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1910 __ Ham, the poor operator
Comment : Any amateur radio wonders one or another day what could be the origin of the word "ham". There are at least three possible origins. The first "legend", because never confirmed, tells that the word was given in G. M. Dodge's The Telegraph Instructor in the XIXth century, even before radio. The first wireless operators were landline telegraphers who left their offices to go to sea or to man the coastal stations. They worked in "plain text", bringing with them much of the tradition of their older profession, including jargon. Using spark transmitter, each spark occupied the whole spectrum or almost. If stations were too close each another this caused jam and nobody could receive any message. Government stations were concerned with this QRM but also ships, coastal stations and of course the increasing number of amateur operators; all competed for time and signal supremacy in each other's receivers. American amateur Raymond H. Williamson, 9AHH, in 1921. This picture shows him at 14-year old working in CW. He was already a DX hunter. Among these amateurs, some stations emitted with 2 kW and, like today, some of them jammed all the other operations to a few hundred kilometers around. When this occured, frustrated commercial operators would call the ship whose weaker signals had been blotted out by amateurs and keyed back : "SRI OM THOSE B@$%#! HAMS ARE JAMMING YOU". Amateurs, possibly unfamiliar with the real meaning of the term, picked it up and applied it to themselves and wore it with pride as a word qualifying their activity... As the years advanced, the original meaning has completely disappeared. The second version tells that it is maybe in 1910 that the word was invented. Before the callsigns where regulated a powerful station able to emit at 5 kW and that everybody could hear at all hours of the day and night at distances of over 800 km (500 miles) operated with the initials H.A.M. No one knows if this rumor is true or false. The last version tells that the word "ham" was invented in 1933 for a publication dealing with amateur radio. But I have no more detail. In my humble opinion if the HAM station existed there would have had archives about it, but there are none. The first and the third "legends" are both likely but are not confirmed. In all cases "ham" became synonymous of amateur radio. In 1911 Modern Electrics printed 52,000 copies of his magazine. There were 10,000 amateurs in the USA, as many or almost in the United Kingdom and probably as many in gathering all other countries together. With tens of thousands of stations on the air, both amateurs and commercials, the level of interference became a serious problem, especially in marine communication. Due to their poor efficiency, it was not unusual that one spark amateur station transmits over a broad spectrum exceeding 100 or even 300 Kc, depending its coil diameter and output power ! Ships, because of their restricted antenna length were lost in this QRM and experimented difficulties to establish routine communications when other stations, more powerful, were transmitting. There was also deliberate interference created by commercial stations jamming voluntarily the transmissions of other companies. At last the US Navy used inefficient and outmoded equipment and suffered much from excessive interference. Due to all these complains, the U.S. Congress took a serious look at wireless regulation. But wait a moment, I have just received a wireless message that will, I sense, dramatically alter the future of the wireless communications. (Thierry Lombry, “The History of Amateur Radio”)"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 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. Another story : Have you ever wondered why radio amateurs are called "HAMS"? Well, it goes like this: The 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 tiresome and called for a revision.They changed it to "HYALMU", 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 pioneer days of unregulated radio, amateur operators picked their own frequency and call letters. Then, as now, some amateurs had better signals than 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. 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 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 debate 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. 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". [Unfortunately for this story, none of it checks out. A past president of the ARRL did extensive 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 supposedly happened. This story first surfaced in an amateur publication in 1948, and doesn't seem likely to die. But it appears to have no factual basis.] (WHY RADIO AMATEURS ARE CALLED "HAMS"?, From Florida Skip Magazine, 1959)The meaning of the word HAM according to "The Original Roget's Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases" (Americanized Version) is as follows: ham (adjective), Ignorant: lay, amateurish, nonprofessional, unqualified, inexpert, ham, unskillful; Unskilled: : nonprofessional, ham, lay, amateurish, amateur, self-taught.
Urls : http://www.astrosurf.com/luxorion/qsl-ham-history4.htm (last visited ) http://www.qsl.net/ab2qv/ham.htm (last visited )

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