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Thursday, March 4, 2010

Book Review (and a price reduction)

Lulu is having a sale this month. Just enter the coupon code IDES at checkout and save 10% on SolderSmoke -- The Book
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Dale, G4IPZ wrote this review of the book:

It's not often that I've come across a book that combines the fun of Amateur radio along with understandable explanations of difficult technical concepts as well as being a damn good read.
This book not only achieves this but does it perfectly.
It's described on the back cover as "... the story of a secret, after-hours life in electronics." Why after hours? Well because the author, Bill Meara (N2CQR, M0HBR, CU2JL) is a diplomat, a consul for the United states of America, having been posted to such diverse locations as Rome, London, Panama, El Salvador, the Dominican republic and many other places.
During his career as a diplomat his hobby of ham radio and in particular QRP and home-brewing has followed him around the world.
He admits that he did take time out for a while on meeting his future wife and then marrying her. Then, as so many of us have done before, he began to be drawn back into the hobby; the warmth of the shack, where on a cold night, he could sit clutching a hot coffee, listening to the bands, talking to friends and surrounded by the smell of solder smoke.
During his years as a diplomat-ham he has spent much of his free time trying to understand some of the whys and wherefores of the circuits he was building, attempting to build and attempting to fault find when they didn't work. And so many of us have been right down that road!
And that explains what this book is; it's a form of diary of Bill's Eureka moments combined with an insight into his travels and life as a diplomat.
The technical range covered is quite large and despite all my years in electronics I found many of his eureka moments clarified some of my ingrained foggier thinking.
For example we all know how mixers work. Or do we? How many of us can actually explain what goes on even in the simplest of two diode balanced mixers? Most of us just accept that, by the black necromancy of radio in which we dabble, fearing the release the magical smoke at the wrong moment, it just mixes and that's that.
But Bill took time to ask, query and eventually, by making notes to himself, come to understand what was going on. And his explanations of mixers and other such subjects are indeed highly illuminating. He explains semiconductor principles (Do you really understand hole flow versus electron flow?). And how about resonant circuits for example? Bill explains these and much more in a refreshing new way along with capacitors, crystals, and a host of other often accepted but often not fully understood truths that we, as amateurs just take for granted.
This is an ongoing life's trip through the hobby which we all share with Bill, and remember that he is not a professional electronics engineer; he is a radio ham who wants to be more than an "appliance operator".
He enjoys tinkering and has stuck with some pieces of equipment for more years than I will mention but it hasn't stopped him working through the satellites and bridging the oceans on less watts than a nightlight.
And as well as his obvious love of his hobby, he introduces us to many of the other amateurs he has met on his travels and at his various postings. He paints a wonderful picture of the people that many of us may get to meet on the air but he's been lucky enough to meet face to face.
And as well as doing all this he also ventured into the world of Pod-casting and blogging, the outputs which has reached thousands world-wide on his SolderSmoke website.
I cannot recommend this book too highly and I found that it was one which I couldn't put down until I'd finished.
Dale Haines G4IPZ

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