A Few Of My Favorite Things: Amateur Radio

Hakadei’s staff includes a significant number of writers who also hold amateur radio licenses. We are people of hardware at heart, so we like our home radios and we are never happier than when we work on high frequencies.

Amateur radio is a versatile hobby, there is just as much it’s incredibly interesting for him. It is a shame then that as a community we are sometimes mired in negativity when discussing details. So today let’s talk about some of my favorite things about the hobby of amateur radio. I hope you find them interesting and fun and in turn share your favorite things in the comments below.

Homebrew Radios The Minimal Kind

This book was where it all began for me.
This book was where it all began for me.

Racing and disaster preparedness can keep me cold, but there is a bit of magic when it comes to radio. My introduction to electronics in the 1970s came in the form of the simplest radio stations, when my father bought me a copy of George Dobbs. Implementation of a transistor radio, and showed me how to build a crystal set. The fact that so few parts could form a working radio that extracts a signal from the air and into my headphones without the need for batteries was magic enough for a 9-year-old to hook me up.

Upgrading it to a germanium transistor regenerative receiver guided me on the path that took me through university to a degree in electronic engineering and eventually to writing here at Hackaday. There is literally a whole world that can be unlocked with the help of radio stations made with relatively small bills and although I have sometimes had evaporated regarding the tendency for such projects to get a little stuck in the mud, there is no reason why minimalist radio stations cannot move over time. This is a square front end for an SDR with a sound card can be made from a little more than a pile of chips from 74 series is a particularly attractive example.

Scrap TVs as a door to RF design

Kit for UHF construction in each garbage container
Kit for UHF construction in each garbage container

I obtained my amateur radio license in the fog of the time when the UK Department of Trade and Industry issued only two types of documents. There was a Class A or Class B license, with the difference that for the former you had to pass a Morse test but have access to HF bands, while for the latter you did not have Morse, but were limited to 144MHz and more. In this way, the older men could talk peacefully about the 80-meter war, and the 2-meter strip was a lively place.

I had zero interest in Morse, so I had a Class B license, and since building radio was my passion back then, I started building for VHF and UHF groups now. I didn’t have an adult budget, so my supply of components was limited to what I could download from scrap consumer electronics, which meant plenty of PAL TVs from the 1970s and the occasional video recorder from an earlier model. . There were plenty of VHF-capable inductors and transistors and each TV tuner and the VCR modulator had a set of UHF transistors, so the 2 meter and 70 cm bands were in my hands.

Among all this reminder there is a reasonable sense and it is the basis of RF design techniques. RF is perceived as a dark art by many engineers and although there are certainly design elements of these frequencies that enter the complex, it remains true that once you feel the basics this is something that is easily possible to master. When you learn about tape circuits by assembling them from copper wire and sheet metal, you learn a lot about shielding, impedances, routing, and interactions between adjacent circuits. Of course, it’s easy to make mistakes, but in this environment with a soldering iron it’s just as easy to try alternative designs until performance improves. So many UHFs and higher RF circuits are already wrapped in silicon that the type of transistor circuits I’ve messed with has become quite outdated, and your UHF work is much more likely to be on PCBs than on a piece of sheet metal. . I miss these transistors BF180 RF amplifiers from scrap TVs from the 1970s.

SDR as a digital platform

The age of the homemade RF tinsmith may be close, at least in the way I started it. None of the newest ends of radio are likely to mess with discrete transistor circuits in the 2020s, unless they may be working with extremely exotic millimeter-wave devices. useful radio experience on a computer, but that’s all. No more home talk, no more chatter.

It would take a long time to build and fix as physical components.
It would take a long time to build and fix as physical components.

You may agree with the previous paragraph, but SDR provides me with another of my favorite things about radio, namely that using GNU Radio, I now have a general-purpose digital signal processing platform. Combined with a cheap RTL-SDR stick, it allows me to play with the same building blocks as before with my soldering iron and many others, with lightning speed in my computer. I can make a radio in no time and change its parameters at will! Best of all, it’s not limited to radio. The GNU radio operates at any frequency that can be digitized from its input device, and if it turns out to be an audio card, it can also work with sound. Most readers last April probably noticed my fake gold usb cable a mile away, but perhaps less so, that the simple audio analyzer in GNU Radio is completely real. He was inspired by conversation about Supercon by Mike Osman and Kate Temkin, and if you haven’t seen this conversation, I suggest you watch it.

So yes, there are many things in amateur radio that other radio amateurs are interested in, but I have never been interested in, and there are still some aspects of the hobby that can be rightly criticized. But amateur radio is really a very broad church, and you’ve seen some of the things above that make me interested in it. Now it’s your turn, tell us in the comments: which radio stations do it for you?