Listen to Latest SolderSmoke Podcast

Thursday, June 21, 2018

"Hot Iron" #100 -- Thanks Tim Walford!

Tim Walford, G3PCJ has put out issue #100 of Hot Iron, the Journal of the Constructors Club.  That my friends is a long time publishing a quarterly.  25 years!   And it is a wonderful publication, filled with ideas and inspiration.  

Tim tells us in #100 that he is passing the baton (the Hot Iron?) to Peter Thornton, G6NGR who will keep the iron hot from here on out.   Peter is looking for contributions for issue #101.  Please try to help him out.  

Thanks again to Tim.  Good luck with the farm and the house moves.  

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Digital Pot

No, this is not some on-line mail order thing.  Bruce KC1FSZ has done something that I find both amazing and horrifying:  he using a "digital potentiometer"  as the AF gain control in his BITX.  Remember when pots were simple and pure, when they were just a metal wiper that ran across a crescent of carbon of increasing resistance?  Well, those happy days are apparently behind us my friends.   What now?  Will we have endless discussions about where to find the driver for the 10k pot?   Will Facebook or Amazon or Microsoft secretly seize control of the data on our AF gain, perhaps to sell us hearing aids?   But enough of my ludism.  Good going Bruce.  AGC beckons. 


I've built a few BITX rigs from scratch now and I'm starting to move to a modular approach using fabricated PCBs to make it easier/faster to build/mix/match the stages.  My audio amplifier module is based on the LM386.  I know others have moved away from this chip, but it still works for me.

I've added one feature to my audio amp stage that opens up some good possibilities.  Instead of the traditional potentiometer between the AF preamp and the LM386, I've inserted a digital potentiometer (MCP4131-103) that is controlled by three extra pins on the microcontroller.  The digital pot lists for $0.81 on Mouser so it's no more expensive than a physical pot and it's way more versatile.

Why do this?

  • The module is quick to make if you're building a lot of rigs.
  • AF gain can be controlled via the CAT port.
  • AGC control can be done in software.  This enables all kinds of fancy AGC "attack" and "release" controls that can be seen in the docs for commercial rigs.
  • This is an enabling feature for remote ops, which is why I did this in the first place.
  • AF gain can be controlled using the same encoder (different mode) as is used to control frequency, etc. if you wanted to build a more compact rig.
The board is shown below.  This is one of my first forays into KiCAD/PCBs/etc. so it's probably not as "tight" as it could be.  Also, I'm using through-hole components so it's old-school building.  But the board only costs $7 on OSHPark and it's pretty quick to wire up.  Anyone who wants to order one from them drop me a line and I'll send you the link.

Schematic below.

Bruce KC1FSZ

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Peter's New Airplane

Again.  Amazing.  What a great workshop.   Note his comments on the importance of DESIGNING FIRST, THEN BUILDING.  Words to live by my friends, words to live by.  Read and heed.  

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Video on PCB Factory in China

This factory is a LONG way from Manhattan -- both from the island and from the technique.  

How about some Juliano Blue PC Boards?   

The machine that automatically checks for bad connections was especially amazing. 

And the boards are made in 24 hours, with 3 day shipping to the U.S. 

Sunday, June 10, 2018

"First Man" Neil Armstrong Movie Trailer

I think Ryan Gosling is a good choice to play Neil Armstrong.  It looks like this movie will deal with the "right stuff," a concept somewhat related to "the knack." 

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Another Wood Box BITX! KC1FSZ Abandons Al-Fresco but Continues with Wood

'Tis a thing of beauty.   I like the wood.  And I like the hood.  The handles are a nice touch.  A fitting follow-up to its al fresco organic origins.  

Hi Guys:

I know there was a view that my giant BITX was supposed to be left out in the open, but I’m going to try to attend my local club’s Field Day festivities this year and the 4 foot long “planker” was pressing the limits of portability.  So I moved from the shack to the wood shop and built myself some custom cabinetry.  I think it looks a bit like an IC-73000 now don’t you think?  OK, maybe not.  

There is a hinged door at the top and shelf levels inside for the different parts of the circuit. The power supply and PA section are mounted on the bottom which can be removed for accessibility/serviceability.   The whole thing weighs about 10 pounds!!


Bruce KC1FSZ

Designer: Douglas Bowman | Dimodifikasi oleh Abdul Munir Original Posting Rounders 3 Column