A crystal radio is a common enough science fair project, but the problem is, there isn’t much on anymore. The answer is, of course, obvious: build your own AM transmitter, too. AM modulation isn’t that hard to do and [Science Buddies] has plans for how to build one with a canned oscillator and an audio transformer.
We don’t imagine the quality of this would be so good, but for a kid’s science project it might be worth a shot. Maybe something like “What kind of materials block radio waves?” would be a good project statement.
Continue reading “A Simple Science Fair AM Transmitter”
Next time you get a new device and excitedly unwrap its little poly-wrapped power supply, remember this: for every switch-mode power supply you plug in, an amateur radio operator sheds a tear. A noisy, broadband, harmonic-laden tear.
The degree to which this fact disturbs you very much depends upon which side of the mic you’re on, but radio-frequency interference, or RFI, is something we should all at least be aware of. [Josh (KI6NAZ)] is keenly aware of RFI in his ham shack, but rather than curse the ever-rising noise floor he’s come up with some helpful tips for hunting down and eliminating it – or at least reducing its impact.
Attacking the problem begins with locating the sources of RFI, for which [Josh] used the classic “one-circuit-at-a-time” approach – kill every breaker in the panel and monitor the noise floor while flipping each breaker back on. This should at least give you a rough idea of where the offending devices are in your house. From there, [Josh] used a small shortwave receiver to locate problem areas, like the refrigerator, the clothes dryer, and his shack PC. The family flat-screen TV proved to be quite noisy too. Remediation techniques include wrapping every power cord and cable around toroids or clamping ferrite cores around them, both on the offending devices and in the shack. He even went so far as to add a line filter to the dryer to clamp down on its unwanted interference.
Judging by his waterfall displays, [Josh]’s efforts paid off, bringing his noise floor down from S5 to S1 or so. It’s too bad he had to take matters into his own hands – it’s not like the FCC and other spectrum watchdogs don’t know there’s a problem, after all.
Continue reading “The RFI Hunter: Looking For Noise In All The Wrong Places”
Among amateur radio enthusiasts, there’s a subset of users who climb mountainous areas to use their gear from elevated positions. Anyone looking to take part in what’s known as Summits on the Air (SOTA) will obviously want to keep their equipment as light and small as possible. For [Stuart Thomas], that meant a collapsible yagi antenna he could easily pack away.
But one day he wondered why he was carrying around a separate antenna boom when his aluminum hiking pole would make a perfectly good substitute. All he had to do was figure out a way to mount the elements to the pole in a way that could be easily assembled in the field. He initially tried to use the sort of insulated electrical clamps used to hold down conduit, but he found they weren’t quite what he was after.
[Stuart] eventually ended up designing and 3D printing his own element mounts that use an M3 bolt to tightly clamp onto the hiking pole, preventing them from twisting while still being very lightweight and easy to adjust. To further reduce the packed size of the antenna, he cut each element in half with a pipe cutter and flared the ends slightly so he could reassemble them on location with inserts.
Even if you aren’t the type of person who owns hiking poles, let alone climbs mountains for fun, there’s still plenty of interesting applications for a lightweight yagi antenna. We’ve seen custom yagis built out of carbon fiber before and of course cobbling one together out of PVC and tape measures is a classic hack, but we think the solution [Stuart] has come up with strikes a nice balance between the extremes.
Continue reading “Hiking Pole Turned Lightweight Yagi Antenna”
In theory, you shouldn’t need any help to develop a software-defined radio (SDR) application. But in real life you really don’t want to roll your own code every time to read the IQ samples, perform various transformations on them, and then drive audio output. At worst, you’ll use some libraries (perhaps GNU Radio) but usually, you’ll use some higher-level construct such as GNU Radio Companion (GRC). GRC is a bit heavyweight, though, so if you’ve found it daunting before, you might check out some of the material on the LuaRadio website.
We’ve looked at LuaRadio several years ago, but it has undergone a lot of changes since then and has some excellent documentation. Like Lua itself, LuaRadio emphasizes fast scripting. It supports quite a few pieces of common hardware and nearly anything that feeds data through a soundcard.
Continue reading “LuaRadio Gives Insight Into SDR”
The SDR revolution has brought a bonanza of opportunities for experimentation to the radio enthusiast, but with it has come a sometimes-confusing array of software for which even installation can be a difficult prospect for an SDR novice. If you’re bamboozled by it all then help may be at hand courtesy of [Luigi Cruz], who has packaged a suite of ready-to-go popular SDR software in an OS image for the Raspberry Pi.
On board the Raspbian-based OS image are SDR Angel, Soapy Remote, GQRX, GNURadio, LimeUtil, and LimeVNA. In hardware terms the RTL-SDR is supported, along with the LimeSDR, PlutoSDR, Airspy, and Airspy HF. All are completely ready-to-go and even have desktop shortcuts, so if the CLI scares you then you can still dive in and play. More importantly it’s designed for use with SDR transmitters as well as receivers, so the barrier for full SDR operation for radio amateurs has become significantly lower too.
This year has seen the seven-year anniversary of the RTL-SDR hack that probably did most to kickstart the use of SDRs in our community. Our colleague [Tom Nardi] wrote a retrospective that’s worth a look for its overview of some SDR tricks that have evolved over that time. Meanwhile if you don’t mind restricting your outlook somewhat, it’s possible to turn the Raspberry Pi 3 into an SDR all without any extra hardware.
The HP 11947A is something of a footnote in the back catalogue of Hewlett Packard test equipment. An attenuator and limiter with a bandwidth in the megahertz rather than the gigahertz. It’s possible that few laboratories have much use for one in 2019, but it does have one useful property: a full set of schematics and technical documentation. [James Wilson] chose the device as the subject of a clone using surface mount devices.
The result is very satisfyingly within spec, and he’s run a battery of tests to prove it. As he says, the HP design is a good one to start with. As a device containing only passive components and with a maximum frequency in the VHF range this is a project that makes a very good design exercise for anyone interested in RF work or even who wishes to learn a bit of RF layout. At these frequencies there are still a significant number of layout factors that can affect performance, but the effect of conductor length and stray capacitance is less than the much higher frequencies typically used by wireless-enabled microcontrollers.
I’ve been told all my life about old-timey Army/Navy surplus stores where you could buy buckets of FT-243 crystals, radio gear, gas masks, and even a Jeep boxed-up in a big wooden crate. Sadly this is no longer the case. Today surplus stores only have contemporary Chinese-made boots, camping gear, and flashlights. They are bitterly disappointing except for one surplus store that I found while on vacation in the Adirondacks: Patriot of Lake George.
There I found a unicorn of historical significance; an un-modified-since-WW2 surplus CBY-46104 receiver with dynamotor. The date of manufacture was early-war, February 1942. This thing was preserved as good as the day it was removed from its F4F Hellcat. No ham has ever laid a soldering iron or a drill bit to it. Could this unit have seen some action in the south Pacific? Imagine the stories it could tell!
My unconventional restoration of this radio followed strict rules so as to minimize the evidence of repair both inside and out yet make this radio perform again as though it came fresh off the assembly line. Let’s see how I did.
Continue reading “WWII Aircraft Radio Roars To Life: What It Takes To Restore A Piece Of History”