Derek's Ham Radio Page

Derek with ham radio

I have been licensed for a few decades as a ham radio operator, first with a license in Canada (VE3 land), and more recently with an Amateur Extra license in the U.S. What I like about ham radio is that it combines technical knowledge with conviviality. In her 1989 Massey Lectures on technology, Ursula Franklin suggested that ham radio is "personal, reciprocal, direct... It is a dependable and resilient source of genuine communication."

Signal Hill On the right is an image of me visiting Signal Hill where trans-oceanic radio communications had their beginning. I have always had a fondness for radio technology, and as a teenager became a ham radio operator. I have written about my attraction to ham radio as a hobby, describing how it started as a hobby and led to a vocation.

There is a wide variety of open source software available for hams, and I have created some of my own. In particular, I wrote JTmap, a program that listens to packets sent by WSJT-X, queries online databases to retrive call and QTH information, and displays a friendly map with information after each contact is confirmed. I also make use of various other open source programs for amatuer radio running on a Raspberry Pi.


I like to work voice on the shortwave bands such as the 20, 40, and 80 meter HF bands using a multi-band G5RV antenna and a homemade end fed antenna strung up in my back yard. I also work various HF digital modes (including PSK31, FT8 WSPR), initially uisng a homemade interface to a Raspberry Pi, but more recently using a drierct USB connection to an IC-7300 radio.

My current shack: HF rig, auto tuner, and Raspberry Pi
MMDVM hat on a Raspberry Pi Zero

HF Digital Modes

FT8 waterfall
A "Waterfall" plot showing some FT8 signals on HF

Exploring digital modes (fldigi running on a Raspberry Pi decoding a PSK31 signal)


Antennas are a critical part of an effective ham radio station. I have used modest wire antennas for shortwave contacts. These antennas are not only of modest cost, but are more discrete, blending into the foliage of my yard. One type of antenna I recently built is a endfed antenna
Homemade matching transformer
for an endfed antenna
endfed antenna
Sloping Endfed antenna
suspended in a tree.
G5RV antenna
Ladder line of full G5RV
suspended in tree
G5RVjr antenna
G5RV junior antenna with
ladder line and rainbow

Some of my previous rigs

My first HF transmitter was a "home-brew" 80m CW rig using a single 815 (dual pentode) tube. It was built on a piece of wood with point-to-poimt wiring, a hand-wound output transformer, and an air-variable capacitor. It was originally fed by a home-made crystal oscillator (I actually used a colorburst crystal), but later moved up to an old external VFO someone lent me. A picture of that first rig and some former rigs I have owned are shown below.

first ham radio
My first rig: an 80m "home-brew" transmitter
IC-735 station
IC-2100 VHF Mobile Rig
IC-718 HF Rig

Field Day Amateur radio operators are involved in many public service activites, from severe weather monitoring to assisting with emergency communications in a time of crisis.

Amateur radio operators also organize local clubs, launch experimental satellites, and organize events like "hamests" and field day (the photo on the left is one of me during the 2020 field day).

To find out more about the fascinating world of Amateur Radio, visit this ARRL site which introduces the hobby.