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Monday, March 30, 2015

Rocket Launch, 1969

Through Facebook, I have re-established contact with my fellow members of the Waters Edge Rocket Research Society.   That's me, age 10, hitting the button on a homebrew launch controller.

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Saturday, March 28, 2015

SolderSmoke Podcast #174:Belthorn III, BITX20(-40), Parasites, Test Gear, Hamfest, SPRAT, Flares, BITX History

SolderSmoke Podcast #174 is available:

March 28, 2015

Happy Arduino Day!
Pete's Belthorn III Transceiver (with cool color display)
Bill's BITX 20 (that used to be a BITX20/40)
AD9850 DDS added to Barebones Superhet
Jean Shepherd on Parasitic Oscillations, Obsession, and Madness
Simple Test Gear for the Homebrewer
Digital Oscilloscopes and their amazing capabilities
Dongles and other great stuff in SPRAT 162
The BIG St. Patrick's Day Solar Flare
VK6MV's Amazing Rhombic (+)
VK7XX (Dos Equis!)
A Bit of BITX History
Pete going KX3 QRO

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Friday, March 27, 2015

March 28 is Arduino Day 2015!

Dave W2DAB alerts us to tomorrow's celebration of World Arduino Day.

Dave says the events often produce some interesting video. 

We will attempt to participate by doing something Arduino-ish during SolderSmoke 174, which is scheduled for tomorrow. 

Forza Banzi! Viva Arduino!

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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Teensy SDR Update (video)

I know this will have some of you thinking that I have been kidnapped or drugged or brain-washed (by N6QW!) or something, but the truth is I'm just being drawn in by that fascinating little color screen.  This is the beautiful work of Rich, VE3MKC.  He has also updated his blog and provided a very nice diagram and written description of all the I and Q action:  Thanks Rich!

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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

A Box Filled with DDS

I put this in a box this morning.  Arduino + AD9850 shield by Paul M0XPD and Kanga UK.  Code by AD7C.  One stage amplifier by Pete Juliano N6QW.    Useful as a VFO or a sig generator.  Thanks to all involved.

Note the cool translucent feet!

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Monday, March 23, 2015

More on VK6MV

Last week during the big St. Patrick's day solar eruption/CME impact I (with the help of the radio gods) managed to work Roy VK6MV in Western Australia. (A video of Roy working QRP pedestrian mobile stations in the UK appears above.)   Could it  have been that that miraculous contact was ALSO my first ever homebrew SSB to homebrew SSB QSO?   I e-mailed Roy to find out.   Alas, it was not.  But OM Roy sent some interesting info on his station and especially his antenna.  Excerpts from his e-mail:  

Hi Bill

Thanks for the qso and the email.

yes another 'fadeout' but we have had many over the years haven't we ?
Things have changed a lot since 1963 when I had my first license as G3SML.
We came to Aus in 1977 with 3 sons and now have 24 Grandies 13 Grandchildren; 11 Great Grandchildren.

I liked the early Plessey IC's when they came out ~
Carry on with home brew and get that personal enjoyment out of it, it gives you a boost I am sure.  NO I was not on the home brew I was on the Icom IC740 which I bought about 5 years ago at the WA Hamfest it had a fault of jumping to different frequencies, etc. I could not find its intermittent fault at all, but on the internet a 'W' ham in your country posted the same fault with explanations etc,
and it cured it,

So I was on that Rig + a home brew linear pair of old 813's in Grounded Grid and  a Voltage doubler for the + 2 kv,  I could not get the smoothing caps for that voltage so got hold of 3 metal canned ones 800 volt, then got some plastic drain pipe to insulate the cans from ground & then put them all in series with equalising resistors,
and it worked.

Yes I was on the rhombic ~ amazing antenna for a fixed point to point contacts ~
why a rhombic you may ask well when in the Uk I used to work VK2NN [and others] Tom with his farm of rhombics his setup much larger, and I thought one day I would love to put one up. Eventually with our moving to Aus' then came down here with its 8+ acres the opportunity led itself to put one up, and as I used to work into Europe/UK a lot that direction picked. first I put one up a bigger one than now,  but it did not work that good.  Moral the longer you go the higher it needs to be
So a smaller version tried using the contours of the land at a height above sea level of 1260 feet asl helps. Using 12 gauge usa hard drawn copper wire   I needed winches and turnbuckles etc to pull it up, one end is on the 60 ft tower, the others on assorted Wooden Poles +
The termination R for the rhombic is a 3 element TH3 Tribander ~
think of it why waste power into a whopper of a Resistor ~
this is not my idea but came from ~ Nano VK6UN why not connect it to another antenna with how to do it came from now SK Les Moxon G6XN
a clever man how to make a balun out of old ferrite rods from transistor radios,

Will close now my half a dozen lines of text are expanding to much

Cheers have fun Roy VK6MV

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Sunday, March 22, 2015

Vienna Wireless Winterfest

I had a good time at the Vienna Wireless Hamfest today.  I met up with Armand, WA1UQO, and we went through the hamfest together.   Here is what I picked up (and why):
Crystal Radio Kit (for my nephew Sebastian)

Homemade Solar Panel (because someone had taken the trouble to put this together )
Milliammeter Meter (because it was connected to the solar panel)

Drake Dynamic Microphone (because it is Drake)
A bunch of BNC connector cables (always useful)

Copper clad boards (thinking of the next rig)

A bunch of RG-174 coax (Belden is usually better, but sometimes you need flexibility)

Lots of Ferrite Beads (because of my recent suffering with oscillations)

A bag full of relays (I like relays)

10 100 ohm pots (great for balanced modulators)

Big copper ground stake and straps (because I need to reform in this area).

An ugly old tube type receiver (because I had a 5 dollar bill in my hand when the lady said "5 bucks!")  I tried to give this to Armand, but he wouldn't take it.

Some connectors for Arduino projects (I'm trying not to be a total Luddite).

Armand gave me three very nice crystal filters.   Thanks Armand!

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Saturday, March 21, 2015

Kirk's Herring Aid, Tuna Tin, and Regen Adventures

Hello Bill!
Just a quick hello from MN to tell you how much I have been enjoying your podcast. Although I have "plugged" your stuff in multiple magazine columns over the years, I'm a bit late getting into the listening game. My current contract job has me doing a lot of driving, however, so I now have several years' worth of soldersmoke to enjoy.
Several of the most recent episodes have made it clear that we have covered some common ground in our amateur radio careers.
I was licensed in 1977 at age 15 -- a year after I built my Tuna Tin 2 :) The transmitter was a smashing success. I used it with my Tempo One transceiver, or at the electronics repair shop at a local National Guard base (where my mom worked as a civilian administrator). I would ride my bike to Camp Ripley (only 8 miles or so), and the guys in the signal shop would let me use the shop's Collins KWM-2 HF transceiver (and attached dipole). Other than my efforts, I don't think the KWM-2 got much use...
I, too, tried to get the Herring Aid 5 to work, with no luck at all. Listening to your podcast was like being in a time machine of sorts :) I wonder if I got the "sense" of the oscillator secondary messed up? I never did get that thing to make even a sound. I don't have it any longer. The same goes for the TT2. They got "lost" when I stored a bunch of stuff at my dad's place in-between moves, as did a home-brew 4-400A amplifier and a 6146B amplifier for my Ten-Tec Argonaut. Darn!
Don't forget about the matching VFO -- the Chopped Beef Slider (CB Slider), which was built into a chopped beef can, of course! I didn't build one, but as I recall it was a diode-tuned 40-meter VFO for the TT2.
Your "regen rage" and its subsequent easing was also amusing. I have had a love-hate relationship with those buggers, too, although mine was mostly love. You referenced Dave Newkirk's (now W9VES) 40-meter QST regen article in a podcast. I was fortunate enough to be a QST editor at the time Dave was in his "second residence." That guy forgot more about receivers than I will ever know, and he helped me tremendously in official and unofficial capacities.
I have attached a photo (above) of a multiband regen that Dave helped me build (he designed and dispensed wisdom while I built the radio). He took a schematic from a 1930s ARRL Handbook and tweaked it a bit, helping me add a VR tube, "more modern" tubes and a few other goodies. Just to be difficult, I sampled the tank circuit with a tiny-value capacitor and a high-gain MMIC amplifier so I could drive a frequency counter, which displayed the receive frequency as long as the tank was oscillating. It was fun, but it was difficult to isolate the digital noise from the counter, so I only really turned on the counter as necessary, or to calibrate a dial, etc. The chassis used to be an Eico audio signal generator... In the photo the Jackson Brothers dial and bezel/tuning scale isn't completely installed. After sitting in a box for 25 years, the regen still works but probably needs new tubes, as it's rather deaf :) Blasphemy aside, I'm moving on to solid-state regens...
I, too, just got a Rigol DSO. Wow, the "one-button" measurement is almost too easy.
I'm prepping my book, Stealth Amateur Radio, for release on the Kindle (and maybe other e-book formats), but it's available now from my website,
Keep up the good work, Bill.

I'll be listening. :)


--Kirk Kleinschmidt, NT0Z
  Rochester, MN

Editor, 1990 ARRL Handbook
Technical Editor, Ham Radio for Dummies
QST Assistant Managing Editor, 1988-1994
Ham Radio Columnist since 1989 for:
   Popular Communications
   Monitoring Times and now,
   The Spectrum Monitor (
My book, "Stealth Amateur Radio," is now available from and on the Amazon Kindle (soon)

Our book: "SolderSmoke -- Global Adventures in Wireless Electronics" Our coffee mugs, T-Shirts, bumper stickers: Our Book Store:

Friday, March 20, 2015

American Radio History Site -- Lots of Radio Magazines

Hi Bill,

I wanted to leave you feedback on your podcast.

I love it!  Keep it up.  I travel quite often in my work and listen to
all your podcasts.

Since my early teens in the late 70's I started subscribing to
electronic magazines (which I have still keep all every issue).  I just
found a site that has all the old electronic magazines scanned and
posted for all to read.  What a resource! 
It has all the old Popular
Electronic Magazines, Radio Electronic Magazines, Modern Electronics,
Electronics Illustrated, etc, in pdf format. Information from the turn
of the century ...  Wow.  Back when radio hobbyists made their own
chassis for their valve radios.  Just google American Radio History and
it will be a top link.  You might want to share this link with your
friends, and listeners.

I have purchased your Soldersmoke book from Lulu -- Thumbs  up!! Great Book.

Thanks again for sharing your experience with radio and the knack.

Greg Self
I have always called  kluge -  KLOO-guh ..  and I don't know why. ;)

Our book: "SolderSmoke -- Global Adventures in Wireless Electronics" Our coffee mugs, T-Shirts, bumper stickers: Our Book Store:

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Working VK6 Homebrew During the Big Solar Flare

There I was. 0900 UTC (0 Dark Thirty local),  the morning after the big March 17 St. Patrick's Day Coronal Mass Ejection Impact.  Solar Flux Index: 116.  A Index: 117!  I'd never seen the A Index that high.  When I got home from work on  March 17,  I had turned on the BITX 20 and heard nothing but white noise.  No signals.  Nada.  Zilch. So the following morning my expectations for 20 were quite low.  I tuned across the whole band, again hearing nothing.  But wait... there was one signal.  And he was calling CQ.  With an Australian accent.  VK6MV!  The only signal on the band.  I called him with my recently fixed BITX20 (with .12 kW amp) and a dipole.  No problem. We had a nice contact.
A look at Roy's QRZ page shows that he is a fellow homebrewer.  Clearly, the radio gods were making a statement here.   

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