SARA Ponderings

SARA Ponderings ~ last update: 14 Jan 2024

The amateur radio hobby is extreme in the number of specialized areas that one can follow. It became much more enriched as personal computers, digital modes and networking became interwoven into the ham environment (starting about 1980). This leads to a large number of areas that can be discussed and each area has a person or group that is constantly in a stage of advancement (changes).

SARA members wander around the internet and then ponder (think) about many diverse concepts and topics, thus the page title of "SARA Ponderings". We try to collect from all members whatever their interesting topics found and place them here for others to find and use. Thus, this page is gets modified and updated quite frequently. If you have an item of interest for hams/electronic/computers/ or local interest to central Michigan, let us know. Got an extra ten minutes check out this listing and catch up on current item(s).

Over the years since the Shiawassee Amateur Radio Association [SARA] started a 'Web Presence' (about 2009), we placed 'little notes' on our home page in a left side notification area (historical information). Web viewers could read where our wanderings and ponderings had taken us. The notes cover(ed) about any area you can think of involving amateur radio and about local announcements of interest to hams. The practice of reviewing and removing this content has lead to a point where it makes a change in the collection and display methods desirable. This page will be used as the 'new strategy' for these notifications and note items. Some include 'dated notifications' and some are technical in nature and have no predicted end dates. Also, we have items that are just news of interest for hams. We tend to find and report and post things a ham might find of interest. This collection from all the areas we discover deserve a better and wider method of distribution. We are calling these topics "ponderings" for a wide collection of topics we want to have easily available. News and notifications will now be posted on this page (started in 2020).

NanoVNA 'You Tube' Links by W2AEW ~ 10 Oct 2023

Last year's Ham Toy of the Year for many was a nanoVNA analyzer. You Tube videos are a great way to teach/learn as you begin a new topic. Alan Wolke, W2AEW, has produced many, many educational You Tube videos on various topics concerning Ham Radio. So here are some links for learning about the nanoVNAs and capabilities. Great when you get your toy out and want to brush up. The [...] lists the times required for each video and the "#number" is Alan's video numbers. There are some 'skipped' numbers that are not VNA related.

SARA Pondering also referenced the Surrey Amateuer Radio Club's magazine and it's VNA series ~ see: 21 Sep 2021

W2AEW nanoVNA You Tube Videos of Interest:

   #312: Back to Basics: What is a VNA / Vector Network Analyzer


   #313: Why a VNA needs to be calibrated | how to calibrate a nanoVNA 


   #314: How to use the NanoVNA to sweep / measure an antenna system's SWR and optimize its tuning 


    #315: How to use the NanoVNA to measure a low-pass filter 


    #316: Use NanoVNA to measure coax length - BONUS Transmission Lines and Smith Charts, SWR and more 


    #317: NanoVNA Port Extension using the Electrical Delay setting 


    #318: NanoVNA comparison measuring a duplexer - NanoVNA-H4 and SAA-2N 


    #319: Measuring Crystals with NanoVNA and other tools 


     #320: How to update the NanoVNA-H4 firmware using Windows 10 and .DFU file 


    #325: Use NanoVNA and Smith Chart to show effect of adding transmission line length 


   #326: How to Measure the impedance of "unknown" coax using a NanoVNA 


    #329: Presentation recording: Intro to the VNA and NanoVNA for BayCon 2021 


    #334: How to tune a duplexer with a NanoVNA V2plus4 | is it possible? 


   #337: Use a NanoVNA to measure input impedance and gain of a small-signal RF amplifier 


   #338 is Capacitive Loading by Oscilloscope Probes; # 339 is Basics of a Super-heterodyne Receiver 



    #349: Club Presentation: Smith Charts - the NanoVNA and your antenna - matching network design 


{Similar to the #312 VNA video... dcw}   Enjoy!

Free Radio to new Hams ~ SARA Testing and Club Meeting

In the January SARA meeting it was announced that SARA VE Testing for a 'new Ham license' and then attending a SARA club meeting will get a 'new Ham {only}' a brand new Baofeng UV-5R handheld transceiver. This is a limited offer for the first five people. Mike, AB8VS, has donated the radios and will assist us in setting the radios up and teaching any new ham how to get started. Details will be provided at the SARA VE testing sessions.

We began 'live' testing in  Oct and Dec, 2023 - see the VE testing link!   Preregistration for testing is Required.

Checkout the 2023 SARA Field Day Event ~ June, 2023

See the  2023 Field Day page.

Net Logger Software ~ 15 May 2023

A good tool for Hams checking into 'Nets' is Net Logger. It allows you to use 'server' software to track and control the people in a specific net and allows for text communication via internet resources. You can see the current list of operators on the net and helps the control operator manage the net's function (especially when he may not be able to directly hear all of the net members). Check it out: Download Net Logger Software and subscribe to Net Logger list-server with email to: 

Net Logger Site {here} 

Question Pools by Amateur Radio License Class ~ FCC July 2023

The Official Question pools by license class can be found at: ~ the organization which sets the 'Official Question Pool(s)'. Check for the latest changes.

This is a great site for the active question pools, part 97 rules, and listing of VEC organizations (see left side menu on their site).

Most recent change is new 'General Class' pool for July, 2023 per FCC requirements.

Next change up is 'Extra Class' in July - 2024.

New Section Alignment for Canada ~ 01 Jan 2023

The Radio Amateurs of Canada (RAC) have announced a realignment of their Field Organization resulting in the addition of a new section and name changes to several others effective January 1, 2023. This will result in the changes to ARRL contests that use ARRL/RAC sections as multipliers, including Field Day, ARRL November Sweepstakes, and 160-Meter contests. {Note effective date of 01 Jan 2023 ~ no impact to 2022 dates.}

The RAC Field Organization will be reorganized into the following 14 sections effective January 1, 2023:

    Newfoundland and Labrador (NL)

    Nova Scotia (NS)

    Prince Edward Island (PE)

    New Brunswick (NB) – the Maritime Section (MAR) will be abolished.

    Quebec (QC)

    Ontario East (ONE)

    Golden Horseshoe (GH) – currently called Greater Toronto Area (GTA).

    Ontario South (ONS)

    Ontario North (ONN)

    Manitoba (MB)

    Saskatchewan (SK)

    Alberta (AB)

    British Columbia (BC)

    Territories (TER) – Northwest Territories, Yukon and Nunavut will be combined into one section.

Note: Expect to see changes in logging software starting in 2023. SARA uses N3FJP for contest logging.

For Winter Field Day and N3FJP users use as the link to version 2.8.5 as the site to use. 

Podcasts ~ Ham Radio and Computer Areas {04 Jan 2021}

Looking for a fast way to find some of our favorites --- so here is a list:

New Licensee ~ Free Radio {Oct. 2022} by QRZ Jumpstart Program

We want to make you aware that QRZ is offering a free HT ($60 value) for newly licensed hams (must do this within 30 days of license). We found this on but radio is offered by QRZ (


This program is designed to promote amateur radio to the masses, helping to eliminate a possible barrier to entry by providing new hams with their first radio. The Jumpstart program will provide the QRZ-1 radio to new hams who meet eligibility requirements. No purchase or subscription of any kind is necessary. The welcome package is FREE to those who qualify.


New hams who have just obtained their first license from the FCC may apply for a welcome package. Applicants must apply within 30 days of the license grant date per the FCC records.


The eligible ham must have a QRZ user account and be able to log in and apply for the award. Certain types of identification, including a photo ID, will be required. This information is not shared or exchanged with any party and is used only to validate eligibility under this program. Additional shipping charges may apply when shipped outside of the contiguous 48 states.


This program is available exclusively to USA licensed amateur radio operators.

Radio Shack Catalogs ~ Historical Look {21 Jan 2022}

Look at Radio Shack Catalogs from the past by viewing online. 

ARRL RF Exposure Rules and Calculator {05 Aug 2021}

RF CALCULATOR  {The following directly from ARRL Letter...}

The FCC has adopted guidelines and procedures for evaluating environmental effects of RF emissions. The new guidelines incorporate two tiers of exposure limits based on whether exposure occurs in an occupational or "controlled" situation, or whether the general population is exposed or exposure is in an "uncontrolled" situation.

Under the new FCC rules, some amateurs need to perform routine station evaluations to ensure that their stations comply with the RF exposure rules. This can be as simple as running an online calculator to determine the minimum safe distance between any part of your antenna and areas where people might be exposed to RF energy from your station. Although amateurs can make measurements of their stations, evaluations can also be done by calculation.

To make this easy for amateurs, ARRL now provides an RF exposure calculator on its RF Exposure page. To use the calculator, enter your transmit peak-envelope power (PEP) and operating mode, and answer the questions about the maximum amount of time you might be transmitting. The calculator will give you the minimum distance people must be from your antenna and human exposure.

You can print the results and keep them in your station records. There is no requirement to send your results to the FCC.



See ARRL RF Exposure Becomes effective 03 May 2021 for additional information. Are your portable operations ready? How about Field Day? You need to give this a priority lookover. Check the ARRL Safety page on its website.

From the "ARRL Letter 05 Aug 2021". RF Exposure Calculator from ARRL.

To make this easy for amateurs, ARRL now provides an RF exposure calculator on its RF Exposure page. To use the calculator, enter your transmit peak-envelope power (PEP) and operating mode, and answer the questions about the maximum amount of time you might be transmitting. The calculator will give you the minimum distance people must be from your antenna and human exposure.

You can print the results and keep them in your station records. There is no requirement to send your results to the FCC.

From the "ARRL Letter 15 April 2021".

The FCC had previously announced rule changes. The rules are detailed in a lengthy 2019 Report and Order (R&O) governing RF exposure standards and go into effect on May 3, 2021. The new rules do not change existing RF exposure (RFE) limits but do require that stations in all services, including amateur radio, be evaluated against existing limits, unless they are exempted. For stations already in place, that evaluation must be completed by May 3, 2023. After May 3 2021, any new station, or any existing station modified in a way that's likely to change its RFE profile -- such as different antennas or placement, or greater power -- will need to conduct an evaluation by the date of activation or change. "In the RF Report and Order, the Commission anticipated that few parties would have to conduct reevaluations under the new rules and that such evaluations will be relatively straightforward," the FCC said in an April 2 Public Notice. "It nevertheless adopted a 2-year period for parties to verify and ensure compliance under the new rules." The Amateur Service is no longer categorically excluded from certain aspects of the rules, as amended, and licensees can no longer avoid performing an exposure assessment simply because they are transmitting below a given power level.

"For most amateurs, the major difference is the removal of the categorical exclusion for amateur radio, which means that ham station owners must determine if they either qualify for an exemption or must perform a routine environmental evaluation," said Greg Lapin, N9GL, Chair of the ARRL RF Safety Committee and a member of the FCC Technological Advisory Council (TAC). "Ham stations previously excluded from performing environmental evaluations will have until May 3, 2023, to perform these. After May 3, 2021, any new stations or those modified in a way that affects RF exposure must comply before being put into service," Lapin said. The December 2019 RF R&O changes the methods that many radio services use to determine and achieve compliance with FCC limits on human exposure to RF electromagnetic fields. The FCC also modified the process for determining whether a particular device or deployment is exempt from a more thorough analysis by replacing a service-specific list of transmitters, facilities, and operations for which evaluation is required with new streamlined formula-based criteria. The R&O also addressed how to perform evaluations where the exemption does not apply, and how to mitigate exposure. Amateur radio licensees will have to determine whether any existing Facilities previously excluded under the old rules now qualify for an exemption under the new rules. Most will, but some may not. "For amateurs, the major difference is the removal of the categorical exclusion," Lapin said, "which means that every ham will be required to perform some sort of calculation, either to determine if they qualify for an exemption or must perform a full-fledged exposure assessment. For hams who previously performed exposure assessments on their stations, there is nothing more to do." The ARRL Lab staff is available to help amateurs to make these determinations and, if needed, perform the necessary calculations to ensure their stations comply. ARRL Laboratory Manager Ed Hare, W1RFI, who helped prepare ARRL's RF Exposure in 2018 ARRL Handbook RF Safety portion, explained it this way. "The FCC did not change any of the underlying rules applicable to amateur station evaluations," he said. "The sections of the book on how to perform routine station evaluations are still valid and usable, especially the many charts of common antennas at different heights." Hare said ARRL Lab staff also would be available to help amateurs understand the rules and evaluate their stations. 'RF Exposure and You' (a small booklet) is available for download from ARRL. The ARRL has a web page at: ARRL RF Safety page on its website containing link to more information. The ARRL RF Safety Committee is working with the FCC to update the FCC's aids for following human exposure rules -- OET Bulletin 65 and OET Bulletin 65 Supplement B for Radio Amateurs. In addition, ARRL is developing tools that all hams can use to perform exposure assessments.{April, 2021}

An interesting thought occurs on compliance for ARRL Field Day and any other 'portable operations. New antenna installations qualify under these definitions. Changing equipment will be another item. This something you need to understand and look into immediately. Make sure your station has the information stored in your log of operations.= [SARA staff]. The use of the ARRL RF Exposure Calculator will be a good assistance tool. PLEASE insure your compliance!

Smart 911 - Sign up for Shiawassee County

Smart 911 ~ For use by everyone in Shiawassee County!   Started ~ 13 Sep. 2018

To sign up for "Text Alerts" via 'Smart 911' from Shiawassee County Dispatch and others - 'Nation Wide'~ on your cell phone enter text "smart911" to 67283 or go to: Smart911 Homepage" and select "Sign Up Today" button. If you ever need 911 support, the information you provide today will be instantly available to the dispatch center and Emergency Responders when needed. The type of information you can supply is: People & Household Info; Medical Information; Address and Location (includes GPS if on a supported cell phone); and 'Other Info' you may wish to share. It is quick and accurate method to automatically provide information to 9-1-1 for support back to you in a crisis .

It is important to do this with a cell phone. Once installed the information is automatically linked and the 911 operator will have all the details whenever a call is made from that phone!

Breakfast Club Net 3.793.00 MHz [Live Feed from YouTube]

Breakfast Club Net (daily) Livefeed {3.973.00 MHz} ~ The 'Breakfast Club Net' lists temperature around the US (usually MidWest) and allows you to monitor the frequency from your computer. Get on your radio to  listen/talk to many stations in a net fashion. Take the time to check in. Fine group of active hams. Lets you practice ham net techniques to keep your skills sharp. The frequency is :  3.973.0 MHz ~ just check-in and report your temperature. Listening will give you a feel for current 80 meter conditions!

Ham Locator Website {15 Sep 2021}

Ham Locator Map Page ~ Finding Hams near to you is easier with increasing technology. Ross Keatinge, KT1F, has created a tool to locate US hams according to various search criteria. Just go to: http://haminfo/map/[your call sign]. For example, replacing"[your call sign]" with W8QQQ {our shown link} will yield results for your station. You can change the size/location of the map in the usual scroll/zoom procedures. With 'soo many' hams in the area, why is the SARA club members list so low? Please email: SARA / W8QQQ <Email> and let us know what you would like. 

BCB and RF Locator Website {15 Sep 2021}

RF Locator Main Page ~ Attaining new tools in an operators tool set can be a challenge as the technologies constantly expand, here is another great tool for you to add. Setting the clock back about 50 years and the general method was: an operator would look up BCB [Broadcast Band Broadcasts (AM Stations)] information {You old enough to remember 'White's Radio Log'?}. The 'good operators' usually started with a book/magazine search to find out station information (frequency & power, physical location, program content, etc.) and then tuning the radio to that frequency {pre-digital that could be challenge}. They followed by adjusting the antenna/radio system (direction steering, matching/filtering, adjust listening time, etc.) to see what results they could achieve. In today's world of 'instant' information, you can use the RF Locator site to do that data information searching quickly. It supplies multiple ways to search the data and then gives links to a specific station's web site, audio streaming, standard US mail and email address and other licensing information. Today you can try to achieve the same quality of audio with your station as the internet streaming - it is a challenge. It is a great method to gather and log data at different times of the day and during annual season changes. If you enter the data into a logging program it makes understanding the varieties of RF propagation on these frequencies much easier. You do use a computer based logging system at your station, right?

I have multiple receiving capabilities (receivers, antennas, filters, etc.) at my station and it is amazing how much data one can collect and organize in a short operational period. You may want to spend a little time praciticing and adjusting your system to get the best operation out of your station and equipment. For example: use a K9LAY loop antenna and a dipole into a 'antenna phasing' unit (ANC or MFJ) and peaking the station of interest and weakening the noise and interfering station(s) is a process that takes practice to do quickly. It is a great skill to have when chasing weak DX ham signals. I easily get 30 dB and sometimes 60 dB better signals using these techniques (greater than 5 S units is the 'norm'. The first time you can spend several minutes adjusting, but a little practice reduces that time to a few seconds. This makes a huge difference when chasing those rare DX contacts.

This is another great example of how technology continues adding to our radio hobby and our ability to learn and operate deeper into what is "currently available". Try out the newer methods and see what you think - digital modes are the current 'hot item'. Just give them a try.

SIM Smith - Computer Smith Chart Calculations

A useful computer modeling program for Smith Chart Calculations and modeling effects is 'SimSmith' by Ward Harriman, AE6TY and is available for download and use {free}: Smith Charts at AE6TY. Lawrence Benko, W0QE has made many 'You Tube videos' on using SimSmith and other support information. Checkout his site: W0QE Web Site for SimSmith. There are many wikis and other support information if you browse around the internet.

To let you experiment here are two pdf files to print your own Smith Charts: Smith Chart 'pdf' and Color Smith Chart 'pdf'.

Using this program with an antenna analyzer allows you to checkout the theoritical versus reality characteristics of your system. Increasing effieciency in these areas leads to much improved operational conditions using a very inexpensive process. Many systems can find 10 ~ 20 dB of improvement for the cost of a coaxial stub or small matching component change (a huge improvement in your station).

SDR Play ~ Spectrum Analyzer

Windows Spectrum Analyser 1.1 by Steve Andrew supports the SDRPlay line of SDR hardware, and provides functionality of a basic spectrum analyzer. It includes some SDRPlay-specific features. See the article There is also support for an external Arduino-based tracking generator, TrackGen, which is discussed on ON7IR's Track Generator in great detail. ON7IR's blog has some other good links to read. 

ARRL Digital Magazine Access - All 4 magazines Online ~ QST / QEX / On-the-Air / National Contest Journal

ARRL members now receive digital access to all four (4) ARRL magazines.

Joining "QST" and "On the Air" on a digital platform are the bimonthly editions of "QEX" - The Forum for Communications Experimenters and "NCJ" - National Contest Journal.

All four publications are available online from the ARRL Members page, if you are an active member.

Nano VNA Measurements {20 Sep 2021} Surry, BC Magazine

Site: Surry Amateur Radio Club Communicator (e-zine) on VNA Measurements Article Series by Arie Kleingeld, PA3A in the Surry, British Columbia, Canada club "E-zine" starts a series of articles on the use of the VNA (very detailed - starts page 53). It continues for 6 or more issues. Great for those just starting with their NanoVNA.

The Club's Home page is at: Surrey Amateur Radio Communications {British Columbia, Canada} - on that page you can get to the "SARC Communicator" on the right side 'Links' menu. You can view issues of 'The Communicator" here: previous 'The Communicator' issues (scroll on down their list).

For "us - Old Timers" the series called "The Rest of the Story" is very informative on electronics history and the people involved.

RF Cafe Engineering Excel Workbook (or Google sheets)

A useful Excel workbook for calculating engineering stuff is available on the 'RF Cafe' web site. It is free to download and use. The current version is 7.10 and includes Smith Chart, Band Pass Filters, Directional Couplers, Mixer Frequencies, Attenuators and many others. Check it out at RF Cafe Workbook Calculator.

This is quite useful for hams and engineering interested people. A big 'Thank You' to Kirt Blattenberger, KB3UON - he has a site for "Airplanes and Rockets" in addition to the RF Cafe site. Plan some time to look around the RF Cafe site ~ lots more than just this workbook calculator! Lots of great technical information on a wide area of electronics. I like the old magazine articles and the 'reference' pages.

Older Electronics and Commercial Magazines & Books ~ World Radio History

A large collection of magazines and books are available on

The site has a "HUGE" collection of magazines, books, etc. dealing with 'Radio History'. The site is so large that finding specific magazines can be a small challenge. So a DCW- WB8GUS gives the following list.

This list of links is for quickly finding the 'kick-off' page for some of various magazines of interest.

Magazine Title Link

Byte To be added soon (2022)

Communications World   To be added soon

Apr-1930 ~ Apr-1992 (wide variation in issues vs dates)

Electronics Illustrated
May 1958 ~ Nov 1972

Electronics World 
5-1959 ~ 12-1971 (moved to Popular Electronics)

73 To be added soon {available on other sites}

Popular Communications    
1982 ~ 2013 (Previous "S9")

Popular Electronics
1954 ~ 2003

Radio-TV Experimenter
1950 ~ 1981 


Science & Electronics See  'Radio-TV- Experimenter '

'' has a new 'Digital Library of Amateur Radio' [DLARC] section being added. {22 Nov 2022}

The '' site has added "Digital Library of Amateur Radio [DLARC]" section to their site.  {If this returns 'Server Not Found' message... copy the link address and paste it in your browser  - I do not know why (wb8gus July7, 2023). } As the title suggests, the archive topic is new and specific to Hams. It is under rapid expansion, so many changes in a short time will be the normal for the near future. Check back often.

Includes books and handbooks, magazines, audio and digital files (software), etc. The collection is growing and already has several thousands of choices.