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Origin of the term HAM

ARRL VERSION OF ORIGIN OF HAM

“Ham: a poor operator. A ‘plug.'” Date 1900
That’s the definition of the word given in G. M. Dodge’s The Telegraph Instructor even before radio. The
definition has never changed in wire telegraphy. The first wireless operators were landline telegraphers
who left their offices to go to sea or to man the coastal stations. They brought with them their language and
much of the tradition of their older profession.

In those early days, spark was king and every station occupied the same wavelength–or, more accurately
perhaps, every station occupied the whole spectrum with its broad spark signal. Government stations,
ships, coastal stations and the increasingly numerous amateur operators all competed for time and signal
supremacy in each other’s receivers. Many of the amateur stations were very powerful. Two amateurs,
working across town, could effectively jam all the other operators in the area. When this happened,
frustrated commercial operators would call the ship whose weaker signals had been blotted out by the
amateurs and say “SRI OM THOSE #&$!@ HAMS ARE JAMMING YOU.”

Amateurs, possibly unfamiliar with the real meaning of the term, picked it up and applied it to themselves
in true “Yankee Doodle” fashion and wore it with pride. As the years advanced, the original meaning has
completely disappeared.

BOTTOM LINE – ORIGIN OF THE TERM HAM HAS BEEN LOST IN THE MISTS OF TIME
Other HAM info links:
http://www.ac6v.com/history.htm …. more ham & radio history
http://ac6v.com/73.htm#SSBH ….origins
prepared by; W9IH Jan2007

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