While the main purpose of this blog is to document my own activities in amateur radio, I do enjoy focusing its attention in an educational manner from time to time. This blog post will be just that…an attempt to provide a little educational value to your reading enjoyment.
If you peruse through amateur radio blogs, amateur radio websites and even amateur radio club websites, newsletters and other publications you will certainly see the term we use to identify our hobby and service written in many ways. Of course the term I’m talking about is the “ham” in ham radio.
Before I go much further (and I do intend to keep this blog posting short), we don’t know a lot about why we are called hams. There are many ideas floating around and most generally agree the true meaning as simply been lost in time. Having said that, the more common idea today is the word may have originally been used to describe a poor operator. This of course was back in those early wireless days when spark was king. This common theory goes on to assume the government, coastal or ship stations may have received interference from early amateur stations and referred to these early amateur stations as hams. It is then believed, not really knowing the word was meant as slang, early amateurs picked it up and began referring to themselves as hams. But remember, this is only a theory.
In todays technical (and not so technical) world we live in we have grown to know many things by an acronym. Just to refresh everyone’s memory. An acronym (credit to Merriam-Webster) is formed from the initial letter or letters of each of the successive parts or major parts of a compound term. An example which most will be familiar with is NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) or FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigations) or how about ABC, NBC and BBC. The acronym (regardless of the number of letters/words) is written and referred to by those letters typically written in upper case.
As I stated, these acronyms are all around us. In my day job, I have to be very careful when I am presenting or teaching to not get carried away with throwing out acronyms as I shouldn’t assume everyone understands their meanings when I start speaking about FAQ, VPN, VoIP, TCP, CRM and ERP.
In the amateur radio hobby we use many acronyms to describe various components of our hobby and service. Some that come to mind are FCC, ARRL, RSGB, SSB, SSTV, PSK, RTTY, VHF, UHF, HF, CRT, LCD, LED, EME, CMOS and MOSFET. I’ll stop there as you get the idea.
The take away and educational point I’m driving home is the word “ham” in ham radio is not an acronym. Simply put, the word is just a word which follows the laws of regular sentence structure. Since it is not an acronym, it’s not necessary to capitalize each letter (e.g. HAM) it is also not necessary to place a period or dot between each letter (e.g. H.A.M.). If you are writing ham radio in a sentence it just follows all the normal rules. Ham would be capitalized if starting a sentence. If not, ham would just be written in lowercase. That really is it.
Of course, nothing bad will happen if you choose not to follow this guidance. But in my opinion, (and others agree) writing it as an acronym or going outside of the rules of normal sentence structure is not correct. This just leads to new hams becoming confused and of course teaching something which just simply isn’t true. The issue just perpetuates itself on down the road. To go back to Merriam-Webster, “perpetuates means to make something, (typically an undesirable situation or an unfounded belief) continue indefinitely.
Until next time….
73 de KD0BIK (Jerry)