Amateur Radio Emergency Service
Amateur Radio Legends, Folklore, and Other Interesting Facts
Origin of the Term "Ham"
Have you ever wondered why we radio amateurs are
Well it goes something like this--the word ham was applied in 1908 and was
the call letters of one of the first amateur wireless stations operated by
some members of the Harvard Radio Club. They were Albert Hyman, Bob Almy
and Peggie Murray. At first they called their station Hyman-Almy-Murray.
Tapping out such a long name in code soon called for a revision, and they
changed it to Hy-Al-Mu, using the first two letters of each name. Early in
1909 some confusion resulted between signals from HYALMU and a Mexican ship
named Myalmo, so they decided to use only the first letter of each name and
identified their station as HAM.
In the early pioneer and unregulated days of radio, amateur operators picked
their own frequencies and call letters. Then, as now, some amateurs had better
signals than some commercial stations. The resulting interference finally came
to the attention of Congressional Committees in Washington and they gave much
thought to proposed legislation designed to critically limit amateur activity.
In 1911, Albert Hyman chose the controversial Wireless Regulations Bill as the
topic of his thesis at Harvard. His instructor insisted that a copy be sent to
Senator David Walsh, a member of the committee hearing the Bill. The Senator
was so impressed that he sent for Mr. Hyman to appear before the Committee.
Hyman was put on the stand and described how the little amateur station, HAM,
was built, and he almost cried when he told the crowded committee room that
if the bill went through, they would have to close up the station because
they could not afford the license fees and other requirements which were
set up in the Bill. The debate started and the little station, HAM, became a
symbol of all the little amateur stations in the country that were crying out to
be saved from the menace and greed of the big commercial stations who
didn't want them around. Finally the Bill got to the floor of Congress and
every speaker talked about the poor little station, HAM.
That's how it all got started. You can find the whole story in
the Congressional Record. Nationwide publicity identified the
station HAM with amateurs. From that time to this, and probably to the
end of time, in radio, "Every amateur is a ham".
From the Pearl River County Amateur Radio Club News Letter,
Bogalusa, LA via Nick Gasper N5EQO. (Copied from
the Benicia Amateur Radio Club "Log Book" June 1989 via Bob,
RE-EDITED BY HARRY/KD4JMV@N4HHP