What is Amateur Radio?


Amateur Radio is a richly rewarding high-tech hobby that has many different appeals to different people.
Essentially it is Amateur Radio Operators using portions of the Radio Spectrum that are assigned for non-commercial use by the spectrum regulators to encourage community service and technical inovation.
In Canada, radiocommunications are controlled and managed by the government (Spectrum Management and Telecommunications) through legislation and regulation. It is regulated by the federal government department Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (formerly Industry Canada).
Amateur Radio operators, often affectionately called HAMS, require a Certificate from ISEC.

Why become a HAM?


Ask a dozen people what they love about the hobby and you will get 12 different answers. There are so many area of interest that it is difficult to summarize it in one place.
The first activity that most Hams enjoy is simply communicating locally using portable communications such as a handheld (HT) or mobile in the vehicle. This is commonly used to support community events and helping out if there is an emergency.
Amateur's often enjoy volunteering their time and helping out at community events such as MS Walk and Bike, Running Events, Car Rally, Parades, and anywhere that communications is an important contributor to the safety of the event.
This is good practice for when Amateur Radios Operators are called upon to assist in a disaster situation.
An example is during the floods in southern Alberta in 2013. See the story How Field Day became a reality the story of the High River flood of 2013
In addition, HAM's also enjoy
  • Communicatiing long distances (even around the world) using HF.
  • CW (morse Code)
  • Field Days and Contesting (How many contacts did you make? How many countries have you contacted)
  • Digital communications (such as FT8 and APRS)
  • Communicating with Satellites and even taking to the ISS Space Station
  • Building kits and experimenting with electronics
  • Fox hunts and other social activities
  • Pushing the boundaries of the Technology. One group as an example designing and building their own 12Ghz radios.
Many HAM's have done amazing things with Arduino's and radio. Think high altitude ballons, aviation tracking, communications in remote areas, Satellite tracking antenna's, and many more projects.

How do I become an Amateur Radio Operator?


There are lots of resources to on the web describe the requirements and process to get your Amateur Radio certificate and Call Sign.
Most people require a little support to go through the training material and to ensure that they can pass the exams. The Amateur Radio community traditionaly has provided this support in the forma of structured classes held on a regular basis.
Unfortuantely, COVID-19 has put a hold on in-person training, but that does not mean that you cannot find the support that you need.
There are a few resources that describe on-line classes, aa well as Youtube and Zoom meetings that can provide information.

In the meantime, check out RAC.CA for information. See https://www.rac.ca/how-to-begin/ for an list of some of the available resoources in Canada.

Also, in Alberta, take a look at the resources offered in the SASTAR webpages. These are a group of "Elmers" who are not affiated with any specific club, but yet are in a possition to provide answers to questions and to guide new enthusiasts to go forward.