Hams use their radios to communicate with strangers, friends, and relatives in locations all around the world. Part of the hobby includes providing communications for community events such as the Banff-Jasper Relay Race and during disasters and civil emergencies such as the Edmonton Tornado in 1987. Amateur radio is a very broad field with enough special interest niches to satisfy even the most inquisitive minds.
All amateur radio operators are required to have a radio license. This license can be obtained by any resident of Canada, after successfully passing the required basic examination. Training and testing for this examination are conducted by The Northern Alberta Radio Club (NARC). Upon completing the examination requirements, the Government of Canada, Department of Industry, will issue a license and call sign for a small annual fee. All call signs in Canada have a VE or VA prefix and Alberta, being in the 6th call zone has a VE6 prefix. Each call sign has the required prefix and a dedicated suffix i.e. the call sign for the NARC station is VE6NC.
Once licensed, you will be able to contact other licensed amateur radio operators world-wide via different modes of operation. There are approximately 1.2 million licensed hams in the world, with about 525,000 in the U.S.A., 49,000 in Canada, and more than 1200 in the Edmonton area ( In 1999 ).
There are basically three different ways in which hams communicate with each other. The most popular mode is voice, although not all amateurs use it. The second common mode is digital communication. This mode includes Morse code (CW), radio teletype (RTTY), packet (a relatively new mode requiring a computer), amtor (an error correcting mode which also requires a computer), and satellite communication requiring special antennae, equipment, and computer software. The third basic mode of communication is visual. This particular mode includes fast scan television usually referred to as ATV, slow scan television which is the transmission of still pictures, and facsimile normally referred as FAX which is the transmission of high resolution pictures such as wire photos.
Amateurs can operate their equipment in homes, cars, trailers, airplanes (private), ships, office buildings, buses, trains and even on bicycles. Contacts can be made directly or by using radio repeaters, orbiting satellites, or even using the moon as a reflector.
The necessary equipment consists of a transmitter and receiver (or transceiver), an antenna (which can be as simple as a length of wire), a microphone and/or a Morse code key. For more complex forms of communication specialized equipment is required. The cost to become operational in amateur radio equipment varies widely depending on which modes the amateur wants to use. One can get on voice communication for as little as $150 with used equipment. Because of the variety of equipment and modes available it is not possible to cost a "reasonable" station. However, it is certainly not necessary to spend a lot of money to fully enjoy the hobby.
Amateur radio is a very broad and fascinating hobby in which anyone can get involved. If you are interested in this great hobby and wish additional information, you can phone NARC at 780-467-1333 (leave a message) and you will be put in contact with someone who will be able to help you.
It was last updated 2002-08-25 VE6LW