The Amateur Amateur: But Are You a Real Ham?

By Gary Hoffman, KB0H
Contributing Editor
April 4, 2003

This time, we run down the criteria that determine whether or not you're a real ham.

Ham radio isn't what it used to be. It has had to evolve over the years to stay alive. One change, I believe, is that it is now easier to get an Amateur Radio license. Mind you, I'm not complaining; it was a necessary change. But some veteran hams are unhappy.

I don't particularly like being called a "no-code Extra" or a "ham lite," but I do empathize with those folks who worked harder to get their licenses than I did (back in the "old days," we had to draw circuit diagrams for the General exam. Can you say "Colpitts oscillator," boys and girls?--Ed).

Anyway, I can see both sides of the issue, and I don't propose to debate it here. You are an Amateur Radio operator if you have a valid license. Period.

Now, whether or not you are a "real ham" is something we can argue endlessly. Don't be concerned about what anyone else says. Whether or not you are a real ham is all up to you. If you need some reassurance, though, my wife Nancy and I have developed some guidelines to help you determine if you make the cut.


You are a real ham if:

- for any reason, you ever appeared in QST.

Hightower Trail street sign

Yes, a real ham lives on this street.

- you are more than 70 years old and actually don't mind being called "Old Man."

- you have more than three baseball caps bearing your call sign--each of them different.

- you cried during the movies Contact and Frequency.

- much of your vocabulary consists of three letter "words" that begin with "Q."


You are a real ham if:

- you met your spouse at Hamvention.

- you named your first boy Gordon or Riley.

- your preschooler doesn't know her ABCs but does know her dit-dahs.

- your dog recognizes you by call sign rather than as "Mommy" or "Daddy."


You are a real ham if:

- the car wash turns away your vehicle because it takes too long to remove all of the antennas.

- you identify types of mobile antennas before identifying the model of the car sporting them.

- instead of leaning on your horn to show displeasure, you honk out a disparaging remark in Morse code.


You are a real ham if:

Hospital antennas

No matter where you are, you can go outside and immediately spot at least thirty antennas.

- when vacationing, you insist on staying on the top floor of the hotel (because of the antenna opportunities or a better shot at the local repeaters from your hand-held).

- your luggage always creates panic among airport security as it passes through the X-ray machine.

- the first thing you do when you arrive in a new city is look up the nearest Radio Shack or ham radio emporium.

- you feel your hotel should include a complimentary Repeater Directory.

- no matter where you are, you can go outside and immediately spot at least 30 antennas.

Home and Neighbors

You are a real ham if:

- lightning strikes your house more often than any other local structure.

- a typical mail delivery consists of one bill, ten electronics catalogs, and, occasionally, a hefty brown envelope from the QSL bureau.

- your house shows up as a magnetic anomaly on satellite imaging.

Hotel room with Bilble and repeater guide

What you'd like to see waiting for you in the hotel room.

- you've had at least one argument with local authorities (or a neighbor) regarding what you have on your roof.

- your street has a name like "Hightower Trail."

- at least three neighbors per week complain that you are interfering with their TV sets, telephones, or kitchen appliances.

- at least one neighbor fears that you are using your moonbounce array to contact the mother ship.


You are a real ham if:

- you really have contacted aliens.

- as the "Doomsday Asteroid" approaches Earth, you try to make a few last contacts via meteor scatter.


You are a real ham if:

- you think that wallpaper cannot be bought in a store.

- looking at huge construction cranes immediately gives rise to thoughts of erecting a gigantic 160-meter array.

- the hole in the ozone layer doesn't disturb you half as much as the possibility that the Air Force HAARP project might punch a hole in the F Layer.

- you understood and at least chuckled at any five items in these lists.

Editor's note: ARRL member Gary Hoffman, KB0H, lives in Florissant, Missouri. He's been a ham since 1995. Hoffman says his column's name -- "The Amateur Amateur" -- suggests the explorations of a rank amateur, not those of an experienced or knowledgeable ham. His wife, Nancy, is N0NJ. Hoffman has a ham-related Web page. Readers are invited to contact the author via email.

© 2003 American Radio Relay League

E-mail Gary Ross Hoffman

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