Origin of "HAM"
From the 1969 ARRL "The Radio Amateur's Operating Manual"
"Ham: a poor operator. A 'plug'"
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
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
each other across town, could effectively jam all the other operations
in the area. When this happened, frustrated commercial operators would
call the ship whose weaker signals had been blotted out by amateurs and
say "SRI OM THOSE #&[email protected] 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.
-Louise Ramsey Moreau W3WRE/WB6BBO
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