New to amateur radio or want to do more? Here are some of the things we do on the air. What do you do?


Most hams get started with a cheap handy talkie (HT - handheld) or car mounted radio. A cheap radio can be had for about $25. Great for short distance use off the grid or long distance on a repeater. Mostly found on VHF (2 m) or UHF (70 cm). Check out our newsletter - "The Blown Fuse" for up to date information on local UHF/VHF repeaters and nets.


DX is shorthand for "distance". If you want to talk or send information anywhere in the world this is for you. Your DX'ing skills will improve as you learn to deal with pile-ups and about HF propagation and antennas. Some of our members have racked-up contacts ("QSOs") in more than 300 countries and entities. Some of our members even helped with preparation for the Heard Island DXpedition. See our links page for DX'ing organizations and Heard Island.


Radio can be a sport though the contacts are different. Contesting is one of the great activities of amateur radio. It boosts your technical knowledge and improves your radio operating skills — helping make you a better amateur. See our links page and for contesting organizations. The ARRL has a calendar of contests.

Emergency and Public Service

See our Current Events for opportunities to get out and use your radio to help your community. ORCA in Oakland and NALCO in Berkeley are highly focused on emergency services and have regular preparedness nets and activities. You might also want to check into your local CERT organization where your radio skills will be valued.

"DJ" djovida, KJ6DJ presented about fldigi with application to emergency communications. Introduction-to-NBEMS-ARRL

If you are interested in getting more involved in local emergency communications contact David Nielson, K6CDN - Contra Costa Office of the Sheriff - Communications Unit (RACES/ACS) Contact David


QRP is shorthand for "shall I reduce power"? If you want to talk or send information long distance using under 5 watts this is for you. Because low power equipment is small and light it's ideal for taking on hikes and expeditions. QRP equipment is often hand made either from inexpensive kits or from a magazine article, though there are plenty of off the shelf rigs. Because it's low powered, antennas make a difference and will ecourage you to learn more about them. See our links page for QRP'ing organizations.

Digital Modes

Digital modes use a computer to convert digital information to audio signals that are sent over radio waves. Data transfer includes chat, email, file transfer, images and even voice. A computer sound card is used to connect the radio's audio to the computer.

There are a number of digital modes popular today which include:

Weak Signal

Some of the most exciting new things in amateur radio are going on in weak signal modes, a subset of digital. Weak signals are used from microwave down to the new LF (2200 m) and MF (630) bands. These new modes use a computer to chat between users. Weak signal modes permit long distance operation even if you are antenna restricted. As the name suggests low power gear can be used, reducing the cost of entry to QRP gear. WSJT-X is the goto program for experimenting with weak signals. The FT-8 mode is even becoming popular with contesters and DX'ers. JT-9 is still the best for very weak signal. Also popular with earth-moon-earth bounce, troposcatter, meteor burst and other modes.

Another interesting weak signal mode is WSPR - download software here. WSPR periodically sends a beacon to probe propagation paths with low power, typically less than 5 watts. The beacon contains the stations's call sign, Maidenhead grid locator and transmit power in dBm. Stations can decode signals with S/N as low as -28 dB. Decoded signals may be automatically uploaded to WSPRnet - display map here.


Gary Lauterbach, AD6FP gave a presentation on bouncing signals off of the moon E-M-E presentation


Alan Bowker, WA6DNR gave a presentation on satillite operations April 2017. He has been a featured speaker at AMSAT Symposiums. Emily Clarke, N1DID, also gave a presentation on amateur radio aboard satellites. Emily is on the board of AMSAT and one of the most knowledgeable people in this fascinating niche of amateur radio. There's lots of information on the AMSAT website about getting started with satellites . Although you can get started with with a handheld antenna and a HT some satellite chasers get azimuth/elevation rotators to aim an antennas arrays or dishes using special software to track the satellites. You can build your own station this way: SATNOGS

High Altitude Ballooning

EBARCS's HENRY-1 HIGH ALTITUDE BALLOON LAUNCH went off without a hitch (well, very few anyway) on Saturday, March 18th 2017. We felt it was deserving of a webpage, with an hour-by-hour narrative, photos, videos, and links to lots of sites with information about high altitude ballooning. Read more...

Flight with Dr L. Paul Verhage on Sunday, Sept 2, 2018 Photos

Join others in local HAB'ing here sf-hab

Radio Direction Finding or T-Hunting

Radio direction finding (RDF) or T-hunting or fox hunting has been a hobby in the ham radio world for a long time. If you've ever seen a car equipped with a big, crazy looking antenna, a square antenna array or people running around with funny antennas and radios, they are probably T-Hunting. If it's a weekend it's probably hams and a weekday someone looking for a transmitter for another reason.

T-hunting is still a thing with communities of hunters. In San Francisco there is rdf-sf and there may be a club in your neighborhood. The rdf-sf site is a great source of information and there's also Homing In.

The rdf/sf group sponsors reqular T-Hunts in the San Francsico Bay area. Be sure to give it a try.

Kite Antennas and Antenna Installation with Drones

EBARC's Jack Burris K6JEB has been experimenting with kite antennas. We used a verticle kite antenna on 80 m for Field Day 2017 and it worked great. Here his presentation Parts for Kite Antenna

Hardware Tinkering, Making and Hacking

Hams are the original hackers! We've been taking things apart to learn how they work a long time. Homebrewing has always been a popular ham tradition. Hams have spent decades experimenting in search of the best antennas. Check out the future of ham radio: Ham Radio Friedrichshafen - SDR Academy 2018


"Elmer"ing is shorthand for mentoring ham radio. Give back to the ham radio community by helping new hams get started. If you're doing something new with radio we'd like to know about it. We're always looking for interesting presentations.