phrases, sayings, idioms and expressions at

Home | Search the website Search | Discussion Forum Home|

So Where Did "HAM" come from as a word to describe amateur radio stations?

Posted by Bruce Kahl on November 17, 2002

In Reply to: Signal Strength and Readability: 5x5 posted by Bruce Kahl on November 17, 2002

: : I did think the 5 by 5 phrase was related to "your coming in loud and clear" but why 5 x 5?

: : Why not 6x6 or 7x7?

: : Is there something on an old radio where 5 was the strongest signal or something? And why two number?

: : Do the two numbers relate to an "x" & "y" axis?

: From a number of ham radio sites;

: "The term five by five refers to the two measures of signal strength and readability; it is derived from older HAM radio instruments that were scaled from zero to 10 with 10 being the strongest. A five by five would be interpreted as 50 percent signal strength and easily readable, perhaps with some static or band clutter. A 10 by two would have a strong signal, but be broken and hard to understand, while a two by 10 would contain a weak signal, but be perfectly clear. A 10 by 10 would be very strong and crystal clear."

Glad you asked!
The word "HAM" was the station call letters of the first amateur wireless station 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 "HY-AL-MU", using the first two letters of each of their names. Early in 1901 some confusion resulted between signals from amateur wireless station "HYALMU" and a Mexican ship named "HYALMO". They then decided to use only the first letter of each name, and the station CALL became "HAM".
I saw this on a few sites but can anyone confirm the story?