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Amateur Radio

The amateur radio service, or ham radio as it is often called, is a licenced service available to people who want to use two-way radio for non-income deriving uses (hence the term 'amateur'). Included in such are personal, hobby, non-professional sports, and experimental uses. To become fully licenced in Canada requires three exams. It is also possible to have plenty of fun with only the Basic licence, and many people do just that.

Most people requiring two-way radio communications will resort to unlicenced modes such as Citizens Band (CB) or the Family Radio Service (FRS). Neither of these modes permit any modification of the manufactured hardware, so experimentation opportunities are pretty much ruled out. CB is limited to 4 watts of transmit power on AM, which pretty much ensures city-wide coverage within small urban centers. FRS units are typically less than that which means that their range makes them useful for a few city blocks and not much more. Despite these limitations, these modes are inexpensive and popular. They are not generally considered all that useful when attempting 'serious' communications, or for emergency communications. For these and other uses, people often turn to Ham Radio.

The Basic Ham Radio exam covers simple electronics, radio propagation, law, and operating procedure. The Basic Licence authorizes one legally to to use up to about 250 watts -- more than the 100 watts of transmit power that typifies most manufactured equipment. At the most fundamental, Basic users are generally restricted to frequencies above 30 mhz, that is VHF and UHF. The Basic Ham may build his own equipment with the exception being transmitters -- these must be manufactered units. In reality, most Basic Hams use manufactured VHF/UHF transceivers and rarely experiment beyond some simple antenna designs.

If one gets a high mark on the Basic Exam, one will also gains privileges on HF, also known as "short wave". HF may be of interest as it allows world wide communications. One can also gain access to HF by doing the morse exam, or by doing the advanced exam.

A second exam covers morse code. If you demonstrate the ability to send and receive morse at speeds of five words per minute or more, you will be authorized to use HF. HF offers international coverage by virtue of the fact that shortwave radio signals reflect off of the ionosphere, instead of penetrating it like VHF/UHF does. Morse code is now entirely optional in Canada.

The third exam is primarily intended for the serious experimenters. It covers advanced topics in electronics and radio theory, permitting the hobbyist to build his own transmitters, and to run power levels up to a thousand watts.

Many hams consider short wave, HF, to be amateur radio's holy grail. Even though my own licence would cover me for these bands, I can't say that I've ever used them. I have equipment capable. But, propagation conditions have poor in the early part of the 21st century. Further, I find it contesting bit strange. There are lot's of little groups that hold rag chews, often on technical topics, which I find I tend to listen to. Then there are the nets, which are a more formalized rag chew, for the most part.  There is not reason to think that HF privileges are what motivates most new licencees, however.

With inexpensive, high quality VHF/UHF equipment it is possible to communicate around the world from your car -- via signals carried over VoIP technology -- IRLP, or EchoLink. Follow this link for my own specific IRLP experiences.

In May 2001 I received my Basic certification and call sign VA3XTO from Industry Canada after having taken the classes offered by the local radio club. There is something about a set curriculum that makes things fall into place.

In my early teens, having read of some Ham Radio adventure I had picked up from the local public library, and having peered at the groovy looking equipment in the photographs, I decided that I needed to know more about this hobby. So I remember ordering a bunch of books from ARRL and subscribing to QST for a year, just to find out more.

I was introduced to the fun of Heathkit and ended up with a DX-60 AM/CW transmitter with VFO to go with the DX-160 receiver that I had gotten from Radio Shack. The equipment all soldered together and even started to use my code practice oscillator when along came cars and other such expensive teenage habits.

Electronic gadgetry is still very much a fascination of mine and am simultaneously entertaining thoughts of the advanced curriculum. Of recent interest are spread spectrum for digital transmission.


 

Quick Links 

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Circuits 

FC's Electronic Cirkits
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Suppliers 

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Misc

VE3WFM
Amateur Radio Reference Guide
My Projects Page
IRLP Autoresponder
VX-7R Submersible Product Review
The Morse Code


va3xto@rac.ca
Copyright © E. J. Ritzmann.
Last Change $Date: 2003/04/19 17:53:37 $

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