When Gate 2 of the 'Vanity' program was announced,
there was much anxiety among hams who stood to get a new call. There were
only a limited number of good callsigns available.
and every FCC/ARRL bulletin was scrutinized for subtle nuances of meaning.
Some hams believed there was an advantage to hand carrying applications
to Mellon Bank in Pittsburgh, PA, (FCC's collection agent)
where they would supposedly be prioritized by order of
receipt. It looked like a riot in the making, with hundreds
showing up there on the first day!
I followed developments in great detail, and was at one point seriously
considering making the trip myself to try to get my form and payment
in as early
One ham was offering to attempt
delivery of other hams' filings
for a $25. fee, implying he had insider knowledge. He had
his own list of applicants.
It became clear only a few days
before the deadline that the handling at the FCC
would be batch processing in lots of one batch per day. Batches received at
the bank would be kept together by day, in the interest of fairness, and
the FCC computer would randomly and sequentially
choose items from each batch
for processing until all were handled.
It would be OK, therefore, to have the application arrive any
time the first day- everyone in that batch had an equal chance.
Filings received before opening day were rejected and latecomers who filed a
day or more late stood a good chance of missing out on most of their callsign
choices. Many of us used couriers like Fedex, and carefully timed shipment.
In some ways it was very much like tuning across a DX pileup, reading it, and
successfully cracking the pile. This was a good challenge for extra class
DXers. To those
it mattered to, it was a high stakes, dramatic adventure. Many hams with
poor calls got to shed them for much better calls, after a 19 year
moratorium from 1977 during which no new vanity calls were issued
Unlike some USA regions, the W3 area still had a fairly good pool of
available 1x2 callsigns. Even so, it was challenging to make a list of 25
good DX calls.
I spent countless hours
sifting through them, making endless lists, and trying them in both
CW and voice phonetics, over and over.
I considered issues like callsign recognition (memorization),
intelligibility in noise (phonetics recognition/CW recognition), shortness,
fatigue. Some hams chose calls with their initials- although K3DS was
available, I did not think it was a good DX call.
Although some hams dropped letters from
longer callsigns, K3YG was my 25th (last) choice. What I was after was
primarily one that would
punch through the pileups and noise better than K3YGU.
None of my 25 choices were perfect, but I did exchange my difficult 1x3 call
for a better than average 1x2, and even got my first choice,
I'm very happy with it!