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Thursday, September 16, 2021

The HBR-13C Receiver and the Poetic License of Homebrewers

I've been hanging out on 17 meters with my homebrew VXO-controlled BITX transceiver.  The antenna is my 75 meter doublet fed with window line through a homebrew tuner made from dead ( I swear) DX-40s and DX-60s. I can tune it up just fine on 17 meters, but I realize I probably have lots of nulls and lobes in the radiation pattern.  Apparently one of the lobes is over my old stomping grounds in Panama.  Almost everyday I talk to either HP9SAM or HP3SS. 

Robby, HP3SS, is using SDR gear now, but he was a real homebrewer back in the day.  Years ago he built an HBR-13C receiver. That's quite an achievement. 

Robby -- formerly VY2SS -- told me that he sold his HBR-13C to none other than Joe Walsh, the rockstar from The Eagles.  FB. 

As I was talking to Robby yesterday, I came across this wonderful web page about the receiver: 


Robby told me that his receiver looked almost exactly like the one on the SPARC site, but he didn't recognize the small box with what looked like a speaker on the chassis.  I told him that my guess was that this was a crystal calibrator in an oven. 

I also told Robby that I feel an affinity with the HBR project, not just because I like homebrew superhets, but also because my call in the UK was M0HBR.  

There are some great quotes in the SPARC pdf: 

The SPARC page led me to the amazing website of Kees K5BCQ: 


Here is Kees's QRZ page: 


Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Drake 2-B Advertisement

A thing of beauty. 

Monday, September 13, 2021

So Where DID the LSB/USB Convention Come From?

-- Bottom line:   I still don't know why ham radio adopted as a convention LSB below 10 MHz and USB above 10 MHz.  There are several theories. but so far there is no convincing explanation in favor of any one of them. And almost all of the people involved are probably Silent Keys by now; this makes it more difficult to gather first-hand information. 

-- I'm not even sure when the convention began to be observed in ham radio. Many of the early SSB books and articles make no mention of it. We don't see it in early ARRL Handbooks. The first mention of it that I found was in the 1965 issue of the ARRL's "Single Sideband for the Radio Amateur" page 8. This article claims that adding a provision for selectable sidebands would "add appreciably to the cost of the equipment. " It went on to say that,  "For this and other reasons there has been a species of standardization on the particular sideband used in the various amateur bands. Nearly all operations in the 3.5 and 7 Mc. phone sub-allocation is on lower sideband, while the upper sideband is used on 14, 21, and 28 Mc."  

-- We know that the informal convention was being followed as early as 1958.  Jim N2EY reports that in 1958, the manual for the Central Electronics 20A shows that LSB was the "sideband most commonly used" on 75, with USB preferred on 20:

-- Some cite a 1959 ITU recommendation on commercial multiplexed radiotelephony as the reason for the convention.  But I don't think this obscure and long-ago ruling explains the convention.  If this were the case, we'd  see follow-up FCC regulation, and at least some discussion of the ITU recommendation in the amateur radio literature.  But we see none of this.  And, as noted above, by 1958 hams were ALREADY -- on their own -- opting to use LSB on 75 and USB on 20.   The 1965 ARRL SSB book refers not to some hard-and-fast rule, but rather to  "a species of standardization" on LSB and SSB.  That ARRL book said nothing of the 1959 ITU recommendation. 

-- There is a widely held belief that this practice originated in the design of a rig that had a 5.2 MHz VFO and a 9 MHz filter.  According to this theory such a rig -- due to sideband inversion -- would produce LSB on 75 meters and USB on 20.  But, as we have demonstrated, this doesn't work, so this theory has to be discounted. 

-- Early SSB activity seems to have been concentrated on 75 meters, and there was a competition for space with AM stations.   SSB operators appear to have used the very upper band edge as their gathering spot.  Using LSB allowed them to operate very close to the upper band edge -- a lot closer than AM stations could go.  This may explain why LSB became the preferred SSB mode on 75.  But how do we explain USB on 20 and above?  That remains a mystery. 

-- It is important to remember that in the early days of SSB, for most hams there were only two important phone bands: 75 meters and 20 meters.  40 meters was CW only until 1952, and even after that was crowded with shortwave broadcast stations.   So a design that allowed for both 75 and 20 was twice as good as a monoband design. 

-- Early on there were designs and parts for phasing rigs.  You could take that ARC-5 VFO at 5 MHz, build a phasing generator around it, and then mix it with a 9 MHz to get on either band.  But with just a simple switch, this kind of rig could operate on USB or LSB on either band.  So the early popularity of this kid of rig does not explain the convention. 

-- There were a lot of surplus 5 MHz ARC-5 VFOs available. There were also FT-243 and FT-241 surplus crystals at both 5 MHz and 9 MHz that could be made into filters.  Later in the 1950s, 9 MHz commercial crystal filters became available.  If you used a 9 MHz filter with a 5 MHz VFO, there would be no sideband inversion in your rig.  If the SSB generator was putting out LSB on 9 MHz, you'd be on LSB on both bands.  So if there was a desire to have LSB on 75, why not just also have LSB on 20? 

-- But if you built a 5.2 MHz filter and a 9 MHz VFO,  you could have LSB on 75 and USB on 20 without having to shift the carrier oscillator frequency.  This would save you the trouble and expense of moving the carrier oscillator/BFO to the other side of the passband.  This desire to economize and simplify may explain why we ended up with LSB on 75 and USB on 20.  But this still begs the question: Why the desire for USB on 20?  

-- Both the manufacturers and the hams wanted there to be sideband standardization.  With monoband rigs, the manufacturers would be able to cut costs by building for only one sideband.  Hams also wanted to cut costs, and they did not want to have to figure out which sideband a station was on when trying to tune him in. 

-- By 1962-1963  Swan and Heathkit were selling mono-band SSB transceivers that used the "conventional" sidebands:  The rigs for 75 and 40 meters were on LSB while the 20 meter rigs were on USB.  There were no provisions for switching to the other sideband. This seems to have reinforced the practice of observing the convention.   (Heath later added sideband switching to the HW monobanders -- in view of the growing observation of the convention, they may have been better off sticking with their original design. Does anyone know why they did this?)  But again, why USB on 20 and above? 

--  In 1963, Swan, by then in Oceanside California, came out with the Swan 240.   Swan used a filter centered at 5174.5 kc. The VFO ran from 8953 kc to 9193 kc on 75 and 20.  The VFO ran from 12222 to 12493 on 40.  This gave the buyer 75 and 40 on LSB, and 20 USB with only one carrier oscillator frequency. (Swan offered a mod that allowed hams to install an additional, switchable carrier oscillator frequency.  I luckily acquired one such modified rig.)  But again, there is an explanation for LSB on 75, but why USB on 20 and above?

This is an important part of ham radio history.   There should be a clear answer.  We need to find it.   If anyone has any good info on this, please let me know.  

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Simple SSB Success in Northern Virginia -- "The Radio Does Not Build Itself...."

Dean KK4DAS and the Vienna Wireless Society (VWS) Builders Group have had some remarkable success with Pete Juliano's Simple SSB design.  Sixteen of the rigs have reached the point where the receivers are fully functional.  Eight more have gone the final (!) stretch and have the full transceivers working.  This week Dean and two other VWS builders met up on 40 meters for the world's first multi-SSSB QSO (see Dean's video in the link below). 


Here's Dean's presentation to the club describing the project and Pete's rig: 


As Pete says, "The radio does not build itself..."   Indeed it doesn't!  The VWS builders made these rigs.   FB! 

Saturday, September 11, 2021

Visiting the Site of Marconi's Wireless Station at Wellfleet, Massachusetts


We were in Boston and the Cape Cod area this week.  We stopped off at the Marconi Wireless site at Wellfleet, Mass.   

This is from the National Park Service web site: 

Spanning the Ocean

For Marconi the ‘great thing’ was to transmit wireless signals across the Atlantic. He built stations at Poldhu, England, Glace Bay, Nova Scotia, and South Wellfleet, Massachusetts. At this stage of wireless technology relatively long electromagnetic waves were used as signals. Transmitting great distances, therefore, required great sensitivity of receivers and tremendous power. Originally, huge rings of masts were installed to support the needed antennas. When storms destroyed them, they were replaced by sets of four wooden towers, 210 feet in height. Power requirements were tremendous. Keroseneburning engines produced 2,200 volts. When fed to a Tesla transformer, the voltage was stepped up to 25,000 volts – the energy needed to transmit longwave signals so far. It was from the Glace Bay station that the first successful two-way transatlantic wireless test message was sent on December 17, 1902.
A black and white photo of a man and two women standing in an open area facing a building next to a tall circular array of thin antennas.
The original wireless array.

Impacting Lives

January 18, 1903 the first public two-way wireless communication between Europe and America occurred. With elation, communiques from President Theodore Roosevelt and King Edward VII were translated into international Morse code at the South Wellfleet and English stations, respectively, and were broadcast.

Ocean-going vessels quickly adopted Marconi apparatus to receive news broadcasts, and soon ship-to-shore transmittals were a major operation. Business and social messages could be sent for fifty cents a word. The South Wellfleet station became the lead North American facility for this function. The station’s effectiveness was limited however, so broadcasts were made between 10 pm and 2 am when atmospheric conditions were best.

This brought little enthusiasm from local residents, who endured the sounds of the crashing spark from the great three-foot rotor supplied with 30,000 watts. The sound of the spark could be heard four miles downwind from the station. Eventually, the novelty of wireless telegraphy waned. However, the need for communication at sea remained high. Effective communication resulted in numerous sea rescues, culminating in the Carpathia’s wireless-aided rescue of over 700 people from the Titanic in 1912.

For fifteen years the South Wellfleet sparkgap transmitter continued in commercial use. Skilled telegraphers sent out messages at the rate of 17 words a minute, and station CC (Cape Cod) served in effect as the first “Voice of America.”


Wednesday, September 8, 2021

SST -- QRP On The Beach

Up in a beach house on Cape Cod Bay in Massachusetts, I put the SST on 20 meters using an End-fed Half Wave antenna and QRP-guys tuner.  Conditions were pretty bad, with solar storms causing disturbances in propagation, but I did manage to get picked up by RBN skimmers in Iceland, Germany and Italy (see below).  And I had one nice QRP-QRP contact with DK4AN.

I was having trouble getting out until I used the oar to raise the central portion of the half wave antenna -- that's where the current is. 

Thanks again to Bob KD4EBM for sending me the SST.  

Saturday, September 4, 2021

Cosmic Rays, Bit Flips, and Computer Vulnerability

Here is a very interesting video about a problem that many of us have been blissfully unaware. 

You can see the role played by the solar cycle.  This is the subject of some on-going research by the folks who put out the SpaceWeather.com web site.  They have been flying balloons to measure high altitude cosmic rays: 

I've been meaning to build a cloud chamber for a long time.  I recently discovered that my local 
supermarket sells dry ice... 

Thanks to Dave, K8WPE for alerting us to this video.  

Friday, September 3, 2021

1BCG -- 1921 Transatlantic Test and the Upcoming 100th Anniversary

In December 2021 we will reach the 100th Anniversary of the famous Transatlantic Test that marked the first crossing of the Atlantic by radio amateurs.  The video above provides a really excellent description of the momentous event. A few things struck me: 

-- Even then they struggled with amplifiers that wanted to oscillate. 

-- Armstrong should have gotten more credit for the transmitter design.  After all, it was his regenerative system that gave rise to the kind of oscillators that allowed for CW (vice spark) and that formed the basis of the MOPA transmitter that these fellows used. 

-- The info on the Superhet receiver used by Paul Godley in Scotland was really interesting:  It used   "resistance-coupled amplifiers without transformers," similar to what we have today in Farhan's BITX transceivers. 

-- Wow, Harold Beverage himself! And his antenna was used at the Scotland receiving station. 

-- "It was a miracle that no one got mixed up with the high voltage."  Indeed.  

The Antique Wireless Association has built a replica of the 1921 transmitter.  The video below shows it being tested. 

The 1BCG website announces that: 

On December 11, 2021 the American Radio Relay League, The Radio Club of America and the Antique Wireless Association will recreate these historic transmissions on 160 meters near the same location that was used in 1921, using a replica transmitter constructed by volunteers at the Antique Wireless Association. This special event is your opportunity to relive a historic moment in amateur radio history.

The operating schedule and frequency for the 1BCG Transatlantic Tests Special Event has not been established.

Additional details will be posted here when they are available.


Thursday, September 2, 2021

A Public Service Announcement


Only YOU can prevent reverse polarity accidents! 
Thank you Jeff Murray.

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

SSB History -- The Tucker Tin 2 (and 3) with a 1961 Recording. Hallicrafters FPM-200 Video by W9RAN

There is so much important SSB history in this video from Bob Nichols, W9RAN.  I liked all of it,  but the on-the-air recording of a 1961 transmission from a Tucker Tin 3 was really amazing.  Check it out. 

Here is the 2014 SolderSmoke blog post about the Tucker Tin 2. You can see the 1961 schematic here: 

As you can see this is a very simple phasing-type SSB rig.  The SSB generator is crystal controlled at the operating frequency.  

Thanks to Bob W9RAN, and thanks to Peter Parker VK3YE for posting about this video on the SolderSmoke Facebook Page. 


The Chatham Islands

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Kintsugi -- A Japanese Philosophy for the Owners of Imperfect Rigs

 On Sun, Aug 29, 2021 at 4:05 PM Bob Scott wrote:

Hi Bill:

   After listening to the latest Soldersmoke I thought you might find the Japanese concept of "kintsugi" (literally "golden joinery") interesting.  

       As a philosophy, kintsugi is similar to the Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi, an embracing of the flawed or imperfect.[11][12] Japanese aesthetics values marks of wear from the use of an object. This can be seen as a rationale for keeping an object around even after it has broken and as a justification of kintsugi itself, highlighting the cracks and repairs as simply an event in the life of an object rather than allowing its service to end at the time of its damage or breakage, and can be seen as a variant of the adage "Waste not, want not".[13]

  Kintsugi can relate to the Japanese philosophy of mushin (無心, "no mind"), which encompasses the concepts of non-attachment, acceptance of change, and fate as aspects of human life.[14]
  Not only is there no attempt to hide the damage, but the repair is literally illuminated... a kind of physical expression of the spirit of mushin....Mushin is often literally translated as "no mind," but carries connotations of fully existing within the moment, of non-attachment, of equanimity amid changing conditions. ...The vicissitudes of existence over time, to which all humans are susceptible, could not be clearer than in the breaks, the knocks, and the shattering to which ceramic ware too is subject. This poignancy or aesthetic of existence has been known in Japan as mono no aware, a compassionate sensitivity, or perhaps identification with, [things] outside oneself.

 — Christy Bartlett, Flickwerk: The Aesthetics of Mended Japanese Ceramics

  Bob KD4EBM


I shared Bob's Kintsugi message with David, WA1LBP.  David was one of the few radio amateurs in the ranks of the Foreign Service.  He was in Okinawa during the early 1990s, when I was in Santo Domingo.  For a time we both wrote columns in the "73 International" section of Wayne Green's magazine -- this made us "Hambassadors."  David is a real scholar of difficult Asian languages.  During my last years in government service I would sometimes cross paths with David at lunch time on the National Mall in Washington -- he'd be out there with a colleague, studying ancient Chinese poetry. 

Here are David's thoughts on this: 

Thanks,  Hambassador Bill.

In Buddhism, muxin (in Chinese wuxin) is about freeing oneself from troubling thoughts, distractions, and selfishness and so attaining a calmness that is very aware of all that goes on at the same time.  I suppose once free from distractions one can be more alert.  So maybe not literally no mind but no-selfish-obsessed-mind

Amazing what one can find online. A distraction too I suppose!

Chan embraced this account of nonduality and Buddha-nature, but distinctively used it to qualify the meaning of Buddhist practice and the personal ideal of the bodhisattva. In the Platform Sutra attributed to Huineng, he insists that

meditation is the embodiment (ti) of wisdom, and wisdom is the functioning (yong) of meditation.

The point of Chan is to see one’s own “original nature” (benxing, 本性) and realize “authentic heartmind” (zhenxin, 眞心), and in doing so the dualities of thought and reality, of passion and enlightenment, and of the impure and pure all dissolve. Then,

true suchness (zhenru, 真如) is the embodied structure (ti) of thinking, while thinking is the functioning (yong) of true suchness. (Platform Sutra, 13–17)

To see our own original nature is to see that true suchness and thinking are as intimately related as the bodily structure of a horse and its customary activities. Just as the bodily structure of the horse establishes the conditions of possibility for grazing and galloping, it is only the proven evolutionary advantage of grazing and galloping in horse-like ways that have made this bodily structure possible. True suchness or ultimate reality is not a preexistent something “out there” that can be grasped intellectually or accessed through some mystical vision; it can only be enacted.

Huangbo Yixun (d. 850) describes this as demonstrating no-“mind” (wuxin, 無心) or freedom from conceptual impositions that would define or limit reality. But this is not a lapse into mental blankness or indiscriminate presence. Realizing no-“mind” restores our originally whole mind (yixin, 一心) that Huangbo qualifies as the “silent bond” (moqi, 默契) of “conducting oneself as all Buddhas have” (in Taishō shinshō daizūkyu, Vol.48, 2012.380b to 383c). Significantly, the term “qi” originally referred to notches or tally marks on a strip of bamboo that record the terms of a trade agreement and the bonding that Huangbo invokes is thus one of mutually entrusted obligation and responsibility. True suchness consists in the personification of the bodhisattva ideal of realizing liberating forms of relationality. Ultimate reality consists in enacting the morally-inflected nonduality of wisdom and compassion.



I remember that it was George Dobbs, G3RJV who introduced us to the concept of Wabi sabi:


This philosophical embrace of imperfection and repair is very appealing to me.  I am surrounded by old radios that bear the marks of wear, tear and repair.  My homebrew radios are filled with imperfections (especially in the cabinetry).   But Kintsugi tells me this is all OK.  I accept it. 

Thanks Bob.  Thanks Hambassador David. And thanks to George Dobbs. 

Monday, August 30, 2021

No More Automatic E-mails from the SolderSmoke Blog

Blogspot and Feedburner tell me that as of the end of August 2021, they will no longer be sending automatic e-mails to those who have subscribed to e-mail alerts for blog postings.  

I believe you can still subscribe to the blog. But no more e-mailed alerts. 

Please let me know if this loss of automatic e-mails will cause major disruptions for you. 


Adding Automatic Gain Control to the Termination Insensitive Amplifier

Earlier this month Paul VK3HN had a very interesting blog post about adding Automatic Gain Control to Termination Insensitive Amplifiers (TIAs).  

Termination Insensitivity is especially important in bidirectional rigs.  The shape of the crystal filter bandpass response is very dependent on the impedances presented at both ends of the filter.  In bidirectional rigs you are changing the signal path direction through the filter when you go from transmit to receive.  If the amplifiers at either end of the filter have impedances that vary depending on what is on the input or output of either stage, you will have great difficulty keeping the bandpass identical as you move from transmit to receive.  Termination Insensitive Amplifiers let you do just that -- they stay at one fixed input or output impedance (usually 50 ohms) independent of what is attached to the other end of the amplifier circuit.  This greatly simplifies impedance matching at the ends of the crystal filter. 

When I started building BITX rigs, I asked Farhan about the impedance matching problem.  He advised me to use TIAs on both ends of the filter and pointed me to a great 2009 article by Wes Hayward and Bob Kopski.  Using the information from that article, I built my DIGI-TIA transceiver, and I have used TIAs in almost all of the rigs I have built since that project.   

In his August 2021 blog post, Paul wanted to add Automatic Gain Control to the TIAs. He came up with a way to do this, but we worried that his circuit would have an impact on the impedance of the amplifiers. 

Yesterday, Wes Hayward W7ZOI posted on his web site a TIA circuit that lets us do it all:  Termination Insensitivity with Automatic Gain Control: 

I now find myself tempted to rebuild one of the TIA stages in my Mythbuster transceiver, adding the AGC circuitry from Wes's design. 

Thanks to Paul VK3HN for the blog post on this subject. And thanks to Wes Hayward for the TIA AGC design.  It is a real privilege to have direct input from Wes on questions like this. 

Friday, August 27, 2021

SolderSmoke Podcast #232 -- Mythbuster, Pete's Tube CW Rig, Pete's DC RX and Simple SSB Rig, NanoVNA and TinySA, Very FB Mailbag

SolderSmoke Podcast #232 is available -- Crank it in Robert!

Featuring a guitar intro by Pete "Bluesman" Juliano,  playing his own composition: "Juliano Blues." 

Upcoming GQRP convention and the N6QW rig
Frank Jones and the FMLA -- Possible Victory?
IBEW Stickers:  NASA, Johns Hopkins APL....
Cycle 25 Lookin Better Today:  SFI 93   SN 47
Pete's Bench:
Toobular!  A Tube Transmitter
Simple SSB rigs around the world! 
KI7NSS's Pacific 40
Bill's Bench
The Mythbuster and the Struggle Against the Urban Legend
W2EWL's Cheap and Easy SSB
W4IMP's IMP. Articles in ER by Jim Musgrove K5BZH and Jim Hanlon W8KGI
The Spirit of Homebrew SSB. From Electric Radio K5BZH December 1991
Reduced Front End Gain on the DIGITIA
Back on 17!  HP3SS sells HBR receiver to Joe Walsh
Maybe another Moxon?
Test Gear
NanoVNA -- Alan W2AEW helped solve mystery of why NanoVNA not providing accurate readout of circuit impedance.  Over driving.  Need attenuator. 
TinySA -- Limited Resolution Bandwidth.  But you can listen with it!  See video on blog.
-- Google Feedburner to end e-mails from the blog :-(
-- Paul VK3HN -- TIA AGC? Farhan and Paul looking into options 
-- Ciprian's Romanian Mighty Mite
-- Dino KL0S SolderSmoke GIF and graphical presentation on sideband inversion
-- Allison KB1GMX helped me on 24 volts to IRF 510 issue.
-- Dave K8WPE Wabi Sabi and Martha Stewart. And thanks for parts!  40673s!
-- Steve N8NM building a 17 meter rig with 22.1184 crystals in a SuperVXO and a 4 MHz filter.  
-- Dean KK4DAS restoring an old Zenith.  One hand behind your back OM. 
-- Pete Eaton debating SSB or DSB for 17.  Go DSB Pete!
-- Richard KN7FSZ a FB HBer.  Asked about my solid-stating of Galaxy V VFO.  
-- Walter KA4KXX on benefits of no-tune BP filters like Farhan's   FB. 
-- Jack 5B4APL on Time Crystals and Homebrewing in the 4th dimension.  FB OM!  
-- Moses K8TIY listens to the podcast with his young son Robert.  Crank it in Robert! 
-- Farhan and the SBitx on Hack-A-Day
-- Also Tom's receiver from junked satellite rig on Hack-A-Day
-- Todd K7TFC sent in beautiful message about the spirit of homebrewing. On the blog.
-- Grayson KJ7UM was on Ham Radio Workbench with George Zaf
-- AAron K5ATG running a uBitx with a  homebrew tuner and antenna.  Hope I can work him 
-- Heard Mike WA3O last night on 40 DIGITIA.  Water cooled amplifier

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Making a BIG Transformer from Scratch -- Video

Wow.  Watch this young guy make something very useful.  This video reminded me of the 16 de Marzo neighborhood in Santo Domingo, where I was able to get the RF choke and power transformer of my Hallicrafters HT-37 repaired.   This guy takes that a big step further.  He does lot with very limited resources, and does it in a workshop that many of us just wouldn't be able to tolerate. There is obviously a lot of skill in his production of this transformer,  and lot of wise re-purposing of materials.  

I think this shop is in Pakistan.  Three cheers for the Malik Transformer makers! 

Thanks to Rogier PA1ZZ for alerting me to this video. 

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Video: E. Howard Armstrong and Early Radio

This is a really wonderful video. It might seem slow to those accustomed to faster-paced YouTube videos, but the information content is very high -- it contains a lot of pictures I hadn't seen before and audio of Howard Armstrong.  

I never knew that the name of the radio company Zenith was derived from the early callsign "9ZN." 

As a Northern Virginian, I like the reference to NAA Arlington.  

I used to live near Yonkers, N.Y.  I remember Warburton Ave.  What a fine shack young Howard had up in that cupola attic.  

The photo of Armstrong's breadboard was very nice.  My Mythbuster is in good company.

QRPers will get a kick out of the newspaper headline "New Radio Marvel Revealed!"  (They cut the power out from 20kW to 5 watts!) 

Thanks again to Dave Bamford W2DAB for sending me the book about Armstrong, "Man of High Fidelity" by Lawrence Lessing.  

Finally, I remember talking to Bruce Kelley W2ICE at hamfests.   He was a great radio amateur: 

Be sure to check out the Antique Wireless Museum's YouTube Channel.  Lots of good stuff there: 

We have the famous photo of Major Armstrong,
 but this is the first one I've seen of a slightly younger Captain E. Howard Armstrong. 

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Mythbuster Video #17 Boxing it Up, Tuning Filters, Tapping a Heat Sink, QRO Dreams....

I made a cabinet out of scrap packing material. I show how I tune LC filters by squeezing the turns on toroidal inductors. I tap a heatsink and think about more power for the Mythbuster.

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Joe Galeski's 1960 "IMP" 3 -Tube Filter SSB Transmitter, and the Spirit of SSB Homebrew

Here is another important bit of SSB history.  In  May 1960, Joe Galeski W4IMP published an article in QST describing his super-simple SSB transmitter.  While Tony Vitale's "Cheap and Easy" rig was a phasing design, Joe came up with a filter rig.  He built USB filter at 5775 kc.  With it, he ran a VXO at around 8525 kc. This put him on 20 meter USB. 

Here is the QST article: http://marc.retronik.fr/AmateurRadio/SSB/A_3_tubes_filter_rig_%28SSB%29_%5BQST_1960_5p%5D.pdf 

In discussing how to put this rig on other bands, Joe got the sideband inversion question exactly right: 

Thank you Joe!  

Joe even provides an comment that seems to capture an important element of the homebrew SSB ethos.  Joe homebrewed his filter, but he mentioned the possibility of using a store-bought filter: 

That's the spirit Joe!  

Along the same lines, Jim Musgrove wrote in Electric Radio: 

Having built Lew McCoy's Mate for the Mighty Midget receiver (which also used just three tubes), I can't help thinking that an IMP-ish transmitter would be an excellent complement to the Mate for the Mighty Midget.  

Jim Musgrove K5BZH knew Joe Galeski and wrote about him in the January 1992 issue of Electric Radio.  Jim wrote that Joe was an optometrist by profession. When OE1FF wanted to know the cost of building an IMP, Joe Galeski boxed up the original and sent it to him.  FB Joe. 

In December 1961 Joe Galeski published a QST article describing a transistorized version of the IMP -- this rig ran on 15 meters.  K5BZH wrote that Joe later published an article about a small, solid-state transceiver,  appropriately called "The Shrimp." 

Saturday, August 21, 2021

W2EWL's "Cheap and Easy SSB" Rig -- And The LSB/USB Convention Myth

In March 1956 Tony Vitale published in QST an article about a "Cheap and Easy" SSB transmitter that he had built around the VFO in an ARC-5 Command Set transmitter.  Vitale added a 9 MHz crystal-controlled oscillator,  and around this built a simple phasing generator that produced SSB at 9 MHz.  He then made excellent use of the ARC-5's stable 5 - 5.5 MHz VFO.  His rig covered both 75 meters and 20 meters.  Here is the article:


Because it used the 9 and 5 frequency scheme, over the years many, many hams have come to think that Vitale's rig is the source of the current "LSB below 10 MHz, USB above 10 MHz." This is  wrong.   An example of this error popped up on YouTube just this week (the video is otherwise excellent): 

First, Vitale's rig had a phasing SSB generator. All you would need to switch from USB to LSB was a simple switch.  And indeed Vitale's rig had such a switch. Pictures of other Cheap and Easy transmitters all show an SSB selection switch. So with a flip of the switch you could have been on either USB or LSB on both 75 and 20.  With this rig, you didn't even need sideband inversion to get you to 75 LSB and 20 USB. 

Second, even if hams somehow became so frugal that they wanted to save the expense of the switch, leaving the switch out (as suggested above) would NOT yield the desired "75 LSB 20 USB" that the urban legend claims that W2EWL.   As we have been pointing out, a 9 MHz SSB generator paired with a 5 MHz VFO (as in the Vitale rig) will NOT -- through sideband inversion -- yield LSB on one band but USB on the other.   

W2EWL's rig could not have been the source of the LSB/USB convention.  I still don't know where the convention came from. I am still looking for the source. 

But leaving the LSB/USB convention issue aside, Tony Vitale's rig is an excellent example of early SSB homebrewing, and of a very clever use of war surplus material.  In the January 1992 issue of Electric Radio magazine, Jim Musgrove K5BZH writes of his conversations with Vitale about the Cheap and Easy SSB.  Tony told Jim that this rig came about because the Central Electronics exciters required an external VFO -- they recommended a modified BC458.   B&W had recently come out with a phase shift network. Vitale went ahead and built the whole rig inside a BC458 box.  FB Tony! 

In the December 1991 Electric Radio, Jim K5BZH reports that Tony was recruited into the ranks of SSBers when he watched a demonstration of SSB by Bob Ehrlich W2NJR in November 1950. Tony very quickly started churning out SSB rigs.  His daughter Trish Taglairino recounted that when her father had "done something great again" there would be a parade of hams to the basement shack.  About 30 guys showed up when Tony put his first SSB rig on the air -- they sent out for beer.  

Thanks to Jim for preserving so much SSB history. 

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Time Crystals, and Breadboarding in Cyprus in the 4th Dimension


We are always impressed by the way in which SolderSmoke listeners stay on the cutting edge (sometimes OVER the edge!) of modern technology.  I recently got this fascinating note from our friend Jack AI4SV, who is now operating under the hot sun of the Mediterranean island of Cyprus.  

Hi Bill,

It is brutally hot here in Cyprus during the summer, so we're spending a week at a rental on the beach -- no complaints in that regard. With all construction material back at the main house, I am free to daydream with no threat of actually building anything that I think of. The result: a new technique -- fourth dimensional design.

This probably popped into my head because I went to sleep right after reading an article about "time crystals" (https://www.quantamagazine.org/first-time-crystal-built-using-googles-quantum-computer-20210730/#:~:text=A%20time%20crystal%20is%20both,of%20what%20a%20phase%20is.), which are similar to physical crystals, but their pattern have symmetry in the time axis. I have to imagine that these things have some application in radio since oscillation is intrinsic to their state of existence. I don't want to think too much about them because it makes my head hurt.

Now, consider breadboarding. There isn't much to say about one dimensional circuits since current has to flow in a circle, but I suppose Franklin's kite was kind of one-dimensional: cloud, Franklin, earth. At least it had a key, so kind of relevant to radio, at least if you are a CW operator.

Two-dimensional circuit design would be a breadboard, particularly with surface mount components. Arguably three-dimensional if it's mulitlayer. Manhattan Island or Deadbug is more in the realm of three-dimensional, with components sticking up from the board, and true three-dimensional is probably best reflected in tube rigs with spider webs of wiring. I don't know who can think in terms of three dimensional layout like that, but it's certainly an art (kind of a blend of Escher, Dali and Bosch).

Now comes fourth dimensional design - not just a theoretical abstraction, but a realizable method that would result in lower part count and simplify the operator interface to a single knob. The basic idea is that you have a design laid out in three dimensional space and that design is made time-variant in space. The simplest implementation would be a breadboard mounted in a track so it slides back and forth, like a desk drawer. Pulling it towards you puts it in transmit, pushing it away in receive. The secret sauce is that the rails have contacts and that the layout is designed such that the traces or pads on the board line up with contacts on the rails such that no relays are needed on the board. Some thought would need to be put in to assure that contacts are made in an appropriate order to avoid frying components.  

That's already fourth dimensional because the same board exists in two states and it can be one or the other, but not both at the same time. Superimposing transmit on receive would be bad, maybe world-ending.

There is no reason to stop there. This whole slide drawer sort of layout could be mounted on a rotational axis with contacts distributed around a tube surrounding the railings. Now you have band switching. Pull the knob to receive, twist it to go to 20 meters, push back in to transmit. That's only roll and translation in one axis -- four more to go, the practical implementation of which I will leave to the reader. Perhaps put mode (CW, SSB, etc.) on yaw, tuning on pitch (which seems natural), volume on y-translation, and RF gain on x-translation, and you would have a formidable 4D transmitter.

Clearly, this is too big to keep to myself, so I am sending it onward to you to share with the world for the benefit of mankind.

Hope all is well in the shack somewhere in the wilds of Northern Virginia. 



My follow-up exchange with Jack: 

Jack:  When I read the title I thought you were going to comment on my BOLD decision to place a wooden front panel on my heretofore Al Fresco Mythbuster rig.  But I see now you have taken this to an entirely different astral plane!  Far out OM!  Really groovy.  The crystal thing really brings it into New Age relevance.  Whole Foods may want to get involved! 

I've long thought that the three dimensional nature of tube rigs is one of their most attractive features. You, my friend, are taking this one step further, into Einsteinian space time!  One problem I foresee:  How will hams "synch up" if they are moving through space time at different relativistic speeds?  This could be a real problem for the FT-8 folks and the WSPRers.  

Can I put your hyper-insightful message on the SS blog?   People need to know about this! 

73  Bill  
Hi Bill,

That was a BOLD design choice, but I like the aesthetic.

I'll let Joe Taylor grapple with the cosmic issues related to synching signals. The bigger issue may be regulatory in nature. I am not sure how Part 97 will deal with signals received before they are sent.

Yes, please feel free to share on the blog -- the world needs to know.



Jack:  Another possibility:  Perhaps too much Cypriot sun?  Stay safe OM! SITS!   73  Bill 
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