Tuesday, 21 February 2012


Twenty-five years ago, I passed a test that opened up a whole new world of communication for me. I earned my amateur radio licence.

Radio and TV have fascinated me since childhood. When my mom changed the batteries in her portable table radio, I felt astonished. "Where are all the little people that make the music?" I asked as I peered into the receiver's innards. Mom chuckled, then she explained that radio signals came from far away and the radio converted them into sounds.

My obsession with long distance wireless communication grew throughout my teen years. When my mom bought me a pair of walkie-talkies, I had so much fun with them that I wore out the batteries in a week. After a while, my family tired of my requests for them to go some distance from the house and talk to me with the other set.

In 1977, I became a CB fanatic. That hobby was enjoyable but I soon became bored with only 40 channels on which to talk. I had heard of amateur radio but the prospect of learning morse code and electronics intimidated me.

By 1985, I felt ready to brave the gruelling courses required to earn a licence. I studied hard until I felt ready to take that all-important exam.

On a hazy February friday afternoon in 1987, my mentor and I met at the office of the Department of Communications (now called Industry Canada). I felt nervous as the instructor handed me the test papers and asked if I could read them. "It would go faster if you read the questions to me," I suggested. "I can't see too well."

The aural part of the course was tough but I managed to answer most of the questions. On the other hand, the Morse code section gave me pause. My hand felt like rubber as I squinted at the paper and pounded out the message with the Morse code key. I heaved a huge sigh of relief when I finished.

Two agonizing weeks passed as I waited for the results of the exam. Day by day, I checked my mail box for that all-important letter.

I not only passed the test but the call sign I requested was available. A week later, my licence came. I proudly displayed it in my radio room.

I've had the call sign, VE6XTC, for the last twenty-five years. Though I'm not active on the radio due to equipment and antenna problems, I still feel proud of achieving such a milestone in my life.

I've written about my amateur radio activities in When a Man Loves a Rabbit (Learning and Living With Bunnies) and in my upcoming How I Was Razed: A Journey from Cultism to Christianity memoirs. You're welcome to click on my books link or contact me directly for more information.


  1. I don't know much about ham radio, but As I read this, I couldn't help thinking that it and the Internet are similar in that they are great ways to communicate with others around the world and make new friends. Getting an e-mail address probably isn't much different from getting a call sign. You pick a user name, and if it's available, it's yours. It's the same with a Web address. There are two advantages to the Internet over ham radio. You don't have to have a license, and you can type words instead of translating them into a series of dots and dashes. However you do it, it's nice to be able to communicate with people in far away places.

  2. I wanted a walkie talkie set when I was a kid, but never got one. I didn't get a CB either, though I applied for and got a license back inthe mid '70's, when a CB license was still required here in the U.S. Soon they were no longer necessary, and I had a worthless piece of paper. Oddly enough, I got my commercial radio license for being a radio announcer shortly before those were of no significant valueeither.
    I became an SWL (shortwave listener) in 1985 when I got my first shortwave receiver, but I didn't become a ham until 2000.

  3. You never cease to amaze me Bruce. You've done so much with your life. I'm proud that you were able to pass that test and get your license.
    You were a lucky kid, I always wanted walkie talkies but didn't get any either.


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