You Might be a Real Ham Radio Operator if...

You might be a “REAL HAM” if…

By Don Keith N4KC

Copyright 2018 by Don Keith

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 has been a ham radio operator for more than fifty years. After a long career in broadcasting and advertising, he now writes full time and has published more than thirty books, fiction and non-fiction, on a wide range of subjects including amateur radio. See or for more info.