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Tuesday, October 27, 2020

1962 Ad Describes Origins of the Drake 2-B

 


Monday, October 26, 2020

VK3YE: Solving the Direct Conversion RX -- Double Sideband TX Incompatibility Problem


Peter:  

You have long been one of the leading gurus on DSB.  I remember absorbing all the info I could from your website when I was getting started in DSB back in 2001.   

It's great that you found  the article about DSB with inverted audio.   It would be very cool to build a transmitter with the inverted audio, then confirm that it could be received with a direct conversion receiver without distortion.  

The incompatibility of DSB TXs and DC RXs seems like a very cruel trick of nature.  There are only a few people in the world who think about this, and most of them are in the comments section of your YouTube video!  An elite group indeed.  

Back in 2015 your review of a DSB rig got me thinking about this incompatibility: https://soldersmoke.blogspot.com/2015/07/peter-parker-reviews-dsb-kit-and.html   

It is easy to see how a slight frequency difference between TX VFO and RX VFO would cause a lot of distortion, but similar distortion would be caused by a phase difference between the two VFOs.   AM SW Broadcast receivers try to minimize the effects of fading by using an internal oscillator to replace the wavering carrier -- but they have to have it exactly on frequency and locked in phase with the distant station's carrier. I have a little Sony portable that has this "synchronous detection" circuitry.   It is a complicated task and I don't think you could do it with the highly suppressed carriers of our rigs.  Inverted sidebands to the rescue!     

Thanks for the great video and all the tribal knowledge.  

73  Bill N2CQR

Saturday, October 24, 2020

On the Cover of The Rolling Stone (Almost) -- Jac Holzman, Elektra Records, and Ham Radio

 


Thanks to Stephen VK2BLQ for alerting us to this.  That is Jac Holzman of Elektra Records fame, pictured in a recent article in Rolling Stone: 

The Rolling Stone caption says he is in his "home studio," but we recognize it clearly as a ham shack. 

Here is another article about Jac: 

ARRL reports that his callsign was K2VEH. 

Hey, Pete plays guitar.  So does Farhan.  Should we have our people call Jac's people?  Maybe do lunch? 

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Listening in on the Deep Space Network

 

Not long ago we took the DISH satellite antenna off our roof.   For a while I resisted pleas to put the big thing on the curb for pickup.  I fantasized about using it for radio astronomy.  In the end, I threw it away.  I do have VHF/UHF aspirations, but being able to use that dish just seemed to be something in my distant future (if ever!).  

But check out what David N2QG is doing with his dishes:  He is listening to very distant spacecraft normally picked up only by NASA's Deep space network.  Very cool.   Truly inspirational.  

Here are the links: 

http://www.prutchi.com/2020/10/15/recap-of-x-band-dsn-activities-and-plans-for-the-future/

http://www.prutchi.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/DSN_Lessons-_Learned_N2QG.pdf

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Too Simple? Deficiency of the Lafayette HA-600A Product Detector?

 

I've been having a lot of fun with the Lafayette HA-600A receiver that I picked up earlier this month.  Adding to the mirth, I noticed that on SSB, the signals sound a bit scratchy, a bit distorted, not-quite-right. (I'm not being facetious;  this is an interesting problem and it might give me a chance to actually improve a piece of gear that I  -- as a teenager -- had been afraid to work on.) 

Before digging into the circuitry, I engaged in some front panel troubleshooting:  I switched to AM and tuned in a strong local AM broadcast signal.  It sounded great -- it had no sign of the distortion I was hearing on SSB.   This was an important hint -- the only difference between the circuitry used on AM and the circuitry used on SSB is the detector and the BFO.  In the AM mode a simple diode detector is used.  In SSB a product detector and BFO is used.  The BFO sounded fine and looked good on the scope. This caused me to focus on the product detector as the culprit. 

Check out the schematic above.  Tr-5 is the product detector.  It is really, really simple.  (See Einstein quote below.)  It is a single-transistor mixer with BFO energy going into the base and IF energy going into the emitter.  Output is taken from the collector and sent to the audio amplifiers. (A complete schematic for the receiver can be seen here: https://nvhrbiblio.nl/schema/Lafayette_HA600A.pdf )

I had never before seen a product detector like this.  One such detector is described in Experimental Methods for RF Design (page 5.3) but the authors devoted just one paragraph to the circuity, noting that, "We have not performed careful measurement on this mixer."  The lack of enthusiasm is palpable, and probably justified.  

A Google search shows there is not a lot of literature on single BJT product detectors.  There is a good 1968 article in Ham Radio Magazine:   http://marc.retronik.fr/AmateurRadio/SSB/Single-Sideband_Detectors_%5BHAM-Radio_1968_8p%5D.pdf      It describes a somewhat different circuit used in the Gonset Sidewinder.  The author notes that this circuit has "not been popular." 

To test my suspicion that the product detector is the problem,  I set up a little experiment.  I loosely coupled the output of a signal generator to the IF circuitry of the HA-600A.  I put the sign gen exactly on the frequency of the BFO.  Then, I switched the receiver to AM, turning off the BFO and putting the AM diode detector to work.  I was able to tune in the SSB signals without the kind of distortion I had heard when using the product detector.   

So what do you folks think?    Is the product detector the culprit?  Or could the problem be in the AGC?  Should I start plotting a change in the detector circuitry?  Might a diode ring work better?  



Monday, October 12, 2020

Quino, The Creator of Mafalda ("BASTA!") RIP


Putting "Basta" in the SolderSmoke search box yields many blog posts.  The cry of ENOUGH! from six year-old Mafalda has been part of the podcast for many years and is now part of the SolderSmoke lexicon.   

https://soldersmoke.blogspot.com/search?q=Basta

We don't do a lot of obits on this blog (we try to keep it all upbeat) but the passing of Mafalda's creator Quino is news that many of you may have missed, and that I think merits mention here.  This link has a nice 3 minute report from NPR: 

https://www.npr.org/2020/10/04/920038792/mafalda-cartoonist-quino-dies-at-88

Adios Quino. Gracias por todo. 


Sunday, October 11, 2020

Ryan Flowers' Admirable Approach to the BITX40 Module

 

We must remember that Farhan designed the BITX transceivers -- and especially the BITX40 Module -- in the hope that these rigs would encourage hams to tinker, to modify, to change and to repair.   When I read Ryan Flowers' blog post, I thought that Farhan's mission has been accomplished.  

https://miscdotgeek.com/bitx40-rebuild-part-1-mistakes-planning-and-teardown/

I was also struck by how nice it is that Ryan has a sentimental attachment to this BITX40 module because it was a gift from his wife.  That's the kind of thing that gives a piece of electronic circuity soul. 

Above we see Ryan's module with many of the parts removed in the sections that he feels he messed up.  This is obviously a good approach, but it reminded me of the nightmare I've had (and I am not the only one) where, in frustration, I take ALL the parts off a recalcitrant board.  

Stick with it Ryan!  You are on the right track.  And it sounds to me like you WILL soon be homebrewing from scratch your own SSB transceiver. 

A while back we built a blog with many nice mods for the BITX40 Module: 

http://bitxhacks.blogspot.com/


Saturday, October 10, 2020

Chip Replaced, GSC 6000 Counter Fixed

 

This thing has been half-broken for a long time.  I needed to get the input for 40 MHz - 650 MHz working    I got the a replacement SP8630B Plessey divide-by-ten counter chip on e-bay, and yesterday I extracted the old chip and put in the replacement.  I took great care NOT to solder this one in upside down (as I had done with another chip replacement in this counter). I used solder flux and solder wick to gradually get the pins free of the board. (You can see the old chip in the picture above.)

As to what happened to the original SP8630B chip,  John over on the Vintage Test Gear Facebook page wrote: 

The Plessey SP8630A/B is an ECL divide by 10 prescaler, with a upper working frequency of 600MHz. That generation went out of production in the late 1980s. Plessey was bought by a Canadian company now called Micrel. You may be able to find one from one of the specialist obsolete component companies, but it may be dead on arrival. Those ECL ICs had a fairly high mortality rate if they are very old.

It is the old story of "metal migration". In early semiconductors very small impurities in the silicon structure cause minute bits of the metallisation to leach out into the essentially non-conducting silicon insulation. Many old devices, although they have never been used, were found to be very leaky and this degrades the gain of the active devices. The worst types are the very old Germanium transistors.

As the semiconductor scientist learnt more about the super cleanliness required and the better purification of the metals the problem tended to improve. The Marconi company I worked for back in the 1980s had a real problem with comms satellites failing after a few years of service. Of course you can't go up there and swap out the faulty devices. Accelerated ageing of a backup satellite showed that some devices just stopped working after being subjected to high and low temperature cycling, which is a common problem with satellites in orbit!

I am liking this little machine more and more.  It is very simple -- no microcontroller, just a collection of gates.   I discovered that the main main crystal oscillator is actually built inside a little oven to keep the temperature stable -- oscillator and the oven stay on as long as the counter is plugged in, even when the device is switched off.  I calibrated the counter with WWV and with my HP8640B and with my little Feeltech sig gen counter.   I wish I knew how to calibrate the counter in the Rigol DS1102E oscilloscope.  


Friday, October 9, 2020

The Bitsy -- Homebrew Double Sideband from Scotland

 

This is such a beautiful project:  it involves DSB, homebrew, troubleshooting, George Dobbs, SSDRA, J310s, a box kite,  and ham radio nostalgia.  I was struck by how similar the Bitsy looks to some of my own DSB creations (but the Bitsy is nicer).  I'm really pleased to find a DSB project coming out of the UK -- when I was there, DSB was kind of frowned upon by spectrum preservation zealots.  I say there is plenty of room for the very few homebrew DSB rigs that will ever grace the airwaves with their presence.   Thanks John.  Have fun with all your projects.  73  Bill 

Hi Bill

In the early 80's I built and experimented with Direct Conversion Receivers and had a lot of fun with them. I came across a 40M DC cw transceiver by the late Rev. George Dobbs in a Practical Wireless magazine and decided to build it. Whether I was just lucky I'm not sure but it worked first time and I had several cw contacts with it. It was called “The PW Severn”. I then discovered DSB and looked into modifying the wee rig. I gave George a phone, no internet in those days, and explained what I was proposing to do and if there was any advice he could offer. His reply was ,  “it should work so try it and see, any problems get back to me”. It worked and I had a lot of fun with it. I used to take it portable and with a box kite to support a long wire and worked all over Europe.

It was after reading and learning about circuits and home brewing I wondered if I could design and build a DSB transceiver of my own. I had plenty of articles and most importantly a copy of Solid State Design, now well thumbed.

So the “Bitsy” was born. It is an 80M DSB transceiver. The PA produces about 2 watts. I took what I thought was the best for each module and built it using six circuit boards which I designed and etched myself. Nowadays I use the Manhattan method for one of circuits. It is much easier and quicker.

Like most home brew projects, the fun is in the building and the wee rig lived in a box for several years. Probably over 30. My doesn't time fly. I came across it again while looking through my boxes and decided to give it an airing. Expecting it to work on power up I was quite shocked when it produced nothing on both receive and transmit. After staring at it for a couple of minutes I unscrewed the lid and studied the wiring for a dry joint. Nothing so I switched on my Digital Multimeter and Oscilloscope. I soon found out that the output from the VFO was missing. The VFO uses one FET and two PNP Transistors for the buffers. The scope soon proved that the FET was faulty. I used an MPF102. These are hard to get so I replaced it with a J310. While I had the VFO out I also replaced the 9.1v zener diode, which provides a regulated voltage for the FET, with a 78L05 connecting the centre pin via a 580ohm resistor to earth. This gives me a 9.3v regulated supply for the oscillator. It is now back in full working condition.

With the Covid 19 epidemic I, like a lot of the Amateur Radio fraternity, am spending a lot of time in the shack and looking for new projects. I am buying back my old FT200 which was my first rig. An old friend and lapsed amateur has still got it and agreed to sell it back to me. It is still in a good condition for being nearly 50 years old and just needs some TLC. When it is finished it will take pride of place beside my restored Heathkit SB104A. And they say nostalgia is not what it used to be!!

John Forsyth

GM4OOU






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