If there’s one thing that ties together all the media coming out of the Apollo era, it’s probably the iconic Quindar tones. These quarter-second beeps served as control tones for the globe-spanning communications network needed to talk to the Apollo astronauts, and any attempt to recreate the Apollo-era sound would be glaringly wrong without them. And that’s why [CuriousMarc] whipped up this Quindar tone system.
The video below starts with a detailed treatment of what Quindar tones are and why they were used, a topic we’ve covered ourselves in the past. To recap, Quindar tones are a form of in-band signaling, with a 2,525-Hz pure sine wave intro tone that signaled the transmitters connected to Mission Control in Houston over leased telephone lines to key up. The 2,475-Hz outro tone turned off the transmitters and connected the line to the receivers.
To recreate the sound quality of the original circuitry, and to keep in the retro vibe, [Marc]’s Quindar homage avoided digital circuitry as much as possible, opting instead to generate the two tones with an XR-2206 function generator chip. The chip can rapidly switch back and forth between two frequencies, making it perfect for FSK applications or, in this case, reproducing the two slightly different tones. [Marc] added a dual mono-stable multi-vibrator to pulse the tone, giving the 250-ms pulse, and an audio gate, which uses a MOSFET to switch the tone into an audio stream. All this got soldered up to a piece of perf board and stuffed in the base of a cheap intercom microphone, which while not period accurate still has a cool retro look — and now, a retro sound, too.
Hats off to [CuriousMarc] and his merry band for probing the mysteries of Apollo-era comms and keeping the accomplishments of all those engineers alive. The methods they used are still relevant after all these years, and there seems to be no end to what we can learn from them.
Continue reading “Add A Little Quindar To Your Comms For That Apollo-Era Sound”
So far in this brief series on in-band signaling, we looked at two of the common methods of providing control signals along with the main content of a transmission: DTMF for Touch-Tone dialing, and coded-squelch systems for two-way radio. For this installment, we’ll look at something that far fewer people have ever used, but almost everyone has heard: Quindar tones.
Continue reading “In-Band Signaling: Quindar Tones”
In the first part of our series on in-band signaling, we discussed one of the most common and easily recognizable forms of audio control, familiar to anyone who has dialed a phone in the last fifty years – dual-tone multifrequency (DTMF) dialing. Our second installment will look at an in-band signaling method that far fewer people have heard, precisely because it was designed to be sub-audible — coded squelch systems for public service and other radio services. Continue reading “In-Band Signaling: Coded Squelch Systems”
One late night many decades ago, I chanced upon a technical description of the Touch-Tone system. The book I was reading had an explanation of how each key on a telephone sends a combination of two tones down the wire, and what’s more, it listed the seven audio frequencies needed for the standard 12-key dial pad. I gazed over at my Commodore 64, and inspiration hit — if I can use two of the C64’s three audio channels to generate the dual tones, I bet I can dial the phone! I sprang out of bed and started pecking out a Basic program, and in the wee hours I finally had it generating the recognizable Touch-Tones of my girlfriend’s phone number. I held the mouthpiece of my phone handset up to the speaker of my monitor, started the program, and put the receiver to my ear to hear her phone ringing! Her parents were none too impressed with my accomplishment since it came at 4:00 AM, but I was pretty jazzed about it.
Since that fateful night I’ve always wondered about how the Touch-Tone system worked, and in delving into the topic I discovered that it’s part of a much broader field of control technology called in-band signaling, or the use of audible or sub-audible signals to control an audio or video transmission. It’s pretty interesting stuff, even when it’s not used to inadvertently prank call someone in the middle of the night. Continue reading “In-Band Signaling: Dual-Tone Multifrequency Dialing”