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THOMAS H. WHITE
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22

Word Origins
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Radio, currently a synonym for "electromagnetic radiation", actually first came into use before Heinrich Hertz's proof of the existence of radio waves. Originally "radio" was a general prefix meaning "radiant" or "radiation" -- hence "radio-activity" for the alpha, beta, and gamma rays emitted by decaying atoms. In Europe, some of the persons investigating Hertz's discovery began to employ the "radio-" prefix to describe the new phenomenon -- for example, in 1890 Edouard Branly, writing in his native French, called his coherer-receiver a "radio-conductor". This usage spread to other languages, thus, a December 29, 1897 Electrical Review report on "Hertzian Telegraphy in France" noted that "Mr. Branly... calls these receivers 'radio-conducting tubes'." Other compound usages soon followed, as the The Electrician (London) for October 24, 1902 included an article titled "The Radio-telegraphic Expedition of the H.I.M.S. 'Carlo Alberto'", while "The Wireless Telegraph Conference", in the November 20, 1903 issue of the same magazine, included numerous references to "radio-telegrams", "radiograms", "radiographic stations" and "radio-telegraphy", and a report about Belgium marine applications in the November 19, 1904 Electrical Review noted that "radio-telegraphy has entered into the domain of current practice". The 1906 Berlin Radiotelegraphic Convention helped spread use of this new term to the United States, and the November 10, 1906 issue of Electrical Review reported this conference had dealt with "the growing use of wireless telegraphy -- or rather, radio-telegraphy -- as we suppose we should say now, since this new designation was adopted by the conference". There was some skepticism about the change -- in the preface to the 1910 edition of his book "Wireless Telegraphy and Telephony", William Maver, Jr. wrote: "This author is aware that the authorized designation of wireless telegraphy and telephony is radio-telegraphy and radio-telephony, but for present has adhered to the earlier appellations."

Eventually, compound terms such as "radio-telegraphy" and "radio-telephony" were shortened to just "radio". The April 1, 1906 issue of Telegraph Age reported that "the British post office... has adopted the word 'radio' as the designation for a wireless telegram", and this practice was adopted internationally later that year by the Berlin Radiotelegraphic Convention, which specified that "Wireless telegrams shall show in the preamble that the service is 'radio'." One of the first persons to popularize this new term in the United States was Lee DeForest -- in early 1907 he incorporated the DeForest Radio Telephone Company, and in a letter about the need for government oversight published in the June 22, 1907 Electrical World, warned that "Radio chaos will certainly be the result until such stringent regulation is enforced." But it was the Navy that did the most to publicize the new word in the U.S., which added "(Radio)" to the title of the 1913 edition of its Manual of Wireless Telegraphy.

Broadcast, in the sense of "distributing information widely", also was first used before Hertz ever discovered radio waves. An early example appears in Notes on the Writing of General Histories of Kansas, published in 1883: "...unscrupulous newspaper correspondents... sent broadcast over the country, contradictory or false reports of every new phase of the exciting contest as it developed". Also, beginning in 1894 a newspaper called the Twin City Broadcaster was published in Ardmore, Oklahoma. Because "broadcast" already meant distributing a message to various points, it was naturally applied to radio transmissions intended for multiple locations. Hence the October 14, 1898 The Electrician (London) comment that "there are rare cases where, as Dr. Lodge once expressed it, it might be advantageous to 'shout' the message, spreading it broadcast to receivers in all directions".

Ham. Amateur radio operators are often referred to as "hams" -- a term with a complicated history. At the start of the 1900s, "ham" was sometimes used to refer to someone as "unskilled" -- "Ham actor" being the most common example. Wire-line telegraphy employees at this time had a rich vocabulary of insults for describing less-than-capable operators, and in The Slang of the Wire section of "Telegraph Talk and Talkers", from the January, 1902 issue of McClure's Magazine, author L. C. Hall noted "It is an every-day thing to hear senders characterized as Miss Nancys, rattle-brains, swell-heads, or cranks, or 'jays,' simply because the sound of their dots and dashes suggests the epithets." Hall's review further noted that "senders of hog-Morse, called technically 'hams' " were known for their propensity for transmitting garbled Morse code. So it was natural, in light of wire-telegraph practice, for commercial stations to dismiss amateur radio operators as "hams"--and in Floods and Wireless by Hanby Carver from the August, 1915 Technical World Magazine the author noted "Then someone thought of the 'hams'. This is the name that the commercial wireless service has given to amateur operators..."

But, interestingly, "ham" would eventually lose its negative meaning and become a general nickname for all amateurs. This evolution was spotty and not very well documented. As early as the May, 1909 Wireless Registry list in Modern Electrics, Earl C. Hawkins of Minneapolis, Minnesota was listed with the callsign of "H.A.M." This callsign was likely assigned by the magazine -- this was before the U.S. government began licencing stations and issuing callsigns -- but was this an inside joke or just a coincidence? In two articles by Robert A. Morton, Wireless Interference, in the April, 1909 Electrician and Mechanic, and The Amateur Wireless Operator, in the January 15, 1910 The Outlook, the author included an overheard transmission between amateur stations asking "Say, do you know the fellow who is putting up a new station out your way? I think he is a ham." However, "ham" took a while to completely lose its negative connotations. A letter from Western Union employee W. L. Matteson in the December, 1919 issue of QST, Why is an Amateur?, complained that amateurs, now regulated by the government, were not getting the respect they deserved, noting that "Many unknowing land wire telegraphers, hearing the word 'amateur' applied to men connected with wireless, regard him as a 'ham' or 'lid'." But in the next month's issue, Thomas Hunter's exuberant "pome", I am the Wandering Ham, showed that other amateurs had already embraced "ham" as a friendly description for their fellow hobbyists.

 
"Beginning July 15, 1913, the Weather Bureau is distributing 'broadcast'... a daily weather bulletin. 'Broadcast,' as the term is used in the Radio Service, means that the message is fired out into the illimitable ether to be picked up and made use of by anyone who has the will and apparatus to possess himself thereof.", Monthly Catalogue: United States Public Documents, August, 1913.