Etymology: It is "ham" or "Ham" but never "HAM", although CB is correct...

Etymology: It is "ham" or "Ham" but never "HAM", although CB is correct...

Hello folks,

I've noticed the common usage of a strange capitalization of "ham" when referring to the amateur radio service. This is pedantic, but someone once said that the start of true wisdom is calling things by their right name.

The term "ham" came about in around 1909 when one commercial radio telegraph operator pejoratively called members of the amateur service "ham handed", implying that their morse code wasn't very good and their stations were putting out harmful interference.

At the time, calling someone a "ham" is about the same as calling someone a "pig" today. It implied messiness and rudeness. Instead of being offended, the amateur service members decided to take up the name and started describing themselves as "hams".

Effectively, "ham radio" means "pig radio". Putting it in all caps makes as much sense as saying "PIG RADIO" or "ANTENNA".

The confusion comes about because other then "ham" radio, some of the other radio services used by the public are acronyms. These other services are correctly written in all caps.

CB radio is "citizens band radio"
FRS is "family radio service"
GMRS is "general mobile radio service"
MURS is "multi-use radio service"
Ham radio is "pig radio"

You never see it written as "BUSINESS band radio" or "RACING radio". Please save the pixels and keep your caps lock off when discussing amateur radio.


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I thought it addition of a letter "H" to AM for unknown reason. Only because FM was not used those days.
The term is actually older then the common use of AM. Nearly everyone used CW (Continuous wave) with morse code back in those days.

AM didn't really pick up until about 1920, with the invention of the vacuum tube being in 1906 and it taking a number of years after that to commercialize the technology.
The vacuum tube was responsible for the rise of AM radio broadcasting around 1920, the first electronic mass entertainment medium.

I believe this could be a reason ham operators are referred to as NERDS.


What's the big deal about Ham Radio? I have a Motorola XTS5000 handheld that I talk to Florida on all the time from the West Coast.