I'll say right off the bat that I have never actually involved myself in the hobby I'm about to write about. But anything radio-related will spark my interest...
What I found was a bunch of people chatting away at all hours of the day and night about just about any imaginable topic. It was clear that many of them knew each other, and some would meet once and a while at so-called DX club meetings.
Amazingly, it was by listening to them around 1995 or so that I first discovered the existence of something called the Internet. Technologically savvy as they were and are, they were quick to jump on that bandwagon.
You do have to complete a course to be able to jump on those airwaves. Some of the communication takes place from moving vehicles, but a lot of it seems to come from people's homes. They've got this amazing radio equipment and antennas that not only get them on the air, but allow them to pick up all kinds of far away frequencies. And that seems to be a big part of the attraction.
I've mentioned before that when disaster strikes, radio once again becomes an essential way to communicate. And if the big stations get knocked off the air, ham radio becomes an important tool for emergency communication.
You may be interested to hear an example of what you may hear on some of these sorts of frequencies. If you don't have access to a receiver, there are some web sites that stream them. One of them can be found at dxzone.com.
For years there has been a weekly "gathering" on the frequency on Sunday evenings for an exchange of radio news. I know that Sheldon Harvey used to handle that. He's the guy who administers the Radio in Montreal Yahoo group and co-hosts the International Radio Report on CKUT. I don't listen to my scanner as much as I used to, but I still pick up the occasional conversation on 146.910 MHz. Like I mentioned at the beginning, I have only been a listener and my knowledge ends with what I have heard others say...