Maker # 7660:  Not Your Grandpa’s Ham Radio

What Are We Doing?


Thank you for your interest in our Maker Faire display. We are radio communications experimenters using the microwave Amateur Radio (ham) frequencies.


Who are we?

We are licensed Amateur radio operators ("hams").


Is this like CB?

Yes and no. Ham radio is similar in that we use two-way radios and antennas to talk with each other, but hams can communicate using Morse code and computers in addition to voice, and we even have our own satellites. Ham radio requires a license issued by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and licensees are required to successfully pass a written test involving electronics theory, radio regulations and operating procedures.


How far can you talk?

We can communicate with other ham stations around the corner or across the globe, depending on a variety of factors that affect the way radio waves travel. The equipment we are using here operates on frequencies that generally follow line-of-sight paths. However, through experimentation, we find that signals can be reflected against objects such as buildings, trees, islands and mountains, to extend the range. Using these techniques, we are able to contact other stations hundreds of miles away.


What kind of radios are you using?

We are builders and experimenters in microwave radio communications. No commercially-built, "off-the-shelf" equipment for these frequencies exists, so we must build our own equipment, or modify commercially-made equipment meant for other communications services, such as cell phone and long-distance telephone.


How much does this equipment cost?

Like any other hobby, people spend as much or as little as they can afford. Most people involved in ham radio spend as much as any serious stereo enthusiast, amateur photographer or woodworker.


Where can I get more information?


The Web is a tremendous source for information pertaining to amateur radio.  Here is a sampling of some of those sources.  A Web search on “Getting Started in Amateur Radio” will turn up much more.



American Radio Relay League (ARRL) – The national association for Amateur Radio.




CQ, and CQ-VHF Magazines



If you are a licensed ham radio operator already, and want to try a new challenge, contact your local VHF and up clubs:


The 50 MHz and Up Group


Meetings are held on the first Thursday of the month at 7pm at the TI (formerly National Semiconductor) Conference Center, Building E, in Sunnyvale, CA



The San Bernardino Microwave Society (SBMS)

Meets on the first Thursday of each month at 7pm at the American Legion Hall, 1024 Main St., Corona, CA



The Microwave Group of San Diego

Workshops and informal meetings are held each month on the third Monday at 7pm in La Mesa.


Bay Area Amateur Television (ATV)

Great ATV site from K6MFW


These are some sources for do-it-yourself kits and components:


Elecraft – build-it-yourself HF transceivers and VHF/UHF transverters


Down East Microwave – kit-form microwave radio


Kuhne Electronics – The premier provider of microwave kits


Sierra Radio – home of HamStack microcontroller platform


Northern California QRP Club – low power HF radio kits


Ramsey Electronics – kits of all nature


Small Wonder Labs – more radio kits


Oak Hills Research




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This page was last updated on 5/16/2012