People behind the callsigns

When you pick up the microphone and answer someone’s call, all you know in the very beginning is the callsign of your interlocutor. Most of the time, you will also get their name and approximate location at some point of your conversation. But if you have an opportunity to further the chat – you can find more interesting details about your vis-à-vis.

When a radio ham from Nottingham put out a general call during a radio festival in the early 1970s, a man calling himself Hussein, with the call sign JY1, responded. That he claimed to be Jordanian was clear enough from the first two letters. But who, from a nation that used two or three digits as its call signs, would be audacious enough to list themselves as number one? The radio ham was confused.

A one-to-one call with his majesty – The Guardian

The hero of that story, the King Hussein I of Jordan, kindly explained the caller that “…When he wasn’t making war, brokering peace or running his own country for almost half a century, the late King Hussein was often scanning the airwaves for friends“. He was a true legend in the amateur radio world, and played a notable role in adding the so-called “WARC bands” (12, 17 and 30 meters) to the amateur spectrum.

I never talked to kings on the air. However, in my less-than-a-year time on the HF bands I did have some interesting contacts: I talked to W1AW, the ARRL Headquarters radio station, 4U1WB – the station at the World Bank Headquarters in Washington, DC, and W5RRR – NASA Johnson Space Center radio club among others.

Most of the times, however, I get to know a little more about my contacts post factum, when I transfer my logs to That’s where I usually see what setups people use and what are doing outside of the radio hobby. I’m not sending paper QSL cards to everyone, but if I see that someone is collecting them (or if asked during the conversation) – I’ll surely send one. I always respond back if I receive a card from a fellow ham.

Last week I camped at the Sherman Reservoir SRA in central Nebraska, and worked from two parks during the trip. A few days later, I received a bunch of QSL cards, and one of them stood out for me. It was from Jim KAØZPP, and there was a note on the back thanking me for the contact and for an opportunity to test his new mobile setup in his car. There was also a post scriptum, and that’s where it gets interesting, particularly for my fellow amateur astronomers: “I’m also an amateur astronomer, – Jim writes, – mostly photoelectric photometry of variable stars for AAVSO and Uranus/Neptune for ALPO“. I do know a bunch of people who are both hams and amateur astronomers, but it’s also fun to learn what others are doing – so naturally I looked him up. Turned out that I had a QSO with James Fox, the former President (1990-1994) of the Astronomical League! So when you next pick up that microphone – get ready for an adventure, as you never know who your next contact may be!

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