.org/

WHATEVER, you decide to do remember: “A Ham’s Callsign is to him or her, the sweetest and most important sound on-the-Air!

AND, IF for some reason you do not like your new vanity callsign, you can always apply for another one. After all, it’s FREE!

73, Layne AE1N

Recording of 1935 Marconi Speech Released

Recording of 1935 Marconi Speech Released

The Essex Record Office in the UK has released a sound recording that includes the second part of a speech by wireless pioneer Guglielmo Marconi, delivered at the unveiling of the Fisk Memorial at Wahroonga, Sydney, Australia. 

In the speech, Marconi forecast the impact that wireless communication will have on ship navigation and on the world economy in general. “Without long-distance communications, no country can make much headway,” he asserted.

The Fisk Memorial commemorated the first direct wireless message sent from the UK to Australia in 1918.

( Thanks to Southgate ARC )


Amateur Radio Just Isn’t Exciting

Recently, many articles have been written about the so-called ‘demise’ of Amateur Radio and how to attract younger people into the hobby.  Here is an example from Hackaday: 

Amateur Radio Just Isn’t Exciting


Re-posted by Layne, AE1N

August 1, 2017

[EXCERPTS]  As ARRL president, [Rick Roderick, K5UR] spends a significant amount of time proselytizing the hobby.  He’s delivered this talk countless times, and is used to a good reception from audiences impressed with what can be done with radio. But when he delivered it to a group of young people, as Southgate ARC reports, he was surprised to see a lack of interest from his audience, to whom DX or contesting just don’t cut it when they have grown up with the pervasive Internet. Writing in the 2016 ARRL Annual Report, he said:

  “Change generally doesn’t come easy to us. But when I looked out at that group of young faces and saw their disinterest in traditional ham pursuits, I realized that I had to change. We have to change. It won’t come easy, but it’s essential that we get to work on it now.”

It’s fair to say that amateur radio is a hobby pursued predominantly by older more well-off men with the means to spend thousands of dollars on commercial radios. It is also fair to say that this is hardly a prospect that would energize all but the most dedicated of youthful radio enthusiasts.

Were Hackaday to find ourselves in the position of advising the ARRL on such matters, we’d probably suggest a return to the roots of amateur radio, a time in the early 20th century when it was the technology that mattered rather than the collecting of DXCC entities or grid squares, and an amateur had first to build their own equipment rather than simply order a shiny radio before they could make a contact. why should it be a surprise that for kids, amateur radio just isn’t exciting?

What is very interesting to me, though, is reading through the 158 comments to the Hackaday article. (Keep in mind that these were gleaned by an Old Timer Age 72 who has been hamming 59 years and still immensely enjoys operating. So here goes: Interesting comments (to me) on the article:

  • “I used to think amateur radio was uninteresting. Then I found TAPR, AMSET, and a host of amateur radio enthusiasts who are more experimenters than operators. They are out there and their numbers are growing.”
  • “Too many rules and regulations; no broadcast; limited data communications; etc. It all leads to super-boring conversations with by-the-book types. RF is cool; but amateur radio and tis byzantine structure is not.”
  • “From my talks with young folks (and new potential newcomers) I’ve heard 3 things: 1. The need to go take a written test about electronics is daunting. And honestly, I understand that. 2. If you’re buying your hardware, in small solid state form, understanding the electronics IS more difficult. 3. The internet made the world smaller than even shortwave had.”
  • “Amateur radio was interesting in the past because it could let you communicate with people you otherwise couldn’t communicate withy. With the internet, this is not true, and it will never be the same again. The chief motivator is gone, and now it’s pursued for its own historic sake rather than by the novelty of talking with faraway people. Like so may things, amateur radio was a product of the times, and that world will never come again. Rather than lament this and wish for what was, better to appreciate it and move on.”
  • WA4MP: “I might have taken this article seriously about 5 years ago, but not now. In the past few years, ham radio has taken off is some quite interesting new directions: Inexpensive QRP SSB radios aren’t just for voice. Many can take advantage of the new digital modes that seem to be popping up every few months, modes than can exchange messages at below the noise level. There’s also WSPR, for exploring propagation and, as commercial services are going to satellites, new spectrum is opening up for hams in parts of the spectrum where we never has space before. No, today if ham radio has a few, it’s that there’s too much new stuff going on for anyone to manage.”
  • “Amateur radio is not a hobby but a collection of hobbies united by their shared use of licensed radio spectrum.”
  • “Been an amateur radio operator for 46 years and enjoy every minute of operating, repairing, building equipment. Use the knowledge and skills learned from the Amateur Service every day. I am the chief technical person at my job. Amateur Radio has helped me to THINK!’

High frequency: Waves Connect Washington Island Ham Radio Collector with World

So you’re always getting more ham gear but items never seem to leave your shack! How about 1000 pieces! Meed George Ulm, W9EVT!

Layne, AE1N

High frequency: Waves connect Washington Island ham radio collector with world by Sara Bredesen

WASHINGTON ISLAND— George Ulm, W9EVT, is a talker. Ulm, 86, has been a licensed amateur radio operator for nearly 80 years and claims he has the world’s largest collection of transmitters, receivers, transceivers and amplifiers in the world, an astounding 1000 pieces! It is all housed in a couple of buildings on the far north shore of Washington Island off the tip of Wisconsin’s Door County Peninsula.

Ulm, who was born in 1930 in the Free City of Danzig (now Gdansk, Poland), remembers being exposed to amateur radio, or “ham” radio, at 3 or 4 years old in his parents’ home. “My mother’s side of the family had a number of amateur radio operators at that time that were friends, and there was even in that house a radio station,” Ulm said. One of the relatives by marriage was Karl Hassel, who was one of the pioneers of early ham radio.

According to the book, “Zenith Radio: The Early Years, 1919-1935,” the U.S. Navy dismantled most broadcast stations at the outbreak of World War I but retained the University of Pittsburgh station, where Hassel was an operator, to act as a government broadcast station. Hassel joined the Navy and taught Morse code for the service. After the war, he moved to the Midwest where he and fellow Navy radio operator Ralph Mathews set up a radio equipment business called Chicago Radio Laboratories.

“He and (his partner) were the first people who sold radios. They sold amateur transmitters, amateur receivers and general receivers that covered the broadcast band,” Ulm said. “Karl did the whole thing.  The company’s history said that by 1923, production outgrew several subsequent manufacturing sites, so a separate company was set up for building the units and was called Zenith Radio Corp. Zenith and CRL merged several years later.

Ulm picked up the story. He said by the mid-1930s, Hassel didn’t have much to do, so he started spending time with Ulm, who then was about 5 years old and living with his family in Chicago. “(Karl) had a big office and a secretary, but at 5 o’clock he would put on his hat and come up to Mother’s house, and he would sit with me,” Ulm said. “He said to me, ‘George, you don’t speak very good English, and you don’t speak very good German, so I am going to teach you International Morse Code to talk.’

Ulm was 7 years old when he got his amateur radio license, which required a code test and technical test to show proficiency. His massive radio collection began with gifts from Hassel and friends and continued with purchased radios.

During World War II, Hassel collected operating manuals for all the radios made by the Allies — highly secret material at the time — and gave a copy of each to Ulm, who said he memorized their contents. After the war, Ulm was hired by buyers to consult on the value of these radio units as they came up for auction. His collection includes about 2,000 manuals.

With contacts developed through Hassel, Ulm also started a business designing, building and renting displays for industry trade shows, beginning with radio manufacturers.

As a youth during World War II, Ulm was an Eagle Scout helping lead summer camps on Washington Island. When his parents were looking for a retreat, he remembered the place and helped them buy a retired fruit orchard in 1959.

Today, the operating equipment is stacked neatly on shelves — most of the units plugged in and ready to go — in a bright, vaulted-ceilinged cottage. The main room is lined bottom to top with hundreds of vintage and modern receivers, transceivers and amplifiers of every brand and model, plus more in a side room just for Collins radios, including some of the first FM transmitters used by the U.S. Air Force. A four-car garage houses rows of shelves with units awaiting repair. More than a dozen antennas rise and loop across the lake-side yard.

U  lm estimated that there are about a million licensed ham operators in the U.S. and three million in the rest of the world. Despite advances in modern communication technology, hams are still of great value.

“We do a lot of work for emergencies, for floods, for tsunamis, for hurricanes,” Ulm said. “Ham radios are the only source of communication when cell phones and regular phones are down.

Ulm is on the air regularly, including running a daily Western Rim network.

“I have people in New Zealand that I talk to; I have a large group in Hawaii. At night I talk to people in Europe. I probably talk to 20 or 30 countries every day,” said Ulm, who answers to call sign W9EVT.

Many of the hams spend time in Ulm’s ham shack when staying in cottages that Susan runs as a rental business on the 302-acre farm. “She has never sat with me for 10 minutes or talked with anyone on the radio. Ever,” Ulm said.Susan is trying to retire from the cottage business, and Ulm said his hands and eyesight aren’t steady enough to fix all the units needing attention. The collection is just too big.