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Tuesday, July 27, 2021

QST Recognized Error on Sideband Inversion, But Continued to Make the Same Mistake


I don't really know if this is good news or bad news.  It's good that in November 1985 they recognized the error, but then they allowed the same error to be repeated by the same author in the 1989 article "A Four-Stage 75-Meter SSB Superhet," and again in 1990 in W1FB's Design Notebook.   It also made it into the 2002 ARRL Handbook.  

Thanks to Chuck WB9KZY for alerting us to this Feedback piece. 

Monday, July 26, 2021

QST Repeatedly Got Sideband Inversion Wrong

It kind of pains me to do this. These articles are from a long time ago, and the author is an esteemed  Silent Key,  but the myth about the origins of the USB/LSB convention is still out there, and as a homebrewer of SSB gear I feel obligated to point out these examples of the error that that myth is based on.   

Last Friday, Pete WB9FLW and I were talking about homebrewing SSB rigs.  I recommended a series of QST articles by Doug DeMaw.  "Beginner's Bench:  The Principles and Building of SSB Gear" started in QST in September 1985. There were at least five parts -- it continued until January 1986. (Links to the series appear below.) I hadn't looked at these articles in years, but when I did, a big mistake jumped right out at me:  In the first installment, on page 19, Doug  makes the same mistake that he made in his Design Notebook:

"Now comes the conversion section of our SSB generator.  We must move (heterodyne) the 9-MHz SSB signal to 3.75-4.0 MHz. Our balanced mixer works just as it does in a receiver. That is, we inject the mixer with two frequencies (9 MHz and 5 MHz) to produce a sum or a difference output frequency (9 - 5 = 4 MHz, or 9 +5 = 14 MHz) If we are to generate 75 meter SSB energy, we must chose the difference frequency. We could build an 20-meter SSB transmitter by selecting the sum of the mixer frequencies. The RF amplifiers and filter (FL2) that follow would then have to be designed for 14-MHz operation.  In fact, many early two-band homemade SSB transmitters were built for for 75 and 20 meters in order to use this convenient frequency arrangement.  The use of upper sideband on 20 meters and lower sideband on 75 meters may be the result of this frequency arrangement (the sidebands become inverted when switching from the difference to the sum frequency.) " 

Those last two sentences are incorrect.  They repeat the "Myth," or the "Urban Legend" about the origins of the LSB/USB convention.  Contrary to what many hams now believe, with 9 MHz filter and a 5.2 MHz BFO it takes more than just switching from sum frequency to difference frequency to invert one of the sidebands. 

There are two conditions needed for sideband inversion to take place:  

1) You have to be taking the difference product (DeMaw got that right) 

2) The unmodulated (VFO or LO) signal must be larger than the modulated signal. (DeMaw and the ARRL obviously missed that part.  Repeatedly.) 

This is another way of stating the simple, accurate and useful Hallas Rule:  Sideband inversion only occurs when you are subtracting the signal with modulation FROM the signal without modulation. 

For DeMaw's claim to be correct, one of the SSB signals going into the balanced mixer would have to invert, and the other would have to not invert.  Let's see if that happens: He has the sideband signal being generated at 9 MHz and the VFO running around 5 MHz. 

9 - 5 = 4  But we are not subtracting the modulated signal FROM the unmodulated signal.  SO NO INVERSION

9 + 5 = 14   We are not subtracting at all.  SO NO INVERSION.  

Doug's convenient frequency scheme WOULD work if he'd just switch the frequencies of the filter and the VFO.  With a sideband generator on 5.2 MHz and a VFO around 9 MHz you do get the happy 75  LSB, 20 USB arrangement without the need to switch the carrier oscillator/BFO frequency.   That is what happened in the Swan 240, and that is what I have in my Mythbuster rig. I am listening to both 75 LSB and 20 USB without changing the carrier oscillator/BFO frequency.  My filter/BFO/product detector is set up for USB.   With this arrangement the 75 meter LSB signals DO invert, and the 20 meter USB meter signals do not, so both are able to make use of my USB BFO/product detector without shifting the BFO frequency. 

This error shows up again in DeMaw's the May 1989 QST article "A Four Stage 75-meter SSB Superhet" (reprinted in the ARRL's QRP Classics book).  Here he writes: 

"Should you want to cover both the 75- and 20-meter bands you can build a 20-meter version of FL-1 and band switch the two filters. As with the 75 meter only version, an IF of 9.0 MHz (Y1) is required. With this arrangement the 20 meter band will tune backwards from the 75 meter band, but upper- and lower-sideband reception will occur, as required, without changing the BFO frequency (Y2). This two band scheme with a 5-MHz VFO is an old one!"   NOTE: FL1 is the bandpass filter, not the IF filter.  

Doug's mistakes in this area may simply be due to the fact that he was more of a CW guy.  And this is something that is quite easy to confuse:  9 and 5 will get you to 75 and 20, but you have to make sure the VFO is at 9 if you want to make use of sideband inversion and avoid having to shift the BFO/ carrier oscillator.   I've made this mistake myself: 

In October 1993 I wrote to DeMaw about his Four Stage 75 meter SSB Superhet.  I think I was looking for details on how to put it on 20 meters.  As I recall, Doug wrote back telling me to just pick 20 meter values for the input bandpass filter.  Had I done so, I would have discovered that  -- for the reasons cited above -- this just wouldn't have worked on 20.  His BFO and filter were set up to receive LSB signals. That's fine for the incoming 75 meter LSB signals.  But on 20 -- contrary to DeMaw's thinking -- there would be NO sideband inversion. I'd be trying to listen to 20 meter USB signals with a receiver set up for 20 meter LSB.  

Did anyone else notice these errors.  Were there ever errata notices in QST on this?  

This is a reminder that you should take all technical articles and schematics with a grain of salt.  Many contain errors. We are all human, and this is a complicated subject with lots of details. 

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Possible Victory for Frank Jones and the FMLA? Could We Get the 5 Meter Band Back?


EI7GL reports some very interesting IARU activity that could possibly result in the 5 Meter band coming back to amateur radio use:  

"The 60 MHz or 5 metre band has the potential to be a future allocation for the Amateur Radio service. The International Amateur Radio Union (IARU) are currently encouraging member societies to try and obtain small allocations at 40 MHz and 60 MHz."


Regaining 5 meters was, of course, the objective of Frank Jones and the Five Meter Liberation Army.  Wouldn't it be great of Michael Hopkins' fictional tale actually ended up coming true!  

Thursday, July 22, 2021

The Unicorn! A 75 LSB /20 USB Receiver (That Can't Work)


Don't get me wrong -- I'm a huge fan of Doug DeMaw.  His books and articles are a treasure trove for ham radio homebrewers.  Also, Doug was an honest guy who admitted in the preface to his QRP book that at times he did not fully understand the circuits he was building; that kind of honesty is rare,  and is very helpful to amateurs who struggle to understand the circuits we work on.  

But everyone makes mistakes, and Doug made one in his "W1FB Design Notebook."  I present it here not as a "gotcha" effort to nitpick or sharpshoot a giant of homebrew radio, but because this error illustrates well the depth of the 75 LSB/20 USB myth, where it comes from, and how important it is to really understand sideband inversion.     Here is the mistake: 

That's just wrong.  A receiver built like this will not allow you to listen to 75 LSB and 20 USB "without changing the BFO frequency." (Am I the first one to spot this error?  Didn't anyone build this thing, only to discover that it, uh, doesn't work?)

Here's a little drawing that I think illustrates why the mythical scheme will not work: 

All confusion about sideband inversion could be avoided with the simple application of what I think we should call "The Hallas Rule"

"Sideband reversal occurs in mixing only  if the signal with the modulation is subtracted from the signal that isn't modulated."  

Be careful here:   I think some arithmetic carelessness is responsible for much of the myth. Taking the difference frequency is not enough to produce sideband inversion. Read the Hallas Rule carefully:   For sideband inversion to occur, the signal with the modulation must be subtracted FROM the signal without the modulation.
About the Swan 240's SSB generation scheme: 

I first stumbled on this problem when building my first SSB transmitters in the Azores.  I was using a VXO,  and a filter pulled out of a Swan 240 (5.173 MHz).  I started with VXO crystals at around 12.94 MHz.  The rig worked,  but I couldn't pull the VXO crystals very far.  So I switched to crystals at around 23.3 MHz (you can pull higher frequency crystals farther).  But look what happened:  My Carrier Oscillator frequency had been set up to receive USB signals on 17 Meters.  With the 12.94 MHz rocks, that worked fine:   18.150-12.977 = NO INVERSION.  But it all changed when I went to the 23 MHz VXO rocks:  23.323-18.150 = INVERSION!   This had me scratching my head a while.  I had to draw myself little spectrum pictures (like the one above) before I realized what had happened.  To get it to work -- to get it to produce USB on 17 meters -- I had to move the Carrier Oscillator to the other side of the passband. Good thing that Swan 240 came with TWO BFO crystals (5.1768 MHz and 5.1735 MHz). I just had to change the crystal. 

For 75 and 20 meters, the Swan 240 uses the correct 5.173 MHz filter with a 9 MHz VFO to get the happy situation of 75 meter LSB and 20 Meter USB WITHOUT changing the BFO/Carrier Oscillator frequency.  This is the Mythbuster scheme.  Unlike Doug's receiver, it works.  The scheme also works in the Swan 240 on 40 meters because for 40 the Swan rig has the VFO running from 12.073 MHz to 12.513 MHz. Here too, no change in the BFO/Carrier Oscillator  frequency is needed. But the Swan recommended a modification that would allow operation on 20 LSB and 75/40 USB!  It used a BFO/Carrier Oscillator crystal of  5.1765 MHz and a switch mounted on the front panel.  Luckily,  my junker Swan (acquired from HI8P in the Dominican Republic) had the second crystal -- mine was 5.1768 MHz.  It was that crystal that allowed me to get my Azorean SSB transmitter to work using the 23.9 MHz VXO rocks.    

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Ganymede and Jupiter as seen by Juno

But remember the warning:

"All these worlds are yours, except Europa.  Attempt no landing there." 

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Mythbuster Videos 8 and 9 -- The Old Military Radio Net plus "Zero Beat and The Vertical Skirts"

I like to listen to the Old Military Radio Net on Saturday mornings. This week I was listening with the Mythbuster receiver. The AM carriers provided a good opportunity to observe the effects of the steep skirts of the 10 pole crystal filter. We start at zero beat, with the BFO exactly on the carrier frequency. If I turn the VFO dial in one direction, I in effect move the passband in a way that puts the carrier in the passband. And it is no longer zero beat with the BFO, so we hear the heterodyne (the beat!). But if I turn the VFO dial in the other direction, the carrier is now outside the passband. Even though the BFO would produce a tone, we don't hear a tone, because those steep filter skirts are keeping the carrier out. We do continue to hear some of the sideband frequencies, because they remain in the passband. The very sharp drop-off of the carrier tone is a good indication that the steep skirts of the crystal filter are doing the job.

"Zero Beat and the Vertical Skirts" Sounds like the name of a Punk Rock band, doesn't it? Anyway in this video I explain what happened in Mythbuster Video #8 (above). I explain why we can hear the Old Military Radio Net carriers when I tune the VFO in one direction, but not in the other.

Monday, July 19, 2021

Michael Newton Hopkins, AB5L, Author of the FMLA series

Better than anyone else ever has, Michael Hopkins, in his fictional series about Frank Jones and the Five Meter Liberation Army, captures the spirit of homebrew radio.  There is just so much of us in those articles.  I read them some 20 years ago when they first came out; reading them again recently I appreciated them even more.  

Frank was a bit of a curmudgeon:  There are jabs at the appliance operators, Hiram Percy Maxim, hamfests, SSB, the Collins collectors, the QRP movement,  and even Electric Radio magazine.  Howard Armstrong makes an appearance, as do Carl and Jerry.  It all made me want to put a five pin SAW filter on my lapel.  

As I read, I thought about what a great writer Michael was.  When I Googled him, a few of the results led me back to  my own book.  I'd forgotten that Michael was in there, but he is.  On one page he advises me how to power my Mate for the Mighty Midget receiver without using a power transformer (a very Frank Jones approach).  On another page I note that Michael had sent me a kit for the Doug DeMaw "Barbados Receiver."  Wow, that was my first Superhet.  (I also have one that was built by Dale Parfitt.)  Most of the parts were put to use in other projects.  But I still have the board (see above).  Reminded that it came from Michael, I will now have to complete the construction.

Below is a nice article about Michael that appeared in the Flying Pigs newsletter. (Click on the images for an easier read.)   

The articles can be found here: 

Michael's 2005 Obituary:

Thank you Michael.  VIVA EL FMLA! 

Sunday, July 18, 2021

Alan Wolke W2AEW's Great Video on Using NanoVNA to Measure Amplifier Input Impedance and Gain

Alan Wolke W2AEW is a true wizard.  We are all lucky to be interested in homebrew radio at the same time that he is sharing his knowledge and wisdom via YouTube. 

The ability of the NanoVNA to measure circuit impedances is, in my mind, one of its most valuable features.  With this, we can MEASURE input and output impedances.  We can put bits and pieces of circuitry together without wondering whether or not we were introducing impedance mismatches.   

But I had trouble getting good NanoVNA impedance readings on my TIA amps. I wrote to Alan about this and he pledged to make a video about how to do it right.  That video was posted to YouTube today (see above).  

Not only did I learn how to get a good impedance reading, I really learned a lot by just watching Alan move around through the various NanoVNA screens.  I want to be able to do that too!  I want to monitor the Smith Chart, and gain, and SWR, all at the same time.  Yes I do!  I also now realize that I have to order a bunch of those cool PC board SMA female connectors from Bezos. 

Thanks a lot Alan.  

Frank Jones's 1936 Radio Handbook



Saturday, July 17, 2021

Mythbuster Video #7: Bandswitch, Reverse Polarity Protection, CW with Clarifier Offset

I have the speaker mounted on the front of the board. I kind of like it like that. I now have a bandswitch, and reverse polarity protection (no more living dangerously for me). That Yaesu VFO clarifier circuit might prove useful should I decide to give this rig CW capability. I once again find myself thinking that I might never put this in a metal box. Frank Jones had the right idea.

Friday, July 16, 2021

Mythbuster Video #6 -- On to 20 Meters (But With Bandpass Filter Woes). Please help solve the mystery!

Here's how I started with the Elsie program. Note that to get a 50 ohm match on both ends it needs an impractically low value for the coils (.064 uH). 

But Elsie lets you specify the coil value.  So I then I went with 1 uH.  But with this value you don't get 50 ohms at either end.  You need a matching network.  Elsie provides this too!  

I asked Elsie to match my BP filter to 50 ohms.  It provided several options to do this --  I went with a simple capacitive impedance divider.  But alas, I was now bumping up against the 7 limit of the free version of Elsie so I had to reduce the number of LC elements from 4 to 3.  Bummer. 

With 3 LC tuned circuits and matched to 50 ohms the plot looks OK.  But I would have preferred 4 LC circuits. 

The rftools website created a BP filter for me with 4 LC elements, and matched to 50 ohms.  Very useful. https://rf-tools.com/lc-filter/

But here's my problem:  With both the filter designed by Elsie and the one designed by rftools, I found that the filter passband was too low.  It was in the 12 - 13 MHz range.   I found that by removing 3 turns from the 1 uH coils I could move the passband up to the desired range.  But why the discrepancy?  I was measuring the coils and the caps with an AADE meter.  I was testing the passband both with a NanoVNA and with a combination of an HP8640B sig gen and a Rigol oscilloscope (with the filter terminated into a 50 ohm resistor).  Any suggestions on why these filters should have passbands lower than predicted would be appreciated. 

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Mythbuster Video #4 -- First Signals, 75 meter Bandpass Filter, Yaesu VFO output

This receiver required almost no coaxing or tweaking, probably because I had been so careful about testing and measuring each of the stages. 

I have been pleasantly surprised at how well the receiver works without an RF amplifier ahead of the first mixer.  But I need to know how much AF gain I have in order to understand how/why the entire receiver works so well.  I think I have about 35 db of gain (combined) through the two TIAs and the crystal filter.  That would mean that all of the remaining gain is provided by the AF amplifiers (with some loss in the product detector).   I haven't really measured the gain of the AF preamp/LM386 combo, and I had some trouble measuring the input impedance of the pre-amp with the NanoVNA.    

The 75 meter LC filter to the left of the VFO is actually a bandpass filter, not the lowpass filter. And what I call "the mixer" to the right of the VFO is really the Product Detector/BFO.

For the 75 meter bandpass filter, I used the ELSIE program. 

75 meter Bandpass Filter designed in Elsie.  10 turns on a T50-2 toroid yield .46uH.

Here's the plot from Elsie on the 75 meter BP filter.  

Alan W2AEW asked for a picture of the VFO output. 
On this shot I had the probe between theVFO and the 
outboard booster amp that I built to bring it to 7dbm. 

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Mythbuster Video #3 -- Using the VFO from a Yaesu FT-101

FT-101 VFO

I used LTSpice and Wes's FBA program (from LADPAC) to come up with a circuit that would provide the needed gain. I needed to get the 290 mV rms signal (across a 50 0hm load) up to the 500 mV rms signal needed by the ADE1 mixer.  Above is the amplifier that I came up with.  The key here is to adjust R2 and R1 to get the required gain. 

Monday, July 12, 2021

Mythbuster Video #2 -- 10 Pole Crystal Filter

This is a 5.2 MHz crystal filter. I used the G3UUR method for determining the crystal's motional parameters. I then used Dishal and AADE software to design a 10 pole Cohn Min-Loss filter. I tested the bandwidth with an Antuino Scalar Network analyzer (thanks Farhan!) and a NanoVNA. I found the passband to be a bit tight for SSB, so I replaced the capacitors with caps of a slightly lower value -- this broadened the passband. It is still a bit tight, but the SSB audio -- while not enhanced or Hi-Fi -- sounds fine.  

Passband filter shape as seen in the Antuino and in the NanoVNA. The -20 db line in the Antuino actually corresponds to no loss. 

The schematic provided by the AADE software.  Dishal software may have come up with better, more correct values for the capacitors. 

The passband as predicted by AADE.  Skirts so nearly vertical as to strike fear in the hearts of SDR owners! 

Filter under construction -- waiting for the caps from Mouser. 

First scan with the NanoVNA.  Insertion loss looks very high but that is only because I am terminating the filter with resistors -- I just wanted to see the passband shape. 

Sunday, July 11, 2021

A Video Series on the Mythbuster 75/20 Rig -- Video #1

I am happy to report great progress on the Mythbuster project.  I have the receiver working on both 75/80 and 20 meters.  And it in fact inverts  the 75 meter LSB signals, turning them into 5.2 MHz USB signals for passage through my 5.2 MHz USB filter/BFO combo.  No switching or shifting of the BFO is needed. 

I am following Farhan's BITX20 advice -- I have paused in the construction and am enjoying the receiver that I have built.  I'll build the transmit circuitry later. 

Inspired by Frank Jones (you really should be reading the FMLA articles) I have this rig prototyped "Al Fresco" on a pine board that I found discarded on a neighbors front stoop.  

There is no RF amplifier in this rig.   Following the advice of multiple receiver gurus, I ran the BP filters right into the ADE-1 diode ring mixer.   I have the TIA amps set at about 24 dbm.  There is a lot of audio gain from the LM386 and the audio pre-amp.  This seems to be enough, even on 20.  I hear the band noise when I connect the antenna on both 75 and 20.  

Here is the first video in the series.   I'm posting them first on Patreon, then, a few days later, here and on the YouTube channel. 

Friday, July 9, 2021

The Woz on Homebrewing and The Right to Repair

There is a lot of wisdom and history in this Cameo video by Steve Wozniak.  

Thanks to Chuck KE5SPY for alerting us to this.  

Here a good BBC article that summarizes the Right to Repair issue and Woz's involvement.

The Woz has The Knack.  

Thursday, July 8, 2021

A Great Line from the FMLA Articles

The narrator was in CW contact on 6 meters with a guy who turns out to be... Frank Jones. 

 I threw the switch on my AEA keyer and sent the station description while I deciphered my notes. When the keyer signed, Frank said: QSL THE COMMERCIAL GEAR - EVER THINK OF TAKING UP AMATEUR RADIO? QRQ?  
More to follow.  

The complete FMLA collection can be found here: 

Sunday, July 4, 2021

Romanian Mighty Mite and Ciprian's Knack Story

Another wonderful video from Ciprian in Romania. 

Any suggestions on his Mighty Mite power output problem? 

Here is Ciprian's YouTube channel. His intro video presents his Knack Story.  

I really hope Ciprian can get a license very soon.  His homebrew projects alone should qualify him. Ciprian has The Knack. It would be great if the IBEW (especially the European branch) could help Ciprian get some more parts and test gear. 

Saturday, July 3, 2021

M0NTV's Latest Breadbox Rig -- The Radio Gods Have Spoken (TRGHS)!

Tony G4WIF sent me this video from Nick M0NTV.  It presents Nick's latest Bread Bin project -- "The Optimizer." 

-- I really like the Bread Box enclosures.  And leaving the b and the d on the box is just brilliant.  These letters now stand for BiDirectional!  They even appear symmetrical.  TRGHS!

-- The switch for a tuning tone is a great idea.  I still have to plug my Maplin AF sig gen into the mic jack to do this.  FB. 

-- I too have the connector on the back for keying the outboard linear amplifier.  (Shhh! Don't tell G-QRP!) 

-- As for the bidirectional TIA amps.  I'm really glad that someone else is using these circuits.  Wes's article came out in 2009 and concluded with a call for someone to build a complete rig with these circuits.  I wonder how many rigs like this have been made.  It is a great circuit.   One thing I would suggest for Nick:  Wes's article points out that you CAN have higher gain in one direction than you have in the other.  Just use resistor values in the chart provided in the 2009 article.  You could have an amp with 15 db in the transmit direction and 24 db in the receive direction.  BTW:  I have been getting a lot of help from Alan W2AEW and Farhan VU2ESE on how to use the NanoVNA to confirm the input and output impedances on solid state amplifiers. 

-- For many years I had the same map of the Moon in my shack.  I hope that map makes it to the new house Nick. 

-- Finally, I was really surprised to hear EI0CL calling CQ during Nick's demo of the receiver.  That is Michael Higgins out in Galway.   Michael was one of my regular contacts when I was out in the Azores.  He is a truly amazing guy.  He is mentioned frequently in my "SolderSmoke -- Global Adventures in Wireless Electronics" book.  TRGHS. 

Thursday, July 1, 2021

Summer Reading for Homebrewers: Frank Jones and the FMLA by Michael Hopkins AB5L (SK)

Frank Jones W6AJF (SK)

I read these stories when they were first coming out and I really liked them.  Here are all the FMLA episodes.  Don't try to read them all in one sitting.  Spread them out.  Savor them.  Think about the message that Frank was sending us.  

All of the FMLA episodes:  https://tomfhome.files.wordpress.com/2019/12/frank_and_the_fmla.pdf


Related articles, books and links: 

Frank's obit: https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/news/frank-jones/

Frank's book "5 Meter Telephony": https://w5jgv.com/downloads/5-Meter%20Radiotelephony%20by%20Frank%20Jones.pdf 

Frank's 1937 Antenna Handbook: http://rfcec.com/RFCEC/Section-3%20-%20Fundamentals%20of%20RF%20Communication-Electronics/23%20-%20RADIO%20ENGINEERING%20DATA/1937%20-%20Jones%20Antenna%20Handbook%20(By%20Frank%20C.%20Jones).pdf

About the author, Michael Hopkins AB5L: https://www.rantechnology.com/index.cfm?key=view_resource&TransKey=615604E8-9DAA-40A3-9E48-4160806D893D&CategoryID=8E884CE4-9CED-4957-872B-5EBDB058D540&Small=1

Michael Hopkins AB5L (SK) 

Thanks to Dave Wilcox K8WPE for reminding us of all this, and for sending us the link to the FMLA archive. 

Viva el FMLA!   Viva el CBLA!  Vivan! 

The World's Largest Heathkit Collection (Video)

And this was apparently AFTER they relocated and organized things a bit. 

I have my eye on those QF-1s.  Someone stop me before it's too late.

I also spotted a Globe VFO Deluxe.  

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

10 Pole Crystal Filter Passband as Seen in Antuino and NanoVNA

I continue to work on the "Mythbuster" rig,  but I am taking it slow, trying to learn something from each stage.  I'm especially trying to master the used of the great test gear that has arrived in my shack in recent years:  The Antuino, the NanoVNA, and the TinySA.  

Above you can see the passband of the 10 pole crystal filter as measured across the 50 ohm terminations on the filter.  I use simple FT37-43 transformers to match the filter impedance down to 50 ohms.  I used the Antuino first -- it scanned the passband and held the image on its screen.  I then disconnected the Antuino and connected the NanoVNA.  So in this shot you can see the passband on both devices.  

You will notice that the Antuino says there is a 20db insertion loss.  That's only because in the Antuino 20db is really 0 db loss.  I think the NanoVNA gives a more accurate insertion loss reading -- about 3-5 db.  The cool thing is how similar the shapes of the passband are.  

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Jack NG2E's Pebble Crusher

 Check out NG2E's Pebble Crusher homebrew transmitter.  Doug DeMaw would be enormously pleased.   

Jack will no-doubt have this 250 mW rig on the some peak along the Shenandoah Valley, handing out QSOs to SOTA fans.   

Jack's blog page has a really nice video on this project: 


Saturday, June 26, 2021

SolderSmoke Podcast #231 -- Travel, SST, Mythbusting, Filters, TIAS, NanoVNAs, DC RX in SPRAT, Drake A Line, Spillsbury, STICKERS! Mailbag

SolderSmoke # 231 is available: 

Annual Field Day Special Edition

Travelogue:   To the Dominican Republic! 
New dog -- Meet Guapo (see below). 

A great Father's Day for Pete and Bill.  I got a TinySA. 
Pete got some cool chick magnet glasses (see below).  
Watch out Newbury Park! 

Bill's Activity

SST Transceiver. Took it to Dominican Republic.
Made only one contact, but QRP-QRP. 
Not a lot of CW activity, and not a lot around 14.060. 
A lot more FT8 visible on the NA5B WebSDR.
That might be better for this kind of operation.  
I might try SST CW out today from the backyard. Field Day!

Fired up my 20 meter DSB NE602 rigs.  Made two contacts.  
Still trying to fully understand the NE602 Gilbert Cell.  Lots of mystery in there. 

Building "The MythBuster."  75/20 with sideband inversion.  

10 pole 5.2 MHz filter.  Used Dishal and AADE. 
Used NanoVNA to see the passband. 
G3UUR for crystal parameters.
Cohn Constant K topology. 

Also used NanoVNA to check input and output impedance on the TIA amps I will use around the filter. 

Pete's activity: 

Article on DC receiver in SPRAT. FB response. 50 receivers under construction.   

Work on Drake A Line.  

Jim Spillsbury. 


The N5JHH IBEW SolderSmoke stickers (see above and below).  How we will use them. 

Tom (Junkbox receiver)
N0ZIB (Curse you, SolderSmoke!) 

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Radio Netherlands -- Bonaire Relay Station

Thanks to Rogier KJ6ETL, PA1ZZ for sharing this video with us (that's Rogier on the Vespa). 

I wonder what they did with the towers and the transmitters?  


Friday, June 18, 2021

Jean Shepherd on CW, and Strange Propagation -- QRP!

From 1965.  Great CW stories from Shep.  QRP!  Shep running 2 watts on 20 CW, working DX. 

He discusses shortwave listening,  and predicted that CW shortwave listening would become more popular (sorry about that Shep). 

It was real hoot to hear the 1965 public service ad from NYC Mayor John Lindsey. 

The Kazoo CW was a bit hard to copy OM. 

Thursday, June 17, 2021

The Stubborn Myth about USB and LSB

It  has been repeated so often and for so long that many of us have come to believe it.  I myself believed it for a while.   Like many myths, it has a ring of truth to it.  And it is a simple, convenient explanation for a complex question: 

Why do ham single sideband operators use LSB below 10 MHz, but USB above 10 MHz? 

Here is the standard (but WRONG) answer: 

In the early days of SSB, hams discovered that with a 9 MHz SSB generator and a VFO running around 5.2 MHz, they could easily reach both 75 meters and 20 meters (True). And because of sideband inversion, a 9 MHz LSB signal would emerge from the mixer as an LSB signal (True), while the 20 meter signal would emerge -- because of sideband inversion -- as a USB signal (FALSE!)  That sideband inversion for the 20 meter signal explains, they claim,  the LSB/USB convention we use to this day. 

Why this explanation is wrong: 

There is a very simple rule to determine if sideband inversion is taking place:  If you are subtracting the signal with the modulation FROM the signal without the modulation (the LO or VFO) you will have sideband inversion.  If not, you will NOT have sideband inversion.

So, you just have to ask yourself:   For either 20 or 75 are we SUBTRACTNG the Modulated signal (9 MHz) from the unmodulated signal (5.2 MHz)? 

For 75 meters we have:   9 MHz - 5.2 MHz =  3.8 MHz    NO.  We are not subtracting the modulated signal from the unmodulated signal.  There will NOT be sideband inversion. 

For 20 meters we have 9 MHz + 5.2 MHz = 14.2 MHz.     NO.  No subtraction here.  No sideband inversion.   

So it is just arithmetically impossible for there to be the kind of happy, easy, and convenient  USB/LSB situation described so persistently by the myth. 


We discussed this several times on the podcast and in the blog: 



This myth shows up all over the place: 

We see the myth here: 


Here the web site owner warns that this is "highly controversial."  Really?  Arithmetic? 


The myth is very old.   Here is a clip from a 1966 issue of "73" magazine: 


Finally, to my disappointment, I found the myth being circulated by the ARRL, in the 2002 ARRL Handbook page 12.3: 

The fact that the Handbook attributed this to a desire to "reduce circuit complexity" by not including a sideband switch should have set off alarms.  We are talking about hams who built their own SSB rigs, usually phasing rigs.  A sideband switch would not have added significant circuit complexity. I think they could have handled it. 

It is interesting that earlier ARRL Handbooks do not repeat this myth.  I found no sign of it in Handbooks from 1947, 1959, 1963, 1973, and 1980.  And I found no sign of it in several editions of that great ARRL book "Single Sideband for the Radio Amateur." 

For my next homebrew rig, I will build a rig that DOES do what the myth promises.  I will have the SSB generator running on 5.2 MHz USB.  The VFO (out of an old FT-101) will be running around 9 MHz.  So for 75 meters we WILL be subtracting the signal with the modulation from the signal without the modulation:   9 MHz - 5.2 MHz = 3.8 MHz.   There will be inversion.  This 75 meter signal will be LSB.   For 20 we will just add the 5.2 MHz USB signal to the 9 MHz  VFO.  There will be no inversion.  We will have a USB signal on 20.   I'm thinking of calling this new rig "The Legend." Or perhaps, "The Mythbuster." 

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Hi Def 360 Degree Panorama from the Mars Perseverance Rover

Put this on full screen view and set for max Hi Def presentation. 

You can stop the video around the 1:10 mark, but then still use your mouse to pan around for a full look at the area (without the annoying labels that appear at the beginning).  

Monday, June 14, 2021

M0NTV's Latest FB SSB Transceiver

Wow, Nick has a really wonderful rig and has made this great video to explain it. 

Elements that I really liked: 

-- The simple mic and compression.   Very nice. 
-- Termination Insensitive Amps.  TIAs Rule! 
-- Grey Altoid-like boxes. 
-- Diplexers!  Yes! 
-- Doug DeMaw S-meter. 
-- No AGC.  
-- Pentium CPU cooling fan. 
-- References to EI9GQ (I must get his book!) 
-- Al Fresco!   Good luck with boxing it up Nick. 

Santo Domingo Shack on 12th Floor Balcony -- SST QRP CW

June 2021.  We were in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.  At this point we were in a 12th floor apartment in the center of the city.  I would take my SST 20 meter CW transceiver and EFHW antenna out on the balcony.  I made no contacts from this location, but one of  my CQs was picked up by K9TM on the Reverse Beacon Network (see below).  All the other RBN spots were the result of calls from the eastern tip of the island. (Click on the RBN image for a clearer view.)


Saturday, June 12, 2021

Good News! The Termination Event May Be Coming Soon! Solar Cycle 25 Could Rival Cycle 19!

Wow.  Cycle 25 might be as good or better than Cycle 19.  Pete cut his radio teeth on Cycle 19.  I was born during that cycle.  Let's hope these scientists are right!  See chart below. 

Thanks to Thomas over at SWLing Post for alerting us to this important news.   

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Tom's Receiver -- A 20 Meter Superhet Built From the Junkbox

Wow, this is really an amazing project.  It is so good that I'd like to believe that it is really "all our fault," but the credit obviously goes to Tom, the very intrepid builder.  In a more just world, Tom would be given a ham radio license solely on the basis of this project.  Great work Tom.  We look forward to more Solder Defined Radios from your workbench.   

Dear Bill and Pete,

I stumbled across your podcast a few years ago. I had no interest in
amateur radio, I was just looking for an electronics podcast that
actually discussed electronics (naming no names here, obviously).
Well, the inevitable happened, and some of your enthusiasm rubbed off
on me. I now find myself humbly enclosing a photograph of my first
homebrew receiver for 20m.

The project was one of those "spontaneous construction" affairs,
triggered mainly by breaking up an old satellite receiver (I've
honestly no idea what it was for) which yielded up several SBL1s and a
10.7MHz crystal filter - these form the key elements of the new
receiver. It's a full SDR (solder defined radio) of a conventional
single-conversion superhet arrangement. The chief abnormality is that,
because the IF filter is as wide as the proverbial barn door, I only
use "one edge" - the other half of the passband being provided after
conversion to baseband. Of course, that only works if there are no
massively strong stations in the 6kHz above where you're listening,
but it seems to be ok most of the time. It does give me the advantage
of being able to adjust the lowpass point of the AF signal by
adjusting the BFO, which is nice.

You'll notice there's a lot of "digital nonsense" in the picture, for
what's supposed to be an analogue radio. This "supervises" the two
VCOs: There is an FPGA which implements a pair of frequency meters and
an STM8 microcontroller which is in charge of adjusting the control
voltages to keep the VCOs where they should be. It's all slightly
roundabout because I wasn't clever enough to design a PLL which would
give the required resolution (and I wanted to do something "more RF"
than throw down a DDS chip). 
This gives me stability as well as fancy bells and whistles, like
numeric readout, tuning info via RS232, automatic scanning and
frequency presets. I've used a (cheap) industrial/automation style
encoder for the tuning control, which gives a lovely analogue-like

Despite my best efforts (and a lot of ferrite in strategic places) I
wasn't able to keep all the digital spurs out of the receiver. So I
devised a dirty hack by way of a button which will shift the MCU an
DAC clocks to a different frequency. I can't remove the spurs, but now
I can hide them!

So far I've played with a "long" wire and a little shielded loop for
antennas - I'm in a first floor flat with a lot of noise locally, and
my plan is to get a loop up in the loft space (so the next project
might be a rotator!). I fancy maybe seeing if I've space for an
inverted V, too.

You'll notice that I've not attempted a transmitter. That, of course,
is because I'm not yet a licenced ham! However, I'm intending to put
that right sometime later in the year. Then - who knows - I might make
a contact!

Thanks for reading (although really it's the least you could do given
that this *is* all your fault) and I hope you've enjoyed hearing about
all the trouble your little podcast has got me into.

Keep up the good work gentlemen,
73 from South-West England.

PS. I also have a copy of Bill's book, which I've very much enjoyed.

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Pete's Drakes

Pete Juliano N6QW has on his blog two very nice videos about the Drake A-line.  

As long-standing fanatical fan of the Drake 2-B, I was struck by the similarities between the 2-B and the R4 seen in Pete's video:  

-- The S-meter is the same. 
-- The passband tuning control and indeed the visible internal circuitry for the passband tuning seem to be the same.  
-- Drake even used the same "hook" for selectivity selection.   

The transceive feature with the T4 seems very nice.  

Pete's first video is above.   Pete's second video, showing his first contacts with the newly acquired A-line, can be seen here: 

Thanks Pete! 

Monday, June 7, 2021

Dino's Test Gear -- KL0S at FDIM 2021

Great test gear advice from Dino KL0S.  Thanks to Dino and to QRPARCI!  


Sunday, June 6, 2021

VK3HN on Scratch Building (Video)

Lots of wisdom and good info in Paul Taylor's presentation.

Paul's comment on the impact of abundant LiPo power in the field -- we no longer have to scrimp and optimize power consumption -- was very interesting.   

And thanks for the nice mentions of the SolderSmoke podcast. 

Thanks Paul!


Friday, June 4, 2021

To Mars in 1964 -- Building the Camera and Radio Systems

This is a really excellent video showing how JPL engineers and technicians designed, built and tested the first video camera system sent to Mars. 

-- It was essentially a Slow Scan TV system built around a Vidicon tube. 
-- Data was sent back in digital form. 
-- The first Digital-Analog conversion was done using COLORED CHALK!
-- The method used to protect the Vidicon tube from vibration was derived from the packing material used to mail the tube to JPL from Texas. 
-- During testing, JPL had all the circuitry spread out in what we would call "Al Fresco" style. 

Thanks to Dan Maloney at Hack-A-Day for alerting us to this.  Dan has an excellent article about the mission here: 
Designer: Douglas Bowman | Dimodifikasi oleh Abdul Munir Original Posting Rounders 3 Column