What is Amateur Radio?
Amateur radio is a popular technical hobby and volunteer public service that uses designated radio frequencies for non-commercial exchange of messages, wireless experimentation, self-training, and emergency communications.
What type of people become amateur radio operators?
People of all sorts become amateur radio operators. Old and young. Some like the technical challenge of the hobby, others just like to chat with people around the world and still others like the preparedness aspect of the hobby and enjoy providing a public service during disasters or grid down situations.
What can I do with amateur radio?
Amateur radio enables you to do many things. A few of the things you can do are:
- Radio amateurs are always learning new things. Quite often, these skills not only help them become better radio amateurs, but teach them about other areas of science. Satellite communications is one of these skills.
- Talk to people in foreign countries. DX’ing (Long Distance) is a favorite of many hams!
- Talk to people (both local and far away) on your drive to work
- QRP – Communicating with as little power as possible
- Explore a digital communication mode
- Get out and operate portable
- Help in emergencies and natural disasters by providing communications.
- Provide communications in parades or walkathons and other public service events.
- Help other people become hams. (We call it “Elmering.”)
- Hook your computer to your radio and communicate “computer-to-computer.” Hams use radio modems.
- Collect QSL cards (cards from other hams) from all over the United States and foreign countries and receive awards.
- Participate in contests or Field Day events.
- Provide radio communication services to your local Civil Defense organization through ARES (the Amateur Radio Emergency Service) or RACES (Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service) …or even FEMA, (the Federal Emergency Management Agency.)
- Aid members of themilitary by joining the CFARS (Canadian Forces Affiliate Radio System). See our Links section
- Participate in transmitter hunt games and maybe build your own direction-finding equipment.
- Have someone to talk to on those sleepless nights at home.
- Receive weather pictures via satellites.
- Build radios, antennas, learn some electronics and radio theory.
- Talk to astronauts in space, or use the moon to bounce signals back to people on the Earth.
- Experiment with Amateur TV (ATV), Slow-Scan TV (SSTV), or send still-frame pictures by facsimile.
- Lash your ham radio to the public telephone system and call your friends toll free. (Auto patching)
- Communicate through orbiting satellites. (There are many in ham satellites in orbit that are owned and operated by the amateur community! And you can use them without any cost whatsoever!)
…and this is only the beginning! You are limited only by your imagination and ingenuity.
Why is a license required?
Amateur radio is the only hobby governed by international treaty. It is needs be this way because radio waves do not stop at borders. There is also the necessity to ensure that hobbyists know what they are doing so that when they operate their station, they can do so in a way that does not cause interference and keeps the frequencies open for all users
How to get started?
The first thing you need to get started is a license and one of the easiest ways to get a license is to join a local club and sign up for a class. Most clubs have classes you can take and provide the books you need, for a fee, and walk you through the material you will be tested on.
For additional information check out https://wp.rac.ca/how-to-start/
Amateur Radio in Canada is regulated by a federal government department, Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (formerly Industry Canada).
The first level of authorization is the Amateur Radio Operator Certificate with the Basic Qualification. Passing (70%) a multiple choice exam of 100 questions will provide you with your own call sign and allow you to operate on all Amateur Radio frequencies above 30 MHz. These are most often used for relatively short-range radio to radio communications that can be extended to greater distances using “repeaters” operated by other Radio Amateurs.
The next level of authorization allows Radio Amateurs to use all of the Amateur frequency bands including those allowing direct communications with other Radio Amateurs over much greater distances.
There are two ways to achieve these greater operating privileges: by passing the Basic exam and also by demonstrating the ability to send and receive Morse Code at 5 words per minute or by scoring a higher mark on the Basic exam. The “Basic with Honours” qualification is awarded to persons who get 80% or higher on the 100-question, multiple choice exam. Today the majority of candidates who pass the Basic exam achieve Honours and are able to use all Amateur Radio bands immediately.
The Advanced Qualification added to your Basic Qualification will allow you build and operate your own transmitting equipment, sponsor a club station, run higher power and operate your own repeater station. To earn this qualification requires passing a 50-question multiple choice examination on radio theory.
The examinations may be taken in any order but station operating privileges require a Basic Qualification. Candidates for the examination for Basic, Morse Code or Advanced qualifications are examined by an accredited examiner.
More information from rac.ca on requirements https://www.rac.ca/requirements/
The SaskAlta Radio Club runs two classes aimed at getting users a license and getting them on the air.
See our pages on our basic and advanced class information