Selecting a call sign

This post is a response to several Facebook group posts I’ve recently seen related to vanity call signs, and one asking for my specific opinion on them.

N1TA is a vanity. I selected it back when the vanity calls cost extra money (they are currently free) and it is my third one. Interestingly, I’ve applied for exactly three vanity calls in my entire life, only requesting a single call on the preference table each time. In all three cases, I got the call — even for N1TA, when there were several competing applications.

The process today is not so simple. Since applying is free, there are many more applicants. Getting the call you want is not easy anymore. There are plenty of resources, however. If you’re thinking of getting a vanity call, head to AE7Q’s website and read the entire site. Read every single page. Then read the forums. Then read everything a second time. Applications are rejected every day because the applicants were too lazy to first understand the process. Once you’ve read all there is on the subject, come back here.

But what makes a good call sign?

First and foremost: probably not your initials. I see these “initial call signs” all over the place. Most are 1×3’s, but the lucky few are 1×2’s. Very few of us have initials conducive to good suffixes. I’ve never been a fan of my initials, MD, in CW (although it’s OK on phone).

My selection criteria, as a contester, was low weight on CW and phone. TA accomplishes both. To determine this, I used the CW weight calculator from RadioQTH. If a call sign with MD had been available, it still would have been an unwise selection…

Call Sign Weight
TA 14
MD 20

I also prefer the N- prefix as it is shorter than K or W on CW…

Call Sign Weight
N 8
K 12
W 12

…but it lags behind on phone. “November” takes longer to say than “Kilo” or “Whiskey.” I was willing to compromise on that because the suffix was short and, after all, it was available.

I also decided to avoid call signs with characters ending with a single “dit.” For example, G, C, R, or E. Often, that last dit is lost in the noise.

My full set of requirements looked like:

  • Must be 1×2 (I’ve never liked 2×1 — just personal taste)
  • Preferably N, but would accept W or K
  • No trailing dit
  • Very small CW weight (fewer dah’s)

My tip for others is to think ahead. You might be blissfully enjoying repeaters or ragchew nets today, but your interests might change in five or ten years. Short calls work better for everything. Of course, you might be happy with your original sequential; there’s nothing wrong with that either! This is by and large a preference game, but I wanted to give some insight into my process.

73
Mike

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