Amateur radio operators adopt the name “HAM” Why?

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Amateur Radio is a very famous hobby and service that brings people, electronics and communication together. Individual uses ham radio to chat around town, around the world, or even into space, this do not require any Internet or cell phones. It’s educational, social, fun, and can be a help during times of need. This is an art of innovation which helps the people to communicate with each other without a cellphone, laptop or without an internet.

The Ham Radio station can be set up anywhere in:

  • Field…ham-radios
  • Club station…
  • At home…
  • Out Stations…
  • Family vacations…
  • Hill tops…
  • Deep into the forest…
  • Etc…



History of word “HAM”

amateur-radio-historyThe word “HAM” as applied to 1908 was the station call of the first amateur wireless stations operated by some amateurs of the Harvard Radio Club. They were ALBERT S. HYMAN, BOB ALMY, and POOGIE MURRAY. At first they called their station “HYMAN-ALMY-MURRAY”. Tapping out such a long name in code soon became annoying and called for the amendments. They changed it to “HY-AL-MU”, using the first two letters of each of their names. Early in 1910 some confusion resulted between signals from the amateur wireless station “HYALMU” and a Mexican ship named “HYALMO”. They decided to use only the first letter of each name, and the station call became “HAM.

In the early developer days of unregulated radio, amateur operators picked their own frequency and call letters. Then, as now, some amateurs had better signals as commercial stations. The resulting interference came to the attention of congressional committees in Washington and Congress gave much time to proposed legislation designed to critically limit amateur radio activity.

ham-historyIn 1911, Albert Hyman chose the divisive WIRELESS REGULATION BILL as the topic for his thesis at Harvard. His instructor insisted that a copy be sent to Senator David I. Walsh, a member of the committee hearing the bill. The Senator was so impressed with the thesis that he asked Hyman to appear before the committee. Albert Hyman took the stand and described how the little station was built and almost cried when he told the crowded committee room that if the bill went through, they would have to close down the station because they could not afford the license fees and all the other requirements which the bill imposed on amateur stations.

Congressional argument began on the WIRELESS REGULATION BILL and the little station “HAM” became the  symbol for all the little amateur stations in the country crying to be saved from the menace and greed of the big commercial stations who didn’t want them around. The bill finally got to the floor of Congress and every speaker talked about the “poor little station HAM”. That’s how it all started. A QST writer uses it in a clearly complimentary manner, saying that a particular 16-year-old amateur operator “is the equal of a ham, gaining five years of experience by hard luck.

” Unfortunately for this story, none of it checks out. A past president of the ARRL did wide research in an attempt to confirm this story. There is nothing in the Congressional record about little station HAM. There is nothing in contemporary press records. And there is no record of a Hyman, Almay, or Murray at Harvard at the time this evidently happened. This story first surfaced in an amateur publication in 1948, and doesn’t seem likely to die. But it appears to have no truthful basis.”

Ham Radio as an Amateur Radio

amateur-radio-historyPeople use the word “Ham Radio” for amateur radio, because it is derived from a word “HAM” which is used for an operator of an amateur radio. The term “Amateur” in amateur radio is used to differentiate it from commercial pursuits, as radio amateurs are prohibited by law from accepting financial or material compensation of any kind for any activities they perform as radio operators. The term “Ham Operator” was commonly applied by 19th century landline telegraphers to an operator with poor or “ham fisted” skills. This mix of fun, public service, friendship  and convenience is the main feature of amateur radio. The true origin of the term “ham”  seems to have been lost, but there are several theories. It may simply be a shortcut way of saying the first syllable of amateur radio, or it may have originally been used as an insult. Hams start out in amateur radio for many reasons, but they all have in common a basic knowledge of radio technology, regulations and operating principles.

Actual Meaning of HAM

The meaning of the word, “HAM” according to the dictionary is as follows:

  • ham (adjective)
  • Ignorant: lay, amateurish, nonprofessional, unqualified, inexpert, ham, unskillful, unskilled: nonprofessional, ham, lay, amateurish, Amateur, self-taught.

Some Misconceptions about HAM

A number of misconception originated about the origin of “ham” in the past few decades. Those misconceptions are; “HAM” is:

  • A poor operator. A ‘plug.’
  • Home Amateur Mechanic magazine
  • Hertz-Armstrong-Marconi
  • Hammarlund legend

Sources :

Wikipedia – Etymology of ham radio

ARRL – HAM Radio History

QRZnow – Why an Amateur Radio Operator is called a HAM


Home Page : Radios Guide

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Get more stuff like this

Subscribe to our mailing list and get interesting stuff and updates to your email inbox.

One thought on “Amateur radio operators adopt the name “HAM” Why?

  1. Tom Rauch

    Ham actually came from what commercial operators in early days called poor operators. Ham stuck to small home operators because of interference they caused to commercial ops.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *