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Monday, August 31, 2020

Global Collaboration: The uSDX -- A Multi-Mode QCX

There is a new open source, home brew, multi band, multi mode QRP transceiver that grew out of the QRP Labs QCX. Through some serious magic it retains an efficient class E RF amplifier for sideband and digital modes. It crams impressive SDR capabilities into an Arduino. More info at https://groups.io/g/ucx/topics

The basic work appears to have been accomplished by Guido Ten Dolle PE1NNZ. It uses pulse width modulation of the PA supply voltage to transmit  modes other than CW while retaining class E efficiency and uses a direct conversion SDR receiver.
There are several variants by different developers. I built a variant designed by Barbaros Asuroglu WB2CBA  
https://antrak.org.tr/blog/projeler/usdx-an-arduino-based-sdr-all-mode-hf-transceiver-pcb-iteration-v1-02/ that uses through hole components (mostly) and I'm pleased with it's performance. I also designed and 3D printed a case.

This has an interesting development process with contributions by many, including the usual gang of suspects: Hans Summers, Ashhar Farhan, Manuel DL2MAN, Kees K2BCQ, Allison KB1GMX and Miguel Angelo Bartie PY2OHH. I apologize to the many others whose names I didn't list.

The band switch multiband version by DL2MAN is even smaller, but with SMD components which I wasn't ready to tackle yet.

BTW - your podcast encouraged me to go in this direction. I built a BITX 40, a uBITX (sent you a pix of it in an old Heathkit Twoer case), U3S, QCX and now my first step from kits to built from plans.

Bob   KD8CGH


Sunday, August 30, 2020

Music Video -- "The Spirit of Radio" by Rush

Thanks to Thomas from The SWLing Post for putting this on his blog.

Friday, August 28, 2020

Andreas Spiess (The Guy with Swiss Accent) -- Workshop Tips

Thanks to Paul Taylor VK3HN for alerting me to the YouTube channel of Andreas Spiess.  There are lots of great projects there, including several videos on building an Oscar 100 ground station.  

In the video above, Andreas talks about his lab/workshop.  He is more focused on digital projects than I am, but I found many of his tips applicable to the analog world. And of course the more digitally oriented readers will find Andreas's observations especially useful. 

I was sold on this video when Andreas reached to his book shelf and showed us Tracey Kidder's "Soul of the New Machine."   That is the book that brought the word "soul" into the SolderSmoke lexicon. 

There are many great videos on Andreas's channel.  I found his Playlists page to be a good way to see the many different catergories of his projects: 


Thanks Andreas. 

Thursday, August 27, 2020

A Song Fom Dexter ZL2DEX

From a post on on "ZL Amateur Radio & Friends,"  in response to a complaint about the lack of activity (with apologies to Paul Simon):  

'50 Ways':

"Get on the band, Stan,
Trigger the mic, Ike,
Tap your key, Lee,
Listen for me.
Paddle the bug, Doug,
Watch the waterfall, Paul,
Just QSO, Joe,
when conditions agree."



Chuck Adams K7QO's AMAZING Lab Notebook

Thanks to Tony G4WIF for alerting me to this amazing (and free!) e-book by QRP Master Builder Chuck Adams K7QO: 


There is a lot of wisdom and tribal knowledge in that .pdf.  

Thanks Chuck. 

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Mars is BACK! 2020 Opposition! Don't Miss it!

Sometimes waking up a bit earlier when the sunrise is coming later leads you to some interesting things.  

It was quite humid in Northern Virginia on the morning of 25 August 2020, but the skies were surprisingly clear.  I stepped outside at about 0500 local time, coffee cup in hand.  Venus was blazing in the east.  Then I saw this big very bright red thing high in the southern sky.   It seemed almost too bright and too high in the sky to be Mars.  But a quick check with Stellarium showed that it was in fact the Red Planet.  I pulled out my six inch Dobsonian reflector telescope and soon had Mars in the eyepiece.  

For the first time in many years I could see surface features:  It is springtime in the southern hemisphere of Mars, but the Southern Polar Cap (which recedes in the summer) was still very prominent (in my eyepiece it was near the top, as in the GIF above) .  I could also see an albedo (dark on light) feature below the icecap.

I went out again on the morning of 26 August 2020.  Again the Southern Polar Cap was very visible.  Below it, near the center of the disc,  I could make out a large albedo feature.  I am pretty sure that is Mare Erythraeum.  

Above is what Stellarium presented as Mars as viewed from Earth this morning. The Southern Polar Cap is much more prominent in my telescope (you can see it in the upper right in the image above).  The large dark thing near the center of the disc is Erythraeum.  In the Stellarium image you can see the enormous Vallis Marinaris canyon shooting off to the lower right (sadly I could not see this in my telescope). 

The GIF at the top of this post gives a much better view than I get with my little six inch telescope.  The GIF gives a good idea of what the albedo features and the ice cap look like.  

This was a great time for me to see these things.  I'm almost done with the second book in Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars Trilogy -- much of the story takes place in sanctuaries carved under the Southern ice cap, and in Hellas (which Robinson's colonists are filling with water).  During the 2018 Earth-Mars opposition a big dust storm made it impossible for me  to see anything on Mars; a similar storm takes place during book one of Robinson's Trilogy. And right now the Perseverance rover is on its way to Mars.  

This 2020 opposition will be the best one until 2033.  So don't miss it. 

Here is a good article on observing Mars during the current opposition: 

Here are technical details on the 2020 opposition: 

To see what side of Mars is facing us at any time, use Sky and Telescope's Mars Profiler: 

Here is a very informative video about the 2020 opposition: 

And remember:  The Elser-Mathes Cup has still not been won.  

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Great Video on PC Board Techniques, with a Focus on Surface Mount

Wow, lots of wisdom in this video from Leo Fernekes.  Great hints and kinks on prototyping with copper clad boards. I need a Dremel just so that I can make Leo's board cutter.  And I can see that I need some of that liquid flux and isopropyl alcohol. Surf boards and headers! Who knew?  Teflon coating for the wires -- gotta get it. Glad to see that Leo is also a fan of copper tape.

His emphasis on the importance of stage-by-stage construction and testing is right on the mark.  

My only disagreement with Leo is about his use of steel wool.  I've found that steel wool will inevitably cause little tiny "Murphy Whiskers" to float around your workbench. They will eventually settle onto the most inconvenient and damaging place on your board.  So I have banished steel wool from my workshop.  Those green, non-metallic Scotch Brite pads work just as well and don't cause shorts. 

Three cheers for Leo. He is based in Thailand.  He has an interesting background and some really amazing projects and insights:  




Thanks to Tore LB4RG for alerting us to Leo's video.  

Monday, August 24, 2020

Experimental Methods Book on Clearance sale -- $20


And it includes a .pdf copy of Solid State Design for the Radio Amateur. 

Video on the Strange Tuning of the Radio Shack DX-390 Receiver

I'm more of a single conversion guy myself, but in working with the DX-390 I came to appreciate the benefits (especially regarding image rejection) of the double conversion technique. 

While working on the DX-390, I discovered that the BFO control on the front panel DOES NOT change the BFO frequency.  It was fun to try to figure out why the designers did it this way.  It does make sense once you consider the limitation imposed by that PLL main tuning oscillator that only moves in 1 kHz steps. I hope the video explains things.  

Here is the drawing I used in the video: 

And here is a drawing that shows how a single conversion superhet with a fixed or switchable  (usually crystal-controlled) BFO works: 

Earlier this month  I did a blog post on my repair of a broken DX-390: 

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Mike WU2D's Great Drake TR-3 Refurb Video -- Part 2

Mike WU2D made another very nice video about his Drake TR-3 refurb. 

He cracked me up when he noticed that one of the calibration oscillators was 30 Hz off.  "Let's pretend we care," said Mike.  Indeed. But it was probably wise to tackle this problem, given how upset modern hams seem to get with 30 Hz discrepancies.  Mike noted that the problem was casued by "aging cystals." Yikes! Another thing to worry about, along with the Southern Magnetic Anomaly. 

Once again Mike has added a useful term to our lexicon:   "The Dribble Method" of signal injection (or extraction):  Just wrap a few turns of insulated wire around the tube or IF can and inject or measure away.

Neutralization! Now there's a blast from the Thermatron past.  I haven't done that in a long time. I liked Mike's "reverse neutralization" method. 

Mike's video featured some real Boatanchor eye candy.   That Heathkit HR-10 receiver caught my eye, as did that HP signal generator. 

Thanks Mike.  One hand behind your back OM.    

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Very Cool Vosworx AZ-EL Satellite Tracker

When I was in the Dominican Republic working the RS satellites, MIR and the Space Shuttle, I didn't have an elevation rotator.  I could only move the antenna in the azimuth plane.  So I just aimed it about 45 degrees above the horizon, spun it around, and hoped for the best.  I also had no computer control of the azimuth heading -- I'd just watch the location of the satellite on my computer screen and operate the rotator control manually.  

This device is a big improvement. 

Friday, August 21, 2020

The Original Tuna Tin 2 (and the Mojo Transfer Ceremony with W1REX)

Brian Murreyto
 Amateur QRP Radio
The Original Tuna Tin II built by Doug DeMaw W1FB (SK)...Ed Hare W1RFI of the ARRL Lab, brought this to FDIM in 2001 and allowed us to borrow it for a night. It was so cool. The little guy was found at a hamfest somewhere on the east coast, and brought back to the ARRL. Bruce Muscolino W6TOY (SK) recieved it from the ARRL and he replaced missing parts and got the thing working again. It's in the museum at the ARRL HQ today. I think we made like 16 contacts using that for the transmitter, and a homebrew receiver from Diz W8DIZ that was part of the MultiPig Rig. Antenna was a dipole we had strung up out the window of the Ramada Inn (FDIM Central).
Here is my only encounter with the original Tuna Tin 2 -- In 2014 Rex W1REX conducted this solemn ceremony in which some of the TTT mojo was transferred to my homebrew BITX 17. 

Thursday, August 20, 2020

The South Atlantic Anomaly in Earth's Magnetic Field

In case you've grown tired of worrying about infectious disease, here's another scientific problem for you to worry about:


Wednesday, August 19, 2020

SolderSmoke Lexicographer Worked on Earth-Moon-Earth Laser

Hi Bill

A ham, well known to us, actually me, was very involved in the very first laser reflector experiment.  I was a new EE graduate and was hired by the University of Maryland Physics department to design and build the control system for the laser experiment.

The first reflector was placed on the moon immediately after Apollo 11 landed.  And the equipment on Earth to use it was in place and ready to go to work.

Here is how it worked.  A very powerful laser was installed at the McDonald Observatory in west Texas.  It pointed into the viewing end of the telescope and had 5 Joules of energy.  When it was fired, a control system made from discrete logic chips was used to control an electronic shutter in front of a very sensitive photomultiplier tube.

In order to prevent stray photons from impacting the photomultiplier tube, the shutter was opened just microseconds before the reflected photons were expected to arrive from the moon, a round trip of about 2.5 seconds.  Then the photons were collected from the laser's pulse.  Only between 1 and 10 photons were collected from each shot and were statistically analyzed to get the best transit time to determine the distance to the moon.

Similar systems were set up on other continents in order to triangulate the distances between the telescopes to determine continental drift.  In addition, the outward shift of the lunar orbit was also determined.

Because the moon's orbit varies by about 10% and is easily predicted, the control system used thumbwheel switches to set the time of transit to open the shutter at the right time to keep out photons that were not from the laser.

The control system also sent the trigger pulse to the laser's gigantic capacitor bank to send trillions upon trillions of photons to the moon. So a 5 volt pulse triggered this massive release of stored energy into the lens of the telescope.

And here is the coolest part,  the astronauts could see the laser pulses from the telescopes when they were fired.

I had no idea that these reflectors were still in use and that their efficiency has degraded likely due to lunar dust. 

KB3SII ... .. ..

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

WU2D's TR-3 -- Mike Refurbishes a Nice Old Drake Transceiver (PART 1) (Video)

There is a lot of Tribal Knowledge in this video.  And good discussion of the many moral issues faced by those of us who work on old gear. 

-- Mike seems apologetic about his blatant and blasphemous spray painting of the Drake copper chassis.  As well he should be. 

-- His stubborn replacement of the tube socket (to allow for shielding) seems wildly reckless to me.  The Radio Gods may retaliate with some unexpected instability in that circuit. 

-- He CORRECTLY refers to the rewiring of the final circuity (to accomodate 6146s) as "the evil thing."  Indeed. 

-- I love in the beginning how he is listening to some ham radio chatter and the guy is talking about the selection of COM PORTS. With old radios "we don't have COM PORTS -- we have an antenna connector."  Well put Mike. 

-- I was struck by how much the TR-3 innards look like my 2-B receiver.  But the TR-3 has no dial strings.  That is a major technological improvement. And it has a PTO.  Was this a case of Collins envy?

-- Mike adds a useful word to the lexicon:  "shotgunning" -- the indiscriminate replacement of entire categories of parts in old radios.    Now I don't mind shotgunning the electrolytics (some people bitterly oppose this).  But I agree with Mike on the wisdom of keeping the paper caps in there.    

I am looking forward to Part II.  These videos are like "This Old House"  but instead "This Old Rig." And I will go back and look at Mike's video on the Power Supply refurb.  Thanks Mike. 

Monday, August 17, 2020

Earth-Moon-Earth -- With Lasers


Thanks to Chuck KE5HPY for alerting us to this very interesting article. 

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Fixing up a Radio Shack DX-390 (AKA Sangean ATS-818) While Suffering from Fat Finger Syndrome

I've had this Radio Shack DX-390 portable receiver since the early 1990s.  I bought it when I was in the Dominican Republic.  It accompanied me on some interesting trips to the Haitian border, and on one very memorable 1994 trip to the Haitian capital.  I have made some CW contacts with it serving at the inhaler.  

Click on the diagram for a better view. It is a dual conversion superhet.  First IF is at 55.845 MHz.  There is a big 90's era IC-based PLL oscillator that runs from 55.995 to 118.7 MHz -- The main tuning dial moves this oscillator.  Second IF is at 450 kHz.  There is an oscillator at 55.395 that takes the signal down to 450 kHz. Selectivity (not a lot) is provided by ceramic filters.  Finally there is a product detector and a 450 kHz  oscillator that produces the audio.   While there are many mystery chips in this receiver, there is also a lot of discrete-component analog circuitry in there -- it is kind of a pleasing mix. 

DX-390 Main Board.  Note kludged toroidal replacment for L10 (just above ferrite antenna) 
The old DX-390 suffered a lot of wear and tear.  The case is very beat up.  The most serious problem was that at some point, probably on a cold, dry, winter day in Virginia, static electricity took out the FET in the receiver's front end.  I made a half-hearted effort to fix it, but it never really worked properly.  

I occasionally found myself thinking of this receiver.   I spotted one on e-bay not long ago, and bought it.  This newer one was in very nice shape.  

But that old one was kind of staring at me from the corner of the shack.  "C'mon radio man," it seemed to say, "can't you fix a shortwave receiver?" So this week I took up the challenge.  

First the FET.  I had kludged an MPF102 in there, but that didn't seem to work well.  Internet fora seemed to think that a J310 would do better, so I installed one of them -- it did seem to work better.  (Note:  Pete Juliano likes J310s -- TRGHS.) 

Kludged in J310. And two sets of back to back diodes
During my earlier repair effort I had apparently destroyed the front end output transformer (L10) but I discovered that I had replaced this with a toroidal transformer.  It still worked, so I left well-enough alone. 

I was pleased that the old receiver was receiving OK, but there was a problem:   The "BFO" control wasn't working.  The BFO would come on, but turning the BFO control did not vary its frequency.  

At this point I discovered that while there are many copies of the DX-390 service manual and schematic on the internet, all of them have seriously degraded copy quality right around the parts of the circuitry that I needed to study.  Sometimes Murphy overpowers the Radio Gods. It took me a while to get a useful schematic of the BFO control mechanism. 

BFO is a bit of a misnomer here:  the control actually shifts the frequency of the 55.395 MHz oscillator that drives the second mixer.  See Block diagram above).   There is a varactor diode in the base circuit of a BLT oscillator circuit.  Turning the BFO control varies the voltage going to the varactor thus causing the oscillator frequency to slide up and down.  But mine wasn't moving.  And that was a problem. 

So I dove right in, trying to figure out why it was oscillating, but not shifting in frequency.  At this point I discovered that I too am afflicted with the disease that Pete Juliano suffers from: Fat Finger Syndrome.  That BFO control circuit has a nice big 100k pot, but all the fixed resistors and caps were surface mount and SMALL.  As I poked around trying to troubleshoot, I managed to make things worse.  It turned out that the lead carrying 6 volts to the BFO control circuitry had broken.  But before I discovered this, I managed to do all kinds of damage to the board.  I lifted two PC board  pads (I should have turned down the temperature on my soldering iron).  Then, when I tried to fix this, I managed to put a solder bridge across two parts of the circuit that definitely should not have been connected.  

This resulted in a bizarre BFO situation.  From the center position, turning the BFO to the left OR TO THE RIGHT would move the BFO in the same direction.  So I could tune in an SSB station by turning to the right, or by turning to the left.  That was just not right. 

Lifted solder pads.  And small wires that now bridge the gaps 
Uffff.  It took me a while to find that fault.  While trying to figure this out, I built the circuit in LTSpice just to see what it was SUPPOSED to be doing.   This helped.  Eventually, through careful inspection with magnifying goggles, I found a solder blob, and removed it.  Now all was right with the universe.  Even though I had caused most of the trouble, it was still quite satisfying to fix it. 

Some additional observations on the DX-390. 

-- It really is a Sangean ATS-818 in disguise.   Just look at the marking on the PLL board.  If you can't find a decent DX-390 schematic, just use an ATS-818 schematic. 

ATS 818 marking along the bottom (green) part of the PLL board
-- The service manuals on these receivers are quite good: the include bloc diagrams, detailed alignment instructions, and even voltage charts for all the chips and transistors.  Impressive and useful. 

-- The static discharge vulnerability is hard to understand.  There is so much cool circuitry in these receivers, why not add four simple diodes?   Not wanting to repeat this saga, I went in and put two sets of back-to-back small signal diodes in each receiver: one set on the telescoping antenna, and other at the input for the external antenna.  Curiously, on the newer receiver, it looks like a previous owner had gone in and tried to address this vulnerability -- but he did a very incomplete job.  He just put ONE diode between the external antenna input and ground.  I had always thought that two diodes back to back would give you good protection from static discharge.  And I don't think that single diode protects the front end in any way from discharge coming in from the telescoping antenna.  

This was a good project.  I got more familiar with general coverage dual-conversion receivers.  And I got reacquainted with an old receiver that I liked a lot.   Both receivers could probably use some alignment.  I'll take that up next. 

Friday, August 14, 2020

Tor LB4RG Builds an IRF-510 Amplifier

Click on the link to check out Tor's very FB and artistic video about his homebrew IRF-510 amplifier. 

Very Nice.   Also, check out Tor's FB SolderSmoke hat.  


And here is an update from Tor" 


Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Teddy Roosevelt on Homebrewing: "The Ham in the Arena"

"It is not the critic who counts; not the sharp-tongued appliance operator who points out how the homebrewer stumbles, or where the builder of rigs could have built them better. The credit belongs to the ham who is actually melting solder, whose fingers are marked by burns and glue and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who splatters and distorts again and again, because there is no homebrewing without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to build and improve his rigs; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy project; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of saying “rig here is homebrew,” and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring to try, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid amateurs who never try to build anything, but who only stare at their waterfalls, ready to pounce on those who do."

See also: 

Monday, August 10, 2020

Using SDR without SDR Hardware -- N2CQR Adjusts Analog BITX20 using Web SDR

I know what you are thinking:  Software Defined radio with the TOTAL elimination of hardware? WHERE IS BILL AND WHAT HAVE THEY DONE WITH HIM?  

Relax my friends.  All is well at SolderSmoke's East Coast HQ.  In fact, just yesterday I was making use of one of the systems described in this video.  Here's how: 

I was on 20 meters with my BITX 20 Hardware Defined (HDR) homebrew transceiver. Everything was going smoothly.  We have some sunspots now, so DX is once again possible.  I heard a loud U.S. station (that will remain anonymous) calling CQ, so I gave him a call.  

The trouble started right after he looked at my QRZ page. You see,  I have pictures of my homebrew rigs there.  These images sometimes trigger hostile reactions, especially from guys who have almost their entire stations INSIDE their computer boxes.  I also admit to occasionally making things worse by pointing out that it is possible to build a BITX20 for about five dollars U.S.   Some guys apparently don't like hearing about this. 

Anyway, the fellow I was talking to proceeded to give me a very blunt and harsh signal report:  "Well, I suppose your signal is strong enough, but your audio is TERRIBLE!"  Interpersonal relations pointer:  This is NOT a good way to alert a fellow ham to possible technical problems in the rig that he has built by hand, from scratch, in his home workshop.  Especially when the person delivering the harsh signal report is using a "rig" that was built by credit card in a robotic factory on the other side of the planet. 

So that QSO ended rather quickly. But I did want to follow-up in the comment about the audio.  And here is where I turned to Web SDR.   Mehmet NA5B has a really nice WEB SDR receive system in Washington DC, just about 8 miles east of me.  Before 20 meters opened, I called up Mehmet's SDR on my computer, tuned it to the frequency of my transceiver and watched the screen as I asked if the frequency was in use.  I then issued a couple of hopeless CQs, again watching the screen.    I could see in NA5B's waterfall that my signal was indeed seriously lacking in low frequency audio. 

Now it was time to turn to hardware.  Rig on the bench, 'scope and sig generators fired up,   I quickly determined that the problem most likely resulted from my placement of the  carrier oscillator frequency in relation to the homebrew USB crystal filter.  I had placed it about 300 Hz too low.  This resulted in a low AF frequency roll off not at the desired 300 HZ, but instead at around 600 Hz.  That would make the audio sound "tinny." So I moved the carrier oscillator up 300 Hz and went back to Mehmet's SDR receiver.  I could see that the lows were now at the right level.  Thanks Mehmet. 

One note about the audio coming out of the many SDR radios on the air:  When you look at the passbands in the Web SDR receivers you can see audio going almost all the way down to the frequency of the suppressed carrier.  With non-SDR rigs  you usually see a gap of around  300 Hz between the carrier freq and the start of the SSB signal.  This is often the result of our filter rigs having IF filter skirts -- you would place the carrier oscillator frequency a bit down the skirt -- this would help with opposite sideband suppression and all you would be losing would be the lows below 300 cycles, which weren't really necessary anyway.  I had placed the carrier oscillator too far down on the skirt.  

Of course, sometimes SDR rigs will also have a gap between the carrier freq an the start of the audio if the operator has set the passband this way, or if the microphone attenuates below 300 Hz.  But you see a lot of signals with audio filling almost the entire passband --some of the "Enhanced SSB" guys are running audio passbands that go as low as 50 Hz.  

Has anyone else noticed this "full passband" effect when looking at the waterfalls?  
Any other tips for using Web SDR for troubleshooting?  

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Presence (Absence?) and Direct Conversion Receivers (with wise comments from Farhan)

Hello Bill,
    I was reading an online article by Wes Hayward, W7ZO  from 1968  about the history of direct conversion receivers (http://w7zoi.net/dcrx68a.pdf)  .  It was linked in an email in qrptech.    It recounts how he had first build a dc receiver with a single diode for the detector, and how microphonic it was, and dissatisfying an experience.   This was in the early days of solid state devices, and so they were hard to come by.   He describes meeting another ham engineer at work Dick Bingham, W7WKR who immediately recognized that what he needed was a diode ring mixer.    The story goes on to describe their experiments, and success at this design.   

  They decided to write up the design for QST.   I won't bore you with the details...the article is well worth reading about how Wes mailed the radio and the design to ARRL, and how it ended up in the hands of a new person on their staff there, Doug DeMaw, W1CER (later W1FB.).  Here is an excerpt from the article describing Doug's reaction to the receiver:

"This was the epiphany, the moment when Doug realized that solid-state technology had produce a new way to build a simple receiver. Doug tuned the receiver higher in the band and found some SSB. Again it was like nothing he had ever heard. It was as if the voice came from the same room. Doug used the term presence in his description."

Here I present the earliest use, that I know of, of presence being used to describe a receiver.    I have to say when I read it, I immediately thought of you guys, and decided to share.

Thanks for all you guys do.
   dave    /nt1u
Bill replied:

Thanks Dave.   Yea, that's the 1968 article that launched the use of DC receivers.  I had forgotten about DeMaw's early use of "presence." 

Just to cause trouble, perhaps we should start commenting on "absence"  i.e.  "I dunno OM, I think your rig lacks a bit of absence in the mid-range... turn menu item 63b to ELEVEN!"  
73 Bill 

Farhan wrote: 

Mon, Aug 3 at 3:22 PM

When I got my license, my friend Anil SM0MFC was living in Hyderabad. He lent me his HW-8.  I stringed up a 40 meter dipole with a lamp cord and worked with it. Somehow, the combination of the lamp cord length and the 40 meter inverted V made it resonate on 20 m as well. The HW-8 had a nominal antenna tuner and I worked pretty good DX.

Till date, it remains the best receiver that I have used for regular contacts. The only trouble it had was the the MC1496 was a nominal detector, it overloaded heavily with shortwave broadcast stations. There was an unnecessary RF amplifier in the front-end that they could have done without.

I made several direct conversion receivers, but never managed to hang on to any. This makes me want to build one, one of these evenings. I even have a KK7B R1 kit. but real men solder on without any PCBs or even circuit diagram!

A 7/14/21 direct conversion radio that puts out 3 watts of power is what my ideal setup would be. I am not too bothered with the images on CW. I just tune them out in my head. Real soon now, at the moment, i am trying to finish a radio that has been in the works for years.  Finally, I am making some headway.
Farhan of course is no slouch in the DC receiver area.  Years ago he wrote a wonderful post about building a DC receiver with his cousin for her class project: 

Included in this post was a passage that I included in my book  SolderSmoke -- Global Adventures in Wireless Electonics: 
Why build a receiver?
    Why do you want to build it? These are available at the Dubai Duty Free asked Harish, an old friend, when he spotted us struggling over the DC40 one evening. I didn't have an answer to this question and considering the amount of work piled this quarter, it appeared to be a sensible thing to ask.
    I think this question is answered by us all in different ways. My personal answer would be because we human beings are fundamentally tool builders. We have an opposable thumb that allows us to grip the soldering iron.
    For an engineer (by the word ‘engineer', I don't just mean those who have a degree, but anyone who applies technical knowledge to build things) the act of building a receiver is a fundamental proof of her competence and capability. It is much easier to put out 1 watt signal than it is to receive a 1 watt signal.
    A simple definition of a good receiver is that a good receiver consistently, clearly receives only the intended signal, such a definition hides a wide range of requirements. The receiver has to be sensitive enough to pick up the weakest signal imaginable (note: clearly), it has to be selective enough to eliminate other signals (only), it has to be stable enough (consistently).
    For a ham or an engineer, building a usable receiver is a personal landmark. It establishes a personal competency to be able to understand the very fundamental operation of the radio and mastery over it.
Bill:  OM Ryan Flowers did a 5 part series on building the DC40.  If you are want to build one, I suggest you use the schematics on Ryan's site.  There was an error in Farhan's original schematic -- Farhan corrected it but some of the incorrect schematics are still floating around the internet.  Here is part one of Ryan's series: 

Farhan's DC40

Friday, August 7, 2020

Mars: Book Review, Martian Propagation, Martian Moons as VHF Repeater Sites

In SolderSmoke #224 I mentioned the Mars Trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson.   I found a book review in The New Yorker (see below).   In Red Mars they mention that there is no ionospheric propagation on Mars.  W1PJE and K1RID point out that this is incorrect -- there is ionospheric propagation on Mars.  K1RID provides a link to a really detailed NASA study of this question (it includes discussion of the effect on propagation of Martian dust storms -- good to know!). Finally, 2E0CHK suggests placing VHF repeaters on the two moons of Mars.  I found a good article about the overhead passes of these moons.   See below for all.  


Here's a review from The New Yorker


Hello Pete and Bill,

Listened to your latest SolderSmoke podcast. Enjoyable as always. But you should correct the record: Mars does have an ionosphere!

The peak daytime electron density ("M2 layer") is low in altitude - perhaps 130+ km, about our E region - and density is like our E region too (5-10x lower than our F region). So for the Mark Watneys carrying their Homebrew rig and inverted V, probably only a few hundred km to the first skip zone. More NVIS flavor than anything else.

Fun to think about. You should go and test it out!

Phil W1PJE

BTW, this made the rounds in our club last year:

dit dit

73 de Ed, K1RID
Newburyport Electronics & Radio Society


Hey Bill,
No skip on Mars ?
No ionosphere ?
Every cloud has a silver lining, even if Mars doesn't have any clouds ;)
Mars has two moons.
Could be paradise for Moon Bounce aficionados. No ionosphere or F layer to get in the way. VHF can get around corners after all.
Here is an article describing the overhead passes of the two Martian moons: 

Thursday, August 6, 2020

How to Sweep, Plot, and Measure Filter Output in LTSpice

The other day Pete N6QW posted a very nice graph of a bandpass filter's passband.  He was using LTSpice.  I realized I had a serious gap in my LTSpice knowledge -- I wasn't sure how to do this.

The charming video from India explains how.  Really useful.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

OSCAR 100 Geosynchronous Satellite Video

I guess the title for this post could also be "How the Other Half Lives."  I'm sure at least a few of you will be thinking about building an OSCAR 100 station after watching this video.  But if you are in North or South America (with the exception of the Eastern tip of Brazil), forget about it.  OSCAR 100 is geostationary over the other side of the planet.  And amateurs have no equivalent on this side of the world.  But we can listen in using the Web SDRs. 

A couple of interesting bits from this recording.  You can hear G7BTP's coming back from the satellite with a bit of a delay -- he is obviously monitoring the downlink when he is transmitting.  DL8FBH says that he doesn't have a receive system of his own -- he is using a WEB SDR station (as I was) for the receiver. 


Monday, August 3, 2020

Homebrew Resistor Kit -- Drew's Mouser BOM

I put the resistors in parts envelopes and cardboard boxes

Hi Bill,

You mentioned wanting to get a resistor kit.  If you'd like, I can
help you do what I did.

Then I noodled about it a bit.  And looked at mouser.

A tiny bit of code put together a copy and paste list of part numbers
that I pasted onto mouser's BOM order form.  And bob's your uncle.

In my case, a particular manufacturer's 1/4 W metal film 100 ppm as
they were 1.9c @ 100 pieces.  I created a copy and paste BOM for E6
over 4 decades plus E3 for a 5th and 1M and 49.9 ohms. Less than $2
per value for 29 values.  Not a bad price for the size of the resistor
kit.  I also figured if the value gap was too large, I could fill it
in with the other half of the E12 series.  (E6 series is every other
E12 series value.)

This could be tweaked.  Perhaps fewer resistors in each value.  Or add
some more special values or whatever.

Mouser was kind enough to cut tape and put each value in a flat
plastic baggy with a label as to what was inside.  Sorted in a file
box, it's a snap to grab a resistor.
Perhaps this is something I should post online to share?  Maybe
someone else already has?

On my todo list is to construct my self a homebrew BOM of capacitors.

If you're interested, I could update this and let you know what Mouser
can do for you.  It may not be your preference, but it is an
interesting option.

Best regards,



Drew:   Your message caused me to think about what I really need in a resistor kit.  I have been using some other resistor kits, but I end up using ALL of certain values and NONE of others.  Your message made me realize that there is valuable data in those old kit packages.  

I took a look a them this morning.   It seems I use the following values:  4.7, 10, 47, 100, 220, 330, 470, 1k,  2,2k, 3,3k, 4,7k, and 10k.  That's about it.  So maybe I just need to go to mouser and order, 50 of each.  I'm thinking 1/4 or maybe 1/2 watt? 

The packaging you describe sounds great.  How can I get Mouser to do that for me?  

I don't think I need the more sophisticated approach you used, but I'm sure we have listeners who could benefit from it. 

Any further suggestions?  

Thanks again,  

73  Bill 

Hi Bill,

Sounds very good.  It turned out to be simple for me to order a
ridiculously well stocked resistor kit, but doing something custom is
actually a great idea.  If you want both 1/4 and 1/2, get both.  (I
figured I could always make a 1/2 W resistor out of 2 1/4 watt

The packaging is just what they do.  No extra charge other than their
regular shipping and handling.

So, I did this in late 2018.  When ordered, two values were
backordered, but they shipped them out a month or 6 weeks later or
something.  Checking now, 660-MF1/4DC1000F (a 1% 100 ohm metal film
1/4 watt), I see it is out of stock with an ETA of June 1st for 10K
they are ordering.  The other P/N that was backordered was
660-MF1/4DC1503F.  Who knew 100 and 150K ohms were extra popular?
150K is in stock right now BTW.  Maybe it's random what they run out

Best thing is you copy and paste your list of P/Ns and quantity for
each and bam Mouser will tell you pricing and if anything is
backordered, etc.  If you don't like what you see, change your list
and try again.

I actually thought about what I wanted, then looked at Mouser to see
what they had and what the pricing was on it.

So, from this particular resistor family, I see the pricing is what it
was a couple of years ago.

if you order 50 pieces of that 150 or 100 ohm resistor, that is:
50*$0.055 = $2.75 for 50 resistors.

If you order 100 pieces of that 150 or 100 ohm resistor, that is:
100*$0.019 = $1.90

IT"S CHEAPER TO ORDER 100!  Well, at least for this resistor family
and for Mouser's price breaks.  You have to look at the price breaks
versus volume.  And of course, understand the minimum you need and the
maximum you can store in your lab.  :-)  Don't be ordering 10,000.

So, price breaks for these they show:

Qty.    Unit Price
1    $0.23
10    $0.055
100    $0.019
1,000    $0.014
2,000    $0.009
10,000    $0.008
25,000    $0.007

You can see that there's a good break at 10, 100, and 2,000.  The
quantity with a good break really depends, so you would have to look
at different vendor product families to see.  I don't think I looked
very long.  I probably knew I wanted 1/4 W (may have considered 1/8 or
1/2, don't remember).  I also think I knew I wanted metal film.  When
I saw the pricing on these at 100 pc and with 1% tolerance (so I could
double out to E12 series and have it make sense if it turned out to be
useful for me), I stopped shopping.

Here's the full BOM I ordered.  The top part is some extra parts I
wanted and those couple of special resistor values.  The lower part
was generated by just a few lines of python:



So, your BOM (4.7, 10, 47, 100, 220, 330, 470, 1k,  2,2k, 3,3k, 4,7k,
and 10k) would be the following.  Added the 4.7 by hand and deleted
the other values by hand.  Qty 100 each.

Mouser.com.  Services & Tools button.  BOM Tool button.  Login (they
want account for the tools.  I can't complain.)  Upload spreadsheet or
copy and paste.  In this case, copy and paste.  In fact, copy right
out of this draft email and into their tool.  Next.  Then they ask me
for a name for the BOM and if I only want RoHS.  (RoHS is up to you.
I picked only RoHS, because I know all these parts are RoHS and it
won't warn me about lead poisoning or anything.)  Process BOM.

I had the 4.7 wrong, but they figure it out.  Ouch.  Pricey.  Maybe
you don't need so many, but $4.6 for 100.  Parallel a couple of 10
ohm, you'll have less parasitic L in your emitter circuit.  Change the
BOM before you click the add all to cart.  No problem.  Or maybe 4.7
is worth the extra money to a high roller such as yourself.  :-)

2 parts are at 0 inventory.  The 100 we knew about.  470 as well with
6K arriving 15June.  Yes, those ETAs are perhaps questionable.  Dunno.
They will ship you what they have and ship the rest later AT NO EXTRA
CHARGE.  :-)

A third part is at 123 pc inventory.  Act now before they are all out!
:-)  220 ohms.  6K due end of June.

The above would be $25.50 plus less than $10 for their cheapest
shipping option.  Not a bad price for a well stocked CUSTOM kit and
it's really easy to do.  And these are good parts with specifications
and tempcos etc. all in the data sheet.  Sure, you don't need it 99%
of the time, but if you wanted it, because you were doing something
fussy, you have it.

You could cut that price down quite a bit if you went carbon or wider
tolerance.  (Who needs 1%?  This is electrical engineering, not
mechanical engineering!)  Or maybe another manufacturer.  It's easy to
browse on Mouser and figure out those other options quickly and what
it may do to help you out.  Of course, when you get to a price of
$0.00, you still have the flat rate cheapest Mouser shipping as the
floor on what price you can achieve.

Mouser will also give you a print and email with price, part number,
description of everything in your custom kit.  And each pouch is
labelled.  Crazy!  :-)

Another crazy thing is with these BOMs is that you can easily share
them with others.

Best regards,

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