Why is it called Ham Radio?

Discussion in 'Ham Radio Discussions' started by KI4CFS, Oct 5, 2019.

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  1. KI4CFS

    KI4CFS Ham Member QRZ Page

    I have been a ham since 2004 and someone just asked me "What does the Ham in Ham Radio mean?
    I know this had been discussed before but I did not find it so I am posting this. Their seems to be conflicting stories and maybe that is the best we have. Thanks!

  2. W4NNF

    W4NNF XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    Like many things from the early days of ham radio a century ago and the days of landline telegraphy, the origin of "ham" is lost in the mists of time. Most likely? "Ham fisted operator" which amateurs eventually began to wear as a badge of honor. One thing is sure: it's not an acronym, and the latter day "HAM" and "H.A.M." are just downright silly. ;)
    K8AI and N2EY like this.
  3. KF5LJW

    KF5LJW Ham Member QRZ Page

    Stupid simple to answer and extremely easy to find and answer yourself. First amateur radio station in 1908 was at Harvard radio club was called HAM because they took the letters of the three members last names. .

    Albert Hyman
    Bob Almy
    Poogie Murray.
  4. KY5U

    KY5U Subscriber QRZ Page

    Because the name "Chicken Band Radio" was already taken....
    KD8DEY, K8AI, WZ7U and 1 other person like this.
  5. HB9FUH

    HB9FUH Ham Member QRZ Page

    It isn't.
  6. WR2E

    WR2E Ham Member QRZ Page


    At least that's what it says here.

    To prove it though, one would have to look into the Congressional Record, which this article claims contains the information.

    May be easier said than done, online record only goes back to 1995...

    wait... looks like the GPO has all available as PDF but searching them may be tedious.

    An article found at DX News https://dxnews.com/ham/

    Says this:
    So unless someone can find proof of that claim, it's just more 'internet lore'.
    Last edited: Oct 5, 2019
    KX4O, K8AI and K8MHZ like this.
  7. W4ZD

    W4ZD Ham Member QRZ Page

    I can't imagine there is a definitive explanation of the origin of the term. I've heard many over the years. However it came to be, it is, I think, a term of endearment. Call me a ham. Or a HAM, I don't care. In the grand scheme of things it hardly matters. But I am glad that I am a ham. :)
  8. KN6SD

    KN6SD Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    I'm not sure... But I like "Ham" a lot better than "Turkey Radio"...

  9. K9STH

    K9STH Platinum Subscriber Volunteer Moderator Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    Another, generally more accepted, explanation comes from the "theater".

    In the early days of wireless, there were no regulations and amateur radio operators were often "butting heads" with commercial radio operators. To make matters worse, amateur radio operators, because of constant experimenting with circuits, etc., generally had better equipment including receivers with narrower bandwidths. As such, the amateurs could often operate interference free from the commercial operators whereas the amateur transmissions were blocking the signals in the commercial receivers.

    For centuries, in the "theater", bad, inept, etc., actors have been called "ham-actors" or just plain "hams". The commercial radio operators, as a "slam" to the amateur radio operators, started calling them "ham radio operators". Just like when the British started calling the American colonists "Yankees", definitely intended to be demeaning, and the Americans, instead, taking the name as a "badge of honor", amateur radio operators adopted the name "ham radio operator".

    Unfortunately, these days, "ham radio operator" is no longer used, by the general public, to describe amateur radio operators. Instead, it has become a term for just about anyone with a radio transmitter and, especially, those operators who are causing problems such as TVI, RFI, etc. Most of those problems are not caused by licensed amateur radio operators but are caused by persons operating illegal "CB" or by "freebanders". But, to the unwashed masses, all the problems are caused by "ham radio operators". Therefore, when someone is getting into a stereo system, it is "that ham operator up the street" that is the source even though, in virtually every case, the operator doesn't have an amateur radio operator's license.

    In addition, especially during the 1960s and even 1970s, a fair number of "CB" operators started calling themselves "ham radio operators". That added to the identification problem.

    As such, for the over 60-years that I have been licensed, I have never called myself a "ham radio operator". That term definitely has not appeared on any of my licenses since day one. Every document has said "Amateur Radio Operator" and that is how if refer to myself. That is, I am an "amateur radio operator"!


    The Harvard Radio Club "tale" has been debunked many times. There are those who use Hiram Percy Maximum, Jr., for the "M".

    Commercial radio operators were already calling amateur radio operators "hams" before the Harvard Radio Club was organized.

    Even "ham-fisted" has it origins in the "theater" and not due to any references to that portion of a hog's body. Since, in the "theater", "ham" meant inept or poor, a "ham-fisted" sender of code was an inept / poor sender.

    Glen, K9STH
  10. W4ZD

    W4ZD Ham Member QRZ Page

    Well, we coulda gone balls-to-the-wall and called ourselves Filet Mignons. :D
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