A 3-6-9 Antenna Pulls In The Signals

Every time we see a dispatch from [Mr. Carlson], we imagine it is being beamed from his orbital station packed full of vintage radio gear. We are certain the reality is more terrestrial, but if we were going to build an orbiting lab, it might look like [Carlson’s] shack. In his latest communique, he shares his progress working on a high-performance 3-6-9 receiving antenna design and you can see it in the video below.

Although the antenna isn’t done, it is already working and looks impressive. There’s a lot of wire, so this probably isn’t a condo-friendly solution. The name of the antenna derives from the three wires, one tuned for 3 MHz, one for 6 MHz, and the other for 9 MHz.

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Traditional Analogue And An FPGA Make This Junkbox HF Receiver A Bit Special

We will have all at some point seen a fascinating project online, only to find not enough information to really appreciate and understand it. Such a project came [Bill Meara]’s way over at the SolderSmoke podcast, and he was fortunately able to glean more from its creator. What [Tom] had made from junkbox parts was a fairly traditional analogue receiver for the 20m amateur band which would be quite an achievement in itself, but what makes it special is its use of an FPGA to augment the analogue tuning.

A traditional analogue radio has a local oscillator which is mixed with the signal from the antenna, and an intermediate frequency of the difference between oscillator and desired signal is filtered from the result and amplified. The oscillator on older receivers would have used a free running tuned circuit, while a newer device might use a phase-locked loop to derive a stable frequency from a crystal.

What [Tom]’s receiver does is take a free-running traditional receiver and use the FPGA as a helper. It has a frequency meter that drives the display, but it also uses the measured figure to adjust the oscillator and keep it on frequency. It has two modes; while tuning it’s a traditional analogue receiver, but when left alone the FPGA stops it drifting. We like it, it’s definitely a special project.

We’ve featured a lot of radio receivers over the years, and this certainly isn’t the only one that’s a bit unconventional.

SBITX: Hackable HF SDR For The Raspberry Pi

Cheap, easy to use SDR dongles are an immensely powerful tool for learning about radio technology. However, building your own SDR is not something too many hackers are confident to tackle. [Ashhar Farhan, VU2ESE] hopes to change this with the sBITX, a hackable HF SDR transceiver designed around the Raspberry Pi.

[Ashhar] introduced the project in talk at the virtual “Four Days In May” annual conference of the QRP Amateur Radio Club International. Watch the full talk in the video after the break. He first goes over the available open source SDR radios, and then delves into his design decisions for the sBITX. One of the primary goals of the project was to lower the barrier of entry. To do this, he chose the Raspberry Pi as base, and wrote C code that that anyone who has done a bit of Arduino programming should be able to understand and modify. The hardware is designed to be as simple as possible. On the receive side, a simple superheterodyne architecture is used to feed a 25 kHz wide slice of RF spectrum to an audio codec, which send the digitized audio to the Raspberry Pi. The signal is then demodulated in software using FFT. For transmit, the signal is generated in software, and then upconverted to the desired RF frequency. [Ashhar] also created a GUI for the 7″ Raspberry Pi screen.

At the moment the sBITX is still in the development stage, information is spread between the video after the break, it’s accompanying PDF, the GitHub repo, and a thread on the BITX20 group.

[Ashar Farhan] is well known in the ham radio community for low cost radio designs like the BITX, and it’s successor, the μBITX. He also created the Antuino, an Arduino based antenna tester. Continue reading “SBITX: Hackable HF SDR For The Raspberry Pi”

A One-Transistor Ham Transmitter Anyone Can Build

What attracts a lot of people to amateur radio is that it gives you the ability to make your own gear. Scratch-building hams usually start by making their own antennas, but eventually, the itch to build one’s own radio must be scratched. And building this one-transistor transmitter is just about the simplest way to dive into the world of DIY radio.

Of course, limiting yourself to eight components in total entails making some sacrifices, and [Kostas (SV3ORA)]’s transmitter is clearly a study in compromise. For starters, it’s only a transmitter, so you’ll need to make other arrangements to have a meaningful conversation. You’ll also have to learn Morse code because the minimalist build only supports continuous-wave (CW) mode, although it can be modified for amplitude modulation (AM) voice work.

The circuit is flexible enough that almost any part can be substituted and the transmitter will still work. Most of the parts are junk-bin items, although the main transformer is something you’ll have to wind by hand. As described, the transformer not only provides feedback to the transistor oscillator, but also has a winding that powers an incandescent pilot lamp, and provides taps for attaching antennas of different impedances — no external tuner needed. [SV3ORA] provides detailed transformer-winding instructions and shows the final build, which looks very professional and tidy. The video below shows the rig in action with a separate receiver providing sidetone; there’s also the option of using one of the WebSDR receivers sprinkled around the globe to verify you’re getting out.

This little transmitter looks like a ton of fun to build, and we may just try it for our $50 Ham series if we can find all the parts. Honestly, the hardest to come by might be the variable capacitor, but there are ways around that too.

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ATMega328 SSB SDR For Ham Radio

The humble ATmega328 microcontroller, usually packaged as an Arduino Uno, is the gateway drug for millions of people into the world of electronics and embedded programming. Some people just can’t pass up the challenge of seeing how far they can push the old workhorse, and it looks like [Guido PE1NNZ] is one of those. He has managed to implement a software-defined SSB ham radio transceiver for the HF bands on the ATMega328, and it looks like the project is going places.

The radio started life as a QRP Labs QCX, a $49 single-band CW (morse code) HF transceiver kit that is already one of the cheapest ways to get on the HF bands. [Guido] reduced the part count of the radio by about 50%, implementing much of the signal processing digitally on the ATmega328. On the transmitter side, the SSB signal is generated by making slight frequency changes to a Si5351 clock generator using 800kbit/s I2C, and controlling a very efficient class-E RF power amplifier with PWM for about 5W of output power. The increased efficiency means that there is no need for the bulky heat sink usually seen on SSB radios. The radio is continuously tunable from 80m to 10m (3.5 Mhz – 30 Mhz), but it does require plugging in a different low pass filters for each band. Continue reading “ATMega328 SSB SDR For Ham Radio”

A Radio Transceiver From A Cable Modem Chipset

It’s a staple of our community’s work, to make electronic devices do things their manufacturers never intended for them. Analogue synthesisers using CMOS logic chips for example, or microcontrollers that bitbang Ethernet packets without MAC hardware. One of the most fascinating corners of this field comes in the form of software defined radios (SDRs), with few of us not owning an RTL2832-based digital TV receiver repurposed as an SDR receiver.

The RTL SDR is not the only such example though, for there is an entire class of cable modem chipsets that contain the essential SDR building blocks. The Hermes-Lite is an HF amateur radio transceiver project that uses an AD9866 cable modem chip as the signal end for its 12-bit SDR transceiver hardware with an FPGA between it and an Ethernet interface. It covers frequencies from 0 to 38.4 MHz, has 384 kHz of bandwidth, and can muster up 5W of output power.

It’s a project that’s been on our radar for the past few years, though somewhat surprisingly this is the first mention of it here on Hackaday. Creator [Steve Haynal] has reminded us that version 2 is now a mature project on its 9th iteration, and says that over 100 “Hermes-Lite 2.0” units have been assembled to date. If you’d like a Hermes-Lite of your own it’s entirely open-source, and they organise group buys of the required components.

Of course, SDRs made from unexpected components don’t have to be exotic.

Hams Gone Wild: Amateur Radio Field Day 2019

Of all the images that amateur radio conjures up, the great outdoors doesn’t usually figure heavily. People seem to think hams sit in a dark room at a desk heavy with radio gear, banging out Morse code into late into the night and heedless of the world outside the window. All of which sort of sounds like hard-core gaming, really.

And while that image certainly applies in a lot of cases, hams do like to get out and about at least once a year. That day is upon us with the 2019 Amateur Radio Field Day. Hams across North America reserve the fourth full weekend of each June to tear themselves out of their shacks and get into the world to set up operations in some kind of public venue, generally a park or other green space. Part cookout, part community outreach, and part slumber party – it lasts all weekend and goes around the clock – hams use field day as a chance to show the general public where amateur radio really shines: real-time worldwide communications under austere conditions.

It’s also a chance to get folks excited about getting their license, with many Field Day locations hosting “Get on the Air” stations so that unlicensed folks can try making a contact under the supervision of a licensed operator. Licensed but underequipped hams also get the chance to spin the knobs on someone else’s gear, and maybe line up that first rig purchase. And there are plenty of opportunities to learn about new modes as well, such as FT8 and WSPR. As an example your scribe is looking for some guidance on getting started with APRS, the automated packet reporting system that’s used for things like high-altitude balloon tracking.

If you have any interest at all in learning how to properly operate radio equipment, you owe it to yourself to track down the nearest Field Day location and stop by. The American Radio Relay League (ARRL) has a ton of Field Day information, from a map to locate the 1500 Field Day sites to rules for the contests that will be run that weekend to guides for setting up and operating an effective Field Day setup. There will be 40,000 hams out there this year, and they’d all be thrilled if you drop by and ask a few questions.

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