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Thread: Calling all Hams

  1. #1
    Junior Member
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    Mar 2014
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    Calling all Hams

    I first became a Ham about 50 years ago, and was a member of the ARRL and a regular reader of QST, the ARRL's premier magazine. The question of the origin of the term "ham" to refer to amateur radio operators was raised sporadically even way back then, as it seems to be happening now. As I recall, the question was never answered definitively. All sorts of answers were proposed, including the carryover from railroad telegraphers. One lengthy article traced the more general usage of the term back to a contraction of "hambone": a not-entirely-perjorative term for a particular type of character from the days of vaudeville. But even back then, 50 years closer to the origin (wherever and whenever that was), nobody could say definitively when, how or why it came to be applied to amateur radio operators, and be able to back up their contention with documented evidence. I think the answer is simply lost in the mists of time, and we'll never know the truth unless and until someone can invent a true "time machine".

    Hlmark

    \o/
    /_\

  2. #2
    Hlmark: I found 3 common urban legends of where "ham" came from, but as you point out, none can be proven with evidence. Someone emailed me and said it was HAM for Home Amateur Magazine - "a very popular magazine" at the beginning of the 20th century. I pointed out that no one has been able to prove the magazine ever existed. He said he had a newspaper article that talked about it, but couldn't tell me the name of the newspaper or what year it was printed. I just think hams are a fascinating community with lots of mystique.

  3. #3
    Did a HAM cram a couple months back for technician class(and happily passed the exam). The facilitators that taught the class and administered the test said, as noted above, the answer is lost to time but they did assume HAM is an acronym and presented it that way. Kind of an interesting question and I'm sure the answer is out there for a clever researcher willing to pour over old microfische for contemporary articles or ads. ...Spring break project anyone?

  4. #4
    It's a pretty good bet that Ham is not an acronym. For those younger than Baby-Boomers, it might be a surprise that the use of acronyms is relatively recent. When I started ham radio in 1968, NASA probably accounted for a large portion of the acronyms in general use at the time. I still shudder when I see people writing about SPAM, which is of course not an acronym and should properly be written Spam (R) as in the canned meat with the bad rap.

  5. #5
    Junior Member
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    Livvy - there's nothing like going to knowledgeable sources, so I looked up Ham radio on Wikipedia, which soon took me to "Etymology of 'Ham Radio'" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Etymology_of_ham_radio

    Among the other discussion was the following statement: "... in 1909, Robert A. Morton reported overhearing an amateur radio transmission which included the comment: 'Say, do you know the fellow who is putting up a new station out your way? I think he is a ham.' "

    That seems to have some documentation but is clearly not he earliest usage.

    \o/
    /_\


    Quote Originally Posted by Livvy View Post
    Hlmark: I found 3 common urban legends of where "ham" came from, but as you point out, none can be proven with evidence. Someone emailed me and said it was HAM for Home Amateur Magazine - "a very popular magazine" at the beginning of the 20th century. I pointed out that no one has been able to prove the magazine ever existed. He said he had a newspaper article that talked about it, but couldn't tell me the name of the newspaper or what year it was printed. I just think hams are a fascinating community with lots of mystique.

  6. #6
    This is extremely pleasant and fair post....you shook posting it....thanks a ton for posting it....!!
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  7. #7
    Thank You
    I have been into radio since I was old enough to see my first walkie talkie. It amazed me as a 5 or 6 year old child, and I still recall that very moment. And I have never lost that fascination.
    I have been into HAM radio since about 1990-1991...Though I let my license expire at one time due to work / travel etc. I am now a general class.

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