Amateur radio field day is upon us

Looking for something to do this fine Saturday morning? For the US and Canadian readers out there, the fourth weekend in June is amateur radio field day, a day when all the amateur radio and ham geeks get together, string up a few antennas, and do their yearly community outreach/contact as many other radio heads as possible.

This weekend, there are more than 1600 field day events taking place all across the US and Canada. Odds are, you’re not more than a half hour drive from a field day event; you can find the closest one with the AARL’s handy Google Map of field day locations.

Since last year, we’ve seen a whole host of cool stuff to do with radio including a $20 software defined radio. If getting your license is too big of a step for you right now, you could at least plug a USB TV tuner dongle into your computer and see what is possible with radio. As a neat little bonus, you don’t even need a license for SDR. You might need a better antenna, and the ham guys at field day will be more than happy to point you into the right direction.

Using a touch sensor as a telegraph key

[Sebastian] is learning Morse code and CW radio, and of course he needed a telegraph key. Instead of using the terribly unergonomic paddle style key, he built a capacitive touch iambic key over the course of a few evenings.

An iambic key usually has two switches. When one switch is closed, it will transmit a ‘dit’. When the other switch is closed, it will transmit a ‘dah’. Instead of using mechanical paddles, [Sebastian] brought his iambic key into the 21st century by using a touch sensor. An ATtiny45 measures the time it takes for a single metal plate to fully charge. It’s the same idea behind the wonderful Arduino CapSense library.

This isn’t the first capacitive-touch iambic key we’ve seen; this little guy is just a pair of metal contacts and resistors that plug right into an Arduino. With an ATtiny45, [Sebastian]‘s build is a full-blown iambic telegraph key that plugs right into his CW rig. You can check out the walk through of the project along with [Sebastian] trying out his iambic key after the break.

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Telegraph key makes for a fantastic Twitter input

In the interests of interface archaeology, [Martin] sent in the Tworse Key, a telegraph key that posts to Twitter using Morse code. It’s a fantastic build that nearly looks like something out of the 1900s.

We’ve seen a ton of Morse keyboards over the years, but never one so well-engineered for a single purpose. The guts and brains of the Tworse Key is an Arduino Ethernet that connect to Twitter over the API. The Tworse Key automagically posts all the Morse messages to Twitter. The Tworse Key may have fallen off the table a few times in the past 24 hours, but we do see a few purposeful messages like ‘sos’ and [Bell]‘s preferred telephone salutation.

We could say that nobody uses straight telegraph keys anymore, but outside a few hardcore CW HAM radio guys nobody uses Morse anymore. This isn’t meant to be used as an everyday input device, though. It’s more of an exercise in interface archaeology. That being said, an iambic key would be a far more ergonomic solution. Check out the video of the Tworse Key after the break.

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Hellduino: Hellschreiber radio transmissions from an Arduino board

[Mark VandeWettering] was experimenting with a simple transmitting circuit and an Arduino. The circuit in the project was designed by [Steve Weber] to broadcast temperature and telemetry data using Morse Code. But [Mark] wanted to step beyond that protocol and set out to write a sketch that broadcasts using the Hellschreiber protocol.

This protocol transmits glyph images, which are decoded as you see above. For some reason we can’t help but think this is like Captcha for radio enthusiasts. We have seen Hellschreiber used with AVR microcontrollers before, but this is the first Arduino implementation that we’ve come across. [Mark] does a great job of demonstrating his project in the video after the break. He mentions that the transmitter has no antenna, but is still being picked up by his receiving antenna mounted behind his house.

Since [Mark] doesn’t really cover the hardware he used, you will need to look back at [Steve's] original design schematics for more information.

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Beating the wrong amateur balloon record

Friday, we covered a little project that attempted to beat the UK altitude record for an amateur balloon launch. Things don’t always go as planned, but the APEX team did manage to beat the several other UK records, including ones for the longest distance and flight duration for a latex balloon.

The APEX team was originally trying to beat the altitude record set by [Darkside] and his Horus 15.5 payload that made it to 40,575 meters. The APEX balloon was launched and slowly climbed over the North Sea to the expected burst point. Unfortunately for the trackers, the balloon leveled off at about 36km and just kept going.

The total Great Circle distance of the APEX Alpha flight was 1347km, with a total flight time of 12 hours, 20 minutes. The balloon eventually drifted out the radio range of anyone aware of the project. Despite the valiant efforts of HAMs across Europe, APEX Alpha was lost in the “HAM wastelands of Eastern Europe,” somewhere over Poland.

Even though the APEX team lost contact with their balloon, Alpha was still transmitting at the time. The balloon surely burst at this point, so it could have landed anywhere from Poland to Ukraine to Russia. The APEX team is offering a reward for finding Alpha, so if you see a small styrofoam box in Eastern Europe, drop the APEX boys a line.

Of course this flight couldn’t have taken place without the efforts of HAMs across Europe. [Darkside], [2E0UPU], and so many others helped out with the tracking as Alpha passed over the Netherlands and continued towards Berlin. The last contact was made by the awesome [OZ1SKY], who was very gracious to stay up until the wee hours of Sunday morning.

Not a bad flight for something that was supposed to take a swim in the North Sea. If you’d like to see the raw data from the flight, the APEX team posted everything they pulled down.

A ham radio receiver, Manhattan Style


If you’ve never heard of “Manhattan Style” circuit construction, you’re not alone. Popular in ham radio circles, the process looks nicer than straight dead bug style circuit building, but not as involved as etching your own PCB – consider it a nice middle of the road solution.

This type of construction is often used to build circuits inside enclosures that are made of copper clad, which is a somewhat common practice among ham radio operators. Manhattan Style circuits are built using glued-on metal pads to which components are mounted. One might think that the large pads you see in the image above would limit you to through-hole components, but that’s definitely not the case. A wide array of SMD pads are available in common pin configurations as well, allowing you to use pretty much any type of component you prefer.

While it might not be appropriate for every project you work on, Manhattan Style circuits and copper clad boxes definitely add a nice touch to certain items, like the Wheatstone Bridge Regenerative Receiver you see above.

[via Make]

[Jeri Ellsworth] builds a software radio

[Jeri Ellsworth] has been working on a direct conversion receiver using an FPGA as an oscillator and a PC sound card DSP. Being the excellent presenter she is, she first goes through the history and theory of radio reception (fast forward to 1:30), before digging into the meat of the build (parts 2 and 3 are also available).

[Read more...]


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