Trends in Amateur Radio

It’s always been accepted that one of the attractions of amateur radio was that it involved the building of kits; if you needed (or wanted) a better or more specific transmitter, receiver or transceiver but couldn’t afford to purchase one from your local retailer, you bought one in kit form and built it yourself.
Kits were ordered over the phone and posted to you. Some were better than others but all had potential risks involved, such as the odd missing component.

The Elecraft KX1 kit came professionally packed with a great instruction manual.

This kit from Virgil Stamps at http://www.hfprojects.com is a good example of a well-produced kit that involves soldering all the components into place in the PCB.

And it wasn’t only on the electronics front that you could heat up your soldering iron and get busy; making a suitable antenna was also a huge part of the hobby.

My homebrew 6m dipole strung up and ready for action.

Baluns are also popular construction projects with homebrewers.

I wound the entire length of coax on a piece of PVC piping I had in my workshop.

Of course, you didn’t have to stick with kits if you needed to construct a radio; you could always build one from scratch with components you happened to have in your proverbial junk box.

I built this regenerative receiver using what I happened to have on hand at the time.

Test equipment is also easy to build from kits.

QRPometer on the left, Hendricks dummy load/power meter on the right.

I have noticed a trend beginning to appear in the world of amateur radio, and that’s a swing away from ‘melting solder’. I first noticed this with the advent of the Elecraft KX3 a few years ago. For the first time this world leader in kit production began marketing a rig that only required mechanical construction; all the electronics came pre-manufactured and only needed slotting into place in the enclosure, which needed first to be put together by the ham. This was due to the high number of surface mount components present.

And now Virgil Stamps, proprietor of the beautifully designed and manufactured HF linear amplifier that is aimed at the SOTA and WWFF fraternity (http://hfprojects.com/) has gone this route with the launching of his latest offering, the HFPacker Amp MiniHFPA2. By all accounts it looks like this new trend in amateur radio is here to stay, but as long as it helps get more people on air, that’s sure to be a good thing.

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2013 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 8,600 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 3 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Building a 2-transistor regenerative receiver

I have always been interested in homebrewing and using parts from my junkbox. Not only is it fun, it’s also the right thing to do from an environmental or recycling point-of-view.

Regenerative receivers have also always interested me as they are a step up from the crystal set.

I came across a wonderfully simple design on Peter Parker’s website (http://home.alphalink.com.au/~parkerp/gateway/nonov99.htm) and couldn’t resist.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, I couldn’t get the thing to work. I called in the help of fellow hams Wallace VK4CBW and Jan VK4EBP; a fresh set of eyes usually does the trick and in my case it certainly did. Turns out I made a basic mistake and connected up one wire the wrong way round.

The receiver on its own produces fine audio with headphones. I wanted more, so I pulled out a little 0.5W Amp Module that I constructed and fitted into an Altoids tin some time ago. Then I connected up a small loudspeaker that I mounted in a nice wooden enclosure and now I have room-filling audio.

Wonderful little simple project that brings back the magic of radio to me.

 

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I used Manhattan construction for the components.

I used Manhattan construction for the components.

The audio amp fits well into an Altoids tin.

The audio amp fits well into an Altoids tin.

 

Building a Ten Tec Regenerative Receiver Model No 1054

I have always found radio fascinating. I have also always been amazed at the way the old fashioned regenerative receivers from the 1920s worked, so when I received the Ten Tec 1054 as a Christmas gift this year, I couldn’t wait to get the soldering iron out and begin building.

This is the kit as it arrived.

The PCB is huge, which means there is a lot of space. This is nice as it allows you to go about populating it with all its components without fear of solder bridges or making other silly mistakes.

This kit is built in two stages: the audio amplifier is tacked and tested first, then the RF amp, regen detector and frequency tuning/switching. It also comes with a nice metal front panel.

I always use a vice to hold the PCB as it makes soldering on the underside easy.

The audio amp is the ubiquitous LM386, which is a smart choice. This hardy integrated circuit is so well tested, stable and easy to mess around with and it puts out a decent volume too.

One interesting feature of this kit is that it relies on two power sources: battery A, which is a 9V battery and battery B which is a 9-12V DC source. The reason for this is to keep the voltage supply independent of the audio amp to eliminate the chances of oscillator instability or AC hum, which is the curse of regen receivers of old.

Testing the first phase. Note my speaker box.

Once phase 2 had been completed, it was time to adjust the coil. This is easily done with the aid of a second receiver tuned to 6.9MHz. There are four bands that one can select by means of the band selection switches on the front panel. Band 1 covers 5.9 to 6.4MHz, band 2, 6.9 to 7.4MHz, band 3, 8.5 to 10.2MHz and band 4, 11.5 to 16.5MHz.

Once the board was completed and tuned it was time to fit the front panel. No knobs or enclosure comes with the kit. That’s my next project.

So, how does this little rig perform? Surprisingly well with only 10ft of wire as an antenna. It is easy to tune and the volume from my stand alone speaker is fine for listening to across the room. I listened to the Boxing Day Cricket Test and thoroughly enjoyed it. So far I have only managed to pick up the ABC and one or two CW transmissions but that’s not the fault of the rig. The bands have been getting quieter by the year.

The Ten Tec 1054 on my shelf.

Next I will add some knobs and build a wooden enclosure to complete the project.