About Amateur Radio

WHAT IS AMATEUR RADIO

According to the dictionary, an amateur is “…a person who engages in a study, sport or other activity for pleasure rather than for financial gain or professional reasons.” The word originates from the Latin “amare”, to LOVE. Amateur radio operators love to contact other amateurs, and they love to experiment with electronics. Anyone can be an amateur radio operator.

All you need is interest and a licence. In amateur radio there are no race, age, creed, sex or class distinctions. It is a service which emphasizes people’s common interests, not their differences. Everyone is eligible.

Amateur radio exists in nearly every country of the world. Unlike the Citizen Band (CB) enthusiast, who may radiate only a few watts of power, on relatively a few channels of one band, amateurs can legally run up to 1000 watts on thousands of frequencies on many different bands, allowing two-way communication with other amateurs around the world. Licensed Amateurs now enjoy the added benefit of connecting with other amateurs around the world via the internet.

Amateur radio is a hobby of self-education and emergency preparedness. Amateur radio operators, sometimes called “HAMS”, stand ready on a moment’s notice to assist whenever normal communication channels are overloaded, damaged or disrupted.

WHAT’S THE ORIGIN OF THE TERM “HAM”?

One of the first amateur stations to go on the air adopted the call sign” HAM”. The operators of the Harvard Radio Club station were Albert Hyman, Bob Almy, and Poogie Murray. They first used the call sign “Hyman-Almy-Murray” and then shortened it to a less cumbersome “Hy-Al-Mu”. But, this was confuse. with a Mexican ship named Hyalmo and the call sign became “HAM”.

WHAT CAN YOU DO WITH IT?

Besides talking to other amateurs at home and in countries around the world, amateurs can increase their communications range by using “repeaters”, automatic relay stations or the internet, and tie into the public telephone system. They can also operate through orbiting satellites, run their own television stations, operate computer-to-computer over radio, and much more. The experimentation and design of new electronic aids and antennas by these same amateur radio operators, over the years, has been responsible for much of the new technology and antennas we enjoy today.

WHAT CAN YOU NOT DO ON THE AMATEUR BANDS?

Since amateur radio is primarily a hobby, the amateur bands and facilities must not be used for any commercial purposes or financial gain. Communications by amateurs must be voluntarily provided without accepting any form of payment. You may assist the civil authorities provide communications for non-profit community events, provide communications during and after natural disastors or civil unrest or operate for any purpose deemed to be worthwhile. You may not “broadcast” to the public or transmit music over the amateur bands. Licensing restrictions in most countries dictate that you should not discuss politics, religion or other such controversial subjects on the amateur bands.

AMATEUR RADIO CALL SIGNS.

Many of Canada’s Provincial Legislatures have recognized the value of amateur radio as a public service by allowing amateurs to have their call signs on their automobile licence plates. These plate numbers are specially reserved only for the amateur holding that particular call sign.

Every Canadian province and territory has it’s own unique amateur call sign prefix. in Ontario all amateur radio call signs start with either VE3 or VA3. The Brantford Amateur Radio Club’s station call is VE3BA. For a complete list of Canadian prefixes from the RAC site please,¬†CLICK HERE¬†to visit the RAC Canadian call sign prefixes page.

WHAT DO AMATEURS TALK ABOUT?

Amateurs talk differently from our Citizen Band (CB) counterparts. Our “lingo” is based on communication standards used by professional radio operators over the years, rather than the language of the road. Amateurs don’t use “10” signals such as “10-4” and they don’t give “smokey reports”. Instead you will hear the “Q” code such as QTH, meaning “location”. Male operators are sometimes referred to as “old man (OM)”, considered a term of respect, while women are refered to as “YLs” or Young Ladies, you may also hear “XYL” which simply refers to the same young ladies but now they are married.

Many amateurs specialize in working “DX” (distant or foreign stations). Some go on DX-peditions (excursions to operate in a “rare” country). Frequently some amateurs participate in a “fox hunt”, locating hidden transmitters with direction-finding equipment. Others collect Certificates which are awarded for working a selected group of other amateurs and of course, many amateurs enjoy building and repairing various radio components. There is something for everyone in amateur radio.

TWO METRE REPEATERS, THE SOCIAL PARTY LINE.

In today’s world of Amateur Radio one of the first purchases a new amateur makes is a 2 metre handheld transceiver costing $200 to $400. Chatting on the 2 metre “machine” (the word amateurs use for “repeater”) is where a lot of “hams” kick off their amateur radio career. Repeater operation is much like chatting on the telephone, similar to the old rural “party line”. Everything you transmit can be overheard by everyone else tuned to the repeater. You transmit on one frequency and receive on a second one. The repeater antenna, usually located on a high tower or tall building, receives and retransmits your voice on a second frequency for greatly increased range.

HOW DO I BECOME AN AMATEUR RADIO OPERATOR?

Periodically, courses for those wishing to earn their amateur radio licence are offered by local Amateur Radio Clubs or through board of education night school courses, although some individuals do study on their own. Before an amateur radio licence is issued by Industry Canada (formally Department of Communications), the prospective amateur must first pass a departmental exam. In most cases, these exams are administered by a member of a local radio club who is a department appointed “designated examiner”. The exam consists of multiple-choice questions about electronic theory, regulations, and operating procedures. It is no longer mandatory to pass a Morse code test to become a ham, however, amateurs are encouraged to become proficient in code and to take a code test.

COMMUNITY SERVICE: FIRST PRIORITY

One of the main objectives for the Brantford Amateur Radio Club is to serve the needs of it’s community.
Club members provide communications, without thought of payment, for many civic events and situations in Brantford & Brant county. Assisting nonprofit organizations many times each year.

Some of them are:

  • Canada Day Celebrations
  • The Brantford Classic Run
  • The Terry Fox Run
  • Brantford And Brant County Air Show
  • CANWARN, The severe weather observation and reporting system
  • Santa Claus Parade
  • Emergency Communications for Red Cross