The Peak Of Vacuum Tube Radio Design

One of the more popular trends in the ham radio community right now is operating away from the shack. Parks on the Air (POTA) is an excellent way to take a mobile radio off-grid and operate in the beauty of nature, but for those who want to take their rig to more extreme locations there’s another operating award program called Summits on the Air (SOTA) that requires the radio operator to set up a station on a mountaintop instead. This often requires lightweight, low-power radios to keep weight down for the hike, and [Dan] aka [AI6XG] has created a radio from scratch to do just that.

[Dan] is also a vacuum tube and CW (continuous wave/Morse code) operator on top of his interest in summiting various mountains, so this build incorporates all of his interests. Most vacuum tubes take a lot of energy to operate, but he dug up a circuit from 1967 that uses a single tube which can operate from a 12 volt battery instead of needing mains power, thanks to some help from a more modern switch-mode power supply (SMPS). The SMPS took a bit of research, though, in order to find one that wouldn’t interfere with the radio’s operation. That plus a few other modern tweaks like a QCX interface and a switch to toggle between receive to transmit easily allows this radio to be quite versatile when operating while maintaining its portability and durability when summiting.

For those looking to replicate a tube-based radio like this one, [Dan] has made all of the schematics available on his GitHub page. The only other limitation to keep in mind with a build like this is that it tends to only work on a very narrow range of frequencies without adding further complexity to the design, in this case within the CW portion of the 40-meter band. But that’s not really a bad thing as most radios with these design principles tend to work this way. For some other examples, take a look at these antique QRP radios for operating using an absolute minimum of power.

Keeping Ham Radio Relevant Hack Chat

Join us on Wednesday, February 5 at noon Pacific for the Keeping Ham Radio Relevant Hack Chat with Josh Nass!

It may not seem like it, but amateur radio is fighting a two-front war for its continued existence. On the spectrum side, hams face the constant threat that the precious scraps of spectrum that are still allocated to their use will be reclaimed and sold off to the highest bidder as new communication technologies are developed. On the demographic side, amateur radio is aging, with fewer and fewer young people interested in doing the work needed to get licensed, with fewer still having the means to get on the air.

Amateur radio has a long, rich history, but gone are the days when hams can claim their hobby is sacrosanct because it provides communications in an emergency. Resting on that particular laurel will not win the hobby new adherents or help it hold onto its spectrum allocations​, so Josh Nass (KI6NAZ) is helping change the conversation. Josh is an engineer and radio amateur from Southern California who runs Ham Radio Crash Course​, a YouTube channel dedicated to getting people up to speed on ham radio. Josh’s weekly livestreams and his video reviews of ham radio products and projects show a different side of the World’s Greatest Hobby, one that’s more active (through events like “Summits on the Air​​”) and focused on digital modes that are perhaps more interesting and accessible to new hams.

Join us on the Hack Chat as we discuss how to make ham radio matter in today’s world of pervasive technology. We’ll talk about the challenges facing amateur radio, the fun that’s still to be had on the air even when the bands are dead like they are now (spoiler alert: they’re not really), and what we can all do to keep ham radio relevant.

join-hack-chatOur Hack Chats are live community events in the Hack Chat group messaging. This week we’ll be sitting down on Wednesday, February 5 at 12:00 PM Pacific time. If time zones have got you down, we have a handy time zone converter.

Click that speech bubble to the right, and you’ll be taken directly to the Hack Chat group on You don’t have to wait until Wednesday; join whenever you want and you can see what the community is talking about. Continue reading “Keeping Ham Radio Relevant Hack Chat”

Ham Radio On $100 Or Less

There are a lot of reasons to get a ham radio license, and if you are one of those that think ham radio is dead you can probably skip this post. However, if you have been interested, but didn’t want to drop a lot of money on a station, [KE6MT] has got some great advice for you. He says you can have a rewarding time in ham radio for about $100 of spending.

The post is the advice he wished he had been given in 2015 when he got his license. It turns out you can get on the air very inexpensively these days, especially if you aren’t afraid to build gear from kits.

Continue reading “Ham Radio On $100 Or Less”