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Thursday, December 31, 2020

So Many Wonderful Things on W7ZOI's Site


There he is.  Wes Hayward, W7ZOI in 1957.  I had never seen this picture before.  I found it on Wes's recently updated "shackviews" web page: http://w7zoi.net/shackviews.html . 

There are so  many treasures on that page, and on all the other portions of Wes's site.

Some highlights for me: 

-- Wes's description of the station in the above picture. 

-- On his page about Doug DeMaw, Wes mentions that after Doug edited Wes's 1968 article about direct conversion receivers, Doug built some himself, experimenting with different product detector circuits. Having used Doug's mixer circuit in many of my rigs, and having recently experimented with different product detectors for my HA-600A, I kind of felt like Doug was watching over my shoulder, guiding me along as I experimented. 

-- Wes's use of a digital Rigol oscilloscope.  Makes me feel better about giving up on my Tek 465. 

-- The page about Farhan's visit to Wes, and the awesome gathering of homebrew Titans that ensued... 

-- Wes's meeting with Chuck Adams.  

Thanks Wes.  Happy New Year and best of luck in 2021!  

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Ross Hull and Clinton DeSoto -- Ham Radio and R/C Planes

Rogier PA1ZZ sent me a video that linked Ross Hull and Clinton DeSoto to the development of today's killer drones.  While it looks like that is quite a stretch (I'm sure Rogier would agree), the involvement of these two radio guys in the early development of radio-controlled planes is very interesting.  

An article, “Radio Control of Model Aircraft,” by Ross A. Hull and Roland B. Bourne, was the first to describe in detail a working radio system suitable for model aircraft.  They wrote: “Most hams are usually far from being one-hobby men and one discovers, almost invariably, an interest in the other sciences and the crafts. A common interest in ham radio, aeronautics, model building, and photography is almost the rule. We happen to be built that way and our interest in aircraft led us, this summer, to take an active interest in this problem of radio control.” (QST, October, 1937) 

More here: 


And here: 


Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Listen to this! The Kearsarge Mountain Transmission System -- Winter Test Transmission -- 9670 kHz

This is a bit mysterious, but I think that is part of the allure.  Last week reports began to surface on reddit about a shortwave test transmission from a group called the Kearsarge Mountain Transmission System.  Kearsarge Mountain is in New Hampshire. Thomas K4SWL over at the SWLing Post Blog posted a link to a SoundCloud recording of the transmission:     


I don't really know much about the origins of this recording, but -- like Thomas -- I really like it.  It is EXACTLY what you need to have playing in the background as you work on some piece of radio gear.  Trust me on this:  If you are a radio person, you WILL like this.   Have a listen at the link above. 

Here are some excerpts from the reddit posts on this: 

Notice of a KTMS winter test transmission beaming to Europe/USA on 9670 kHz at 2300 UTC on 17.12.2020. This transmission will consist of interval jingles, engineer test signals, rare re-media mixes of cult radio favorites, strange tones, and vox. Thank you for your continued attention as the KTMS crew continue working to bring the SWL community unique transmissions.

Our aim as the programmers of the KTMS Test Transmission is to entertain, edify and get SWLs excited about the possibilities inherent in radio. The crew of KTMS consists of amateur radio operators, community and college radio aficionados, antique radio restorationists, low budget radio astronomers looking for alien life and in general people who love the hobby of radio in all its many faceted aspects.

People who put their own funds towards creating radio on the shortwaves are helping to keep the shortwaves interesting and alive and bringing programming that is original and idiosyncratic to a medium that is often otherwise overrun by nationalists, spies, and fundamentalist preachers. They also help to keep shortwave stations on the air -something that ain’t so cheap. Rather, our view, is that by injecting some creative energy into a project such as our KTMS Winter Test Transmission we are giving back to the SWLing community by 1) creating a show for any listeners who happen to catch it, 2) giving the listeners a mystery that doesn’t revolve around numbers, 3) to do our part to keep the airwaves a little less stodgy.

We view this Test Transmission as an exercise in conviviality, surreality, and genuine love of all things radio and shortwave. 2020 has been such a serious minded year we aim to lighten that load with a bit of old fashioned fun.

For anyone who wishes to enjoy a nice winter evening around your set or online SDR we welcome you to get warm with us around the glowing tubes.

Thanks to all who tune in, and until then 73s.

Monday, December 21, 2020

Observations from the Mars 2020 Opposition


These are some of the drawings that I made during the Mars 2020 opposition. I would go out to my back porch with my 6 inch Dobsonian Newtonian telescope.  I would look closely at Mars, making mental note of what I was seeing. Then I would go to the shack and immediately draw what I'd seen. I would then look for relatively recent images of Mars made by people with more experience and better equipment, and I'd compare my drawings with their images -- this enabled me to understand what I was seeing.  Also useful was the Mars Profiler of Sky and Telescope magazine -- you just plug in the date and time and it displays the part of Mars that is facing us. 

I was especially pleased with the drawing and image above because I'd been reading a lot about the Hellas impact crater in Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars Trilogy.   (SCP should be SPC = Southern Polar Cap.)  

I came to think of this as the "M of Mars."  I think it is just Mare Cimmerium, Mare Hesperia, and Mare Tyrrhenum. 

bcastropics.com made this illustration of how Mars's apparent size has changed

Saturday, December 19, 2020

A Very Clever Way to Build a Moxon for 17 and 20 meters

Jim AB9CN sent us Dan Zimmerman N3OX's page in response to my plea for help in SolderSmoke #227.   I think this is a very clever and attractive way to cover both bands with a single Moxon.  


Of course there are other ways to do this -- other listeners wrote in with confirmation that it is indeed possible to nest a 17 meter element inside a 20 meter Moxon (as is done routinely with Hex beams), but this requires a lot of cut-and-try tuning of both antennas.  More in this in future posts.  Thanks Jim, and thanks to all who wrote in. 

I kind of like the N3OX approach.  I think his design makes it more of a workbench electronic project, as opposed to a mere wire and coax antenna project. But hey, that's just me. 

Friday, December 18, 2020

Grayson Evans KJ7UM's New Blog -- Lots of Great Technical Info


Our friend Grayson Evans KJ7UM, author of "Hollow State Design" has launched a new blog.  It is filled with great technical info.  The blog has links to the articles Grayson wrote for Electric Radio magazine.  

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

SolderSmoke Podcast #227: Solar System, SDR, Simple SSB, HA-600A, BITX17, Nesting Moxons? Mailbag

SolderSmoke Podcast #227 is available: 


Mars is moving away.  Jupiter and Saturn close in the sky.  And the Sun is back in action – Cycle 25 is underway.  Also, the earliest sunset is behind us.  Brighter days are ahead.

Book Review:  “Conquering the Electron”   With a quote from Nikola Tesla. 

No real travel for us:   Hunkered down.  Lots of COVID cases around us.  Friends, relatives, neighbors.  Be careful.  You don’t want to be make it through 10 months of pandemic only to get sick at the very end.  SITS: Stay In The Shack. 

Pete's Bench and Tech Adventures:  

 Backpack SDR  keithsdr@groups.io

 Hermes Lite 2

 Coaching SSB builders

 G-QRP talk  

 A new source for 9 MHz crystal filters

 Bill's Bench: 

Fixing the HA-600A Product Detector.  Sherwood article advice. Diode Ring wins the day.  Fixing a scratchy variable capacitor.  Studying simple two diode singly balanced detectors.  Polyakov.  Getting San Jian frequency counter for it.


Fixing up the 17 meter BITX.  Expanding the VXO coverage.  Using it with NA5B's KiwiSDR. 

Resurrecting the 17 meter Moxon.  But WHY can't I nest the 17 meter Moxon inside a 20 meter Moxon?  They do it with Hex beams.  Why so hard with Moxons? DK7ZB has a design, but I've often heard that this combo is problematic.  Any thoughts?   I could just buy a 20/17 Hex-beam but this seems kind of heretical for a HB station.

Suddenly getting RFI on 40 meters.  Every 50-60 Hz. Please tell me what you think this is (I played a recording).  


Dean KK4DAS’s Furlough 40/20


Tony G4WIF  G-QRP Vids.  Video of George Dobbs. 

Grayson KJ7UM Collecting Radioactive OA2s. Why?

Pete found W6BLZ Articles

Rogier KJ6ETL PA1ZZ lost his dog.  And we lost ours. 

Steve Silverman KB3SII -- a nice old variable capacitor from Chelsea Radio Company. 

Dave K8WPE thinks we already have a cult following.

Dan W4ERF paralleling amps to improve SNR. 

Jim W8NSA -- An old friend. 

Pete Eaton   WB9FLW    The Arecibo collapse 

John WB4GTW old friend... friend of: 

Taylor N4TD HB2HB  

And finally, we got lots of mail about our editorial.   No surprise: Half supportive, half opposed.  Obviously everyone is entitled to their opinion.  And we are free to express ours.  It’s a free country, and we want it to stay that way. That is why we spoke out.

Yesterday the Electoral College voted, finalizing the results.  All Americans should be proud that the U.S. was able to carry out a free and fair national election with record turn out under difficult circumstances. And all loyal Americans should accept the results. That’s just the way it works in a democracy.

We are glad we said what we said. It would have been easier and more pleasant to just bury our heads in the sand and say nothing.  But this was a critically important election and we felt obligated as Americans to speak out.  We'd do it again. And in fact we reserve the right to speak out again if a similarly important issue arises.  

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Pete Juliano's Presentation to the 2020 G-QRP Club Convention -- Building SSB Transceivers

It is a great day my friends.  G-QRP has posted on YouTube the presentations made at their 2020 convention. TRGHS! Above you can see the awesome FB contribution of Pete Juliano N6QW.  I watched it live on Zoom, but have been waiting patiently for the opportunity to share it with SolderSmoke readers and listeners. 

There are many other great videos of convention presentations on the G-QRP YouTube channel.  Here is the link to the channel: 
Be sure to subscribe and give many "thumbs up" to the presentations. 

I see that our friend Alan Wolke W2AEW has a presentation on the NanoVNA in that channel. FB Alan. 

Thanks to G-QRP for running this event and for putting these videos on YouTube. 

Saturday, December 5, 2020

Adding 10 kHz of Coverage to My BITX 17

Solar Cycle 25 is underway.  The Solar Flux Index and Sunspot numbers are up considerably.  I have dusted off my old BITX17 transceiver.  This time around I am using it in conjunction with a waterfall display provided online by NA5B's KiwiSDR receiver, which is located about 9 miles east of me. This SDR receiver allows me to see the entire 17 meter band.   It was this panoramic display that made me pay more attention to the fact that the Variable Crystal Oscillator (VXO) that I am using in this rig prevented me from tuning the lower 10 kHz of the 17 meter phone band (18.110 -- 18.120 MHz). 

I use two crystals switched by a relay to cover the band. One is at 23.149 MHz, the other at 23.166 MHz.  The crystal filter is at 5MHz.  With a coil and some caps I could move the frequencies of the oscillator enough to cover 18.120 to 18.168 MHz (top of the band). 

When I first built this thing, I kind of wrote off the lower 10 kHz of the phone band.  I couldn't get the oscillator to work that low, and I was already satisfied with the top 48 kHz.  But the NA5B waterfall often showed SSB stations in that lower part of the band.  I wanted to talk to them.  So I started thinking about how to do this.       

Looking at my schematic (above) I remembered that most of the frequency lowering was done by L1, a 3.2uH toroid.  I figured that to go a bit lower, I would just have to add inductance.  But I didn't want to lower the frequency provided by BOTH crystals -- I just wanted to bring the frequency with the lower crystal down a bit.  

In my junkbox I found a 1 uH coil.  I disconnected the lower lead of the 23.149 MHz crystal from its connection to the relay.  I soldered the 1 uH coil between the crystal and the relay (see picture above).  This moved the lower limit down to 18.087 MHz. 

Now crystal one provides 18.087 - 18.144 MHz 
         crystal two provides 18.137 - 18.167 MHz

So now I have the whole phone band.  Bob is my uncle. TRGHS. 

This was a very quick and satisfying little fix. As Pete says WYKSYCDS: when you know stuff you can do stuff.  Indeed.  And as I re-build and repair gear that I built years ago, I am often reminded that as time goes by, we learn more. We end up knowing more and being able to do more.   

I am also planning on rebuilding my 17 meter Moxon;  this time I will make it better and stronger.         

"Radio, Radio" By Elvis Costello and The Attractions

Wow. At one point in the video Elvis C. climbs onto a radio chassis and sings while standing between two Thermatrons.  FB OM.  

And here is an interesting article about Elvis Costello's music, and opposition to Fascism. 

Friday, December 4, 2020

The Terrible Collapse of the Arecibo Dish: Climate Change, Hurricane Maria, and Funding Cuts. Also: China's New Dish

From https://www.thewrap.com/watch-crazy-footage-of-the-arecibo-observatory-collapse-goldeneye-video/  :

"Alas, over the 2010s it was battered by a series of severe, climate change-linked tropical storms and hurricanes, culminating in terrible damage inflicted by Hurricane Maria in 2017. Unfortunately the 2016 election led to a government unwilling to fund repairs. Though new sources of funding were cobbled together late in 2018, in late Nov. 2020 it was determined there was no way to safely repair the telescope and the National Science Foundation announced it would be decommissioned.

The decommissioning was supposed to proceed after NSF determined the safest possible method, but physics had other plans. So it is that on Dec. 4, the whole thing up and collapsed with almost no warning."

More info (from NSF): 


Here is a good 2017 article that discusses the electronic and mechanical arrangements at Arecibo, and the budget cuts it was facing.  The article seems to almost predict the collapse: 


Here is a comment from someone who worked there and heard the collapse: 

Jonathan Friedman, who worked for 26 years as a senior research associate at the observatory and still lives near it, told the Associated Press news agency of the moment the telescope collapsed on Tuesday.

"It sounded like a rumble. I knew exactly what it was," he said. "I was screaming. Personally, I was out of control... I don't have words to express it. It's a very deep, terrible feeling."  https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-55147973?fbclid=IwAR3RuwzTfJmqInrOOFB-nctknDzyB_VSr_qdNrjg9LbbxUnAbynKBv9stPQ

Here is an interesting WIKIpedia article on China's FAST dish, with comparisons to Arecibo: 


Comparison of the Arecibo Telescope (top) and FAST (bottom) dishes at the same scale

Adios Arecibo

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Radioactive Regulator Tubes -- OA2s! Who knew?


Pete found this amazing collection of articles by master homebrewer Ed Marriner W6BLZ.  They were published in a West Coast radio newsletter during the 1950s and 60s.   The above is from this collection.

I know that this kind of article upsets some people.  They will write in saying that they have using OA2s for 50 years with no ill effects.   Others will sarcastically say that we should just try to avoid eating the OA2s.  I know. Don't blame me.  Don't blame Pete.  You can blame the Navy. And Raytheon. And Cobalt 60 and Nickle 63. 

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