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Wednesday, March 6, 2024

N6ASD Builds a Zinc-Oxide Negative Resistance Transmitter (and a Spark/Coherer rig)

I saw this video and post on Hackaday this morning:

I got the fellow's callsign from  his Morse CQ.  
It is N6ASD in San Francisco. 

Check this out from his QRZ page: https://www.qrz.com/db/N6ASD

My journey into the world of amateur radio began in a very primitive way. My first "rig" comprised of a spark-gap transmitter and a coherer based receiver. A coherer is a primitive radio signal detector that consists of iron filings placed between two electrodes. It was popular in the early days of wireless telegraphy.

Spark transmitter (using a car's ignition coil to generate high-voltage sparks):

Coherer based receiver (using a doorbell for the "decoherer" mechanism):

When I keyed the transmitter, a high voltage arc would appear at the spark-gap and this produced (noisy) radio waves. The signal would be received by the iron-filings coherer on the other side of the room. A coherer is (usually) a one-shot receiver. You have to physically hit it to shake the filings and bring the detector back to its original state. That's what the doorbell hammer did. It would hit the coherer every time it received a signal. It amazed me to no end. A spark created in one room of my house could make the hammer move in another room. Magic!

Soon after this project, I started experimenting with *slightly more refined* crystal detectors and crystal radio circuits. As most of you would know, these amazing radios don't require any batteries and work by harnessing energy from radio waves. I guess these simple experiments instilled a sense of awe and wonder regarding electromagnetic waves, and eventually, this brought me into the world of amateur radio in 2015.

My main HF rig is an old ICOM IC-735. The only modification on this is radio is that it uses LED backlights (instead of bulbs):

Icom IC 735

With space at a premium in San Francisco, the antenna that I have settled for is an inverted vee installed in my backyard (and it just barely fits). I made the mast by lashing together wooden planks. For this city dweller, it works FB:

I have recently gotten into CW, and it has definitely become my mode of choice.

I'm a self-taught electronics enthusiast and I love homebrewing radio circuits. I'll be sharing more info about them soon.

Thanks for checking out my page. I hope to meet you on the air!




  1. http://sparkbangbuzz.com/

  2. http://www.sparkbangbuzz.com/els/zincosc-el.htm

  3. He's not wrong about space for antenna's in San Francisco. Our twenty meter dipole stretches from about a foot below our roof across the yard to a 7 foot wooden pole clamped to the back fence.


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