Friday Hack Chat: Fundamentals Of RF

Designing a system for communication over RF is a dark art. It’s an obscure domain filled with photonmancy, wires going every which way, and imaginary numbers. RF is reserved entirely for wizards. The guy who simplified Maxwell’s equations into the form we now use went literally insane and replaced all the furniture in his house with granite blocks. This is weird stuff, man.

For this week’s Hack Chat, we’re talking about RF. Everything from the capabilities of different bands, how bandwidth is incorporated into designs, different modulation schemes, RF concepts, I/Q, Nyquist, and other deep-dive topics that elucidate the mysteries of the universe and include all the math.

If you’ve ever wondered how bits get turned into radio waves, what all the PSKs and SSBs are all about, and how bandwidth and range of a radio system play into what frequencies are used, this is the Hack Chat for you.

Our guest for this week’s Hack Chat is [Nick Kartsioukas]. He’s an infosec engineer, an amateur radio operator with an Extra license, hardware hacker, plays around with radio and antenna projects, SDR, and he’s an RC pilot. There’s a lot of RF swimming around [Nick], and he’s got the skills to pay the bills.

This is a community Hack Chat, and we’re taking questions from the community. If you have a question or something you’d like to discuss, add it to the sheet.

join-hack-chatOur Hack Chats are live community events on the Hack Chat group messaging. This Hack Chat is going down noon, PDT, Friday, November 3rd. Do you wish every time zone was UTC? Yeah, it’s a great idea, but when you really think about it, it would be terrible. Here’s a time zone converter!

Click that speech bubble to the left, and you’ll be taken directly to the Hack Chat group on

You don’t have to wait until Friday; join whenever you want and you can see what the community is talking about.

We’re also looking for new Hack Chat hosts! If you’ve built something cool, you’re working on an interesting project, or you’re about to introduce a really cool product, hit us up! Email our wonderful community managers, and we’ll see if we can slot you in.

10 thoughts on “Friday Hack Chat: Fundamentals Of RF

  1. Ah great a Friday Hack Chat which I am seeing on a Wednesday Evening/Thursday Morning @ GMT+8
    Is there another time zone I need to be apprised about perchance – is the USA on this planet – I do wonder ?
    Np, see this is a pre-empt so lets get to it, what fun :-)
    Might I add comment re the paras in sequence:-
    1. The classic determinism vs probabilism – so hey granite blocks settle something re the former
    2. Nice collection & lets not forget the abstract value of sqrt(-1) re phase operators & if QM is true
    then a few other operators as well – which of course falls into Kurt Goedel’s paradigm again :-)
    3. The wonder of permutations re encoding – how connected with Noether & Godel & maybe beyond ;-)
    4. Nice collection of attributes, what fruit can this bear in practicalities at any level to come ?
    5. Great, cool – earnest thoughtful contributions to stretch the comfort zone, more – yes please :-)

    Cheers, thats all folks.

    Seriously guys, contributions are worth the effort & thanks for adding folicles indeed. looking
    forward to meat in the sandwich with a bit of spice to tantalise, great stuff :-)

  2. “The guy who simplified Maxwell’s equations into the form we now use went literally insane and replaced all the furniture in his house with granite blocks.”

    Sounds a worse job hazard than carpal tunnel.

    1. So, based on the article information linked.. chicken dots in the examples given don’t really make any significant different under 30GHz.. Still, pretty significant difference above that. Thankfully FDTD and similar methods these days help to avoid (or reliably create during design) this kind of thing. Thanks for the link!

      1. @guest, You said, “Thankfully FDTD and similar methods these days help to avoid (or reliably create during design) this kind of thing.”

        Yes but solo flyers like me in microwave design can’t afford the tens of thousands of dollars it costs per-seat for the licenses associated with commercial FDTD (Finite Difference Time Domain) simulators. So I fly old-school using open source tools, but more-so just physically hacking at the board level. The Microwaves 101 example I linked to appears to live on a ceramic substrate. Chicken-Dots are still an effective way to go even on FR4 boards, but usually they’re done with a mixture of plated-through via dots and/or top-layer dots. On FR4, which typically is used at L-band or below for prototyping, leave a lot of edge margin and always tweak inside the enclosure (yeah, everything’s different with and without the cover on/off). Thanks for your reply… Drone

  3. For the curious, the guy that went nuts was Oliver Heaviside.

    From Wikipedia:
    “In later years his behavior became quite eccentric. According to associate B. A. Behrend, he became a recluse who was so averse to meeting people that he delivered the manuscripts of his Electrician papers to a grocery store, where the editors picked them up.[16] Though he had been an active cyclist in his youth, his health seriously declined in his sixth decade. During this time Heaviside would sign letters with the initials “W.O.R.M.” after his name. Heaviside also reportedly started painting his fingernails pink and had granite blocks moved into his house for furniture.[3]: xx In 1922, he became the first recipient of the Faraday Medal, which was established that year.”

  4. This HaD is a good example of not AC sonic frequency Electronics world and/or DC operations.

    The traces, wires and circuits can be like pipes that flow other forces/materials and have to be tuned like antennas/plumbing for each section of the circuit if the way I look at the RF Electronics and Engineering world is correct. Way more shielding considerations also.

    Then when you deal with alternate technologies and make people millions and billions you get groupies that want to act like they’re friendly and are not that are more like John Nevil Maskelyne with a Giovanni Aldini and Andrew Ure wireless methodology mafia style casing out not now days only across the street or hallway where I can see why granite would be more challenging to resonate than most household items especially if you don’t have a Bell Labs Anechoic Chamber.

  5. UTC in for the most part in painless, even if the need to be mindful of the international date line, is factored in. IMO when there’s an international audience UTC should be used as the appointed time, the conversion to one’s local time has never been difficult, no matter how much the lazy complain. In the real world 10:00 AM will pass here without my remembering this event although RF in one of my things.

Leave a Reply

Please be kind and respectful to help make the comments section excellent. (Comment Policy)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.