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Amateur Radio Station VE3KBL

Amateur Radio

My Callsign is VE3KBL and I am in Gridsquare FN14he.

At the moment (since 2005), I am not active on amateur radio.

Amateur radio is often called ham radio. It is a hobby that involves millions of people all around the world. There are more than 40,000 licenced amateur radio operators in Canada. Amateurs communicate with each other through a variety of modes (morse code, voice, slow scan television pictures, computer signals, etc.) over the radio. They use frequencies ranging from just above the AM broadcast band to those up in the realm of microwaves. Signals travel from one amateur's antenna to another or, sometimes, through amateur repeaters and satellites. Amateur radio operators or hams have callsigns. Canadian callsigns indicate which province or territory the amateur is located in. For example, callsigns that start VA3 or VE3 are from Ontario.

My own interest in amateur radio started in the late 1960's. I visited an amateur, Reg Varcoe VE3RR (silent key 1991) in Belleville, Ontario. I was enthralled by all of the equipment in his basement and the fact that he could communicate all the way up to Canada's most northerly military base, Alert at the tip of Ellesmere Island. Much of the time Reg was handling phone patches, setting up contacts between service personnel up there and their families in southern Canada.

It took me about a quarter of a century to actually get around to getting a licence myself. I picked up a study guide and some code tapes and finally looked into how I could get a licence. In January 1992 I realized that I was going to Sault Ste. Marie for a meeting the next month and that there was a Department of Communications office there that said they could fit me in for a test on short notice. Luck was with me that day and I walked out of the office with a callsign.

When I got licenced, I was the only amateur in my town - I was the only one in my grid square. I was very fortunate to be referred by the Canadian Amateur Radio Federation office in Kingston to Don Smythe, VE3FFG in Timmins, only a couple of hundred miles away. Don had a lot of very good and practical advice that helped me get on the air. He even had the patience to wait around the day my HF rig arrived while I got up some sort of 80m antenna to make a contact with him.

Getting a licence in Canada involves passing at least one exam that deals with operating procedures and basic radio electronics. Amateurs who want to operate on the frequency bands that are generally used for long distance communications used to need to demonstrate proficiency in morse code. A lot of people are very enthusiastic about morse code - a good number of people do not care for it. I do not make much use of code but I can say that it was not really that hard to learn. For me, it was amazing to actually communicate with people using morse code. I passed the 5 word per minute and then the 12 word per minute tests so that I could get access to all of the HF bands.

Whether or not a potential amateur radio operator plans to use morse code or not, she or he likely will want to learn it to be able to use certain bands. My own suggestion for learning code is to make regular use of several different tools including computer software such as Joe Speroni's Morse Academy, instructional audio tapes and practice with other people.

I used to operate on HF (high frequency or short wave) and VHF/UHF from Moosonee (Grid EO91). I now live down south in Belleville, Ontario (Grid FN14he). Unfortunately, the place where I live does not permit antennas so my ability to operator is very limited.

Many amateur radio operators belong to the American Radio Relay League which puts out QST every month or Radio Amateurs of Canada which publishes The Canadian Amateur.