Pico-Sized Ham Radio

There are plenty of hobbies around with huge price tags, and ham radio can certainly be one of them. Experienced hams might have radios that cost thousands of dollars, with huge, steerable antennas on masts that can be similarly priced. But there’s also a side to the hobby that throws all of this out of the window in favor of the simplest, lowest-cost radios and antennas that still can get the job done. Software-defined radio (SDR) turned this practice up to 11 as well, and this radio module uses almost nothing more than a microcontroller to get on the air.

The design uses the capabilities of the Raspberry Pi Pico to handle almost all of the radio’s capabilities. The RF oscillator is driven by one of the Pico’s programmable I/O (PIO) pins, which takes some load off of the processor. For AM and SSB, where amplitude needs to be controlled as well, a PWM signal is generated on another PIO which is then mixed with the RF oscillator using an analog multiplexer. The design also includes a microphone with a preamplifier which can be fed into a third PIO; alternatively it can receive audio from a computer via the USB interface. More processor resources are needed when generating phase-modulated signals like RF, but the Pico is still quite capable of doing all of these tasks without jitter larger than a clock cycle.

Of course this only outputs a signal with a few milliwatts of power, so for making any useful radio contacts with this circuit an amplifier is almost certainly needed. With the heavy lifting done by the Pico, though, the amplifier doesn’t need to be complicated or expensive. While the design is simple and low-cost, it’s not the simplest radio possible. This transmitter sends out radio waves using only a single transistor but you will be limited to Morse code only.

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SSB In Your Pocket

In the old days, a shortwave radio was a major desk fixture. These days, you can get truly diminutive radios. However, most of them only have AM capability (that is, no simple way to receive single-sideband or SSB signals)  and — maybe — the ability to pick up FM broadcast.  Small radios also often have no provision for an external antenna which can be crucial for shortwave radios. [Farpoint Farms] shows off the Raddy RF7860 which is a palm-sided radio, but it has the elusive sideband modes and an external antenna port and wire antenna. It even has a rechargeable battery.

Reading the comments, it appears this is a rebadged version of a HanRongDa HRD 747 radio. Of course, there are other smaller radios with sideband reception like the Tecsun PL368, but they aren’t this small.  If you are in the market for a really tiny shortwave radio, this might be the thing for you.

Of course, the question is what you want to listen to on the shortwave bands these days. There are fewer and fewer broadcasters on shortwave, especially those that broadcast to a general audience. However, if there is something you want to hear, pairing this radio with a good portable antenna, would do the job.

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Retrotechtacular: The Transatlantic Radiotelephone System Of The 1930s

With the web of undersea cables lacing the continents together now, it’s hard to imagine that it wasn’t until 1956 that the first transatlantic telephone cable was laid. Sure, there were telegraph cables under the Atlantic starting as early as the late 1800s, but getting your voice across the ocean on copper was a long time coming. So what was the discerning 1930s gentleman of business to do when only a voice call would do? He’d have used a radiotelephone, probably at an outrageous expense, which as this video on the receiving end of the New York to London radio connection shows, was probably entirely justified.

The video details the shortwave radiotelephone system that linked New York and London in the 1930s. It starts with a brief but thorough explanation of ionospheric refraction, and how that atmospheric phenomenon makes it possible to communicate over vast distances. It also offers a great explanation on the problems inherent with radio connections, like multipath interference and the dependency on the solar cycle for usable skip. To overcome these issues, the Cooling Radio Station was built, and its construction is the main thrust of the video.

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Shortwave Radio Picks Up Sideband

With the push to having most of a radio receiver as part of a PC, it might seem odd to have a standalone communication receiver, but [OM0ET] reviews the latest one he picked up, an ATS25. Inside isn’t much: a battery, a speaker, an encoder, and a Si4732 that provides the RF muscle.

It appears the receiver is pretty broadband which could be a problem. [OM0ET] suggests adding selectivity in the antenna or adding an extra board to use as a bandpass filter.

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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”

Amateur Radio Homebrewing Hack Chat

Join us on Wednesday, March 18 at noon Pacific for the Amateur Radio Homebrewing Hack Chat with Charlie Morris!

For many hams, the most enticing part of amateur radio is homebrewing. There’s a certain cachet to holding a license that not only allows you to use the public airwaves, but to construct the means of doing so yourself. Homebrew radios range from simple designs with a few transistors and a couple of hand-wound coils to full-blown rigs that rival commercial transceivers in the capabilities and build quality — and sometimes even surpass them. Hams cook up every piece of gear from the antenna back, and in many ways, the homebrewers drive amateur radio technology and press the state of the art forward.

Taking the dive into homebrewing can be daunting, though. The mysteries of the RF world can be a barrier to entry, and having some guidance from someone who has “been there, done that” can be key to breaking through. New Zealand ham Charlie Morris (ZL2CTM) has been acting as one such guide for the adventurous homebrewer with his YouTube channel, where he presents his radio projects in clear, concise steps. He takes viewers through each step of his builds, detailing each module’s design and carefully walking through the selection of each component. He’s quick to say that his videos aren’t tutorials, but they do teach a lot about the homebrewer’s art, and you’ll come away from each with a new tip or trick that’s worth trying out in your homebrew designs.

Charlie will join us for the Hack Chat this Wednesday to discuss all things homebrewing. Stop by with your burning questions on DIY amateur radio, ask about some of Charlie’s previous projects, and get a glimpse of where he’s going next.

join-hack-chatOur Hack Chats are live community events in the Hackaday.io Hack Chat group messaging. This week we’ll be sitting down on Wednesday, March 18 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 Hackaday.io. You don’t have to wait until Wednesday; join whenever you want and you can see what the community is talking about.

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CB Radio + Arduino = 6 Meter Ham Band

Somehow [hvde] wound up with a CB radio that does AM and SSB on the 11 meter band. The problem was that the radio isn’t legal where he lives. So he decided to change the radio over to work on the 6 meter band, instead.

We were a little surprised to hear this at first. Most radio circuits are tuned to pretty close tolerances and going from 27 MHz to 50 MHz seemed like quite a leap. The answer? An Arduino and a few other choice pieces of circuitry.

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