Significance of N, K, W in call sign?

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SCPD

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The Tech license is very old, and always it was issued callsigns just like Generals and Conditionals**-- that is, they received "W" callsigns. Somewhere along the line the W's ran out and the K's began, but there was nothing to signify the difference between Techs, Generals or Conditionals.** With the exhaustion of the K's, the WA's and then WB's followed. This history dates to before my time, but was passed down to me by my father and grandfather.... :)
Also of interest, you could hold both a Tech and a Novice license at the same time- and you received two different callsigns (the WN's, KN's and WV prefixes...yes, you read that right- WV's)-- you used the one while on the Novice bands, the other on the VHF's. The Novice expired after one year; non-renewable-- the Tech was renewable...usually if you went on and got the General you kept your Tech call.. sounds confusing, no?
Many did this since they wanted to keep their ham licenses after the Novice expired, fearing they would/could not pass the 13 WPM code test for General.
I'll save the stories about the Extra and Advanced (Class A)'s for maybe another time??.....;)
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.......................CF
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** The Conditional License was the equivalent of a General- for that matter, so was the Tech, except for the 5 v.s 13 WPM code test and the resultant bands you could operate. You sent to the FCC for the test, it came sealed from the FCC, and it was the same written exam for both the Tech or Conditional. The test could be given by any General Class licensee who agreed to give the code and proctor the written sealed exam.. This I know first hand..... my first US license was a Conditional- it was administred by a steely-eyed, no nonsense Air Force Col.---my father!.... :) (you had to live more than 125 miles- later increased to 175-- from an FCC testing centre--I ace'd that requirement when I lived in the UK.)
 
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mmckenna

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The W in my call sign stands for whisky...18 year old Glenlivet whisky.
I'll drink to that.

When I was stationed in Alaska, I requested a new call sign and got WL7MN. WL7 is, or at least was, specific to Alaska. Previous to that I was KC6YSX, here in California.
 

AC9BX

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They are just prefixes. The assignment of them changed over the years.

The only other thing that I'd like to interject is that the "N" did stand for Novice during the period where the license had a one year time limit and was not renewable.
This began in the 50s. When added to the prefix, KN or WN would indicate novice and the N would go away after an upgrade. This ended in 1976.

Way back when in the 1920s N was used by the US Navy. Radio began with amateurs and the Navy. K and W were used by civilian services. W was used for the continental US and K was used for territories. People would receive licenses in addition to or in contrast stations. A person may have gotten an N call while in the Navy and kept it afterward. In fact before then in the 1910s it was the Navy that caused radio to be regulated at all (not that it wasn't going to happen anyway, that's what government does). The Navy argued interference could be a problem for them and that radio needed to be regulated to protect Naval radio traffic. Today it's just a letter.

Interestingly, novice class, although not being issued now, and military recreation stations do not have N available to them.

Call areas (the number) changed too over the years.
 

SCPD

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Of interest-- the original Extra Class license did not have any more privileges than the then-top of the heap, the General. It was issued as an honorary license to those that wanted to prove something to the rest of the community. You had to be a General class licensee for at least a year, then a a trip to the FCC, a 20 wpm code exam (sending and receiving) and an exam just short of sitting a Master's degree. You received a nice certificate, suitable for framing from the FCC instead of the small typed-out little 3X4" paper thing everyone else got. Those certificates looked great on a ham shack wall, but it required more than just a regular interest in ham radio to pursue. My grandfather was one of these old Extra's-- I thought it neat, but in the words of my father -
....."It just means your grandfather had too much time on his hands.......;) "
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(my father, and I following in his foot steps, have never progressed beyond Advanced.... maybe for fear of being classed like him....(laffing...;) )
 
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WU8Y

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Here is the FCC Amateur Radio Sequential Callsign System in detail:
FCC: Wireless Services: Amateur Radio Service: Call Sign Systems: Sequential

Technicians qualify for a Group C callsign which, in most parts of the territory governed by the FCC, is a 1x3 callsign with the first letter starting with K, N, or W. But, because the FCC has issued all of those callsigns in the sequential system, they revert to Group D callsigns which are 2 x 3 with the first letter being K or W. They are going through the Ks right now.

Generals also qualify for a Group C callsign, so they are treated the same as Technicians right now.

Extras qualify for a Group A callsign which is a 1x2 starting with K, N, or W or a 2x1 starting with A, N, K, or W or a 2x2 with the first letter being A. All of the 1x2 and 2x1 callsigns have been issued by the FCC in the sequential system so that's why new Extras get a 2x2.
That's interesting, I wonder why the Group D callsigns are restricted to beginning with the letters K or W. As has been noted, the US is also allocated the AA-AL prefix series. Also interesting to note is that Group B does not generally include the AA-AL prefixes. It seems that a callsign such as, for example, AA8AAA could never be issued by the FCC in the Amateur Service. The only AA-AL callsigns are Group A, (except AL and AH, available to group B and restricted to 2x2) and they're restricted to 2x1 or 2x2.

Note the special considerations for AL and AH prefixes, restricted by policy to Regions 11 (Alaska) and 13 (Pacific), respectively.
 

Token

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Of interest-- the original Extra Class license did not have any more privileges than the then-top of the heap, the General. It was issued as an honorary license to those that wanted to prove something to the rest of the community. You had to be a General class licensee for at least a year, then a a trip to the FCC, a 20 wpm code exam (sending and receiving) and an exam just short of sitting a Master's degree. You received a nice certificate, suitable for framing from the FCC instead of the small typed-out little 3X4" paper thing everyone else got. Those certificates looked great on a ham shack wall, but it required more than just a regular interest in ham radio to pursue. My grandfather was one of these old Extra's-- I thought it neat, but in the words of my father -
....."It just means your grandfather had too much time on his hands.......;) ")
Close, but not quite.

Prior to 1951 there were 3 license classes, A, B, and C. That year the FCC got rid of them, converting A's to Advanced, B's to General, C's to Conditional. Nothing converted to Novice because the Novice was not renewable. So starting that year there were Novice, Tech, General / Conditional, Advanced, and Extra.

The original Extra did give you privileges over General. Generals (and Conditionals) did not have voice (phone) on 75 or 20 meters. Extra (and Advanced) did have those.

Also, the original requirement was that you had to hold a license that gave voice on HF, either a General, Conditional, or Advanced, for two years, not one, before you could become an Extra. You had to have one year as a General (or Conditional) before you could become Advanced.

And the FCC planned to phase out Advanced (the previous Class A license), so that there would be a definite step from General to Extra. In 1952 they stopped allowing new Advanced licensees. Old ones could keep their ticket, but no new ones were given.

In 1953 they changed again, re-allowing Advanced, and giving all privileges to General and up. So from late 1953 to 1968 there were no advantages, other than bragging rights, for Advanced OR Extra. But in 1968 things changed again, and Advanced got slightly more bandwidth than General, and Extra got more than Advanced. ALso Advanced and Extra were allowed modes General was not.

In 1973 the requirement for holding a previous HF voice license for Extra was reduced to one year.

In 1977 the time requirement for holding a previous voice on HF license before testing for Extra was removed totally.

In 2000 Advanced was eliminated as a license you could get. Existing Advanced classes could retain and renew, but no new ones were issued.

T!
 

SCPD

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Thanks Token.... you have proven that you can't totally rely on tales handed down thru family word- of- mouth....;) I also got the distance for a Conditional License from the FCC testing facilities wrong... it was originally 75 miles, increased to 125.... not that that matter'd too much in my case when living out of the country.
Like I mentioned, both my father and I are Advanced's.... I guess you'd call us the "New Advanced"; sort of like what the FCC did with Tech's (becoming Tech-Plus's) or the No Code Extra's, and such.... Personally I find radio history fascinating....... my grand father was one of those old timer Extra's, and I have a great aunt from way back who was a Marconi operator, though never a ham.
.

Thank you for filling in my deficiencies...(all smiles :) )
I will research,-- and question 'authority,--' better next time (even when it comes from an old(er), stern, retired Air Force Col....my father...;) )
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................................................CF
 
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