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Retrotechtacular: Fundamentals of AM and FM Radio Communication

AM Transmitter

How radios send and receive information can seem magical to the uninformed. For some people, this week’s Retrotechtacular video, “Frequency Modulation – Part 1 Basic Principles”, from the US Army Department of Defense 1964 will be a great refresher, and for others it will be their first introduction into the wonderful world of radio communications.

The stated objective is to teach why FM radio communication reduces interference which normally afflicts AM radio communications. Fundamentals of AM and FM is a better description, however, because the first part of the video nicely teaches the principles of AM and FM radio communications. It isn’t until later in the clip that it delves into interference, advantages of FM modulation, and detailed functioning of FM radio. The delivery is slow at times and admittedly long, yet the pace is perfect for a young ham to follow along with plenty of time to soak in the knowledge. If you’re still on the fence about becoming a ham here’s some words or encouragement.

Though the video isn’t aimed at ham radio users it does address core knowledge needed by amateur radio hobbyists. Amateur radio is full of many exciting communication technologies and you should have a clear understanding of AM and FM communication methodologies before getting on Grandpa’s information super highway. Once you have your ham license (aka ticket) you have privileges to create and test amazing ham related hacks, like [Lior] implementing full programmable control of a Baofeng UV5R ham radio using an Arduino.

Join us after the break to watch the video.

[Read more...]

AM tube radio restored and given MP3 playback too

mp3-antique-radio

This AM radio looks a bit like it did coming out of the factory. But there are a lot of changes under the hood and that faceplate is a completely new addition. The project really is a restoration with some augmentation and [Michael Ross] did a great job of documenting the project.

The Kenyon radio was built in 1946 and uses vacuum tubes for the amplifier. Considering its age this was in relatively good shape and the first thing that [Michael] set out to do was to get the electronics working again. It involved replacing the messy collection of capacitors inside. He then cleaned up the tubes, checking for any problems, and put the electronics back together to find they work great!

He cleaned up the chassis and gave it a new coat of finish. The original dial plate was missing so he built a wood frame to match a dial scale he ordered. The bell-shaped brass cover hides the light that illuminates the dial.

He could have stopped there but how much do people really listen to AM radio these days? To make sure he would actually use the thing he added an Arduino with an MP3 shield. It patches into the antenna port via a relay, injecting modern tunes into the old amplifier circuit. Catch a glimpse of the final project in the video after the break.

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AM Chiptunes played by a modified antenna analyzer

Believe it or not, this VK5JST aerial analyzer kit is going to rickroll you. [Erich] wanted to see if he could use the device in a different way. His adventure led him to use it to feed different tones to an AM radio, producing the all too familiar [Rick Astley] offering.

There’s a fair bit of math that goes into getting the correct signals to generate a given pitch. But it basically boils down to patching into the hardware early in the RF generation. This way an audio signal can be rolled into the carrier frequency. Since this kit uses a PicAXE microcontroller with available source code it is rather easy to add audio input to tweak what the chip is putting out. But there is also some hardware tinkering to be done. Read more about that at the article linked above, and don’t forget to check out the bottom of that page to hear the final results.

AM Singer: a tiny AM transmitter


[Simon Orr] wrote in to tell us about his AM transmitter prototype that he plans to put into production in a few months. The build is based on an “Easy AM Transmitter” featured in this Instructables article.

Interestingly enough, this device is capable of transmitting in the 100KHz to 480KHz frequencies. The AM band goes from 520 KHz to 1610KHz, so in order to hear this signal, one must actually tune the radio to twice the emitted frequency. This allows one to tune into the harmonic frequency and receive a signal in this range.

Using the harmonic frequency to transmit is an interesting concept by itself. Additionally, the idea that one could build this device with or without the kit in the future should appeal to experienced hackers and those just starting out alike. Check out the “AM Singer” prototype video after the break. [Read more...]

Radios without power sources

[Goodhart] is sharing his process for building a couple different AM radios. It’s surprising how few components he’s using; the first build is just a germanium diode, some wire, and a piezo earpiece. But it strikes us that both of the radios he gives build instructions for have no power source. We’re also amused by the process of selecting the station. His example uses 770 AM, and requires you to take the wire and place it up in a tree with the two ends about 1216 feet apart. We think there’s something a bit off with the math, but with that much conductor to start with there might be enough induced current for you to actually hear something come out the piezo. We don’t think we’ll be trying this anytime soon, but we’d like to hear comments from those of you who do (or already have).

555 based AM radio transmitter

Bust out that 555 timer and use it to build your own AM radio transmitter. The circuit that [Rtty21] is using only needs the timer chip, an NPN transistor, three caps, three resistors, and a potentiometer. It generates an amplitude modulation signal around the 600 kHz range which you will be able to pick up with any normal AM radio. From the comments on the article it seems you’ll get around 30-40 feet of range out of the device. We don’t see this as a competitor for the FM spy microphone, but maybe you can use it as a diy baby monitor.

Plantenna: the plant antenna

The back story behind [Mike] experimenting with plants as AM radio transmission antennas antennae is rather interesting and worth the short read. But for those who just want the facts, [Mike] took an ATMega324, modified the PWM output into a sinusoidal AM signal (using a simple form of RLC circuitry), and connected the circuit to a plant no plants were harmed in the making of this project. The results? Well we’re not ones who would spoil the surprise, you’ll have to see for yourself in the video after the jump.

[Read more...]

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