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1990

Development of Radio Regulations for the Radio Amateur Service

By Larry L. Reid VE7LR

(c) CARF Publications  Reprinted with permission
 

It is a matter of speculation when the first Amateur station was established in Canada. The earliest one I have heard of was in 1904, when a Vancouver high school teacher claimed to have demonstrated to his students an operating station with a coherer receiver and spark transmitter. Undoubtedly there were others elsewhere in the country at or before this time.

 

In those early days, regulations governing the use of 'wireless' were non-existent and individuals set up stations at their discretion. When the first Wireless Act of Canada was passed in 1905, no mention was made of Amateur stations. Even the governing body of the day, the Department of Marine and Fisheries, seemed to ignore Amateur station existence.

 

The first official reference to Amateur operations that I have been able to find was a report to C.P. Edwards, Dominion Superintendent of Wireless, dated Nov. 25, 1910, prepared by E.J. Haughton, Pacific Coast Superintendent of Wireless, regarding interference to marine shipping wireless operations in the Vancouver area by Amateur stations.

 

Apparently this came to a head when the D.G.S. Quadra ran into difficulties while towing a disabled ship in a gale and her calls for tug boat assistance were unheard by the government coast station at Point Grey because of interference from Amateur stations.

 

Haughton met with the four Amateurs concerned and obtained their agreement to curtail operations when requested to do so by the Point Grey Station. His report further stressed the need for some regulatory control over Amateur operations and expressed concern that the fad was spreading.

 

Again, in 1912, Haughton had to solicit similar assistance from the Amateur stations in Victoria who were interfering with the Gonzales Hill coast station. Two of these hams, Bruce Restall and Sid Elliott later joined with Pacific Coast Wireless Service in which both spent the next 40 years.

 

In discussions with Sid Elliott in later years about his early ham activities, he revealed that they used their initials for call signs and, as their coverage was severely limited with their crude equipment, they broke the monotony of talking to each other by working the odd passing ship. Their DX, when propagation was good, was to work a ham across the Straits in Port Angeles, Wash., 18 miles away.

 

In 1913 a new Radio Act was enacted which, for the first time, included 'Regulations To Govern the Operation of Amateur Stations'. These regulations limited the power input to the spark transformer to a maximum of 1/2 kilowatt; made provision for the issuance of callsigns which commenced with the letter 'X' followed by two or more letters, e.g. XAA, XAB, etc.; required that every precaution be taken to prevent interference to the working of other stations and finally, required Amateurs, when operating, to listen for the signal 'STP' which, when sent by a government station or a commercial station, required Amateurs to cease all operations until the issuing station sent cancel STP. These regulations made no provision for the certification of Amateur operators or for the licensing of their stations.

 

It would appear that Amateurs applied to Ottawa for a callsign, and while some obtained callsigns in this manner, many never bothered and continued making up their own calls.

 

With the coming of World War I, Amateurs were ordered off the air but, as Radio Inspectors had yet to be appointed and government services were stretched pretty thin, many Amateurs continued to operate knowing the chances of their detection was unlikely, particularly in the more rural areas.

 

Finally, in 1920, the first Radio Inspectors were appointed and new Radio Regulations were promulgated which included special regulations for Amateurs. These included special operator certification by the examination licensing of Amateur stations, and limitation of the lowest wavelength permitted which varied depending upon the distance from the nearest commercial station. This was to be specified on the station aerial.

 

The new regulations also divided the country into five callsign areas with provision for each station to be issued with a distinctive callsign commencing with their area figure and followed by two or more letters, e.g. 3AA, 5BB, etc. It was to be a few more years before prefixes were assigned. It was also specified that the station callsign was to be sent at least three times at the termination of each transmission. Annual licence fees were $1, and there was no charge for the examination.

 

By today's standards the examination was very simple, with a 5 wpm code exam, an oral exam on the adjustment and operation of a receiver and spark transmitter, knowledge of Departmental regulations governing Amateur stations, some knowledge of the station operating regulations made under the International Radiotelegraph Convention, London, 1912 and the ability to distinguish from other signals the signals 'SOS', 'STP', etc.

 

The first examinations were held in Sault Ste. Marie on July 29, 1920 with certificates numbers 1, 2 and 3 being issued. It is interesting to note that, by the end of 1921, a total of 63 certificates had been issued and, of these, 57 were to Amateurs in the four western provinces.

 

It is not suggested that there were more Amateurs out west, just that more of them became legal during the period and that Walter Howard, the newly appointed Radio Inspector for all of Western Canada, was busy trying to legalize radio station operations within his area of jurisdiction. The records show he spent the major portion of his time during this period conducting inspections and examinations with the latter including commercial, Amateur and experimental operating certification exams at Victoria, Vancouver, Prince Rupert, Calgary, Edmonton, Regina and Winnipeg.

 

In 1922 the regulations were amended to permit the choice of examination on spark or CW transmitters or on both. The first CW examination was held at Chatham, Ont. on May 15, 1922 and resulted in the issuance of certificate number 67. While a number of exams continued to be given on spark equipment, more were selecting both the spark and CW option and by late 1923, selection of CW only became the most popular option.

 

The last pure spark examination was held at Brandon, Man. on March 21, 1924 resulting in the issuing of certificate number 402. The last combination spark/CW exam was held in Calgary, Alberta on Sept. 29, 1925, and resulted in issuing of certificate number 572. Thus, spark disappeared from both the Amateur and experimental operator examinations, but did continue for many more years on the commercial operator exam syllabus.

 

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