I like this article. My call, since I have chosen to keep it, was issued when I lived in the “0” call area. Took my tests in Denver back when you had to go to the FCC office to do that. I now live in the “5” area but have decided to just keep my old call, like your favorite shoes, you get used to something and don’t really want to change. – WD0AJG
Call signs in the United States used to be very easy for one Ham Operator to tell
which area in the US the Ham they were talking to was from! A 6 call was from
California or some state near, or a 0 call was New York or a state near New York,
they did not even need to look at the call map! Today a Amateur Radio Operator
can move from North Carolina where it is a 4 call to Texas where it is a 5 call and
keep their 4 call.
Call signs (in the United States) consist of one or two letters, a number, and one
to three more letters. The first part of the call sign denoted what country they are
from, with the US being A, AA – AK K, KA – KK, KM – KW, KX – KZ, N, NA – NK,
NM – NW, NM – NW, NX – NZ, WA – WK, WM – WO, WQ – WW, and WX – WZ.
Also in the US, AA – AK was issued only to Amateur Extras.
Each country has been assigned a country designation by a governing body.
This group is made up from representatives from all over the world and is
not only concerned with ham communication but all communication. I am not
going to get into the designations for the countries. There are several charts
available that shows the different designations and the country it relates to.
The number in the Call Sign tells what part of the US they reside in.
0 (zero) told they reside in Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri,
Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota.
1 in the call sign Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode
2 is New Jersey, New York.
3 is Delaware, D.C., Maryland, Pennsylvania.
4 is Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina,
5 is Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas.
6 is California.
7 is Arizona, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Utah, Wyoming.
8 is Michigan, Ohio, West Virginia.
9 is Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin.
Hawaii and Alaska have a little different scheme in their call sign.
AL0-7, KL0-7, NL0-7, WL0-7 is Alaska.
AH6-7, KH6-7, NH6-7, WH6-7 is Hawaii.
The first part of the call sign told what country the Ham Call was from and the
number told what area, the last one to three letters of the call sign is never issued
to another Ham in a call sign that has the same first letters and area number.
This makes a call sign only one of a kind in the world.
A valid call sign could consist of 1 letter, a number, and 1 more letter. In Alaska
or Hawaii a valid call could be two letters, a number, and one letter!
As was said before, it WAS very easy to tell about the Amateur Operator you are
talking to! Now there also is a call sign we call a Vanity Call here is the US.
The FCC (Federal Communications Commission) permit hams to apply for a call
that means something to them. If your Dad, Aunt, or someone you knew had a
call sign at one time that you wanted, you could request that call sign (for a small
fee) as long as no else had that sign. If your name was Joe, you could have those
letters for your last three in your call sign (if no one else had them with the rest of
the letters and number) under the Vanity Call system.
When applying for vacant Vanity call signs that may be available to you,
you have to be aware that it depends on your license class. Extra class
licensees can pretty much choose any vacant US call sign. Advanced class
licensees cannot seek the 1×2, 2×1 or 2×2 starting with letter “A” as they
are Extra class type call signs. What that means is that you cannot seek a
call sign that is above your current license authority, but can take a call
sign that is equal to or below the authority that you currently have!
As of April 2000, there was no longer a morse code requirement for any
of the Amateur Radio Operators tests, and there is only three levels
(Technician, General, and Extra Class) of licensing.
Examinations after that date will only be given for Technician, General and
Extra Class. Hams licensed under the categories that are no longer will be
“grandfathered” so that they may operate as long as the old license remains
in effect. This could be somewhere around 10 years as that is the length of
So during that time or maybe never at all can you ever tell anything about
the Ham operator that you or another Ham is talking to other than what
country they are from! Guess the best thing is to ask them where they are located!
Dave did not change his call sign from KD4YFL to his current call of KS4LI until he was licensed as Amateur Advanced in 1995. After receiving his Amateur Extra License in 1996 he served with several teams that gave licensing exams from Amateur Novice to Amateur Extra including the Morse code exams that were part of the licensing structure at that time. Daves current project is “Amateur Radio Gifts” [http://www.amateurradiogifts.com]
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