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Friday, June 29, 2012

Arduino's Massimo Banzi Talks Homebrew

I liked Banzi's presentation and I think you guys will like it too.  Arduino and the open source movement seems to have something in common with of the old ham radio tradition of helping fellow amateurs.  Bravo Massimo!

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Thursday, June 28, 2012

Angelo's ATR-4

On Monday I was talking to Angelo, W8ERN, on 17 meters.   He told me about an SSB transceiver that he had designed for ELMAC, the ATR-4.   Take a look at that beauty.   The amazing thing is the year in which Angelo created this rig:  1959!  Wow, talk about being ahead of its time!  Sadly, ELMAC decided not to produce it, and only a few prototypes exist.  It is 80-10 meters, SSB and CW featuring a crystal filter. It is a transistor-tube hybrid with a pair of 6146's in the final.  Nice job Angelo.  

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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

HW-7 fixed after 36 years!

Give this man a license!  He deserves one.  Great job David. 

Found your podcasts (137 & 8) about the HW-7. Really enjoyed hearing your enthusiasm. I have owned one since dad purchased it for me while at the Dayton Hamvention. Unfortunately it didn't work when we plugged it in. Dad didn't have the money to fix it at the time and as a 15 year old, neither did I. So it went into a box and was stored. 
Fast forward to 2008 and my youngest son asked me what Morse Code was. I told him and showed him...I didn't remember hardly any code. He wasn't interested in learning that didn't deter me and I wondered about the HW-7. So I went to the attic and found the box with the old rig. It still didn't make a sound when turned on so I decided to crack the case open and go through the troubleshooting guide...I had the manuals for both the radio and power supply. I determined the 40673 was bad. 
Got online and snooped around and couldn't find a source for a replacement so I started looking into equivalent parts and ran across the NTE454. Ordered it, made some "soldersmoke" and replaced it, turned on the radio and was happy to hear hum from the power supply in my headphones. Switched over to a 9 volt battery, attached a long wire and was blessed to hear CW coming through loud and clear! 
Dad, a ham from years past, almost didn't believe me when I called to let him know. "Fantastic!" was his response when I explained how it happened. (He's an EE and I'm a graphic designer.) 
During the investigation I also discovered that the original owner never finished the assembly guide. Found a tool at Radio Shack that I could tune the coils with, borrowed a frequency counter from a local TV station's tech and with dad's help aligned the rig according to the manual. Got the dial into rock solid sync with the FC. Both on RX and TX. 
I never heard what it sounded like with the 70673, however, looking at the data sheets for both Mosfets, the noise level of the NTE454 is lower. Typical for the NTE454 is 1.8 compared to 3.5 of the 40673. The max is 4.5 compared to 6.0 according to RCA. I have ears, thank you, and have copied a station located halfway down the Baja peninsula running 100 watts into a vertical. I was using a dipole 12' up in Indiana. I say copied because I have yet transmitted with it. Because of life I have been delayed (many years) in getting my ticket. However I will be taking the Tech exam...possibly even the General exam in July...but I have a bit more study to do for General. As a tech I would only be able to use 40 meters 
I have retrieved dad's J-38...still sporting the 76 Dayton Hamvention sticker on the bottom, polished it up and have been practicing for when I can get on the air. 7 1/2 WPM currently, but slowly gaining. I hear that working stations on the air will help the speed increase.
Anyway, the HW-7 is going to be my rig for a while...thought about selling it...because of the stories I've read...but I like listening to it JUST LIKE YOU for the SSB rag chews near the top of the 40 meter band. I also listen to the slower guys on CW to get my ear tuned to it. You also confirmed how to tune and listen so I will have possibly, an easier chance in making contacts. I also know a few local hams that can schedule with me. 
The HWA-7-1 power supply needs mods though. Plan on putting in place some caps and some magnetic beads to hopefully reduce the hum to a respectable level. Anyway, I appreciate your sharing and hope to work you sometime.

David Oldham
Greenwood, IN

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Monday, June 25, 2012

Poor Conditions: SFI 89. Venus Transit Hero

There's today's image from SOHO.  Pretty barren.  That's why conditions on the HF bands are so poor today.

While looking for this I came across this account of Venus Transit Heroism:

 In the days of heroic astronomy, Chappe d'Autoroches not only risked his life twice to obtain critical, new knowledge from transits of Venus, but gave his life to help others in dire need. Here is his tale from the h2g2 web site in an article entitled "Forgotten Male Astronomers:" A French expedition led by Jean-Baptiste Chappe d'Autoroche (1728 - 69) went to Tobolsk, Siberia, to record the 1761 Venus transit. The team survived a treacherous river crossing and a lengthy journey through difficult, boggy conditions, eventually arriving at their destination just six days before the transit was due. Just before the transit, Jean-Baptiste was attacked by some of the locals, who believed he had caused unusually severe spring floods by interfering with the Sun. Cossack guards managed to save the team of astronomers, who eventually managed to make good observations of the Venus transit.
The French Academy were so pleased with the success of his mission that they engaged Jean-Baptiste to record the next expected Venus transit, due in 1769. He specified that he would travel anywhere in the world as long as the temperature wouldn't be below freezing. Tragically, when Jean-Baptiste and his team arrived at Vera Cruz in Mexico, they found themselves in the middle of a plague [yellow fever] epidemic. Instead of moving on to a safer place, the team decided to remain and help care for the sick villagers.
Even though he was mortally ill, Jean-Baptiste managed to record astronomical observations to establish the latitude and longitude of the site. These recordings were vital for the calculations of the astronomers back home in France, and were made with an astonishing accuracy, given the hazardous conditions in which the data were gathered. The observations they made provided some of the best data of the 1769 transit. Jean-Baptiste died of a fever just after the transit, aged 41 years.
A longer and more detailed version of these events can be found here:

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Thursday, June 21, 2012

"The Journey to Palomar"

This is a wonderful documentary that will definitely appeal to SolderSmoke listeners.  Check out Jim Gunn working on the electronics for the CCD cameras that they attached to the 200 inch 'scope (described in Preston's "First Light").  

Once again, sorry if readers outside the U.S. have trouble with this link.  I hope you all can find other ways to see this video.

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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

SolderSmoke Book Review: "The Day We Found the Universe"

    I find myself reading a lot of books about telescopes and cosmology.  I guess this is related to the desire to pull weak DX signals out of the noise. And I like the descriptions of the gear used to pull info out of the star light.  These are, after all, big antennas.   
    I really enjoyed this book by MIT's Marcia Bartusiak. She describes humanity's effort to find our place in the cosmos.  As she points out, the conventional wisdom seems to be that until Edwin Hubble came along everyone thought that the Milky Way was the universe.  As it turns out, it is not that simple -- going back to the time of Kant, there were scientists who suspected that the nebula that were showing up in telescopes were in fact "island universes."  Bartusiak takes us through the ups and downs of this idea, and in the course of the book provides some really great descriptions of the astronomers involved in the struggle to understand the nebulae.  Most of them were great people.  Others, well, not so great.  George Ellery Hale comes out as one of the heroes, and Bartusiak seeks to refute the notion that Hale was schizophrenic -- he was clearly suffering from depression, but Bartusiak says that the story about him being advised by a "little elf" was just an oft-repeated myth. Edwin Hubble gets a decidedly mixed review.   

My guess is that the title was selected by the publishing company's marketeers, and I think it was a poor choice:  the whole point of the book was that we didn't find the universe in one day.  It took a lot longer than that!      

Anyway, if you are looking for a good summer read, I recommend this book.  You can get a copy through the link above. 

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

Sunday, June 17, 2012

A Father's Day DX-100 Story

Warning:  In this post we are DEFINITELY leaving the world of QRP.  There is nothing even remotely QRPish about the Heathkit DX-100.  This rig is all about power. And weight.  Heavy metal, plate-modulated power.  And weight. 

Back in February of last year, John, K2ZA, and his wife Erika drove down from New Jersey to give me something very special:  the beloved Heathkit DX-100 transmitter of John's (SK) dad.  Here's the report on that memorable day:   

I meant to get the rig on the air right away, but I got distracted by other projects.  Well, this week I decided to get going.  I ordered a new can of Caig Deoxit D-5.   I removed the screws from the front and back of the old rig and carefully (for the sake of my fingers and toes!) pulled it out of its cabinet. 

I found it to be in remarkably good shape. There was a bit of dust and some of the tubes were a bit loose in their sockets, but otherwise it was perfect. 

John's dad had made some mods to the old rig.  The most noticeable were on the front panel.  He got rid of the old plastic Heathkit knobs, and he had added reduction drives for the driver and amplifier tuning caps.  My first instinct was to try to take this rig back to original form, but over time, as the rig sat on the bench, I came to appreciate the work that John's dad had done.  I decided to keep the rig as he had left it. 

John's Dad used this rig on RTTY.  He has an FSK stage attached to the oscillator circuit.   

He also added a very useful VFO "spot" or "net" push button switch on the front panel. And he put a T/R relay in a box on the back of the cabinet.  Useful mods, all nicely done. 

After the cleanup, of course I couldn't wait to get the rig on the air.  Using my old Dominican Republic HQ-100, I fired it up yesterday afternoon on 40 CW.  On the first call I worked KK4RF in Suffolk Va. Then I went to 40 AM and worked a bunch of guys there.  Later I went to the real heartland of heavy metal AM:  75 METERS!  Yea!  They tell me the old rig sounds great.  

This has really been fun.  Thanks John.  Happy Father's Day. 

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Saturday, June 16, 2012

Long Lost Varactor Receiver Found!

SolderSmoke fans will recall that for a long time I have been looking for the radio magazine article that propelled me into a  receiver construction project that failed and left me tech-traumatized. I tried to build a solid state receiver back in high school.  All I remembered about it was that it was direct conversion and varactor-tuned.  And that I couldn't get it to work. I think the problem was in the oscillator.   

Well, I think I found it.  Chuck Adams and the qrp-tech guys were talking about a receiver project and someone mentioned the old Herring Aid Five, a receiver companion to the famed Tuna Tin Two.  That got me thinking.  The time of publication was exactly right: July 1976.  I had just graduated from high school.  This morning I renewed my ARRL membership and then immediately accessed the QST archives.  Sure enough, the Herring Aid Five is varactor-tuned.  That has to be it. 

So this one is now definitely on my to-build list.  I will finally get this receiver working.  Sometimes projects take a long time...  Thanks again to all those who helped me in this search. 

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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

SolderSmoke Podcast #144 FDIM SPECIAL!

Venus glides across the sun's face during its previous transit, seen from Flagler Beach Pier in Florida.
Photograph by Jim Tiller, Daytona Beach News-Journal/AP

June 13, 2012

SolderSmoke podcast #144 is available for download:

--A CQ from the Rolling Thunder!
--The Transit of Venus.
--JA DX on 17 
--Kick Panel Finale: 
--Workin' on the Workbench (and test gear)
--Billy's Computer Project:  Success! 
--MAILBAG: Urban legends, Hot Iron, Dry Joints 
--Bluegrass Music

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Saturday, June 9, 2012

Homebrew DSB and SSB from M0DAD

This morning I stumbled across the web site of M0DAD.  David has built rigs for 40 meters -- one DSB the other SSB.  The SSB rig is pictured above -- the much-admired "road kill" approach to component acquisition is evident.   David provides excellent schematics and great descriptions of the trials and tribulations of each project.   Check it out:

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Friday, June 8, 2012

Vintage Tektronix Museum

The radio gods seem to have been guiding me to this web site.  Last night I was listening to 17 meter phone and I heard a station calling TEK guru Alan, W2AEW.  I couldn't hear Alan (skip zone and all that) but just hearing his call turned my thoughts to Beaverton, Oregon.  This morning I found a message from Dino, KL0S, alerting me to the VintageTEK museum.  FB!  Analog Rocks On!

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Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Transit of Venus

Yesterday afternoon at around 5:55 pm local time I was pedaling along the Washington and Old Dominion bike trail, on my way home from work.  I was pedaling a little faster than normal because I wanted to try to see the transit of Venus.  I came across a group of amateur astronomers who had set up their scopes alongside the trail -- they were nervously looking at their watches and the clouds.  I told them that I was going to set up my scope too.  "Hurry up!  You'll miss it! It starts at 6:04!" I pedaled even faster.   

The cloud cover was fairly thick, but just as I pulled into my driveway, the clouds broke and sunshine filled the front yard.  I quickly set up the 'scope and got the sun in the field of view.  First I saw sunspots  -- lots of them.   Then, sure enough, off near the rim was the unmistakeable shadow of Venus.  Billy took the picture (above) with his I-phone 4.   The neighbors and all the kids in the neighborhood came over and  had a look.  It was all very cool.  Mission accomplished. 

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Monday, June 4, 2012

Drake 2-B Market up 436%!

We've been hit by a wave of Drake 2-B e-mails.  We take this as an indication that our effort to manipulate the Drake 2-B market is having some success.  Those of you who have invested in our 
SSDRA2B Mega Capital Growth Fund can probably plan on early retirement.   


After listening to you for the last several weeks talk about the virtures of the Drake 2B I began a never ending drooling for that radio.  I never really understood the power of a podcast until I became obsessed with the 2B.  I had seen several at Dayton a couple of weeks ago but resisted the urge.  But today was the day...At a hamfest in Princeton Ill, there was a lone 2B and 2BQ all dressed up and looking for a place to go.  Into my waiting arms that radio jumped.  I tried but could not put it down.  I got my wallet it out and paid the man.  On the drive home I could hear the 2B  making noises like it was tuning the band just for me.  Oh how happy that 2B is now.  With a little cleanup and a new tube and crystal it will be backing doing what it does best.

Just wanted you to know Bill that if it was not for you there would be a 2B waiting and wanting to be adopted..

Love your podcast, keep it up man.

Steve NU0P



I am also happy to report that I have finally laid my hands on my very own Drake 2B.  I have been watching them on ebay for over a year, and I finally spotted one with a reasonable "buy it now" price, so I jumped on it.  As you know, many 2Bs suffer from discoloration and corrosion of the copper plated chassis, but the one I bought is pristine.  I am very pleased.

73 de K8VU



Maybe a little late , my newly acquired 2B serial no. is 8846 . will it help ? about how old do you think it is ?
Cedar Rapids Iowa

Hello Bill

Please attached K9YA article on the Drake 2-B in the June issue.

Kind Regards

Tony G4LLW

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