Wind-Up Tape Measure Transformed Into Portable Ham Antenna

If there’s one thing that amateur radio operators are good at, it’s turning just about anything into an antenna. And hams have a long history of portable operations, too, where they drag a (sometimes) minimalist setup of gear into the woods and set up shop to bag some contacts. Getting the two together, as with this field-portable antenna made from a tape measure, is a double win in any ham’s book.

For [Paul (OM0ET)], this build seems motivated mainly by the portability aspect, and less by the “will it antenna?” challenge. In keeping with that, he chose a 50-meter steel tape measure as the basis of the build. This isn’t one of those retractable tape measures, mind you — just a long strip of flexible metal on a wind-up spool in a plastic case. His idea was to use the tape as the radiator for an end-fed halfwave, or EFHW, antenna, a multiband design that’s a popular option for hams operating from the 80-m band down to the 10-m band. EFHW antennas require an impedance-matching transformer, a miniature version of which [Paul] built and tucked within the tape measure case, along with a BNC connector to connect to the radio and a flying lead to connect to the tape.

Since a half-wave antenna is half the length of the target wavelength, [Paul] cut off the last ten meters of the tape to save a little weight. He also scratched off the coating on the tape at about the 40-meter mark, to make good contact with the alligator clip on the flying lead. The first video below details the build, while the second video shows the antenna under test in the field, where it met all of the initial criteria of portability and ease of deployment.

Continue reading “Wind-Up Tape Measure Transformed Into Portable Ham Antenna”

S15351 tube transmitter

Retro And New Tech Combine In This Hybrid Ham Transmitter

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: the best part about holding an amateur radio license is that it lets you build and use your own transmitting equipment. Hams have been doing this for more than a century — indeed, it was once the only way to get on the air — using whatever technology was available. But the mix of technologies in this low-power transmitter for the 80-meter band is something you don’t see every day.

As ham [Helge Fykse (LA6NCA)] describes in the video below, the project began when he came into possession of a bonanza of vacuum tubes — 12A6 tetrodes, specifically. The new-old-stock tubes were perfect for an RF power amplifier, but that left the problem of what to use for an oscillator. [Helge] chose to meld the old with the new and used oscillator board that he designed. The board has an ATmega88 microcontroller and an Si5351 oscillator, along with a 3V3 regulator to let the module run on 12 volts. And for a nice retro touch, [Helge] put the board in a 3D printed case that looks like an old-fashioned quartz crystal.

There are some other nice design touches here too. A low-pass filter cleans up the harmonics of the oscillator’s 3.5-MHz square wave output before feeding it to the amplifier, in a nod to proper spectrum hygiene. The primary for the amp’s air-core output transformer is hand-wound, with 3D printed spacers to keep the winding neat and even. The tuning process shown below is interesting, and the transmitter was used to make a solid contact with another ham about 100 km away. And we really liked the look of [Helge]’s shack, stuffed as it is with gear both old and new.

We’ve personally tried the Si5351 for QRP transmitters before, but this blend of the old and new really makes us want to find some tubes and get to playing.

Continue reading “Retro And New Tech Combine In This Hybrid Ham Transmitter”

Ham Radio SSB Transceiver Fits In Pocket

Talking about this Chinese ham radio transceiver requires a veritable flurry of acronyms: HF, SSB, QRP, and SDR to start with. [Paul] does a nice job of unboxing the rig and checking it out. The radio is a clone of a German project and provides a low-power radio with a rechargeable battery. You can see his video about the gear below.

SSB is an odd choice for low power operation, although we wonder if you couldn’t feed digital data in using a mode like PSK31 that has good performance at low power. There are several variations of the radio available and they cost generally less than $200 — sometimes quite a bit less.

There isn’t much on the front of the radio. There are a few buttons, a rotary encoder, and an LCD along with a speaker and microphone built-in. There are ports for power to run the radio if you want to not use the battery and a separate port for battery charging. There are also ports for a key, external microphone and speakers, and audio connections that look like they’d work for digital modes. According to commenters, the radio doesn’t have an internal charging circuit, so you have to be careful what you plug into the charging port.

Looking inside, the radio looks surprisingly well made. Towards the end of the video, you can see the radio make some contacts, too. Looks like fun. This is a bit pricey for [Dan Maloney’s] $50 Ham series, but not by much. You might borrow an antenna idea from him, at least. If you prefer something more analog, grab seven transistors and build this SSB transceiver.

Continue reading “Ham Radio SSB Transceiver Fits In Pocket”

Four Band Digital HF SDR Transceiver Offers High Performance For Only $60

Amateur radio is a hobby that is often thought of as being exclusive to those with a healthy expendable income. In recent years however, the tides have turned. Cheap microcontrollers and signal generators have helped turned things around, and the $60 USD QDX from QRP Labs goes even further by sending the performance/price ratio through the roof. You can see more details in the video below the break.

The QDX is the creation of [Hans Summers] who is well known for producing affordable high performance amateur radio kits that are focused on low power transmission, called “QRP” in ham radio parlance. What is it? It’s a pocket sized four band (80, 40, 30, 20 Meters) software defined radio (SDR) that is designed to be used with some of the most popular digital radio modes: FT8 and JS8Call, as well as any other FSK based mode such as RTTY. It’s also been tested to work well (and within spec) on 60 Meters.

While classic radios have to be connected to a computer through a special hardware interface, the QDX is designed to connect directly to a computer through a standard USB A>B cable. CAT control, PTT, and Audio are all handled directly by the QDX, and no special interface is needed. While the radio is essentially plug and play, configuration, testing, and troubleshooting can be done by connecting to the QDX’s unique serial console, which among other things contains a text based waterfall. For those who want to run their own SDR receiver, I/Q output can be sent directly through the sound card.

Now for the bad news: due to global chip shortages, the QDX is out of stock at the moment, and there’s no telling when they might start shipping again. QRP Labs is looking to source parts wherever they can to get more of the units made, but of course, so is everyone else right now. Continue reading “Four Band Digital HF SDR Transceiver Offers High Performance For Only $60”

Pete's Simple Seven SSB Transceiver

PSSST! Here’s A Novel SSB Radio Design With Only Seven Transistors

When [Pete Juliano] sat down to design a sideband transceiver for the 20 Meter (14 MHz) ham radio band, he eschewed the popular circuits that make up so many designs. He forged ahead, building a novel design that he calls Pete’s Simple Seven SSB Transceiver, or PSSST for short.

What makes the PSSST so simple is not only its construction, but the low component count. The same circuit using four 2N2222A’s is used on both transmit and receive. On transmit, an extra three components step in to amplify the microphone input and build output power, which is 2.5-4 Watts, depending on the final output transistor used. The best part is that all of the transistors can be had for under $10 USD! [Pete] shows where radio components such as the RF mixers and the crystal filter can be purchased, saving a new constructor a lot of headaches. The VFO and IF frequencies are both provided by the venerable si5351a with an Arduino at the helm.

Many simple transceivers are designed to demonstrate a minimum viable radio, with performance not really a goal. On the other hand, the PSSST was modeled stage-by-stage in LTSpice, ensuring great transmit audio and nice receiver performance. Be sure to check out the demonstration below the break!

[Pete] has painstakingly documented the entire project on his website, and the code for the VFO is available by request via email. We appreciate this contribution to the homebrew ham radio community, and we’re sure this will provide many nights of solder smoking enjoyment for radio amateurs around the world.

Continue reading “PSSST! Here’s A Novel SSB Radio Design With Only Seven Transistors”

Getting On The Air With A 10-Minute-ish Ham Transmitter

Artificially constrained designs can be among the most challenging projects to build, and the most interesting to consider. The amateur radio world is no stranger to this, with homebrew radio designs that set some sort of line in the sand. Such designs usually end up being delightfully minimalist and deeply instructive of first principles, which is one reason we like them so much.

For a perfect example of this design philosophy, take a look at [VK3YE]’s twist on the classic “10-Minute Transmitter”. (Video, embedded below.)

The design dates back to at least the 1980s, when [G4RAW] laid down the challenge to whip up a working transmitter from junk bin parts and make a contact within 15 minutes — ten for the build and five for working the bands. [VK3YE] used the “oner” — one-transistor — design for his 10-minute transmitter, but invested some additional time into adding a low-pass filter to keep his signal clean, and a power amplifier to boost the output a bit.

Even with the elaborations, the design is very simple and easy to understand. Construction is the standard “ugly style” that hams favor for quick builds like this. There are no parts that would be terribly hard to find, and everything fits into a small metal box. The video below shows the design and build, along with some experiments with WebSDR receivers to check out range both with and without the power amplifier.

Seeing these kinds of builds really puts us in the mood for some low-power action. Could something like this pop up in “The $50 Ham” series? Quite possibly yes.

Continue reading “Getting On The Air With A 10-Minute-ish Ham Transmitter”

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”