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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Excellent AT&T Video on SWR

Ken, KG6PO, sent us this gem:

I really like the way Dr. Shive brings together mechanical and electrical phenomena. You get the sense that he had "The Knack" -- note the twinkle in his eye when he explains a particularly intriguing point.

Warning: I think the AT&T archive of which this is part will become another enormous (but worthwhile) time sink for many of us. Thanks Ken. Thanks Dr. Shive.

Monday, May 30, 2011

European Very Large Telescope Video (Warning: It May Make you Cry)

The guys who run Slashdot are not known to be very sentimental, but they warned that this video may bring viewers to tears. They were right. This one is really magnificent. Makes me want to ditch the diplo gig and move to the Atacama desert. Sit back, put this on full screen mode, turn up the speakers a bit, and prepare to be amazed.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Please Help Get SolderSmoke into RadioShack Stores

Several listeners sent me the link to a new campaign by the RadioShack stores. They apparently want to get back into supplying parts for the electronics DIY community. Great! I always liked the oft-maligned stores. I missed them when overseas, and was always saddened to see them drifting away from the world of our kind of radio shack. But it appears that the 'shack might be coming back! RadioShack has asked customers to leave comments on their blog page listing the three items that they would like to see added to the RadioShack inventory.

I would really appreciate it if you guys would go to that page and tell them that you think it would be a good idea for them to sell the book "SolderSmoke -- Global Adventures in Wireless Electronics" in their stores. You can point them to the link

Some things you might mention in your comments on the RadioShack blog:

-- One of the reasons I wrote the book was because I wanted to try to help perpetuate the old, friendly, cooperative ham radio spirit: The culture of the Elmer and all that. The shared junk box. The willingness to help someone with a project or a technical problem. This book might help foster the kind of sense of community that would help everyone (including RadioShack!)

-- The book was in part inspired by the RadioShack publications of the great Forrest Mims. Like Mim's books, SolderSmoke has lots of hand-drawn diagrams.

-- The book actually contains (already!) a very favorable comment about the important role played in DIY by the RadioShack stores.

-- While it is mostly about ham radio, it was written to appeal to the broader electronics DIY community, and contains wide variety of projects including astronomy, kite aerial photography and rocketry.

-- The author -- Bill Meara -- would be willing to work something out with them (!)

So, gentlemen: Please get typing! Don't tell them I sent you ;-) Let's make this seem like a spontaneous outpouring of popular support.

Here is the blog location for RadioShack:


If you are so inclined you could also tweet them your input @Radio Shack

And you could put your comments on their Facebook page:

Thanks a lot!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Inspirational Amateur Astrophotography

Wes, W7ZOI, passed this to me. This is a really inspirational project, with a very beautiful result. I recommend you read this newspaper article:

Then go play with the images here:

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Struggling Brother

OM Jason, NT7S, has been experiencing the kinds of workbench trials and tribulations faced by anyone who tries to create something new. But I think the radio gods are looking favorably on his efforts -- a recent QSO with W7ZOI is a very good omen:

Hang in there Jason! I'm sure the QRP community is looking forward to the availability of the rigs you are developing.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Regen Joke

This story from the Netherlands sort of supports my theory about regens all being POSSESSED:

Hi Bill,
... About regens. A couple of years ago we were on a field day.
I put up a zepp antenna for 80 meters, so 40 m wire and 20 m ladderline.
We had a barbecue on Saturday night and on of the visitors brought his
regen, build on a breadboard with nails. I never heard of those but he
wanted to demonstrate and asked if he could use my antenna. I agreed
obviously so he and a lot of others came crowding my caravan.
But he did not succeed to get any intelligible sound out of the thing,
after 30 minutes he was about to give up, then I suggested to swap the
wires of the ladderline, my argument was that it sounded like the wrong
sideband, and this might solve the problem. :-)
He stood there, thought for a while, and swapped the cords of the
ladderline. After playing around with it for 10 or 20 seconds all of a
sudden a clear voice came out of the machine. He was stunned, but I and
two other more experienced hams fled to the tent with drinks to laugh our
heads of. :-)
It was good fun though.


Monday, May 23, 2011

Parks, Tektronix, and Beaverton

Hey Bill:

I was listening to the old SS #130 last night (catching up) and heard
you talking about that 6CW4 converter you have. I'm not familiar with Parks
Electronics, but the 6CW4 nuvistor was used in the preamplifiers of many
Tektronix oscilloscopes. I have a hunch that "Parks Electronics" was the
side-job for some Tektronix engineers...possibly ones that are in our fine
homebrew community, although I'd have expected them to raise their hands by now.
I wonder if "Parks Electronics" is in any way related to "Parks Metals", which
is a full-service metal fab shop here in Beaverton...among other things, they
make the metal chassis and cabinets for, one of the many ham-run
businesses that offers PowerPole parts and accessories.

There's a new "Tektronix Museum" in Beaverton, staffed by volunteers. It's in
its fledgling state. I've not visited yet, but plan to. Some of the inventory
comes from Stan Griffiths W7NI, who is one half of "Bill and Stan's Tektronix
Resource website". One of the many amazing things Stan did in his lifetime in
high tech was to run a very successful service organization...and along the way,
amassed a most impressive collection of Tektronix instruments. His "garage" was
featured in an Oregon Public Television special on the history of Tektronix.
Much more of a museum than a garage, with quite a fascinating curator, as well.

An email went around about a year ago listing all known Tektronix hams - past
and present - there were literally thousands of hams on that list, many are
today in the top ranks not only of homebrewing, but of high tech business

Anyway, you might be able to learn the genealogy of that converter by contacting
the guys at the Tektronix Museum. Their website isn't fully fleshed out yet but
does have contact info, and most are hams.

If there's a legit Tek connection, they might want to put that converter in the
museum, too.

73 and keep the Solder Smoking

Dave W8NF
Hillsboro, OR

Thursday, May 19, 2011

OK, OK, I won't cut open the USB cable,,,

I foolishly thought I could just open that baby up and work on it like the old serial port cables. I have been told (many, many times) that this can't be done. Man, you know things are getting complex when the cables have schematics. G8INE sent me the above diagram of a USB-Serial converter cable. E-bay here I come!

The W8SX Drake Interview

Bob, W8SX, (aka "our man at Dayton") conducted an interview with Bill Frost, Service Manager for R.L. Drake -- a fellow who knows a lot about the history of our beloved (and ever-more-valuable!) Drake 2Bs:

-- The Drake 2-B was designed and built in the early 60’s, but was not continued because R4 was its replacement. It was hoped that the 2-C would be a replacement for the 2-B, but the companion CW transmitter 2NT caused hams to associate the 2-C with a novice station and the sales number show that is was not as popular because 2-B with non-novice hams.

-- Why no crystal filters? Crystal filters not considered because of cost in terms of design & parts. In addition the LC filters allowed the designers to provide passband tuning both easily and cheaply in the 2-B.

-- How did it stack up against other receivers of the era? The 2-B was better than anything else for sale except Collins receivers, which cost a great deal more. There was also the R390, which was available on the surplus market, but it frequently was not is good shape and again cost a lot more.

-- Who designed it? The 2-B was designed by several engineers, but principally it was both Milton Sullivan & Bob Drake.

-- Why the copper chassis? Bill was not sure on this point other than to say that the Cu was meant to keep corrosion of aluminum chassis components to a minimum. Later they use cadmium as in the R4C/T4XC combination. In a couple of instances the chassis was plated with chromium and these radios are very rare and expensive collector items.

-- How important was the 2-BQ multiplier? While this is a highly sought after item today not very many were sold with the 2-B or even the 2-C. Today these are very valuable and command prices well above their original list price.

-- Was dial parallax a problem considered in the design? Not really as the crystal calibrator was supposed to be used along with the lines on the main dial slide to indicate the exact frequency. Band to band variation was very good for the time at around 3kHz. Not bad for a press DDS VFO.

-- Does he still have a 2-B? YES! And he would not part with it for any amount of money.

-- How many were made? He was not sure about this, but did say that the receivers are numbered consecutively, so that by knowing the first 2-B and the first 2-C it’s a simple subtraction to find the numbers of each manufactured.

-- Was it a big seller for Drake? Yes, but the R4 line which had a longer run and therefore sold more. The TR-3, and TR-4 line was a big seller for many years until the Japanese cut into their market share.

-- The TR-7A was Drake’s last ham gear and now they manufacture only home and commercial satellite receivers. These sell well to commercial cable, dish network, lodge net, channel modulators, D-A converters. They are now located in Franklin OH.

-- No ham gear is made by Drake these days as it is all commercial receivers for the satellite TV/radio market. The R8 was their last ham receiver and it still sells well on the used market.

-- For replacement tubes look to The transmitting tubes, 6JB6’s, are particularly hard to find. Look for a substitute sweep tube that can be used in that circuit.

-- John M Cherry, John Covelli, WB4HFN and Evin Rolek host the Drake Forum every Dayton Hamvention run by. A good resource for repair is John Kriner, WB4HFN

-- Drake's web sites: &

To preserve the parts on a 2-B, especially the cosmetic parts, keep it out of sun & don’t smoke. These parts are particularly had to find these days.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

How many Drake 2-Bs? The German Tank Problem

I have #11,976!
Hi Bill,

I was just listening to your latest soldersmoke podcast and your
discussion about how many Drake 2Bs were made. Without knowing the
exact serial number for the last Drake 2B before the Drake 2C was
made, you can estimate what that number might have been by knowing a
few of the real serial numbers that are being used by people today.
This is a
mathematical problem related to the somewhat famous "German
Tank" problem. Check out:

If you were to ask your listeners to report to you their Drake 2B
serial numbers you could estimate the largest serial number there ever
was from the formula on that wiki page. This could be a fun exercise
:) I've never had a Drake 2B so I can't contribute. But I could do the
estimate for you if you gave me the numbers.

Cheers and 73

Scott (K6AUS)

Alan's "Scopes 4 Dopes" (present company excluded, of course)

Hi Bill,

As a follow on to the Scope 4 Dopes class that I told you about (email below - and thanks for the shout-out in #133), I have put a few more videos on YouTube. One is on the use of the Delayed Timebase feature available on the more professional analog scopes - probably not of much interest to you. But, the other two are on taking a little bit of a tour of the RF signal path of the TenTec 1254 Dual Conversion Shortwave Receiver kit that I built over the Christmas vacation. I thought these might be of interest:

(I promise - these are not as long as the 2hr Scopes4Dopes tutorial video!!)

The tour through the 1254 with a look at some of the signals along the RF path (~12min):
and a short one looking at the modulated and demodulated 2nd IF on a live shortwave signal (~2min):


Alan W2AEW

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

EDN Article on April 1 and other Pranks

Bob, W8SX, alerted me to this gem. Geek thrills.

Here is one of my favorite segments (it involved a 'scope and a soldering iron):

You should beware of prank escalation. Len Sherman, application engineer at Maxim recalls a prank exchange with Jim Williams when they were at MIT. As he loves to do, Williams had bought an old broken oscilloscope and worked on it all day, bringing it back to life and perfect operation. After Williams went home for the night, Sherman put a piece of toilet paper under Jim’s oscilloscope graticule. The paper was unnoticeable, but made the scope trace fuzzy. It looked like a focus problem. Jim went crazy the next day trying to fix this problem. He had the covers off and was measuring all the high voltage circuits. It took a few hours before he found the paper.

To retaliate, Williams took the hinge pins out of the lab door and tied a rope to the doorknob that he pulled back into the room, threw over a beam in the ceiling, and tied to 100 pounds of ballast. The next morning Sherman put the key in the lock and turned the knob. The entire door left it hinges and glided, upright, back into the lab about 10 feet. It then stopped and fell over. “It looked like something out of a Stephen King movie,” recalls Sherman.

Sherman then rigged up a water nozzle to a photo-switch triggered by the lab lights. He rigged a soldering iron with coil of solder around it used as a fuse, to time out the prank. Sherman didn’t want to flood the lab, just run the water nozzle for a minute or so. Williams got wet.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Sunday, May 15, 2011

SolderSmoke Podcast #134

May 15, 2011
New "Ikea" microphone

WSPR T/Rouble resolved
Finishing up Rome WSPR rig
Easy-Peasy on Asus eee-PC

Space Station Packet Beacon
Boatanchor News: DX-100, HT-37, "CQR" anchors, 75 meter antenna Drake 2-B history interview by W8SX
Lew McCoy and Ernest Hemingway
Ade Weiss, QRPoetry and Ade's new book
Regen theory

MAILBAG (with a focus on New Zealand)

Friday, May 13, 2011

Landing on Titan to the Sounds of Saturn

These are real images from the Huygens probe. And the sound is apparently from the radio signals generated by Saturn. I agree -- it sounds nicer than Jupiter!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Euro Zone: SolderSmoke Kindle-book Now Available

SolderSmoke -- Global Adventures in Wireless Electronics is now available on the (German) web site. Payment in Euros.

Monday, May 9, 2011

WONDERMARK! (Comics with the Knack)

As part of our occasional series on Knack-related comic strips, today we present Wondermark. This link will take you to the first page: From there, look for the little "NEXT" hand on the right of the comic. There are eight. All of them are gems. Also, be sure to check out the author's bio:

Friday, May 6, 2011


VK2TPM made some nice videos of the Weak Signal Propagation Reporting System (WSPR) maps over time. Its kind of fun to watch the propagation shift from trans-Atlantic to trans-Pacific.


Thursday, May 5, 2011

T/R Success with WSPR

Thanks to everyone who sent in advice on my WSPR t/r troubles. I now have it all sorted out. In the image above you can see the cable from the serial port that carries the RTS T/R signal from the computer. It goes to a switching transistor that controls a relay that in turn switches the three relays that actually do T/R for the rig. One question: On the Linux computer the RTS signal seems to switch between +5 and -5 volts, but on the Windows machine it was +10 and -10. Why?
I'm really pleased to have the computer interface working. It is kind of neat to bring together the complex technology of the computer and the simple technology of a DSB/Direct Conversion rig.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Five Planets Visible in the Morning

The good folks over at have once again alerted us to an important astronomical event: During May, early risers will be treated to a conjunction of Mars, Jupiter, Venus, and Mercury. (The fifth visible planet would be the one you are standing on!) The Moon is thrown in as a bonus. The photo above was taken by Liz Gleeson on Magnetic Island (Australia) -- what a great location!

Monday, May 2, 2011

More T/Rouble

I get the RTS signal when using a Windows PC, but when I try to switch over to a Linux computer, I don't get the T/R signal from pin 7. Is there some code or setting in Linux that I need to change to make this happen?
Designer: Douglas Bowman | Dimodifikasi oleh Abdul Munir Original Posting Rounders 3 Column