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Reviews Categories | Books/Manuals/Videos/Pod-WebCasts on ham radio | Ham Radios Technical Culture Help

Reviews Summary for Ham Radios Technical Culture
Reviews: 7 Average rating: 3.4/5 MSRP: $27.95
Description: 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.
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K4FMH Rating: 5/5 Dec 28, 2012 11:09 Send this review to a friend
Social science OF ham radio  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I've read this book as well as the reviews thus far on eHam. I hope my review will help clarify the murky waters here.

First, I hold a Ph.D. in sociology and statistics, served on the faculty of three major research universities in the U.S., write books myself, and am a licensed amateur too. Thus, I read this book from two perspectives: one as a fellow social scientist and the other as a licensed ham who is interested in the organization and culture of our wonderful hobby. So please take my remarks as coming from both perspectives although I'll point out where I'm specifically coming from at points here.

Second, just to clarify: the author is NOT a sociologist but an historian. She holds a Ph.D. in history from Harvard and an M.S. in mathematics (a rare combination) from UNC-Chapel Hill. So she just might be able to cipher equations with the best of what ham radio has to offer! (OK, perhaps not Joe Taylor...but you get my point. She is NOT technically challenged.) Dr. Haring is a faculty member in the History Department at Auburn University. This is important to note because of the criticism of methods she's used in this book.

Third, the audience for this book is not amateur radio operators! Now, we hams can read it for self-interested reasons but it is not written for "us" but those scholars who are interested in the history of science. If you were to read several other books about "science" as an institution---say, Thomas Kuhn's Structure of Scientific Revolutions---and the reviews of it by physical scientists, you might find similar comments. Bah humbug! What does "he" know about "us"? Dr. Haring attempts to give historical comparison of ham radio to other technical hobbies of the last century: model building, photography, high-fidelity audio, etc. What she calls the "shared experiences" of ham radio enthusiasts are not fundamentally different to me as a sociologist as those shared by game hunters, fly fishermen, video game enthusiasts, sports car restorationists (Jay Leno!), and so forth.

Fourth, on the "whining" about few women in the hobby. Let's be honest here. There are more female hams today but how many participate actively in your local club? If you're a golfer, same question. Haring tries to point out that we men have practiced what the old TV show, the Little Rascals, exemplified in the He-Man Woman-Haters Club in the tree house. Many technical hobbies dominated by men are that way for several reasons. Although it's changing greatly today, women were discouraged by their mothers, fathers, brothers, and friends from "liking" math, the main gatekeeper for science. It is difficult socially for someone who is a statistical (and therefore social) minority to "join in any reindeer games" like Rudolph. If you're a man, try going to a book club or join a bunco group managed by women. If you're allowed to attend, would you go back? This isn't the product of an individual ham but of the "culture" surrounding the hobby. If what I'm saying here as a sociologist offends you, then just put on your big-boy pants 'cause you know I'm accurate here!

Fifth, on using the publications of amateur radio clubs, individuals, etc., as the basis of Dr. Haring's research: historians most frequently use "archive materials" as the basis of their research...for the same reason that archaeologists do. Their subjects are often dead! Now, the title of Dr. Haring's book does imply "current" culture so there is a fair critique to ask for her to supplement archival analysis with interviews of living hams. Remember, though, that memories tend to have a halo effect: the good old days were always the best! So, that does produce both factual (yea, I used to contact the North Pole with my one-tube, super regen TX and have a QSL card from Santa around here somewhere to prove it!) and evaluative bias (Ahh....these new gol-darned computer based radios don't hold a candle to my old Kenwood TS-830S). So just keep in mind, our current publications and itself will tell future historians about "us" from today.

Finally, we need more works of this genre. Interview-based studies, large-scale surveys, and so forth would be greatly enlightening. Getting hams to participate is a barrier! So I give this book a 5 as a fellow social scientist. Your mileage will vary if you take it as some sort of comprehensive treatise on ham radio in the U.S. from then to now.

73 y'all,

W2NSF Rating: 2/5 Dec 25, 2012 05:39 Send this review to a friend
Not good  Time owned: more than 12 months
I can't imagine that any ham radio operator would appreciate this book. Perhaps a sociologist or historian might consider it. I read the entire thing (I'm a ham and an engineer) and found it wanting. Check it out from the library, but otherwise, don't waste your money on purchasing it.
W5WS Rating: 4/5 Dec 24, 2012 18:28 Send this review to a friend
Written for an academic audience  Time owned: more than 12 months
This book is not meant to be a mainstream book on the popularity of ham radio in the 50's and 60's but a sociological study of ham radio and it's place in the larger picture of technical hobbies such as model airplanes and hi-fi audio and the role of women in that culture. She clearly had a family member that was involved in the hobby, either an uncle or grandfather and that is where much of her understanding of the hobby comes from. She's not interested in an oral history so no interviews were necessary to write this book. Most of her research comes from old club newsletters, magazines, ads and books. As an academic paper on the role of women and the lengths men went to to keep them out of technical hobbies it is fairly well done. If you're a fan of Sociology and Amateur Radio, then you'll get something out of this book. If you're not, then you'll be disappointed.
WD5DNQ Rating: 4/5 Dec 24, 2012 11:25 Send this review to a friend
A Sociologist looks at ham radio  Time owned: more than 12 months
I read this book several years ago, and I remember being favorably impressed with it. I've been reading QST for 40 years, and in all that time I've never once seen the world of ham radio reported on at any length from outside. (perhaps because non-hams are generally not interested enough in our hobby to study it in depth!) I was pleased to see that--finally!--This lady had studied the ham radio world carefully and reported what she'd found.

I'm pretty sure that she's a professional sociologist, and that their "prime directive" is to try to neither love nor hate the social organization that they happen to be studying at any given time, but instead simply to understand it as thoroughly as they can and report on what they have found. I could see that this had been done in this case. In fact, the thing I liked best about the book was that, although I imagine the ham radio world was strange to the author in many ways, and probably troubling to her in some ways (e.g., lack of women in it), she didn't jump to some blanket value judgment on our subculture.

This is a good study of something most of us have been so involved in for so long that we can't see it whole. Most hams will enjoy reading it, I think.

N8WXQ Rating: 2/5 Jan 24, 2007 18:02 Send this review to a friend
Weird Book  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
This book is written by a non-ham who learned about ham radio by reading a bunch of old QST and CQ magazines. Talking with a few hams would have helped greatly.

This work considers ham radio in the middle decades of the 20th century.

The book explores the value of technical hobbies to society in general. As such this could have been a really great book. Unfortunately the author has been influenced by a bunch of ultra left-wing politically correct professors. (My apologies to those on the left but this is really left. Hi Hi) There are positively weird references to homosexuality, gender bias and racism that seem to reflect more on the psyche of the author than to ham radio. These comments reflect poor scholarship on the part of the author. The author would have had a better perspective if she considered ham radio as a world wide phenomena rather than just an American one.
W5FRG Rating: 2/5 Jan 5, 2007 19:30 Send this review to a friend
disappointed  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I was very disappointed with this book. For one thing, the author (a woman) is constantly whining about how poorly women are treated in the ham radio world. And for another thing, the author brags about not doing a single interview when writing this book. In my opinion, a few interviews with long-time, knowledgable hams could have greatly improved this tedious screed.
KB3I Rating: 5/5 Jan 5, 2007 17:23 Send this review to a friend
A must read for any ham!  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
Here's a great book with a fascinating perspective of our hobby, written by a non-ham technical historian. The author, through an engaging writing style provides an insight into ham radio as a technical culture, and will warm the heart and mind of any ham radio operator.
You'll love this book!
Ira KB3I

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