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Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Thought Provoking Comments from Bert, WF7I

Hey Bill. 

 I enjoyed the interview with Pete N6QW very much.  So many main points were covered and I kept nodding in agreement, especially some of the stuff about the ease of doing homebrew that we have these days.  Like you, or similar to you I'm guessing, I have memories as a kid staring at the pages of an ARRL handbook, saying "huh?"  These days almost any question can be answered with a Google (and if not, an appropriate book overnighted via Amazon).  You guys both nailed it too with the comments about the free design software that is plentiful and the cheap crystals (I still need to order some "bags" of these!).  When I started out it seemed crystals were a big expense.  I guess not so much now.  It's really a great time to be a homebrewer.

I was trying to think of more questions for him for the second half of your interview but most of what I could come up with was too pedestrian probably or already covered.  I am curious about amplifiers but I believe he's going to talk about that next anyway.  Nothing was said about using varactor diodes in VFOs (unless I missed it) and I'm a little curious about his experiences with them.  And whether he still uses air variables or not (and if he has an opinion on these more compact "polyvaricons", one of which is in the Hendricks version of the Bitx-20 I'm building).   It sounds like most homebrewers these days are pairing up their VFOs with digital architecture of one type or another for stability and the display.  I guess you can't argue with the price of some of the needed parts.  But like you I feel like I'm not wanting to jump into the complex digital too far, the simplicity and ease of understanding of the simple circuits is really refreshing and fun for me.  The moment you have to rely on software for something I feel that the project is lessened a bit, not as robust in a way, kind of like having to rely on cholesterol-lowering meds so that we can keep eating cheeseburgers (had to slip in a food reference somewhere).

Something else dawned on me a few weeks ago, soon after I'd built my 40m direct conversion rig ("mrad-40") -- does anyone consider the audience on the band they're designing for???  I'm only partly joking!  There are some rude and coarse dudes on 40m.  It takes a little bit of luster off the whole "first light" experience of a new homebuilt radio when you turn it on and hear some drunks arguing politics or making fun of a YL ham on another frequency!  Probably not a suitable question for Pete!

I also really enjoyed the FDIM edition.  As always, it's one of the best of your podcast series.  My favorite was the interview with the ham near the end, I think he was 2nd to last.  He seemed to really sum up the entire homebrew motivation and experience.  I don't remember his name offhand.  But his description of sitting there with store-bought radios and the sort of transactional nature of appliance operating ("telephoning strangers") perfectly describes how I felt about a dozen years ago.  I'd migrated towards DX chasing and 6m grid collecting but that too can get pretty stale after awhile.  I'm getting closer to having a station that is all home-built, but I'm not sure I'll ever sell my commercial rigs as he did (although it would free up money for more test equipment!).

Maybe one final comment for Pete or just in general.  Since I've been a ham I feel like there's always been this pressure to build/design something that is in some way "cutting edge" or new.  In today's landscape that would be along the lines of the FDIM guy turning an Android phone into a ham rig.  I'm wondering if others feel some sort of peer pressure to "push the envelope" in some way with what they're doing, to establish bragging rights of some kind or to somehow feel that what they're doing is important or relevant.  I've never been clever enough to succumb to this pressure and invent something ingenious!  And I find doing lots of software coding incredibly boring and I know I'm not very skilled at it. 

So...I guess the question or point is, should we all in some way as "responsible" hams feel obligated to break ground in some new technical aspect of the hobby somehow, especially as builders and homebrewers (and hams)?  In other words, should I be riddled with guilt if I decide to devote the rest of my life to building regens and not SDRs?  Do you know what I mean here?  There seems to be a mindset among some hams that the hobby was founded on experimentalists pushing the boundaries of what was known, and in some way we all carry that torch.  For me, I've always pretty much seen it as a hobby, and if it felt like work I didn't do it!  Any thoughts on that?

Bert WF7I

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  1. Hi Bert! Your letter is right on target. Both podcasts were wonderful. A pleasure to listen to. For myself, it's still magic to assemble something simple, know what each part is supposed to be doing and either sound come out of one end or power (even just a little) come out the other. Having someone 1,000 miles away answer a CQ from a transmitter you've cobbled together from scrounged parts - MORE magic!
    73, Armand WA1UQO

  2. Thanks Bill. Really looking forward to part 2 of your interview.

    And I agree wholeheartedly Armand, there's a lot of magic and thrill with making your own rigs. Last night I heard 20m signals out of my Bitx20 for the first time. You can't beat it. I'd put it right up there with the best experiences you can have in the hobby.


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