Regular Hackaday readers will be familiar with our convention for placing a person’s name, nickname, or handle in square brackets. We do this to avoid ambiguity, as sometimes names and especially pseudonyms can take unfamiliar forms, which can be confused with other objects mentioned in the text. For example, you can see them around [Bart Simpson], or [El Barto]. and from time to time in these brackets you will also see main lines of letters and numbers after a name. For example, a pioneer in electronic music [Bob Moog, K2AMH]which most of you will recognize as an amateur radio call sign.
Each licensed radio amateur is issued by the radio authority of his country as a unique identifier, think of it as similar to a car number. From the amateur radio bubble, these letters and numbers can convey a significant amount of information about where the user is in the world, when he received his license and even what kind of license he has, but for outsiders they remain a mysterious and seemingly random string. We will now try to shed some light on this information, so that you too can look at the call sign in a piece by Hakadei or anywhere else and have some idea of its meaning.
Fortunately, there is an international contract for amateur radio call signs for the potential spotter. There are random cases and exceptions, but the chances of encountering them are small. There will always be a prefix to up to three alphanumeric characters that identify a country or territoryfollowed by a single digit and then up to four characters.
Returns to [Bob Moog]call sign [K2AMH] above as a clear example, “K“Is one of the prefix letters A, N, K and W used so far in the ranges defined for the United States,”2“Indicates that the summons was issued in New York or New Jersey because the U.S. summons figure represents a region, and”AMHA string of letters acting as a personal identifier is issued sequentially. In more recently issued call signs this is often vanity, perhaps the initials of the operator or the like.
An experienced call sign could also tell you this [Bob Moog]The call sign originates from somewhere in the 50s, as this is the period in which they began to issue a monograph “K“Call signs and that it means a full or advanced class license because”KIt is not accompanied by another letter. The FCC provides a handy guide to the call signs they are currently issuingif you are curious.
[Bob Moog] provides us with our clear example above, but as often happens, there are many exceptions and international differences, which means that not all components of the calls have the same interpretation. For example, in British call signs, the number does not represent a region; instead, for the most part, it conveys the age of the call sign and the class of license for which it was issued. If you dig so deep into the information contained in a call sign issued in another territory, you will often have to resort to your favorite search engine.
Sometimes you will see additional slashes at the beginning and end of a call. The letters at the beginning mean that the station operates in another country or territory, for example. There are reciprocal agreements between the parties that allow foreign amateurs to operate within their borders, thus adding the appropriate international prefix to their own slash to indicate the true location of their station. Our example in the image on the left shows a Canadian station operating in this way in Kuwait.
Of course, not all radio amateurs work from home. It has a long tradition of portable operation, in cars, on foot, in boats and even in the air. When working in this way, there is a requirement to indicate this by adding a slash and an appropriate suffix at the end of the call sign. This way you will see “/ P“For portable or on foot,”/ M“For mobile and even occasionally”/ MMFor marine mobile and “/ AM“For aircraft. There are stories, for example, about working people [King Hussein] of Jordan as [JY1/AM] from his royal plane somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean on his way to the United States. By the way, the Jordanian call sign is one of those rare cases of ending that we mentioned earlier, it has no letters after its number. When you are a king, the supreme vain call can be yours!
Sometimes there is an unwanted side to be able to extract so much information from a call sign. People will always find an excuse to impose a hierarchy on each group, and radio amateurs are no exception. This way, you will sometimes find holders of older or more advanced licenses, with the exception or inconvenience of people whose call signs are considered lower than their own. We recently heard an old-timer whose call number reveals that he was probably licensed for the first time in the 1950s or 1960s, breaking into a recently licensed rookie with a British M6 call sign and it was not a particularly pleasant experience. We’re sure Hackaday readers will agree that it doesn’t matter when you first got your license or what level of radio review you went through. You are as good as the last radio device you built and the last station you worked with.
We hope this has given you an idea of amateur radio call signs, and they no longer appear to be just random strings when we introduce them. If you are interested in amateur radio, you may want to see a previous feature we did in some of the steps required to take the license exam.
Image of the title plate with plate: Cody gg 88 [CC BY-SA 4.0], through Wikimedia Commons.