"Ham radio" (a.k.a. Amateur Radio) can be described as CB radios on steroids. To broadcast, you need a federal license after passing an
exam, and then the world is your oyster... with the right frequencies, you can talk to anyone else with ham equipment all over the globe! Cool eh?
Ham operators can be called upon by police, fire, EMS, and even the military as a backup communication infrastructure should their own equipment fail, and cell phones don't work. There are ham radio satellites, and even the International Space Station has ham equipment on it.
The pics below show the radio I own. It's a dual band (2 meter, 70 CM) radio that can transmit at 1, 4, and 8 watts. At 8 watts, I can reach a number of repeaters that have HUGE coverage all over eastern Ontario and western Quebec. Lotsa fun!
March 7 2016 - update
Passed my exam with honours on Saturday - got 90%! Industry Canada has automated their licensing process - I was able to register on line and get my call sign. I can now push that "Talk" button and raise hell on the airwaves... ;-)
March 2020 - update
I mentioned above my radio broadcasts at 2, 4, and 8 watts. Even with a line of coax cable attached to a J-pole antenna hung from a tree on my property, I was barely able to reach the repeater at Kinnelley Mountain (16 miles distance), which is the most actively used one in the area. I had many complaints of a poor scratchy signal, so I just let the hobby go for a while. Then I discovered the existence of in-line amplifiers that can boost transmission signal strength by up to 10x... at less than $100, I thought I'd give one a try. What a difference... my output is now at 35 watts and I get lots of compliments on the strength and audio quality. I can even reach the Foymount repeater (at 35 miles distance), which I never could before. Woot!