Diagnose and Repair a Yaesu FT-7800 Ham Radio

Yaesu FT-7800 Ham Radio

[Alan Wolke] aka [w2aew] was challenged to repair a friends Yaesu FT-7800 ham radio. This radio operates on two ham bands, 2 m VHF and 70 cm UHF. The complaint was that the 2 m side was not working but the 70 cm was transmitting fine. Alan started by verifying the complaint using a Bird watt meter with a 50 watt slug and terminating the signal into a 50 W dummy load. [Allen’s] bird meter is the type that has an RF sampler that can be connected to an oscilloscope for added signal viewing and validation.

After verifying that the radio was not working as described, Alan starts by glancing over the circuit board to look for any obvious damage. He then walks us through a block diagram as well as a circuit diagram of the FT-7800 radio before stepping us through the troubleshooting and diagnostics of radio repair. Even when he realizes he might have found the problem he still steps us through the remainder of his diagnostics. The skills and knowledge that Alan shares is extremely valuable to anybody looking to repair radios.

Spoiler alert. At the end of the first video he determines that the pin diodes near the final VHF output were bad. In the second video he reveals that he could no longer source these bad components. Through some clever evaluation of a more current Yaesu radio, [Allen] was able to find suitable replacement components. Lesson two ends with some surface mount solder rework tips as well as testing that the repair was successful.

And just in case you don’t know what a pin diode is, or is used for, Alan shares a third video covering just what this component is and does in a radio. You can follow the jump to watch all three videos.

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Transmitting data with a Pi and RTL-SDR

radio

Sometimes the best builds aren’t anything new, but rather combining two well-developed hacks. [Marc] was familiar with RTL-SDR, the $30 USB TV tuner come software defined radio, but was surprised no one had yet combined this cheap radio dongle with the ability to transmit radio from a Raspberry Pi. [Marc] combined these two builds and came up with the cheapest portable radio modem for the Raspberry Pi.

Turning the Raspi into a transmitter isn’t really that hard; it only requires a 20cm wire inserted into a GPIO pin, then toggling this pin at about 100 MHz. This resulting signal can be picked up fifty meters away, and through walls, even.

[Marc] combined this radio transmitter with minimodem, a program that generates audio modem tones at the required baud rate. Data is encoded in this audio stream, sent over the air, and decoded again with an RTL-SDR dongle.

It’s nothing new, per se, but if you’re looking for a short-range, low-bandwidth wireless connection between a computer and a Raspberry Pi, this is most certainly the easiest and cheapest method.

Weightless, the Internet of Things Chip, Becomes Less Vaporware

weightless

Several months ago, we caught wind of Weightless, a $2 chip that will run for 10 years on a AA battery and communicate to a Weightless base station 10 Km away. Yes, this is the fabled Internet of Things chip that will allow sensors of every type to communicate with servers around the world. It looks like Weightless is becoming less and less vaporware, as evidenced by the Weightless SIG hardware roadmap; Weightless modules might be in the hands of makers and designers in just a few short months.

Weightless is an extremely low-cost wireless module that operates in the radio spectrum previously occupied by analog broadcast television. This is a great place for the Internet of Things, as signals in this spectrum have a lot of range and the ability to go through walls. These signals are sent to a Weightless base station where they are then sent over the Internet to servers around the world.

The Weightless SIG has been hard at work producing new silicon, with the third generation of chips heading for volume production next month. The only thing this chip requires is a battery and an antenna, making Weightless integration for new designs and projects a snap.

There’s one thing Weightless is not, and that’s a free, high-speed connection to the Internet with a $2 adapter. Weightless is designed for sensors that only transmit a kilobyte or so a day – medical sensors, irrigation control, and other relatively boring things. There’s a summary video from the recent 2013 Weightless SIG Summit going over all this information below.

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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.

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Trash to treasure Bluetooth radio and tube amp build

trash-to-treasure-internet-radio

The before image doesn’t look all that bad but we were still impressed with what went into the restoration of this radio. Perhaps restoration isn’t the right word since it didn’t manage to hold on to any of the original internals. This is more resurrection of a retro radio case for use as a Bluetooth radio.

At first look we didn’t notice that the original knobs were missing. The speaker fabric is ripped and the glass on the tuning dial is broken as well. [Yaaaam] happened to have another antique radio with interesting knobs — but he didn’t just transplant them. He made a mold of one knob and cast three replacements for the radio. After refinishing the wood he replaced the fabric and things were really starting to look up.

All of the electronic components were removed and a new tube amp was built on the original metal chassis. It uses a Bluetooth module for input which facilitates using your smart phone as the playback device without involving any wires or other nonsense. Two problems popped up after the project was completed. The first replacement power supply overheated. The second replacement had a different problem, needing some additional shielding to prevent noise from creating unwanted… noise.

This looks so much better than modern injection molded plastic shelf systems. But there are some fun wireless hacks out there for those too.

Aux-in on a 30 Year Old Boombox

finished

[Michael] just sent us this nice example of some good ol’ fashioned radio hacking.

He originally received the radio from his grandmother, and while he doesn’t listen to the radio much, he felt he couldn’t just let it go to waste. So like any good hacker he cracked open the case and took a look inside.

The beauty with radios from the 80′s is the simplicity of it all. They typically have single layer PCBs and nice big components which makes it so much easier to tinker with.

He used a bench power supply to bypass the main transformer for safety’s sake, and began probing the various points. The cassettes audio output was the easiest to find, but unfortunately it required the play button to be activated. Not wanting to lose functionality (or have an annoying rattling cassette mechanism), he continued probing and eventually found similar wires coming from the radio part of the PCB. Upon further probing he discovered he could trick the radio band button so that the radio would be off, but the output could still be used. After that it was just a matter of wiring, soldering, and adding an auxiliary plug to the case.

We’ve covered lots of auxiliary port hacks in the past, but this one is a great example of saving old technology from the dump.

[Thanks Michael!]

Digital camera becomes video transmitter

canon

In the arena of high altitude balloons, Canon’s PowerShot series of digicams are the camera du jour for sending high into the stratosphere. There’s a particular reason for this: these cameras can run the very capable CHDK firmware that turns a $100 digicam into a camera with a built-in intervalometer along with a whole bunch of really cool features. It appears this CHDK firmware is much more powerful than we imagined, because [Chris] is now transmitting pictures taken from a Canon a530 to the ground, using only the CHDK firmware and a cheap radio module.

These PowerShot cameras have an ARM processor inside that runs VxWorks, a minimal but very capable OS for embedded devices and Mars rovers. By tying in to the Tx and Rx lines of the camera, [Chris] can issue commands to the OS, change settings, and even install his own code.

With the help of [Phil Heron]‘s SSDV encoder written in C, [Chris] was able to get the camera to transmit images  with a small radio transmitter that fits in the battery compartment. Right now, [Chris] has only built the CHDK + SSDV for the Canon a530, but with how useful this build is, we expect to see an improved version very shortly.