The number of QSOs has ballooned over the past decade, largely as a result of systematic large-area surveys. The majority of these surveys have been based on optical selection criteria, such as the Large Bright Quasar Survey (LBQS; Hewett, Foltz, & Chaffee 1995) and the Edinburgh Quasar Survey (Goldschmidt et al. 1992), in marked contrast to the earliest radio-selected QSO searches. The recent emphasis on optically-selected samples is due in part to their higher efficiency; previous radio selected samples suffer mainly from the difficulty of identifying optical counterparts from poor radio positions. Additionally, past radio selected samples have been largely insensitive to radio quiet objects, which make up the preponderance of the QSO population. Yet optically selected quasar samples have their own disadvantages, possibly excluding QSOs with unusual colors. For example, it has recently been suggested that there is a large population of 'dusty' QSOs which has been missed by recent QSO surveys (Webster et al. 1994). A radio selected sample can, in principle, be immune to optical color selection effects.
We show here that the NRAO Very Large Array (VLA) FIRST survey (Becker, White and Helfand 1995; hereafter BWH) is capable of generating a radio selected sample of quasars which can achieve the very high efficiency of optical surveys. Such a new complete sample of radio-selected QSOs will help address several unresolved questions, such as the surface density of bright quasars and whether or not there is differential evolution between radio loud and radio quiet QSOs.
We present the results of the pilot phase of the FIRST Bright Quasar Survey (FBQS) based on the initial 300 imaged by the VLA FIRST survey in 1993. The early results, especially some of the more unusual quasars in the sample, may be of particular interest to others. In II we discuss the selection of candidate QSOs based on a comparison of the FIRST survey catalog of radio sources with the Automated Plate Machine (APM) catalog of POSS I objects (McMahon & Irwin 1992). In III, we describe the optical observations used to confirm sources as QSOs and present the spectroscopic results. We then discuss the efficiency of the survey in IV, concluding in V with a discussion of future plans for the survey.