Why Radio Amateurs Are Called “Hams”

From “Florida Skip” – 1959

(with comments by W2ILP)




Have you ever wondered why radio amateurs are called “Hams”? Well it goes like this: The word “Ham” as applied in 1908 was the station call of the first amateur wireless station 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 tiresome and called for a revision. They changed it to “HYALMU”, using the first two letters of each of the 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 three letters of each name, and the station call became “HAM”.  In the early pioneer days of unregulated radio, amateur operators picked their own frequency and call letters. Then as now the amateur stations had better signals than the commercial stations.  The resulting interference came to the attention of congressional committees in Washington and Congress gave much time to proposed legislation designated to critically limit amateur radio activity. In 1911, Albert Hyman chose the controversial WIRELESS REGULATION BILL as the topic for his thesis at Harvard. His instructor insisted that a copy be sent to 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 debate began on the WIRELESS REGULATION BILL and the little station “HAM” became the symbol for 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 is how it started. You will find the whole story in the Congressional Record.  Nationwide publicity associated station “HAM” with amateur radio operators. From that day to this, and probably to the end of time in radio, an amateur is a “HAM”.


   APRIL FOOL! I don’t know if the above article was in an APRIL issue of “Florida Skip”, but it is certainly a spoof.  In spite of it being bogus, this article has appeared as written above, in many Ham newsletters.  When it appeared in the “QCWA JOURNAL”, some OTs thought it was true history and one of them actually searched the US Congressional Record, which had no record of Mr. Hyman at all.  If GARC members remember, I gave a talk, on at least three theories, as to why we are called Hams, at the time I was Vice President of the GARC.  I later wrote about the three prominent theories on a chat thread of the rec.radio.amateur.policy group on Deja.  Deja has since been taken over by Google.

    A ham who called himself Bubba had another theory to add to the Deja thread.  I don’t remember Bubba’s call letters.  His theory went something like this:-

    Some early Ham leaders in Connecticut went to eat lunch in a diner.  They got to talking about what radio amateurs should be called.  One had ordered a ham sandwich and the others ordered turkey sandwiches.  One of them, who was enjoying his lunch, suggested that radio amateurs should be called “TURKEYS”.  The ham sandwich guy suggested “HAMS”, because he liked ham better than turkey and it was shorter.   So “HAM”, it has been ever since the sandwich was ordered.  

     In my opinion it is a good thing we are not called “Turkeys”, because a turkey, in show business jargon, means a rotten show that closes after a short unsuccessful run.  But speaking of turkeys, did you know that Benjamin Franklin wanted the National Bird of the USA to be the turkey?  Other members of the Continental Congress suggested the bald eagle.  Franklin said that bald eagles, like vultures, ate dead carrion, while the turkey, a native American bird, was eaten by the early pioneers and may have been an important part of their survival.  He also said that the bald eagle was not really bald because it had white feathers on its head.  Jefferson commented in favor of the eagle.  He claimed that he and Washington might have been seen to be as bald as Franklin but they wore white wigs on their heads.  They didn’t need crowns, like monarchs wore, but the wigs, like the feathers in the bald eagle’s cap, were symbols of their authority.  And so the bald eagle became our national bird.  Political cartoonists have used the eagle to represent some famous American politicians, who look sort of like bent billed birds of prey with pompous authority.  I’ll leave the recognition of which politicians up to you.

      Now back to why we are called “Hams”.  The word “Ham” was initially considered to be a derogatory title for a radio amateur. Many amateurs did not want to be called “Hams”.  (There are now some Hams who don’t want to be called “Amateurs” either.)  The “H..” word was not to be spoken, but only used, like Q code, in CW messages.  The ARRL didn’t use the H.. word in any of its early publications, and that may be why its origin is uncertain.  Like the RF gain of antenna configurations, this subject became a no-no for early ARRL editors, who avoided it lest they might start a heated debate or insult members.   As younger Hams took over the ARRL, the feared legacy of the H…word seems to have diminished.  Next month I’ll go over the three most probable origins of the word HAM.  W2ILP (I Like Pastrami)                                      Page 2     









The first thing I need to mention today is that our Holiday Party will occur instead of a regular meeting. As we have done in the past, we’ll meet at the Country Buffet in Levittown. Time is 5:30, and that date is 12/20/06. There are huge parking lots behind the building, on the north side. And you enter from the front go buy a ticket.  The tickets run about $10 or so, and you get to eat a lot of food for that kind of money. We will collect 2007 dues at that time, so please bring a little extra cash with you. And, we each need person to leave a little tip money on the table to help the people who cleanup the place.

I have mentioned that we have to move the 745 repeater from where it is on Plant 14 because the E2C people need to get that space back. They loaned us shack space, and tower space, and need to use it now. So I spoke to Public Affairs here, and they contacted the Sector Management to get the ball moving. I was since contacted by a Facilities Manager. I filled him in on the requirements, specifically the altitude we need. But, from what I’m  hearing, he might not want to go out of his way to put up any towers. So we might get plopped on top on Plant 25, at a lower height than we are at now. We are supposed to have a meeting soon to discuss this. I don’t have a good feeling on this one, so wish me luck.

Also, we are no longer having Club meetings at U.L. Bill (N2SFT) has retired from there, and we don’t have a person inside that can get us in. Starting in January, we’ll be meeting at our usual time in Ellsworth Allen Park in Farmingdale. It’s just south of Rte 109. See our website for directions and a map.

I’m still working on emptying my house in preparation to putting it on the market in early Spring 2007. We have been going through closets, cleaning them out one at a time. I seem to have collected a ton of “projects” over the years, and I have come to realize that I will never work on them again. So, into the trash they go. My house is a lot emptier now than it was last year. But, there are always some things of value that I don’t want to part with. They get wrapped, and placed in boxes, and those boxes get labeled. Hopefully, when I am retired, I will find time to work on them. My yard has a few things that need to be disposed of before I call the moving truck. I have two or three really good HF beam antennas there. Right now there is a TH3 and a TH6 looking for a home. The TH6 is an exceptional, high gain beam that works really great. And I really don’t want much for these guys, so make me an offer. Also, I expect that the antennas at NN2C’s house will become available soon. He has a Force12 on a rooftop tripod. This is a really good setup for anyone who can’t put up a tower, but would like a good HF antenna as the sunspot cycle starts increasing and the bands load up with good DX. Let me know if you are interested in any of this. It’s time for me to get rid of it.

–Pat KE2LJ                                   


 Page 3




 Pete, N2PYV, secretary, was not present.


                                          The meeting was called to order by Pat at 5:40 PM.


TREASURERS REPORT – Ed, WB2EAV      REPEATERS –Gordon not present.

 Finances continue to be in good shape.                Both repeaters are working. No activity.


VE REPORT – Bob, W2ILP                                             NET REPORT- Zack, WB2PUE

 The VE session for February had to be                There was average activity on both the 

canceled due to a heavy snow fall, which                               40 Meter and 2 Meter WAG nets.

occured just at the scheduled session time.



No activity.


The program was a VCR tape, brought to the meeting by Marty Miller, NN2C.  The tape was very professionally made and we all thank Marty for bringing it.

It was about a DX expedition to Banaba Island in the South Pacific.  The history of this island is very interesting. It was a battle field in WWII.  It was later a phosphorus mining area.  When the phosphorus gave out it became a mostly deserted island.  The tape showed some of the remaining natives of Banaba, over half of whom are children.  It also showed the maintenance areas, where lots of unused industrial equipment is rotting and rusting.  The expedition, operated by an international crew of hams, used the call sign T33C.                              



40 Meters: 7.289 MHz at 7:30 AM EST Sundays.

20 Meters: 14.275 MHz at 12 Noon EST Wednesdays.

2 Meters (via repeaters): 146.745 MHz  (-.600)at 8:30 PM EST Thursdays.

                                           145.330 MHz (- .600) at 9:00 PM EST Thursdays.

[Tone for both repeaters is 136.5 Hz]         (ARES/RACES) Mondays



General Meetings of the GARC are held on the third Wednesday of each month, starting at 5:30 PM.   The meetings are usually held at the Underwriters Lab, 1285 Walt Whitman Road,  Melville, NY.  Driving directions and maps can be obtained from http://www.mapquest.com   It is suggested that the GARC Web Site be checked to be certain of meeting location, which may change after this newsletter is distributed. Board meetings are held eight days before the General Meeting and GARC members are invited. to attend, but please call Pat Masterson, KE2LJ, at 516-346-7125 to confirm place and time of meeting.                   


                                               GARC WEB SITE

The web site of the GARC can be found at http://www.qsl.net/wa2lqo/     Webmaster is Pat Masterson KE2LJ.  Pictures of GARC activities, archives of newsletters, roster of members, and other information about the GARC may be found there.

                                                 FOR SALE

Heathkit SB-102 (needs work), with matching Power Supply (works OK)   $100.00

Call ZAK, WB2PUE @ (631)667-4628


Internet Links of the Month for Internerds


The information below was given to me by Dick Pav, K2RFP, who is a member of the Radio Central Amateur Radio Club.  Dick not only gave me permission to use his software, but he gave me permission to tell about it here.  If you want to keep in touch with Dick yourself, his

e-mail address is:  [email protected]     It is a good idea to get on his e-mailing list, as he is constantly updating his software.  He uses the handle “whitehat” for e-mail. Anyway this is what he sent to me as recently as March 21, 2005. 

This is software for printing your own QSL cards, matching envelopes, and also a very complete logging program.  I first downloaded and tried the software last year and it worked fine, even on my old computer.  I don’t know how he keeps finding reasons to update improvements but I will now copy his last e-mail information here:-


From “whitehat”:

I recompiled the envelope program and uploaded it.  I downloaded it and it’s OK.

I also made a slight change in the cardmaker program and uploaded it.  Works fine.

 Here are the links.


QSL cards: Build: 4.03,211’



QSL envelopes: Build: 5.01,098’



QSO logbook: Build: 1.01,397’








Here is another cryptogram. It is short and no author is indicated.  This should make it more difficult.  Sometimes things are said in jokes that couldn’t be said seriously.  Sometimes things are said in cryptograms that couldn’t be said in jokes.  I promise to keep all cryptograms I put here G rated and non political, because puzzles may mean different things to different people.  Your editor





Solution to last month’s cryptogram:



FUZZY LOGIC? By w2ilp (Imprecise Loop Possibility?)


There has been a great deal of misunderstanding about the term “fuzzy logic” and this has led to many engineers calling various systems fuzzy systems that are not fuzzy and to jokes about the very definition of fuzzy logic being fuzzy.  The truth is that most old engineers never learned about fuzzy logic in college.  Some learned about it from an article in “The IEEE Spectrum”, which they did not read completely and thus they had only fuzzy ideas about what can be technically defined as a fuzzy system, and what can not.   All they learned from the article was that Lotfi Zedah of UC at Berkley had defined something that was supposed to be fuzzy, and from then on anything that they were not so sure about became grandfathered  (Zedah means grandfather) into the domain of fuzziness.  You can search the web for FUZZY LOGIC and learn about it but I will try to explain it here as simply as possible, without taking more than the space left in this newsletter to do so.

Before there were digital computers, lots of systems worked entirely using analog devices.  A usual part of analog control systems was what were called follow up feedback servos.  This was basically a servo motor which mechanically drove a potentiometer or resolver and sometimes other rotating devices.  A driven rotating device potentiometer or resolver would feed back a DC voltage or an AC voltage and AC phase which was compared to a DC or AC voltage and/or phase.  The servo motor would run until the output device nulled out, which means it achieved close to zero voltage and/or phase difference.  The original voltages could come from sensors or be computed by analog operational amplifiers, which could perform various arithmetic and error rate computations by scaling voltages.  And that is basically how analog computers operated. Now we use digital computers for the guts of most computer systems rather than analog operational amplifiers and the programmers get involved in developing software for the computers to drive industrial machinery or whatever the analog systems used to drive.  Computers work with Boolean Logic and they use digital numbers, just like calculators do.  Microprocessors allow computers to perform with higher speeds and more flexibility than the analog hardware could achieve, but also must be told what to do by software that must be well designed to do even simple tasks in real time steps.  The trouble is that the digital resolution may be far too precise for what is practically required if we program absolute numerical values into it.   Thus Zedah concluded that we need to define a set of logic commands that would not make the computations so nit picking that a practical real time solution could not be achieved in a practical real time.  This was already being done in both analog and digital systems, but Zedah defined it in program command terms by recognizing “If” and “If not” logic commands to replace absolute numerical commands.  The truth is that your old mechanical bread toaster is a fuzzy system, simply because it senses the thermal conditions and pops the bread out when the condition you want it to pop the bread out is satisfied.  The bread toaster was not told exactly when numerically or at exactly what numeric temperature to pop the bread out, so it could be called a fuzzy system.  Now I got into a big debate with some “experts” who called the Hellschreiber mode a fuzzy system.  Hellschreiber is a digital mode that produces typed characters on a computer monitor screen.  It was originally used in Germany with mechanical teleprinters.

The characters are made up of black pixels, which are simply the same as CW dots and dashes, only sent a lot faster.  An asynchronous scan puts them into a 7 by 7 matrix.   When the characters appear on the screen in a high noise background level they appear “fuzzy”, but this does not make Hellschreiber a fuzzy system.  It is true that human word recognition can help to read message words in noise that the computer might not be able to decode to an ASCII font itself, but still that is not any reason to claim that a fuzzy logic loop is involved, unless we think about the recognition loop that may exist in the human brain itself.  In my opinion the brain is not a part of the system because it is intrinsic to human sensory functions that use many factors in recognition that couldn’t even be defined by Marvin Minsky (author of “Society of the Mind”).  Fuzzy logic depends on an overall  feedback control scheme.  There is no real time feedback involved with Hellschreiber.  The sending station can not know in real time if any hams receiving its CQ message can read it.  The sending station can do nothing to alter its signal in real time to help the receiving ham or hams to be better able to read the signal once it has been transmitted.  There is no control loop.  As far as the communications system itself goes there is nothing fuzzily logical about it.    If the human mind is a fuzzy system then everything we see or sense is fuzzy and the entire world is fuzzy.  How can we call everything our brain senses “fuzzy” “if” we can’t logically define anything our brain senses that is “not fuzzy”?  This is indeed a paradox.   Thus I have to limit my definition to Zedah’s definition of fuzzy logic, which only works if “If” and “If not” are logical possibilities.  If you agree with this definition it is not fuzzy.  If you don’t agree with it, it is not fuzzy…but if you aren’t sure at this time it might be fuzzy for you..   Nah…It is too late now for me to respond to any feedback from the readers of this or to wake up anyone who fell asleep while reading it.  “CQ de WA2LQO”, like all newsletters, is an open loop system.  Your response (if any) is too late. 





March 2005

 VOL.  78,  NO.  3



Bob Wexelbaum  W2ILP

(631) 499-2214

[email protected]





And all the members of GARC (we hope!)


CQ de WA2LQO is published monthly by the Grumman Amateur Radio Club for its members and friends. Send articles and amateur equipment advertisements to:




If you want to submit articles or amateur equipment ads via e-mail do the following:

1. For submission direct to editor call him at above number to set up a transfer.

2. For e-mail transfer:

Internet Address

[email protected]



As the editor of this newsletter, I do not want to simply copy articles that appeared elsewhere.  I have invited several hams to write articles for us and I hope they will provide some original stuff. In this Information Age, you don’t have to go to a library to get access to portions of many publications and often entire articles. I could just put a list of web addresses here and not write a newsletter.  But I won’t… even if I have to do some writing myself.  The ARRL board has sent a petition to the FCC which would change the designations of signals within ham radio sub bands.  The petition is to designate by bandwidth instead of by modes.  Some   hams are narrow minded, others are broader.  Many don’t care. Ham Radio means different things to different people.  w2ilp





President                                                     Pat Masterson              KE2LJ    V01-01    516-346-7125

Vice President       Gordon Sammis             KB2UB            Retiree     631-666-7563

Secretary               Peter Rapelje                  N2PYV          Retiree     516-676-0694
Treasurer               Ed Gellender                   WB2EAV         X02-14   516-575-0013

2Yr Board Member    Zack Zilavy               WB2PUE        Retiree     631-667-4628
2YrBoard Member     Dave Ledo               AB2EF

2Yr Board Member   Bob Christen         W2FPF               

1Yr Board Member   Bob Wexelbaum    W2ILP                 Retiree     631-499-2214

1Yr Board Member    Jack Cotterell        WA2PYK            Retiree     516-249-0979

Trustee WA2LQO       Ray Schubnel        W2DKM           Retiree




Meeting Programs       Contact a Board Member

FCC Exam Coord.         Bob Wexelbaum       W2ILP                           631-499-2214







































                                 TECHNICAL BITS


I will continue to write about communications systems here.  The simplest system for the radio communication of messages is Morse Code.

The Morse system, originally used on land lines was quite different than the CW system which Hams learned to use and love on radio bands.  The original system used a simple electromagnetic clicker as a receiver.  It produced a click sound when a DC voltage was applied and another click sound when the voltage was removed.  The original Morse Code (later known as the Continental Code or American Code) differed somewhat from the radio Morse Code (known as the International Morse Code).  Some of the letters were different in the original code and some of them depended on spacing that differed from the spacing of dots and dashes in the radio Morse.  Land line telegraphers were highly skilled in order to read the clicking code.  Originally S.F.B. Morse did not think it could be read by humans and planned to have it punch paper tape.  Humans took on the challenge of being better than the tape devices at copying weak clicks and schools for the click readers arose.  It is interesting to know that some the original land line telegraphers were still alive when I first was interested in being an SWL and a ham.  The FCC made sending clicking codes illegal on most ham bands.  But the clickers still wanted to use their click copying skills.  They were allowed by FCC regulations to do so only on the 11 Meter ham band.  The 11 Meter band was known as the garbage band because there was diathermy, model control, and other odds and ends permitted on it, as well as hams with strange modes, before it became the channelized Citizen’s Band.  I guess all of the clicking Hams are sk by now.  I wonder if all of the CW toners will someday also be silent?.             w2ilp