SimSmith Updated

Ward, AE6TY, writes:

SimSmith is Smith Chart software that was introduced and described in an article in QRP Quarterly earlier in the year.  I recently made some substantial improvements to SimSmith.  These are:

  1. Added a library function to allow you to save and restore tuned circuit elements.
  2. Added some new components including a transformer.
  3. Added a ‘print’ function
  4. Improved the ‘save’ and ‘load’ commands.

If you are interested in getting the newest update or in learning about Smith Charts in general, please visit my page http://www.ae6ty.com/Smith_Charts.html

The newest version in 4.2.  It is written in Java so you need only download “SimSmith-4.2.jar”. There is no installation necessary, only a working Java Runtime Environment.  This code has been tested on Macs, Windows, and Linux.

I haven’t tried it yet, but it sounds pretty cool to me.

From the Mailbag

Here are some items of interest that have been discussed on the many ham radio mailing lists I’m on.

  • KISS-SSBKISS-SSB. The KISS-SSB is a counterpoise designed to be used with a marine SSB transceiver. It’s a nice compact design that claims to operate from 2-30 MHz, when used with an automatic antenna tuner. Basically, it’s a ten-ft. long tube stuffed with bunch of radials. At $145, this seems a bit expensive, but this device, or a homebrew version of it, might be just the ticket for someone operating stealthily.
  • Field Day PR. The June issue of Contact! is loaded with new ideas, links and materials you can use for Field Day.
  • SWR Video. This awesome video from the AT&T archives looks like it was produced in 1959, and explains wave behavior using a mechanical machine. As the presenter, Dr. J. N. Shive, points out, though, electrical waves behave just like mechanical waves. Shive is really having fun presenting this topic. So much so, that it makes me wish I’d had him for my physics professor back at the University of Detroit!
  • Elecraft K3. Wayne Burdick, N6KR, of Elecraft shows the new Elecraft KX3 at the QRP ARCI ‘Four Days In May’at Dayton this year.

I was also going to post a couple of links to YouTube videos showing the sewer line explosion at Hara Arena during the recent Dayton Hamvention, but there’s a little too much profanity in them. If you really want to see them, go to YouTube, search for “2011 Dayton Hamvention,” and you’ll find them. It’s really amazing, and yet another reason that the Dayton Amateur Radio Association should move the Hamvention from Hara. It’s just a terrible facility, and it’s undoubtedly dissuaded many from ever returning to the Hamvention.

So, When Can I Get a 100 W HT?

From the 4/1/11 issue of ACM Tech News:

The Incredible Shrinking Circuit
University of Cambridge (03/28/11)

University of Cambridge researchers have developed a technique for producing smaller microchips that can also support extremely high electrical current densities. Led by Cambridge professor John Robertson, the researchers used carbon nanotubes to replace the vertical copper connectors in integrated circuits to build smaller circuits and to reduce the size of electronics even further. They took advantage of the special arrangement of carbon atoms. Normally the atoms are arranged hexagonally and layered in sheets, but in nanotubes the sheets are rolled up to form tiny tubes with diameters equivalent to just a few carbon atoms. To make the approach feasible, the nanotubes would need to be grown in very dense bundles directly onto the substrate. Robertson and colleagues used multiple deposition and the annealing steps to grow nanotube bundles, and the method led to successive increases in nanoparticle density. The researchers say the density of the bundles is five times greater than current technology.

View Full Article

Are Cell Phones Bad for the Brain?

On the IEEE tech talk blog, editor Tekla Perry reports on a new study that shows that holding a cell phone to the ear increases the metabolic activity of nearby brain tissue. She writes:

What this means for long term health is unclear, but it certainly supports the calls of those who want more research, and those who are practicing prudent avoidance by trying to select cell phones with the lowest radiation and limiting their talk time.

I’m not sure how relevant this study is to HT use, but my guess is that the transmit duty cycle is a lot lower for an HT user than a cell phone user. Interesting stuff, nonetheless.

Links for the New General Class Study Guide

For the next version of No-Nonsense, General Class License Study Guide I am going to include links to Web pages that readers can refer to if they really want more information on a topic. I’ve just added some links to the following sections:

If you have other suggestions, I’d love to hear about them. Please send me the URLs and why you happen to like that particular website. Thanks!

Researchers Develop True Duplex Communications on a Single Channel

Stanford researchers claim to have invented a new technology that allows wireless signals to be sent and received simultaneously on a single channel. According to an article in the Stanford University News, their research could help build faster, more efficient communication networks, at least doubling the speed of existing networks.

You can also read a more technical explanation in a paper the researchers wrote for some conference.

High Frequency Electronics: January 2011

High Frequency Electronics - January 2011There are two articles in the January 2011 issue of High Frequency Electronics that amateur radio operators might find interesting:

  1. The Mathematics of Mixers: Basic Principles. This tutorial walks you through the basics of mixers. Because this article is aimed at engineers, there is math involved, but it’s not overly complicated, and if you stick with it, you’ll gain a better understanding of how the mixer, one of the most basic circuits in amateur radio, works.
  2. Design of Input Matching Networks for Class-E RF Power Amplifiers. The author of this article says, “Little attention is brought to the design of the input matching network and to the device bias conditions, with their effects on the overall circuit performance. This paper attempts to discuss these topics through a systematic design and simulation approach for a typical 5 watt class-E power amplifier operating at 150 MHz.”

Note that the magazine is only available as a single PDF file. To read these articles, you’ll have to download the PDF file first.

Bell Labs Journal Now Online

“Innovation” is a word often thrown around these days. Back in the old days, you couldn’t find an organization more innovative than Bell Labs. They could certainly afford it, though. They had a monopoly on the telephone system!

At any rate, all of the issues of the Bell Labs Journal from 1922 to 1983 are now online. Within the pages of these journals you’ll find papers on:

  • the invention of the transistor in 1947 and subsequent advances in related solid-state device and circuit technology.
  • Shannon’s paper, “A Mathematical Theory of Communication,” that was published over 60 years ago and gave birth to Information Theory.
  • the charge-coupled device (CCD), a technology that transforms patterns of light into useful digital information, is the basis for many forms of modern digital imaging.
  • cellular telephone service, the concept that multiple lower-power transmitters could be spread throughout a region employing automatic call handoff and frequency reuse that changed the face of communications.

Overall, it’s pretty cool stuff.

NIST Researchers May Have Figured Out New Way to Generate Microwaves

The following is from a NIST press release…….Dan

Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have found theoretical evidence of a new way to generate the high-frequency waves used in modern communication devices such as cell phones. Their analysis, if supported by experimental evidence, could contribute to a new generation of wireless technology that would be more secure and resistant to interference than conventional devices.

The team’s findings point toward an oscillator that would harness the spin of electrons to generate microwaves—electromagnetic waves in the frequencies used by mobile devices. Electron spin is a fundamental property, in addition to basic electrical charge, that can be used in electronic circuits. The discovery adds another potential effect to the list of spin’s capabilities.

The team’s work—a novel variation on several types of previously proposed experimental oscillators—predicts that a special type of stationary wave called a “soliton” can be created in a layer of a multilayered magnetic sandwich. Solitons are shape-preserving waves that have been seen in a variety of media. (They first were observed in a boat canal in 1834 and now are used in optical fiber communications.) Creating the soliton requires that one of the sandwich layers be magnetized perpendicular to the plane of the sandwiched layers; then an electric current is forced through a small channel in the sandwich. Once the soliton is established, the magnetic orientation oscillates at more than a billion times a second.

“That’s the frequency of microwaves,” says NIST physicist Thomas Silva. “You might use this effect to create an oscillator in cell phones that would use less energy than those in use today. And the military could use them in secure communications as well. In theory, you could change the frequency of these devices quite rapidly, making the signals very hard for enemies to intercept or jam.”

Silva adds that the oscillator is predicted to be very stable—its frequency remaining constant even with variations in current—a distinct practical advantage, as it would reduce unwanted noise in the system. It also appears to create an output signal that would be both steady and strong.

The team’s prediction also has value for fundamental research.

“All we’ve done at this point is the mathematics, but the equations predict these effects will occur in devices that we think we can realize,” Silva says, pointing out that the research was inspired by materials that already exist. “We’d like to start looking for experimental evidence that these localized excitations occur, not least because solitons in other materials are hard to generate. If they occur in these devices as our predictions indicate, we might have found a relatively easy way to explore their properties.”


M.A. Hoefer, T.J. Silva and M.W. Keller. Theory for a dissipative droplet soliton excited by a spin torque nanocontact. Physical Review B, 82, 054432 (2010), Aug. 30. 2010. DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevB.82.054432

First Article on Transistors?

Google recently digitized all of the back issues of Popular Science. In the September 1948 issue, they ran an article on the new electronic device the transistor. This could be the first article in a commercial publication on the transistor.

Here are a couple of quotes:

  • “The device that may start a revolution in electronics is smaller than a paper match.”
  • “Whether transistors will ever replace the vacuum tubes in your home radio will probably depend most on how much it costs to make them.

Now, of course, transistors are on the order of microns, and in integrated circuits cost a small fraction of a penny. And all this happened in about sixty years.