Ham Radio’s Technical Culture by Kristen Haring. Post #4524.


Last week, I finally broke down and bought this truly outstanding history about Amateur Radio and the men and women who filled its ranks in the early 20th century.  Kristen Haring is an Assistant Professor of History at Auburn University and holds degrees in mathematics from the University of Pennsylvania and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  Ms. Haring has 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 Member’s 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.  That official biography is from The MIT Press which offers the book in either hardcover or paperback.

So, what do you get from this fascinating read of 238 pages and 30 supporting illustrations?  First, the book is a revealing look at the personalities that defined our electric 20th century and opened up world wide communication to the average citizen willing to study, pass an exam, and build his/her amateur radio station.  Second, the book explains why this often solitary hobby was often viewed with suspicion and misunderstanding because of public ignorance of science and technology.  As professor Haring states early on, “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.”  Unfortunately, those feelings are still alive, often bubbling to the surface in community opposition to amateur radio antennas and towers, HOAs, and restrictive CC&Rs.

Haring weaves an interesting tale, interspaced with personal accounts found in radio publications and newsletters and from technical manuals, trade journals, and government documents.  She also explains why high-tech employers, government agencies, and even the military recruited amateur radio operators before and during wartime.  Haring does a good job of explaining the unique relationship between radio hobbyists, experimenters, and amateur radio operators to electronics manufacturers. Haring shows “that tinkers influenced attitudes toward technology beyond hobby communities, enriching the general technical culture by posing a vital counterpoint.”

This is an exceptionally well-written book.

For more information on the book or author Kristen Haring, visit http://mitpress.mit.edu/books/ham-radios-technical-culture.

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Until next time,

Aloha es 73 de Russ (KH6JRM).

 

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