6. What Can You Do

with a Ham Radio License? 

It is truly amazing to think about all the different aspects of amateur radio. Every so often, a new branch of the hobby comes along. We decided to make a list of all the different aspects of ham radio we could think of. Below is the result of our efforts.

Of course, there are innumerable web sites about the all various ham radio topics. The links below are just a few, intended to introduce the topic more than teach you all the details. If you have a topic we’ve missed or a favorite web site you think should be included, send us a note at info@mdarc.org.

Amateur Television (ATV)

Amateur television is just what it sounds like; transmitting and receiving both video and audio over amateur frequencies. Transmit yourself, your shack, a favorite how-to video, remote images from a repeater site or a drone. The possibilities are endless.

MDARC’s ATV page: http://www.mdarc.org/activities/repeaters/atv

ARRL’s ATV page: http://www.arrl.org/atv-fast-scan-amateur-television

The DATV-Express Project: https://www.datv-express.com/

Amateur Television Network: http://atn-tv.org/index.php

Wikipedia’s Amateur television page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amateur_television


Perhaps the single most important component in your rig is the antenna. Design your favorite antenna, build one, tune it, experiment with various styles and methods.

ARRL’s Antenna Introduction: http://www.arrl.org/antennas

ARRL’s Antenna Modeling Introduction: http://www.arrl.org/antenna-modeling

HamUniverse’s Basic Yagi Design: http://www.hamuniverse.com/yagibasics.html

Pacificon’s Annual Antenna Seminar: http://pacificon.org/education-and-forums/antenna-seminar

Auctions, Swap Meets

Want to pick up some gear cheap? Have some extra stuff you don't need anymore? These are the places to take care of that.

MDARC’s annual auction: http://www.mdarc.org/activities/auction

Pacificon’s annual swap meet: http://www.pacificon.org/events/swap-meet

Electronics Flea Market at De Anza College, Cupertino, CA: http://www.electronicsfleamarket.com/

Automatic Packet Reporting System (APRS)

A system for reporting the location of amateur radio stations in real time. Other information, such as weather information, can also be transmitted.

ARRL’s APRS page: http://www.arrl.org/automatic-packet-reporting-system-aprs

Wikipedia’s APRS page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Automatic_Packet_Reporting_System

APRS Mapping page: www.aprs.fi


Have you made a contact with someone is every state in the U.S? How about contacting 100 or more countries, or "entities". If you've done these or several others, you may be eligible for a certificate confirming your accomplishment.

•    ARRL Awards page:  http://www.arrl.org/awards

DXCC: http://www.arrl.org/dxcc

        Awarded for confirmed contacts with 100 countries.

Worked All States: http://www.arrl.org/was

        Awarded for confirmed contacts in all 50 U.S. states.

VHF/UHF Century Club: http://www.arrl.org/vucc

        Awarded for contact with a minimum number of Maidenhead grid locators per band. Requirements vary by band.

The Triple Play WAS (Worked All States): http://www.arrl.org/triple-play

        Awarded for confirmed contacts in all 50 U.S. states on voice, CW, and digital modes.

Fred Fish Memorial Award: http://www.arrl.org/ffma

        Awarded for confirmed contacts in all 488 Maidenhead grid squares in the 48 contiguous United States on 6 Meters.


Beacons transmit continuously from a fixed location on a specific frequency, allowing hams to determine whether they will be able to hear other stations from that area.

NCDXF/IARU International Beacon Project: http://ncdxf.org/pages/beacons.html

Reverse Beacon Network: http://www.reversebeacon.net/

Clubs, Organizations

If you're not in one, join one (or more) now.

Amateur Radio Relay League (ARRL): http://www.arrl.org/

Mt. Diablo Amateur Radio Club (MDARC): http://www.mdarc.org/

International Amateur Radio Union (IARU): http://www.iaru.org/

MDARC list of amateur radio clubs in the San Francisco Bay Area, Northern California and Nevada:          http://www.mdarc.org/resources/clubs-in-sf-bay-area

MDARC list of other amateur radio organizations: http://www.mdarc.org/resources/other-amateur-radio-organizations

Conferences, Conventions, Hamfests

ARRL Hamfests & Conventions Calendar Search: http://www.arrl.org/hamfests-and-conventions-calendar

PACIFICON, San Ramon, CA: http://www.pacificon.org/

Dayton Hamvention, Dayton, Ohio (actually, now in Xenia, OH): http://hamvention.org/

International DX Convention, Visalia, CA: http://dxconvention.org/

Nevada State Convention: http://nvcon.org/

Sea-Pac, Portland, OR: http://seapac.org/


ARRL Contests page: http://www.arrl.org/contests

ARRL Contest Calendar: http://www.arrl.org/contest-calendar

MDARC’s DX & Contests page: http://www.mdarc.org/activities/dx-contests

Continuous Wave (CW) Communications

See Morse Code, below.

Coordination, Band Planning

Northern Amateur Relay Council of California, Inc. (NARCC): http://www.narcc.org/

Northern California Digital Coordination Council (NCDCC): http://ncdcc.net/

Northern California Packet Association (NCPA): http://ncpa.n0ary.org/

National Frequency Coordinator's Council (NFCC): http://nfcc.us/

Digital Communications


•    AllStar Linkhttps://www.allstarlink.org/

•    Digital Mobile Radio (DMR)

    o MDARC’s DMR page: http://www.mdarc.org/activities/repeaters/dmr

    o Northern California DMR: http://norcaldmr.org/

    o Motorola Amateur Radio Club International Network (DMR_MARC): http://www.dmr-marc.net/

•    D-Star (mostly Icom)

    o MDARC’s D-Star page: http://www.mdarc.org/activities/repeaters/dstar

    o D-Star Users: http://dstarusers.org/

•    Echolink:

    o MDARC’s Echolink & IRLP page: http://www.mdarc.org/activities/repeaters/echo-link

    o Echolink home page: http://echolink.org/

•    Internet Radio Linking Project (IRLP):

    o MDARC’s Echolink & IRLP page: http://www.mdarc.org/activities/repeaters/echo-link

    o IRLP home page: http://irlp.net/

•    Wide-Coverage Internet Repeater Enhancement System (WIRES-II) (Yeasu proprietary)

    o WIRES Introduction: http://www.yaesu.com/jp/en/wiresinfo-en/introduction.html

    o WIRES Active ID List: http://www.yaesu.com/jp/en/wiresinfo-en/index.html


•    Automatic Packet Reporting System (APRS) (see Automatic Packet Reporting System, above)

•    Narrow Band Emergency Messaging System (NBEMS)/Fldigi: http://www.w1hkj.com/

NBEMS is an open source software suite that allows hams to reliably send and receive data using nearly any computer and any analog radio without requiring a dedicated digital infrastructure or specialized modem hardware. Often called "Fldigi", NBEMS works on both VHF/UHF FM and on HF.

    o MDARC’s NBEMS page: http://www.mdarc.org/resources/technical/nbems

•   High-Speed Multimedia Networks (HSMM)

    o    Broadband-Hamnet:  http://www.broadband-hamnet.org/

    o    Wikipedia article:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High-speed_multimedia_radio

•    D-RATS

    o    D-StarInfo page: http://www.dstarinfo.com/drats.aspx

    o    Getting Started with D-RATS (PDF, 1.1 MB): http://www.dstarinfo.com/Data/Sites/1/media/getting-started-with-d-rats-(ga).pdf

    o    D-RATS Operating Guide:  http://www.brevardars.org/d-ratsoperatingguide.html

•    Packet, RTTY

    o Automatic Packet Reporting System (APRS) (see Automatic Packet Reporting System, above)

    o Tucson Amateur Radio Packet (TAPR): http://www.tapr.org/

   o     Terrestrial Amateur Radio Packet Network (TARPN): http://tarpn.net/t/packet_radio_networking.html

Distance Communications (DX)

ARRL’s Chasing DX page: http://www.arrl.org/chasing-dx

MDARC’s DX & Contests page: http://www.mdarc.org/activities/dx-contests

•    Near Vertical Incident Skywave (NVIS)

    o    Wikipedia article:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Near_vertical_incidence_skywave

    o    ARRL page:  http://www.arrl.org/nvis

    o    QSL-Net page: http://www.qsl.net/wb5ude/nvis/



International DX Association: https://indexa.org/

DXpeditioning Basics: https://indexa.org/dxpeditioningbasics.html

DXCC Most Wanted List: https://clublog.org/mostwanted.php

Education & Training

License Classes

    o MDARC’s Education & Training page: http://www.mdarc.org/activities/education

Teacher Training

    o Gordon West’s Ham Instructor Academy: http://www.haminstructor.com/


ARRL’s Mentoring page: http://www.arrl.org/mentor-program

Emergency Communications (EmComm)

Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES): http://www.arrl.org/ares

Auxiliary Communications Service (ACS)

    o California state ACS: http://acscalifornia.org/

    o Contra Costa County ACS: http://www.cocoacs.org/

Radio Amateur Emergency Communications Service (RACES): http://www.usraces.org/

•    Salvation Army Team Emergency Radio Network (SATERN):  http://satern.org/

SHAred RESources (SHARES) High Frequency (HF) Radio Program: https://www.dhs.gov/shares

MDARC’s Emergency Communications page: http://www.mdarc.org/activities/ares-races


Equipment Testing

    o ARRL’s Test Procedures Manual (PDF, 161 pages):


Eye-Ball QSOs

MDARC Club meetings: http://www.mdarc.org/activities/club-meetings

Other amateur radio clubs: http://www.mdarc.org/resources/clubs-in-sf-bay-area

See also: Conferences, Conventions, Hamfests.

Field Day

MDARC’s Field Day page: http://www.mdarc.org/activities/field-day

ARRL’s Field Day page: http://www.arrl.org/field-day

Fox Hunting

•    See Transmitter Hunting below

Kit Building/ Do It Yourself (DIY)/ Maker

Tucson Amateur Radio Packet (TAPR): http://www.tapr.org/

Maker Faire: http://makerfaire.com/

•    3D Printing: https://www.thingiverse.com/ (search for "amateur radio")

Computer-Radio Interfacing

    o Arduino Microcontroller

        - https://www.arduino.cc/

        - Introduction to the Arduino Microcontroller; QST magazine, November, 2015, pages 30-32

•    See also: Antennas

•    See also: Repeaters


License Testing

Volunteer Examiners (VE) facilitate the testing of those candidates that wish to get an initial license or upgrade their present license. If you hold a General Class or higher license, you can be a VE.

MDARC License Testing: http://www.mdarc.org/activities/license-testing

ARRL Volunteer Examiners (VE): http://www.arrl.org/volunteer-examiners

W5YI Volunteer Examiners (VE): http://www.w5yi.org/page.php?id=19

Military Auxiliary Radio System (MARS)

The U.S. Military Auxiliary Radio System (AMARS) is a group of citizen volunteers who support the Department of Defense (DoD) in a variety of circumstances, including complex catastrophes and cyber denied or impaired conditions.  MARS is a DoD program that trains, organizes and tasks volunteer Amateur Radio operators.

U.S. Army MARS: http://www.netcom.army.mil/mars/

U.S. Army MARS Public Site: http://www.usarmymars.org/

U.S. Air Force MARS: http://afmars.tripod.com/mars1.htm

Morse Code

ARRL CW page: http://www.arrl.org/cw-mode

MDARC’s Morse Code page: http://www.mdarc.org/resources/operating-aids/morse-code

ARRL’s Learning Morse Code page: http://www.arrl.org/learning-morse-code

Museums, Historical Organizations

California Historical Radio Society (CHRS): http://www.californiahistoricalradio.com/

Maritime Radio Historical Society: http://radiomarine.org/

Near-Ham Operations

•    See also: Military Auxiliary Radio Service (MARS), above.

•    Auxiliary Communications Service (ACS)

    o    California Communications Reserve Unit (CRU):  http://acscalifornia.org/

•    Community Emergency Response Team (CERT)

    o    Ready.Gov site:  https://www.ready.gov/community-emergency-response-team

    o    Wikipedia article:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Community_emergency_response_team

    o    FEMA Course: Introduction to Community Emergency Response Teamshttps://training.fema.gov/is/courseoverview.aspx?code=IS-317


MDARC’s Nets on MDARC Systems page: http://www.mdarc.org/activities/nets

MDARC’s Nets on Other Systems page: http://www.mdarc.org/activities/nets-on-other-systems

National Traffic System (NTS): http://www.arrl.org/nts

Newsletters, Magazines

Carrier, MDARC’s newsletter: http://www.mdarc.org/carrier-newsletter

QST magazine: http://www.arrl.org/qst

CQ magazine: http://www.cq-amateur-radio.com/

Public Service

MDARC’s Public Service Events page: http://www.mdarc.org/activities/public-service

QRP (Low power operation)

ARRL’s QRP page: http://www.arrl.org/qrp-low-power-operating

NorCal QRP: http://www.norcalqrp.org/

•    Pacificon's QRP page: http://www.pacificon.org/events/qrp

QSL Card Collecting

QSL Card Checking: http://www.arrl.org/dxcc-field-checking

W1AW Card Processing: http://www.arrl.org/qsl-card-processing-status

Radio Control (RC)

•    A Radio Control Primer:  https://www.arrl.org/files/file/Technology/pdf/9202018.pdf

•    Fly Your Radio:  https://www.eham.net/articles/18218


•    MDARC's Repeater Systems section: http://www.mdarc.org/activities/repeaters

•    Repeater control

    o    ARRL's Auxiliary Station FAQ:  http://www.arrl.org/auxiliary-station-faq

•    Repeater construction

•    Repeater maintenance

•    Repeater management

Science & Theory of Radio Communications

•    Digital Signal Processing (DSP)

•    Propagation Theory

    o    AM, CW, FM, SSB

    o    Radio Frequency Interference (RFI)

Scientific Research, Propagation Studies

HamSci - Ham Radio Science Citizen Investigation: http://www.hamsci.org/

NASA’s Radio JOVE: http://radiojove.gsfc.nasa.gov/

Reverse Beacon Network: http://www.reversebeacon.net/

Weak Signal Propagation Reporter Network (WSPR)

    o WSPRnet: http://wsprnet.org/drupal/

    o WSPR Software: http://physics.princeton.edu/pulsar/k1jt/wspr.html

See also: Science & Theory of Radio Communications, above.

See also: Space Communications, below.

See also: Weather Monitoring, below.

Slow-Scan TV (SSTV)

Wikipedia’s Slow-Scan Television page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slow-scan_television

Social Media

•    Podcasts, Videocasts

     o    Amateur Radio Newsline:  https://www.arnewsline.org/

     o    ARRL Audio News:  http://www.arrl.org/arrl-audio-news

    o Ham Nation: https://twit.tv/shows/ham-nation

    o Ham Radio 360: http://hamradio360.com/

    o Ham Radio Answers: https://dcasler.com/

•    Facebook

    o MDARC’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/mdarc.org

•    YouTube

    o Randy Hall’s, K7AGE, YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/K7AGE

Software Defined Radio (SDR)

ARRL’s SDR page: http://www.arrl.org/software-defined-radio

Wikipedia SDR page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Software-defined_radio

WebSDR: http://websdr.org/


Summits-On The-Air (SOTA)

SOTA is an award scheme for radio amateurs that encourages portable operation in mountainous areas.



Parks-On The-Air (POTA)

POTA is for international portable amateur radio operations that promote emergency awareness and communications from national/federal and state/provincial level parks.






Islands-On The-Air (USI/IOTA)

U.S. Islands: An amateur radio award program centered around chasing and activating river, lake, and ocean shore islands within the 50 United States and its Territories and Protectorates.


Worldwide Islands: IOTA promotes radio contacts with stations located on islands around the world to enrich the experience of all active on the amateur bands



Lighthouses On The Air

The Amateur Radio Lighthouse Society (ARLHS) is devoted to maritime communications, amateur radio, lighthouses, and lightships. One of it's missions is to promote public awareness of the role ham radio and light beacons have played in assisting and maintaining safety at sea.


International Lighthouse Lightship Weekend (ILLW) usually takes place on the 3rd full weekend in August each year and attracts over 500 lighthouse entries located in over 40 countries. It is one of the most popular international amateur radio events in existence probably because there are very few rules and it is not the usual contest type event.


Space & Near-Space Communications

•    Aircraft Scatter:

    o AirScout: http://www.airscout.eu/index.html

    o Nitehawk: http://www.nitehawk.com/w3sz/AircraftScatter.htm

•    Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS): http://www.ariss.org/

•    Amateur Radio in Space (AMSAT): http://www.amsat.org/

    o Orbiting Satellite Carrying Amateur Radio (OSCAR):


•    Auroral Propagation

    o    Auroral Propagation Resource Center:  http://hfradio.org/aurora.html

    o    Radio Society of Great Britain page:  http://rsgb.org/main/technical/propagation/auroal-propagation/

•    CubeSat: http://www.cubesat.org/

•    Earth-Moon-Earth (EME) or Moonbounce: http://www.arrl.org/weak-signal-vhf-dx-meteor-scatter-eme-moonbounce

•    Meteor Scatter

    o W4AS: http://www.meteorscatter.org/

    o Introduction to Meteor Scatter: http://coilgun.info/hamradio/meteor-scatter1.htm

•    High Altitude Ballooning: http://arhab.org/

        Near space explorers and enthusiasts dedicated to the education and study of aerospace science via Amateur Radio High Altitude Ballooning.

•    Parachute Mobilehttp://parachutemobile.org/

•    NASA’s Radio JOVE: http://radiojove.gsfc.nasa.gov/

•    NOAA’s National Space Weather Prediction Center: http://www.swpc.noaa.gov/

•    Wikipedia article: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amateur_radio_satellite

Special Event Stations

Pacificon’s Special Event Station: http://pacificon.org/events/special-event-station

Dxpeditioning Basics, by Wayne Mills N7NG (PDF, 31 pages, 1994):


DX-pedition Wikipedia article: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DX-pedition

National Parks on the Air:    https://npota.arrl.org/

Specialty Activities

•    Disability Access

    o    Courage Kenny Handiham Program:  https://handiham.org/

    o    Handiham Radio Club:  http://handiham.net/

    o    ARRL Resources for the Disabled:  http://www.arrl.org/resources-for-the-disabled


•    See Transmitter Hunting below

Transmitter Hunting (Fox Hunting, T-Hunting)

•    Wikipedia page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transmitter_hunting

•    ARRL Direction Finding page: http://www.arrl.org/direction-finding

Video Communications

•    See: Amateur Television (ATV), above.

•    See: Slow-Scan TV (SSTV) (still photos transmitted over radio), above.

Voice Communications

•    VHF/UHF Mobile Analog

•    VHF/UHF Mobile Digital

•    HF (DX) – SSB/AM

Weather Monitoring

SkyWarn: http://skywarn.org/

Youth Support

ARRL’s Youth in Amateur Radio: http://www.arrl.org/youth

Scouting, Jamboree on the Air (JOTA): http://www.scouting.org/jota.aspx

K2BSA Amateur Radio Association: http://www.k2bsa.net/

•    Pacificon's Scouting page: http://www.pacificon.org/events/boy-scouts