Don Keith: You might be a real ham radio operator if…

Recent comments on some of the amateur radio web forums have attempted to posit the point that someone is not a “REAL HAM” unless he or she meets certain arbitrary criteria.  Those include such requirements as passing a code test to get licensed, using equipment with tubes in it, or being able to build a transceiver from scratch, using only a pie tin, a set of shoe laces, and a handful of grab-bag parts from a swap meet.

With apologizes to a certain comedian who has made a gazillion dollars with his “You might be a redneck if…” shtick, here goes my feeble attempt at a similar definition of a “REAL HAM:”

  • If you have a ham band antenna on all four fenders of your car, the roof, in the trunk lip, and another one clamped to the trailer hitch with an alligator clip and duct tape…you might be a “REAL HAM!”
  • If your wife…sorry, “XYL”…asks you to help bring in the groceries while you are chasing a rare one and you yell back, “QRX!  QRX!”…you might be a “REAL HAM!”
  • If you can recite the numbers of every driver, modulator, and final amplifier tube in every Heathkit, Drake or Collins transmitter or amplifier ever made, and name the best idling grid current for 90% of them…you might be a “REAL HAM!”
  • If when you were a teenager, you tore open the cases of your little brother’s “Flash Gordon” walkie-talkies just to see if you could modify them to work on 10 meters or used the pans from your sister’s Easy-Bake oven to breadboard a code-practice oscillator…you might be a “REAL HAM!”
  • If you have ever tried to ker-chunk the repeater while riding in a funeral procession…you might be a “REAL HAM!”
  • If your kids…sorry, “harmonics”…know your call sign, your grid square, and your 10-10 number, but not your middle name…you might be a “REAL HAM!”
  • If you have at least a half-dozen different sets of hilarious (at least to you and the guys on your 75-meter roundtable) phonetics for your call letters…you might be a “REAL HAM!”
  • If you have more countries confirmed than you have dollars in your 401-K and more bucks invested in your tower, rotor and tri-bander than you have in your retirement annuity…you might be a “REAL HAM!”
  • If you have ever taken an HT to church or a scanner to the courthouse while on jury duty…you might be a “REAL HAM!”
  • If you painted the walls of the new playroom downstairs in the colors of the resistor color code…you might be a “REAL HAM!”
  • If you ever chopped up your wife’s…sorry, XYL’s…patio furniture to build a Yagi for 15…you might be a “REAL HAM!”
  • If you have ever attempted to use a gutter downspout, the hubcap from a ’93 Buick, your dog’s food dish, your neighbor’s rose trellis, the vent hose from a clothes dryer, a wicket from your mom’s croquet set, or a one-quart metal Thermos bottle (with or without coffee) as an antenna…you might be a “REAL HAM!”
  • If you read the ARRL “Repeater Directory” or the latest catalog from one of the big “candy stores” while taking your daily “constitutional” …you might be a “REAL HAM!”
  • If you know the formulae for Ohm’s Law and Kirchoff’s Law and can read a Smith Chart from 100 feet but have no idea who Paris Hilton is…you might be a “REAL HAM!”
  • If you typically go to hamfests wearing your “Hams do it with frequency” tee-shirt, a “KNOW CODE” belt buckle, at least two HTs clipped to your belt and an earpiece for each in each ear, a pith helmet with a 440 ground plane sticking out the top, and a blinking-LED button with your callsign on it…you might be a “REAL HAM!”
  • If you know the prefixes for every DXCC entity as well as their beam headings but you don’t know your oldest kid’s…sorry, “first harmonic’s”…birthday…you might be a “REAL HAM!”
  • If you ever flagged down a local utility bucket truck and tried to bribe the guy to hang some ropes and pulleys in the trees in the backyard…you might be a “REAL HAM!”
  • If you ever tried to convince your fiancé that Dayton, Ohio, has replaced Niagara Falls as the Honeymoon Capitol of the World and that the first part of May is absolutely the best time for a wedding…you might be a “REAL HAM!”
  • Of course, if you MET your fiancé in the flea market at Dayton when she tried to jaw you down on the price of a Hallicrafters HT-37 with a bad power transformer…you might be a “REAL HAM!”

Finally, if you call beers “807s,” money “green stamps,” your house your “home QTH,” your car your “moe-byle,” your base station your “shack,” the FCC “the friendly candy company,” anything a salesman tells you “Bravo Sierra,” the big brouhaha at the last club meeting “a Charlie Foxtrot,” your wife your “XYL,” and your kids “harmonics” …you might be a “REAL HAM!”

Ain’t it fun?

Don Keith, N4KC, is a regular contributor to and writes from Alabama, USA. Contact him at [email protected].

11 Responses to “Don Keith: You might be a real ham radio operator if…”

  • Andrew, W8FI:

    If your 3 year old can call CQ for you… you might be a “REAL HAM!”

    I enjoyed the list, it really shows the absurdity, and therefore latent comedy, in thinking anyone can say who is or is not a “REAL HAM”. It’s those people who better fit the original, and derogatory, meaning of being a ‘ham’.

  • Matt 2E0FNG:

    Everybody knows – the only real hams are hams *just like me*. 😉

  • Fred W0FMS:

    Builders think DXer’s are “appliance operators” and contesters are “lids”.

    Contesters think everyone else, including the DXer’s a are “lids”.

    CW Freaks think phone ops are a lower form of life than the ameoba. Phone ops just don’t understand why you’d want to pass messages so slowly. Both don’t get digital mode operators… etc.

    Me thinks you need to try a little bit of everything. I’m still convinced contesting is the most rude and vile mode of operation there is– HOWEVER, it’s the best way for a working stiff like me to DX in the limited time I have. So I contest now! :O) When I’m not busy that weekend.

    Building and VHF->Microwave is what made me become an Electrical Engineer. I think of it as engineering more so than ham radio. Almost all of what I’ve done matters in the other disciplines.

    Try doing different stuff in ham radio. I went and bought a APRS tracker and tracked myself back from Dayton and it was a hoot! Low tech as all get out but an excellent use of old technology == GOOD ENGINEERING. You can learn something from everything you try. Try everything.

    Fred W0FMS

  • Jason Marin:

    Hey all~
    Love the list! Laughing at every one [even the one’s that ring true for me :P]

    Andrew mentioned a 3 yr old calling CQ for you … how about if your parakeets chirp out what sounds like certain digital modes? Or if they are quiet until someone calls you on the radio? lol
    ~J [ke7tdy]

  • Shawn kb7clx:

    Great list, here are a few more. If you’re talking to a customer service rep on the phone, and use phonetics to make sure he gets your name right, and he asks you what your call is and gives you his, you might be a real ham. If you take your dog out for a walk with a pack frame on your back with a full-sized dualband antenna mounted on it, a gel cell, Icom 230, and 50 watt Motorola 2-meter amp in the pack and a mic in your hand so you can hit repeaters 50 miles away and talk simplex all over town, you might be real ham. If you demonstrate Morse code to your non-ham friends by whistling a cq complete with call sign, at 20 wpm, you might be a real ham. If you call CB the chicken band, you might be a real ham.

  • Ernest Gregoire, AA1IK:

    When finish praying, you sign off, AA1IK OUT

  • Ernest Gregoire, AA1IK:

    Just one more!

    You sign off the local repeater like this just to shake up the ‘Real Hams!’

    Ok, 10-4 good buddy, (in a very phony southern truck driver accent), catch yer on the flip side, keep the shiny side up and the dirty side down! This is THE GOOBER, going, that-a-way!

  • Jim Flanders W0OOG:

    Hi Don: I printed them out to tell the guys on the net, and the guys at breakfast.
    My favorite comment above: “When finish praying, you sign off, AA1IK OUT”

  • Mike-K3BRJ:

    I’m a ham, because of grandfather, who used to hold the call, I hold now, and later held, W2CPY, in NJ, when he died. I became a ham, as a way to travel, without leaving my home, because of my disability. I am so grateful, to my grandfather, my mom, and HandI-Hams, for making me, who I am. Face it, Though, Not Everyone, Likes Everything, ABOUT HAM RADIO. PLUS, UNLESS WE’RE LUCKY, we’re all restricted by space. A REAL HAM, USES WHATEVER HE/SHE CAN!!!!!

    MERRY CHRISTMAS, ALL!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Steve Wymore, KA0NS:

    I’m a net control on our local 2m repeater on Sunday nights and search for endings to: “You might be a ham if…..” I try to use my own and other club member’s experiences to create the jokes and am grateful for those you have provided here. Thank you. You saved me about 2 hours of writing before this Sunday night’s net. Brainerd Area Amateur Radio Club (BAARC) ( a Sunday night practice for ARES and using these observations while others sign on to the net has been a welcome alternative to the “serious” nature of the practice.

  • Don N4KC:

    Wow, Steve, I wrote that post eight years ago! Guess I ought to go back and evaluate their relevance by now, huh? Glad you and the guys on the net enjoyed them.

    And good for you for livening up the festivities! Seems most two-meter nets do nothing more than take check-ins, announce all the other local nets, then secure and “return the frequency to normal amateur use.” Whatever that is!


    Don N4KC

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