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Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Sometimes the Receivers Seem to Almost Self-Assemble

I've been building shelves for my wife.  So I end up with all these nice pieces of pine, just the right size for the base of a breadboard receiver and a very sturdy cabinet to surround it.   Then I find in the junk box two nice variable caps and this old pill bottle coil (with tickler!) that I wound in 1998; I figure they will resonate from around 5 - 15 MHz.  Then Jeff Murray, K1NSS does that poster about Dave Richards, AA7EE (scroll down) in which he mentions the virtues of a National Velvet Vernier reduction drive -- I have one of those too.  And then there is the copper-clad board (from AL7RV/W8NSA) that would be perfect for the front panel.  You see where this is going, right? My friends, I am once again on the road to shortwave regeneration.  It will have an Armstrong detector with throttle cap.   

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Monday, September 1, 2014

Youth, Short Waves, and the Invigorating Properties of Regen Receivers

Oh man, when I saw this I just had to put it on the blog.  The artist is Jeff Murray,  K1NSS, the genius behind Dashtoons.   Dave Richards AA7EE is, well, the OC!  

So not only have we learned that regen receivers are NOT demonic, we now see that they have health enhancing properties!  Like all that antioxidant stuff!  This is great.  I'm feeling younger already.  

Regen on my friends!     

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Sunday, August 31, 2014

Cutting Edge Regens! No, really.

Bill - 
Thanks so much for featuring The Sproutie on your blog. I heard through my friend Jason NT7S on Twitter that you had built a regen and we both did a double-take. Bill from Soldersmoke building a regen - and enjoying the experience? I was frantically pinching myself, as it just didn't seem likely, given your past bad karma with them but there it was - a lovely old set with that great brushed aluminum finish with the swirls on the front panel - and being worked on by Bill N2CQR. Wonderful!  I have been meaning to either e-mail you, or comment, perhaps below the post in which you featured the letter from Todd VE7BPO. I discovered recently that although we think of regens as being an established, and now stagnant technology, there are still people doing cutting edge research on them.  Some of the discussion was in the Yahoo regenrx Group, and much of the research is being done by a fellow from NJ with the username vladn. Concerning the phenomenon that we notice with our regens that, as we get close to the threshold of oscillation, the bandwidth narrows, and then as we advance into oscillation (as we do to receive SSB and CW), the bandwidth broadens out somewhat, I am going to quote verbatim a comment that was left on my blog by user qrp.gaijin,

This phenomenon has been deeply analyzed and explained (by user “vladn”) here: . It is, in fact, possible to completely eliminate this phenomenon; bandwidth can be controlled independently of oscillation amplitude (to choose a desired amount of selectivity), and oscillation amplitude can be controlled independently of bandwidth (to control how easy it is for the regen to lock on to the incoming signal: we want a low oscillation amplitude and easy locking for synchronous AM reception, whereas we want a high oscillation amplitude and no locking behavior when listening to SSB). Eliminating this phenomenon, i.e., separating control of bandwidth and oscillation amplitude, can be done by using an explicit amplitude limiter (i.e. a separate transistor/tube stage as part of the oscillator’s explicit amplitude stabilization control loop) that exhibits scale-independent gain compression. In other words, regardless of the oscillation amplitude, if the oscillator’s gain compression (amplitude limiting) behavior is scale-independent, then the final result of the repeated selective amplification (that defines the final regenerated Q and bandwidth) will be the same, regardless of the oscillation amplitude. See this video (by vladn) for a demonstration of independent control of oscillation amplitude and bandwidth: .

The fellow in NJ whose username is vladn has built a regen to test the above theory, and it works! You can see it in the video that is linked in the above quote. vladn has done other equally cutting edge research into regens, but I wanted to let you know that these little receivers are still being developed and improved by a few intrepid experimenters. Howard Armstrong would be so proud!

Best of luck building your regen Steve. With Bill Meara now a regen fan, the radio Gods are on your side!




Hi Bill and Dave,
The Soldersmoke blog post about the Sproutie super-regen radio by Dave got my soldering iron warm without even turning it on!  That National N Velvet Vernier dial really got my homebrew and radio nostalgia juices flowing with that beautiful nickel plating and the big shiny Bakelite knob.  Plus the use of modern semiconductors along with an Octal socket for the plug-in coils was almost too much to bare.
I immediately bought the National dial and the two variable caps on eBay and from the link Dave suggested in his post for the dial.  That custom chassis company, while in Nova Scotia, is quite close to me here in Maine, and I just might have to visit them to talk about the details of my proposed chassis. 
The obvious next step is a real PCB, but Dave's beautiful technique using the ME squares and pads is hard to argue with.  Those solder-friendly squares and pads are local to me too from good ol' Rex Harper.
Bill, many thanks for your post and link. Dave, thanks for the great design and implementation, as well as the amazing details and photos on your blog.  I think I see a HB super regen project in my immediate future. The parts are piling up!  Gary sold out of the N dials almost immediately.

Steve Silverman  KB3SII ... .. ..


I'm really glad that Steve wrote in because his e-mail reminded me that I need to thank him again for the multiband dipole that he sent me a couple of years ago.  For a number of reasons I couldn't really use it in its original configuration, but the wire has been used in almost all my recent antenna projects, including the magnificent Moxon.  The black insulation was just what I needed for that essential stealth effect.  Thanks Steve. 


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Thursday, August 28, 2014

Some Inspiration on Receiver Building

As a result of all the recent toob talk with Pete Juliano I've been going to work with old copies of Electric Radio in my backpack.  Yesterday, somewhere in the tunnel under the Potomac River, I read these inspiring words from master receiver builder Bob Dennison, W2HBE (SK): 

"Part of the fun in the radio building hobby is tearing up a set after a short period of use so its parts can be used again in a bigger and better set. Another order is sent to Allied Radio for an audio transformer, an RF choke, a vernier dial and some of those exquisitely beautiful Hammarlund variable condensers.  Oh what a joy it is! You just haven't lived until you've built a whole series of progressively more exotic receivers.  Give it a try!"  (ER, March 1993) 

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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

VE7BPO on the Trivialization of Regenerative Receivers

Todd Gale, VE7BPO, is a true HOMEBREW HERO.  His QRP POPS website has been a source of inspiration and information for many years.    Todd wrote in yesterday on the trivialization of regens and what we should do about it.   Thanks Todd! 

Dear Bill:

With due respect, I challenge the statement that many feel regenerative receivers are trivial.  I submit that most of us know that regens offer good sensitivity + selectivity despite their few parts, however, we ourselves, may trivialize the regen by our lack of literature reviews, experiments, imagination and attempts to improve its downfalls.

Where are the bench experiments and inspired discussion that address issues like designing circuitry to reduce overload and blocking while still maintaining high sensitivity when needed,  hum +  noise reduction, AF filtration, or ways to reduce RF pollution into the RF lab environment?  

Much work on regens and of course, its amazing sister, the super-regen dots the literature. People did make many experiments to explore topics like vario-couplers, litz wire coils with low applied power regen detectors, sensitivity analysis, noise analysis and frequency domain calculations.  
We now tend to see or present ├╝ber basic regenerative receivers complete with LM386.  Yet, still we authors somehow feel people might not respect the regen? Really?

Another factor: as my regen grows in complexity, shouldn’t I just make a zero IF radio (now just as simple with a dongle or two I/Q mixers going into sound card), or perhaps make a simple superhet with some computer crystals for the IF filter?

Regenerative receivers remain cool.  Perhaps putting both hands on the controls plus the antenna coupling are just part of the regen experience and like a standard versus automatic transmission, offers more visceral listener engagement?  

No doubt, nostalgia and love for simplicity color the regen experience.  Now is the time to make a regen — If you listen carefully — inside many big cities the crashing sound you hear is yet another SW tower coming down.  

Hats off to you Bill and also to Dave, AA7EE for his stellar blog presentation.

Todd, VE7BPO

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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Regen Madness

Dave, AA7EE, has a really nice blog article about his experiences with regen receivers.  He writes about a regen kit he built as a kid (pictured above) and goes on to describe in beautiful detail a regen he built recently using a combination of old tech and new tech:

I agree with Dave when he notes that regens are unfairly thought of as mere novelties. My old "King's Speech" regen (below) is a very useful shortwave listening  receiver and could easily be used for 40 meter CW contacts.  It is even stable enough for SSB.   

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Friday, August 22, 2014

Seized up Variable Capacitor -- Any ideas?

Perhaps in retaliation for all the bad things I've said about regens over the years, the main tuning cap in the old regen I've been working on suddenly went from completely loose to totally stiff.  I can turn it, but it is too tight for the old vernier drive in the regen.  I have replaced it with another cap, but this part was kind of the star of the show, situated as it was several inches above the chassis, connected to the tuning control by a long shaft.   I've tried squirting WD-40 in there -- no joy.  I can't even figure out how to open up the part of the cap where the ball bearings should be. It is an OLD Eddystone from England.   Any ideas? 

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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Strange Echo on China Radio International

Last night I was doing some shortwave listening on my new (OLD!) regen.   As always, China Radio International was booming in on multiple frequencies. But as I tuned them in, I noted something strange:  a very distinct echo on the signal (you can hear it in the video above).  Very strange.  Kind of like the Long Delayed Echos we've all heard about.  I started thinking of explanations.  Might this be some weird regen reverb effect?   (You see -- I'm still wary of these regens!)  But no, I checked -- the echo was there when I listened with my superhet HQ-100.  Could it be that this was some strange multipath effect, perhaps involving multiple powerful transmitters in different locations?   I was listening to the 0100-0200 UTC (20 Aug 2014) CRI English language service. (The echo continued when they switched to Chinese at 0200)  I think the frequency was 9580 kHz.   An SWL website says the transmitter was a relay station in Quivican, Cuba.

What do you guys think?  These fellows might have an explanation:

I really like shortwave listening with this old homebrew 1930s radio.  There are still a lot of interesting signals out there.  Recently heard:  Voice of Vietnam,  Radio Turkey, Radio Romania, WWV, WWVH, CHU, W1AW,  transatlantic aircraft,  Radio Australia, Radio New Zealand... and the mysterious numbers. 

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Happy Birthday Philo Farnsworth!

Thanks to Bob Crane (and Garrison Keillor):  

It's the birthday of Philo Taylor Farnsworth, the inventor of the television, born in a log cabin in Beaver, Utah, in 1906. He conceived of the basic elements necessary to transmit a visual image while he was still in high school; later, at Brigham Young University, he began his research in earnest. He co-founded Crocker Research Laboratories in San Francisco when he was just 20 years old, and the following year, in 1927, he transmitted his first image: a straight line. Investors wanted to know when they would see financial returns, so at his first demonstration for the press in 1928, he transmitted the image of a dollar sign. This earned him the first of about 165 patents.
Farnsworth appeared only once on his invention: He was the mystery guest "Dr. X" on the game show I've Got a Secret in July 1957.

I liked Paul Schatzkin's book on Philo:  "The Boy who Invented Television": Here you can read chapter one for free:

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Monday, August 18, 2014

Alan Wolke Looks at Diode Ring Mixers

Bill,   I remember in your Soldersmoke book that you had difficulty for a long time trying to understand how a mixer created the sum and difference frequencies, and how this was accomplished in a diode ring mixer.  I know that you've got it all sorted out now, but I thought this was a good topic for a video anyway.  

Here's my video on the subject:


Alan:  Thanks.  Great stuff. Yea, I've been looking at the innards of mixers for a long time. In my book, I try to explain how I have come to understand the physics of the mixing action -- how the use of a non-linear element causes two signals to "multiply" and how this "multiplication" results in sum and difference frequencies.  I tried to go beyond the trig functions because for me the trig didn't really explain anything. 

In the book I was looking at the classic two diode mixer (beloved of Doug DeMaw!).  A few years later, on the blog, I was looking at the action of the diode ring.  I concluded that there is a big difference between how the diode ring works and how the two diode mixer works.    RSGB provided a great diagram: 

73   Bill 


I guess one way of describing the difference between a two diode mixer and a diode ring would be to say that the more simple mixer multiplies the signal by 0 and 1 (if it is operating in "switching mode), while the diode ring multiplies by 1 and -1.   

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