Ham Radio's Technical Culture

Ham Radio's Technical Culture

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by Kristen Haring
     
 

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Decades before the Internet, ham radio provided instantaneous, global, person-to-person communication. Hundreds of thousands of amateur radio operators -- a predominantly male, middle- and upper-class group known as "hams" -- built and operated two-way radios for recreation in mid twentieth century America. In Ham Radio's Technical Culture, Kristen Haring

Overview

Decades before the Internet, ham radio provided instantaneous, global, person-to-person communication. Hundreds of thousands of amateur radio operators -- a predominantly male, middle- and upper-class group known as "hams" -- built and operated two-way radios for recreation in mid twentieth century America. In Ham Radio's Technical Culture, Kristen Haring examines why so many men adopted the technical hobby of ham radio from the 1930s through 1970s and how the pastime helped them form identity and community.Ham radio required solitary tinkering with sophisticated electronics equipment, often isolated from domestic activities in a "radio shack," yet the hobby thrived on fraternal interaction. Conversations on the air grew into friendships, and hams gathered in clubs or met informally for "eyeball contacts." Within this community, hobbyists developed distinct values and practices with regard to radio, creating a particular "technical culture." Outsiders viewed amateur radio operators with a mixture of awe and suspicion, impressed by hams' mastery of powerful technology but uneasy about their contact with foreigners, especially during periods of political tension.Drawing on a wealth of personal accounts found in radio magazines and newsletters and from technical manuals, trade journals, and government documents, Haring describes how ham radio culture rippled through hobbyists' lives. She explains why hi-tech employers recruited hams and why electronics manufacturers catered to these specialty customers. She discusses hams' position within the military and civil defense during World War II and the Cold War as well as the effect of the hobby on family dynamics. By considering ham radio in the context of other technical hobbies -- model building, photography, high-fidelity audio, and similar leisure pursuits -- Haring highlights the shared experiences of technical hobbyists. She shows that tinkerers influenced attitudes toward technology beyond hobby communities, enriching the general technical culture by posing a vital counterpoint.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Kristen Haring has written a valentine to the ham radio community....

[The book] situates radio hobbyists not only in the technological realm but within the worlds of work and home, as consumers and as contributors to civil defense." Michele Hilmes The Wilson Quarterly

"This book will help us better understand ourselves." William Klykylo (WA8FOZ) CQ Magazine

"With its detailed and interesting analysis of the interaction between technical cultures and technical identities, [this book] makes an important contribution to technology studies. It is highly recommended to anyone interested in the complicated interactions between technology, culture, and society." Sungook Hong Isis

The Wilson Quarterly - Michele Hilmes

Kristen Haring has written a valentine to the ham radio community....
[The book] situates radio hobbyists not only in the technological realm but within the worlds of work and home, as consumers and as contributors to civil defense.

CQ Magazine - William Klykylo (WA8FOZ)

This book will help us better understand ourselves.

Isis - Sungook Hong

With its detailed and interesting analysis of the interaction between technical cultures and technical identities, [this book] makes an important contribution to technology studies. It is highly recommended to anyone interested in the complicated interactions between technology, culture, and society.

Amanda R. Keeler

...an insightful historical exploration into the emergence and continued viability of ham radio over the course of the past eight decades.

QST magazine - Gil McElroy

Chapters dealing with the historical relationships between manufacturers of radio equipment and amateurs (in which Haring includes an examination of the significance of the kit building phenomenon upon the development of Amateur Radio);
the role played by amateurs within technical professions in what Haring calls a
'complicated hybrid identity' that pitted professional affiliation against amateur individualism; and the ways in which Amateur Radio fought for and preserved its place in American society during the Cold War and Vietnamall are well worth the reading for the fascinating historical picture they present.

Cultural Geographies - Hilary Geoghegan

Drawing on archive material, Haring composes an account as interesting to the historian of technology as to the cultural geographer with interests in concepts of home, leisure, masculinity and technology...Haring succinctly captures the hidden world of the radio ham, adding a charming dimension to cultural geography's current fascination with more advanced scientific and technical cultures.

Technology and Culture - Douglas Craig

Haring provides a fascinating interpretation of ham radio as 'a socially sanctioned escape' for men within the home.

Bookforum - Reena Jana

In this engaging study, [Haring] has constructed the story of a particular (and peculiar) technology and the cultish, fraternity-like following that sustained it for decades.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780262250320
Publisher:
MIT Press
Publication date:
02/15/2008
Series:
Inside Technology
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
238
File size:
2 MB

What People are saying about this

Emily Thompson

Kristen Haring has constructed an engaging account of ham radio culture in mid-twentieth-century America. In so doing, she illuminates how people assign meaning to and identify with technologies of all kinds, thus her book will be of value to all students of technological culture.

From the Publisher
"Kristen Haring has constructed an engaging account of ham radio culture in mid-twentieth-century America. In so doing, she illuminates how people assign meaning toand identify withtechnologies of all kinds, thus her book will be of value to all students of technological culture." Emily Thompson ,Professor of History, Princeton University
Susan Douglas

Although approximately one million Americans operated ham radios in the course of the 20th century, very little has been written about this thriving technical culture in our midst. Kristen Haring offers a deeply sympathetic history of this under-appreciated technical community and their role in contributing to
American advances in science and technology, especially the electronics industry. In the process she reveals how technical tinkering has defined manhood in the United
States and has powerfully constituted 'technical identities' with often utopian,
even, at times, revolutionary, notions about the social uses of technology.

Meet the Author

Kristen Haring is Assistant Professor of History at Auburn University.
She holds degrees in mathematics from the University of Pennsylvania and the
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a PhD in history of science from
Harvard University. Haring's work has been recognized by the Society for the History of Technology, which awarded her the IEEE Life Members' Prize in Electrical History for portions of Ham Radio's Technical Culture. She has served on the board of directors of the Keith Haring Foundation since its creation by her brother in
1989.

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