Minimal Mighty Mite

If you’re getting started building your own ham radio gear, it’s hard to imagine a more low-tech transmitter than the Mighty Mite, but [Paul Hodges, KA5WPL] took it one step further and rolled his own variable capacitor. (That’s the beer can with tape and alligator clips that you see on the left.)

A Mighty Mite is barely a radio at all. One transistor, capacitor, crystal and inductor in the form of a bunch of wire wrapped around a pill bottle form a minimalist oscillator, and then by keying this on and off with a switch, you’re sending Morse code. [Bill Meara], of the Soldersmoke Podcast, has been a passionate advocate of the Mighty Mite, suggesting that it can be made by scrounging the 3.57954 MHz colorburst crystal from an old analog TV set, which tunes the radio to a legal frequency for ham radio operators. (It will also probably work with other low-MHz crystals from your junkbox, but it won’t necessarily be legal.)

michigan_mighty_mite_schematicIf the crystal is “easily” scavengeable, and the rest of the radio is easily home-made, the tuning capacitor (obtainable from old AM/FM radios) can become the sticking point. So [Paul] cut up two aluminum “beverage” cans, wrapped the inner one in electrical tape, hooked up wires and made his own variable capacitor. By sliding the cans in or out so that more or less of them overlap, he can tune the radio to exactly the crystal’s natural frequency.

If you’re interested in building a Mighty Mite, you should definitely look at the topic on Soldersmoke. There are more build instructions online as well as plans for an optional filter to take off the harmonics if you’re feeling ambitious.

If you’re not a Morse code wiz, we can’t help but note that you could replace the key with a simple FET (we’d use a 2N7000, but whatever) and then you’ve got the radio under microcontroller control. Scavenge through Hackaday’s recent Morse code projects for ideas, and we’re sure you’ll come up with something good.

Continue reading “Minimal Mighty Mite”

Hackaday Links: August 23, 2015

Dutch security conference! It’s called, it’ll be in The Hague during the last week of September, and they have the CTO of Silent Circle/Blackphone giving the keynote.

Baltimore’s awesome despite what the majority of the population says, and they have a few hackerspaces. One of them has an Indiegogo going right now to save the space. Want a tour of the space? Here you go.

[Fran Blanche] made it on to the Amp Hour. Included in this episode are discussions about the boutique guitar pedal market and the realities of discarded technology that took us to the moon.

Speaking of electronics podcasts, SolderSmoke is 10 years old now.

TARDIS-shaped guitars are nothing new, but [Gary] from the LVL1 hackerspace in Louisville, KY is making an acoustic one. The neck is, of course, taken from another guitar but the entire TARDIS-shaped body is custom-made. Now do resonance calculations on something that’s bigger on the inside.

Think German-made means German quality? [AvE], [Chris], or whatever we call him did a teardown of a Festool Track Saw. It’s a thousand dollar tool that will start to stink in a few years and has bearings that don’t make any sense.

Love 8-bit? There’s a Kickstarter from 8-bit generation for a documentary about the love, loss, resurrection and continuation of old computers. Dozens of very interesting interviews including one from our own [Bil Herd]

Digital “Crystal” Breathes New Life into Old Radio

[Bill Meara] of the Soldersmoke Podcast has a nice old Drake 2B radio, and wanted to use it for the 12 meter amateur band. These old radios normally make switching tuning bands easy — you just swap out one frequency crystal for another and you’re set.

Only [Bill] didn’t have the 21 MHz crystal that he needed. No problem, because he had a junk crystal, a hacksaw, and a modern direct-digital synthesis (DDS) chip sitting around. So he takes the donor crystal, cuts it open, and solders the two wires directly from the DDS to the crystal’s pins. Now he’s got a plug-in replacement digital oscillator that doesn’t require modifying the nice old Drake receiver at all. A sweet little trick.

The video’s a little bit long, but the money shot comes in around 5:00.

Now, one might worry about simply plugging a powered circuit (the DDS) in place of a passive element (the crystal), but it seems to work and the proof of the pudding is in the tasting. We wonder how far this digitally-controlled-analog-receiver idea could be extended.

WSPRing across the Atlantic


Host of the Soldersmoke podcast, [Bill Meara], contributed this guest post.

WSPR is a new communications protocol written by radio amateur and Nobel Prize winner [Joe Taylor]. Like the very slow QRSS system described in a previous post, WSPR (Weak Signal Propagation Reporter) trades speed for bandwidth and allows for the reception of signals that are far below the level of radio noise. WSPR takes “low and slow” communications several important steps ahead, featuring strong error correction, high reliability, and (and this is really fun part) the automatic uploading (via the net) of reception reports — [Taylor]’s WSPR web page constantly gathers reports and produces near real-time Google maps of showing who is hearing who. The WSPR mode is very hack-able: [Bill Meara] is running a 20 milliwatt homebrew transmitter from Rome, Italy that features an audio amplifier from a defunct computer speaker pictured below. This contraption recently crossed the Atlantic and was picked up by the Princeton, New Jersey receiving station of WSPR’s esteemed creator, [Joe Taylor]. Continue reading “WSPRing across the Atlantic”

QRSS: Radio amateurs’ slow-speed narrowband


Host of the Soldersmoke podcast, [Bill Meara], contributed this guest post.

While the rest of the world is moving toward high speed broadband, some hams—including one Nobel Prize winner—are going in exactly the opposite direction. Our ‘QRSS’ mode makes use of an unusual mixture of modern digital signal processing (DSP), ancient Morse code, and simple homebrewed transmitters. Very narrow bandwidth is desirable because this reduces the noise in the radio communication channel, greatly improving the S/N ratio.  But Shannon’s communication theory tells us that narrow bandwidth comes with a cost: slow data rates. In QRSS, beacon transmitters using only milliwatts churn out slow speed Morse ID signals on 10.140 MHz that are routinely picked up by DSP-based receivers on the other side of the globe. Many of the receivers, ‘grabbers’, have visual outputs that are available online in real time. QRSS has been getting a lot of attention on the Soldersmoke podcast and on the Soldersmoke Blog. For more information check out this overview and the hardware involved. Here’s a gallery of received signals.