From my Twitter feed: old book, HAMcurmudgeon, mountain topper radio

Really? Everything? I somehow doubt it.

Screen shot 2013-03-30 at Sat, Mar 30 - 10.06AM 1

What Jeff is referring to is the book above, All About RADIO and Television. I love books like this and tweeted Jeff about that. Being the great guy that he is, he actually bought the book and sent it to me. THANKS, Jeff! If I see you at Dayton this year, I owe you a beer….Dan

U might be a HAM if when U tell your wife that 20 meters is dead she sighs & asks, “How much will that cost to fix?” #hamradio

First blog post in a while. My MTR arrives!


Ads of note from the April 2013 QST

I couldn’t sleep this morning, so rather than just lie in bed, looking at the ceiling, I got up and made myself a (very) early breakfast. Whilst eating my eggs and cantaloupe, I scanned the ads from the latest QST. Here’s what caught my eye:

The TT1A costs $129, and that doesn’t include the 200 V power supply. Yipes!

  • YouKits (page 128). YouKits is offering a new kit this month – the TT1A two-band, two-tube CW transmitter. It’s very cute, but according to the YouKit website, it costs $129 (plus $29 shipping), and even at that, you have to buy or build a 250V supply to power the thing. Call me crazy, but I think that’s a bit much for a 4W transmitter, don’t you? I think I’d rather spend that money on the Funk Amateur SDR kit (see below). TenTec is YouKits U.S. distributor, but I don’t find this kit on the TenTec website yet.
  • Mosley Electronics (page 132, 153). Mosley has been making quality antennas for many years. In the April 2013 QST, they are running a very small ad on pages 132 and 153. I guess they have such a good reputation that they really don’t need a big ad. You’d think that I’d be more familiar with their products (since I’ve been a ham for many years), but I’m not really. Their ad prompted me to go to the Mosley website, where I found out that they not only made beam antennas, but verticals and dipoles as well. In addition to information about their products, there is information about antennas in general. I particularly liked the short article on “SWR-itis.”
  • Funk Amateur (page 147). A lot of amateur radio operators are funky, but “funk” in this case is German for radio. This German company is offering two kits: the FiFi SDR kit, which is a 0.1 – 30 MHz SDR receiver for $169, and a voice keyer kit for $55. Both prices include shipping to the U.S. I’m going to contact them and see if they’re going to be at Dayton. If not, I might just pop for one or both of the kits.

From my Twitter feed: X-Band, QRP, Handi-Ham podcast

Here, try this one: that I did with Gordon West this summer

I would like to fool around with 10 GHz some day.

Affordable radio – a full QSK CW transceiver with built in keyer for $40 ! #hamr #qrp

The PigRig is just the things for the Flying Pigs of ham radio!

Handiham World Weekly E-Letter for the week of Wednesday, 02 January 2013: Courage Center Handiham World Weekly …

Handi-Hams does a great thing for hams with disabilities.

Interesting tidbits from the Internet – Homemade tools, more kits, a CMOS replacement

This set of links include a website for homemade tools, another source of kits, and a report on an electronic technology to replace CMOS.

Manual pick-and-place station

This manual pick-and-place station is one of many that you’ll find on HomemadeTools.Net that are useful for amateur radio operators.

Home-made tools. This is a new site from the founder of, established to organize all of the homemade tools posted on forums and websites around the net. The site currently has nearly 3,000 different homemade tools, with new tools added regularly. Be sure to check out the electrical section, which has many tools that you can use around the ham shack. It includes a $3 battery charger, a low-cost 12 V benchtop power supply, and a manual pick-and-place station to use when building with surface-mount components.

Kits by K5BCQ, K5JHF, and the Austin QRP Club. Kees, K5BCQ; John, K5JHF; and other members of the Austin QRP Club are making available some useful kits at reasonable prices to encourage kit building and homebrewing. The kits are all based around readily available, low-cost microcontrollers, flash memory, and LCD displays. I’m thinking about buying the The Si570 Controller and Frequency Generator Kit #2. At $54 or less, I think it’s a steal.

NRI to lead new five-year effort to develop post-CMOS electronics. This article from the NIST Tech Beat describes a project to develop a next-generation electronics technology to replace the venerable CMOS technology. According to the article, new technology is needed because pretty soon IC manufacturers won’t be able to make transistors any smaller.

From the trade magazines – 092612

Three more articles from recent editions of the electronics trade magazines.

HeathkitHeathkit: A right-time, right-place business. Heathkit was a popular electronics company for decades before its demise earlier this year. Former employees Lou Frenzel and Chas Gilmore share some memories and discuss the factors that led to its closing. Lou Frenzel is W5LEF.

In the article, he notes how he was instrumental in developing the Heath/Zenith line of computer kits. At that time, I was a fledgling test engineer working for Memorex (remember them?) making the 8-in. floppy drives that were an option for those computers.

Real-world testing of wi-fi hotspots. This article talks about both the RF testing and data communications testing needed to ensure a good wi-fi hotspot.

How to simulate cable in SPICE. This article covers the two main loss effects related to cables (the skin effect and dielectric losses) and presents a simple cable modeling method for use in standard SPICE simulators.

From my Twitter stream – 5/9/12

This is cool. What a great concept. (key lending library)
Heathkit Educational Systems Closes Up Shop: For the second time since 1992, Heathkit Educational Services (HES)…
Solar Alert big time two M class flares plus Aurora alert.

21 Things to Do: Build a kit

While most amateur radio operators today buy their equipment rather than building it, a well-rounded amateur radio operator should have basic electronics construction skills. This includes knowing how to read a schematic diagram, being able to identify the different types of electronic components, and how to solder.

Building a kit is a good way to acquire these skills. Building a simple kit will teach you all of these skills, and once you’ve successfully completed the kit, you may even have something that’s useful.

What kit should you build?
Kits are available from many different companies. Really too many to list here. Googling “electronic kit” turns up more than 12 million results!

What I can do here is to tell you about a couple of the kits we’ve built during our club construction nights. Each time we’ve done this, we have had 20 or more builders, and by the time it was ready to go home, everyone of them had his or her kit working. Usually, there are some people who’ve never even soldered before, but that didn’t stop them from successfully completing their kit.

PicoKeyer Plus

The PicoKeyer Plus makes a good first kit. It has less than 20 components, and once complete, is a useful addition to your shack.

The first kit we built was the N0XAS PicoKeyer. N0XAS no longer produces this particular kit, but he’s replaced it with one that’s even better – the PicoKeyer Plus ( The reason that I chose this kit is that it is inexpensive (less that $20), has fewer than 15 components, and a very good manual that includes step-by-step assembly instructions.

A keyer is a device that is used to key a transmitter when operating Morse Code. The PicoKeyer allows you to set the speed at which you send code and has memories that allow you to automatically send frequently sent messages. If you’re just learning Morse Code, you can use the PicoKeyer as a code practice oscillator.

Another kit that we built is the Sure PS-LP11111 5~16 VDC Linear DC Voltage Power Supply. This kit can be purchased from Amazon ( for about ten bucks. This kit has less than 20 components, and when you’re done with it, you can use with wall wart transformer to supply DC voltages for other projects. The downside to building this particular kit as your first construction project is that the instructions are very sparse. If you decide to build this kit, be sure to have someone who can help you should you have any trouble with it.

Building your kit
Here’s what the PicoKeyer manual has to say about building their kit:

With just a little care and practice, even a first time kit builder can complete the project in a relatively short time.  You will need to gather a few tools and supplies together before beginning to assemble your kit.  Here’s what you will need:

  • A clean, level, static-free work area with good lighting.  Wooden workbenches are fine.  If you are working on a kitchen table, be sure to spread out some newspaper or something else to keep solder splatters and sharp wire ends from damaging the table top.
  • A soldering iron.  A small, low-wattage (25-35 Watt) pencil type iron is ideal.  Avoid larger, pistol-grip types.  You can find inexpensive irons at your local Radio Shack.  You will need a fine tip intended for electronics.  Be sure to use an iron rest or holder to keep the iron from damaging your work surface.  If you plan to assemble more kits, I recommend investing in a good quality, temperature controlled soldering station such as the Weller WES or WLC series.  You’ll be glad you did!  Follow the iron manufacturer’s instructions for tinning the tip, and keep a damp sponge handy to keep the tip clean.
  • Solder suitable for electronics work.  Use a good quality, small diameter rosin core solder intended for electronic assembly.  DO NOT use acid core solder!
  • Small needle-nose pliers and a pair of small diagonal wire cutters.  The smaller you have, the better off you will be.  Again, you can find hand tools intended for electronics work at Radio Shack and other suppliers such as Techni-Tool, Jensen, Mouser and Sears.
  • A clamp or small vise to hold the work is a good idea.  I use a PanaVise, but you can also construct a board holder out of scrap wood and rubber bands.  If you use a regular bench vise, use gentle pressure and something to cushion the vise jaws.
  • A pencil to check off each step as you finish it.

You can do it
You really can do this, and the skills you learn will make you a better amateur radio operator. Not only that you’ll be surprised at how much fun building your own gear can be. At our club’s first build night, we had a young woman who was building her first kit. I will always remember her squeal of delight when we inserted the battery and her keyer came to life. There are very few things like that feeling.

QRP ARCI aims to make accessible kits

QRP ARCIIn January, the QRP Amateur Radio Club International challenged their members to come up with a kit that would be buildable by those with physical disabilities. The original deadline was this year’s Four Day’s in May, held in conjunction with the Dayton Hamvention.

Yesterday, however, they decided to extend the deadline to next year’s FDIM. In an e-mail sent to various QRP mailing lists, Ken Evans, W4DU, QRP-ARCI president says:

Since issuing the challenge, we have received feedback from a number of sources stating that a four month timeline was overly optimistic to perform all the needed steps to develop such a kit.  We have discussed various alternatives and have decided to extend the timeline.  The rules will stand as initially stated, however this will be a special category at FDIM 2013.  Thus giving a full year for the development and design effort.

Complete rules can be found on the QRP-ARCI’s Accessibility Challenge page.

New QRP kit measures power, SWR

From Terry, WA0ITP, via the qrp-l mailing list:

QRP-o-meterThe Four State QRP Group is pleased to announce a new kit, the QRPometer, a sensitive and accurate power/swr meter designed by David Cripe, NMØS.   Complete specifications, assembly manual, and ordering information can be found online PayPal is accepted.

The range of accurate power measurement extends down to a low 100 milliwatts.  This kit was conceived to fill a need within the hobby for an inexpensive, highly accurate RF power and VSWR meter for QRP power levels.  With it’s large digital display it makes a very useful addition to your shack.

The QRPometer uses simple analog signal-processing circuitry to provide a set of essential measurement features not previously available in a single unit. High quality, double sided, printed circuit board construction is used, with solder mask and silk screened component reference designators.

All components are  through-hole for easy assembly. NO toroids are required, and all controls  and jacks are PCB mounted. The QRPometer can be constructed by beginners as well as experienced builders. Construction time is approximately 3 hours, depending on experience level. The only equipment required for calibration is a digital voltmeter, and a QRP transmitter..

All proceeds  go to fund OzarkCon.  As always, thank you for supporting the Four State QRP Group.

New VXO kit outputs 250 mW

From Terry, WA0ITP via the qrp-l mailing list:

The Four State QRP Group is pleased to announce a new kit, the Stand-Alone VXO  (SAVXO) designed by Jim Kortge, K8IQY.  The very complete manual, specifications, and ordering information can be found here  PayPal is accepted. It is shipped with 40M components but can easily be used on any HF band.

This is a Super VXO design which has it’s origins in the Super VXO of the SS-40 receiver. It is crystal controlled yet combines frequency agility with smooth stable tuning, and NO perceptible drift – even from a cold start. It is ideal for driving your NS-40 or other crystal controlled transmitter or receiver, and is also a great starting point for a transmitter strip of your own design. As kitted the SAVXO will put out over 250mW by itself, plenty of power to operate QRPp if desired.

All proceeds  go to fund OzarkCon.  As always thank you for supporting the Four State QRP Group.