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Monday, April 30, 2012

The Idea Factory




Hello Bill,

I think you will like a new tech history book about Bell Labs. The name of the book is The Idea Factory and the author is Jon Gertner.

Here's a neat example of what's in the book from page 85:

"Atoms within semiconductors bond easily with a number of other elements. Scaff and his colleagues knew that when they cut n-type silicon (atomic number 14) into smaller pieces on a power saw, for instance, they could smell something they were sure was phosphorus (atomic number 15). None of the measurement equipment could pick up the taint, but their noses could."

How cool is that? The book is full of this kinda of stuff and it details the early lives of those involved in Bell Labs.....anyway I find Idea Factory a page turner and I think you will enjoy it.

Another "abstract" from page 38:

"The young Bell Labs recruits had other things in common. Almost all had grown up with a peculiar desire to know more about the stars or the telephone lines or (most often) the radio, especially their makeshift wireless sets. Almost all of them had put one together themselves, and in turn had discovered how sound could be pulled from the air."


73
Herb/WR9H


Our book: "SolderSmoke -- Global Adventures in Wireless Electronics" http://soldersmoke.com/book.htm Our coffee mugs, T-Shirts, bumper stickers: http://www.cafepress.com/SolderSmoke Our Book Store: http://astore.amazon.com/contracross-20

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Revenge of the Electric Car

My wife and I watched this on PBS last night.  Really interesting. You guys will like it.  There's Elon Musk and his car named for Nikola Tesla!  There's a guy named "Gadget" who is part of a worldwide movement of electric car homebrewers.  Yes, this one's for us!  


I'm sorry that Hulu probably won't let folks outside the USA watch this.  Maybe see if you can access the video via other systems. 

 http://www.hulu.com/watch/322022/revenge-of-the-electric-car
 
Our book: "SolderSmoke -- Global Adventures in Wireless Electronics" http://soldersmoke.com/book.htm Our coffee mugs, T-Shirts, bumper stickers: http://www.cafepress.com/SolderSmoke Our Book Store: http://astore.amazon.com/contracross-20

Saturday, April 28, 2012

"Analog Man" by Joe Walsh



Very cool to have world famous rocker and fellow boatanchor enthusiast Joe Walsh singing about the virtues of analog.
What next?
An ode to 60/40 solder? 
Some troubleshooting blues? 

Our book: "SolderSmoke -- Global Adventures in Wireless Electronics" http://soldersmoke.com/book.htm Our coffee mugs, T-Shirts, bumper stickers: http://www.cafepress.com/SolderSmoke Our Book Store: http://astore.amazon.com/contracross-20

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Marconi Archive


Brian, G0NSL, alerted us to this very interesting archive on Marconi: 

http://markpadfield.com/marconicalling/museum/html/archivehome.html


Our book: "SolderSmoke -- Global Adventures in Wireless Electronics" http://soldersmoke.com/book.htm Our coffee mugs, T-Shirts, bumper stickers: http://www.cafepress.com/SolderSmoke Our Book Store: http://astore.amazon.com/contracross-20

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Club 465

I mentioned on the podcast that a generous friend sent me a Tektronix 465 scope. It now seems like every day I'm discovering new and interesting things about this magnificent piece of gear.   I've also discovered that there a LOT of guys out there who are loyal and enthusiastic users of Tek 465s.   George Heron, N2APB, and Joe Everhart, N2CX, have been putting out an excellent podcast called "Chat with the Deigners." They recently talked about oscilloscopes with our friend Alan Wolke, W2AEW:  http://www.njqrp.org/teamspeak/Apr10.html
George mentioned that he has a 465.  Our friend Farhan, VU2ESE, is using one.  Who else is in Club 465?  Send us your names! 


Preston. WJ2V, up in the Big Apple sent me a very interesting message about a feature of the 'scope that I was unaware of.  Thanks Preston!

Bill,

I am caught up and just listened to number 142.  The podcasts continue to be new and interesting each issue.  I too have a 465 workhorse in the shack.  I have one suggestion that will turn it into an even more valuable instrument.  Note that you have an amplified output in the back with the vertical signal presented at a BNC connector.  This is made for connection to a frequency counter.  In fact, some of the military versions of this scope came with a frequency counter.  If you have a counter in the shack, just connect it to the vertical output in back of the scope.  This will faithfully report the frequency of any wave you see on the screen.  Since the signal is amplified, the counter will be able to read small signals in receiver stages, while you view them on the scope.  Amazingly helpful in setting up and troubleshooting receivers.  I leave a dedicated counter connected to the 465 all the time, as it enhances the usefulness of the scope many times.  I also am lucky enough to have an early Steve Weber ("Melt Solder") SASA II device available for connection to the scope whenever needed.  This is a 100 MHz spectrum analyzer adapter, with a built-in calibrator.  It gives a great view of the output of transmitters.  But, of course, you can see the quality of a clean sine wave with just the scope.  The SASA II will just help you to see where in the spectrum the junk is coming from.  Sadly, I don't think Steve made more than about a hundred of these terrific kits.  Also, it did not have provision for a tracking generator, which would have made it an ideal instrument for designing and checking IF filters.  Steve and I talked about this, and he said he might revisit this someday.

As to seeing your QRP (or even higher) signals on the scope, of course you would not connect a transmitter to the input of the scope--that would burn it out in short order.  But a proper bypass/attenuator connected to a proper 50 ohm pass-through termination at the input to the scope would give the ability to see why your SWR meter is showing an abnormally high SWR with your homebrew transmitter that's generating spurious stuff.  There is a very practical article for building the two pieces you need on simple PC board "cabinets"  (more like half-cabinets) in the wonderful Drew Diamond books, I think in volume II.  These simple devices will give you the ability to see what you're doing with your transmitters, using the scope--

72,

WJ2V



Our book: "SolderSmoke -- Global Adventures in Wireless Electronics" http://soldersmoke.com/book.htm Our coffee mugs, T-Shirts, bumper stickers: http://www.cafepress.com/SolderSmoke Our Book Store: http://astore.amazon.com/contracross-20

30th Birthday for the TRS-80 Model 100


We have one of these (I'm sure many of you guys have one also).  I'm not really a computer guy, but I've been holding onto this thing because 1) it has always seemed to me to have a very high "cool tech" feel to it and 2) I figured that Billy or Maria might someday take an interest.  Billy is now deep into his PC build, and is developing what looks like a computer-focused shack up in his room.  So the Model 100 has moved up there.  


Here is a nice interview about this machine:
 
http://www.thepowerbase.com/2012/04/trs-80-model-100-interview-with-john-r-hogerhuis/

Our book: "SolderSmoke -- Global Adventures in Wireless Electronics" http://soldersmoke.com/book.htm Our coffee mugs, T-Shirts, bumper stickers: http://www.cafepress.com/SolderSmoke Our Book Store: http://astore.amazon.com/contracross-20

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Shuttle Discovery Arrives in Washington

I was out on the national mall yesterday morning to watch the Shuttle Discovery (atop a 747) fly over Washington DC en route to Dulles Airport and the Smithsonian Museum. Having watched Discovery when it was in orbit it was kind of bittersweet to see it go by this way. The event reminded me of going out to Hyde Park in London to watch the final overflight of the Concorde SSTs.


Our book: "SolderSmoke -- Global Adventures in Wireless Electronics"http://soldersmoke.com/book.htmOur coffee mugs, T-Shirts, bumper stickers: http://www.cafepress.com/SolderSmokeOur Book Store: http://astore.amazon.com/contracross-20

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Alan Wolke on "Chat with Designers" Tonight!

From the fellows at NJQRP:

This week's session of Chat With The Designers is tomorrow evening(Tuesday), starting at 8pm Eastern (0000z) on Teamspeak. We are in for a real treat this week, as Alan Wolke, W2AEW, a field applications engineer for Tektronix, will be leading the discussion on atopic he is very familiar with ... "Oscilloscope Basics. '' If you watch an electrical engineer tackling a tough design project, or a service engineer troubleshooting a stubborn problem, you¹ll see them grab a scope, fit probes or cables, and start turning knobs and setting switches without ever seeming to glance at the front panel. To these experienced users, the oscilloscope is their most important tool but their minds are focused on solving the problem, not on using the scope. We have a Notes page set up with a terrific presentation that we¹ll betalking to in this session, so be sure you have your browser set to thisduring the discussion as well ... http://www.njqrp.org/teamspeak/Apr10.html

If you¹ve not joined us for past topics, you¹ll find that we have some funin this 1-hour online meeting talking about various technical topics thatare likely of interest to homebrewers and experimenters here in our hamranks. It¹s open for everyone and all you have to do is have the Teamspeakdriver loaded onto your computer. (For guidance on this, see

http://www.njqrp.org/teamspeak/TeamspeakInstructions.html)Looking forward to seeing
(hearing) many of our 30-some regulars, and inviteothers who have not yet joined in on the fun!73, George N2APB& Joe N2CX& Alan Wolke W2AEW
Chat With The Designers ...http://www.njqrp.org/teamspeak/TeamspeakChat.html

(See this page too for past sessions and MP3 podcasts of the audio portionof each week.)PS: If you happen to follow us in our audio podcasts each week, the lastsession on ³Soldering 101² is loaded and available at:http://www.njqrp.org/teamspeak/Mar20.html
-----------------------------------------
Our book: "SolderSmoke -- Global Adventures in Wireless Electronics"http://soldersmoke.com/book.htmOur coffee mugs, T-Shirts, bumper stickers: http://www.cafepress.com/SolderSmokeOur Book Store: http://astore.amazon.com/contracross-20

Sunday, April 8, 2012

We need more sunspots!

Conditions on 17 meters are bad today. I pulled out my 6 inch reflector telescope to do some troubleshooting on ol' sol. Yea, just as I thought: one measly sunspot. Confirmed by the SOHO image above.
There was a discussion on QRP-L recently about historical solar flux data. I started wondering what the SFI was on the day I was born. A few clicks with google brought the answer: On September 14, 1958 SFI was close to 300. Today it was 94. :-(

Something should be done about this! Write to your Congressman! Demand more solar activity!

Our book: "SolderSmoke -- Global Adventures in Wireless Electronics"http://soldersmoke.com/book.htmOur coffee mugs, T-Shirts, bumper stickers: http://www.cafepress.com/SolderSmokeOur Book Store: http://astore.amazon.com/contracross-20

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Ponderosa Knack! Bonanza Astronomy!

I loved this episode, and I think most of you guys will too. I was alerted to it by an article by famed comet hunter David Levy. Wow! I never would have thought that in a 1962 episode of the cowboy show Bonanza, we would find amateur astronomy and experiments to determine the speed of sound and the speed of light. Amazing. There is no radio in this so it is not really The Knack, but young Mr. Michelson (yes, the Nobel Prize winner) does set up a shack-like workshop and he is trying to measure c. So this is all very Knack-like. There is also a very nice moral to this story, a moral that is related to our notion of an International Brotherhood of Electrical Wizards.
Three cheers for Ben Cartwright!

You can find the episode here. It runs for 48 minutes:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hzPRGV0HbMk

Our book: "SolderSmoke -- Global Adventures in Wireless Electronics"
http://soldersmoke.com/book.htmOur coffee mugs, T-Shirts, bumper stickers: http://www.cafepress.com/SolderSmokeOur Book Store: http://astore.amazon.com/contracross-20

EE Web Featured Engineer: Alan Wolke, W2AEW

I really liked this interview with our friend Alan. You can see definite signs of an early case of The Knack here: I was especially impressed by the fact that he made one of his first antennas from wire salvaged from the deflection coil on an old TV. (I took the easy path and chopped up my dad's extension cords!)

I also liked Alan's response to the question about his favorite software tool: "Gee, solder is soft, can we consider that software? I use a lot of that!" This is very reminiscent of a quote from the legendary Bob Pease (colleague of Jim Williams): "My favorite programming language is solder." (That quote was sent to me by Steve WA0PWK. Thanks Steve.)

Lots of good troubleshooting wisdom in this interview, and Alan's enthusiasm for electronics clearly shines through:
http://www.eeweb.com/spotlight/interview-with-alan-wolke


If you're also interested in the field of electronic repairs, visit www.guidetocareereducation.com for a list of schools offering electronics and engineering training programs.

Also, be sure to check out Alan's YouTube videos, especially those on how to use an oscilloscope:
http://www.youtube.com/user/w2aew
 
Our book: "SolderSmoke -- Global Adventures in Wireless Electronics"http://soldersmoke.com/book.htmOur coffee mugs, T-Shirts, bumper stickers: http://www.cafepress.com/SolderSmokeOur Book Store: http://astore.amazon.com/contracross-20

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

"An Analog Life" A Video Tribute to Jim Williams



Yi Yao alerted us to this. Don't miss this one!


Our book: "SolderSmoke -- Global Adventures in Wireless Electronics"http://soldersmoke.com/book.htmOur coffee mugs, T-Shirts, bumper stickers: http://www.cafepress.com/SolderSmokeOur Book Store: http://astore.amazon.com/contracross-20

Yi Yao has The Knack!

Hi Bill,

I discovered SolderSmoke a few years ago by listening to another pod
cast. Ever since, I have been hooked on this podcast and listen to it
whenever I have time. I have finally caught up and finished episode
142 today. I love the enthusiasm and spirit of discovery and creation
that goes into the stories in SS.

The first time I heard about amateur radio was in high school. It
seemed to be a overly nerdy thing at the time and I wasn't sure what
it was. However, after I started listening to SS, I discovered that
this is something that I wanted to do. So, on New Years Eve with the
kind help of a local examiner (Ori, VA3XW), I wrote my basic and
advanced exam and passed with honours. In Canada, we only have 3
categories: basic, advanced and morse co
de. I am very excited about
this and I am glad that SS made me make the jump.

You know, every time the word knack comes up, it is portrayed in a
negative way. Someone is "afflicted" with the knack or shows knackish
"symptoms" as if it was a horrible disease. I would like to change
this perspective.

I hereby declare myself blessed with the knack. Ever since I was a kid,
I disassembled various electronics around the house (to the dismay of
my parents). I knew when I was doing something right when I could put
something back together and it worked, or later, it worked better than
before. Despite my parents' persuasion to pursue other branches of
non-technical studies, I made up my mind to study electrical
engineering (must have been a teenage rebellion thing). Nonetheless
I finished school and found a job doing electronics design which I
love. Some of the people that you meet in this field are just
phenomenal. It has been a good career decision and I think it is truly
amazing. Thus, I see the knack as being a gift which I was fortunate
enough to hold.

I think one of the most important aspect of the knack is the desire to
understand and have self reliance on what we use on a daily basis. I
repair my own bikes and I've never bought a ready made computer.
Having a home machine shop greatly helps in this regard too. My first
oscilloscope I designed and built myself:
http://yyao.ca/projects/oscilloscope/
I have also resolved to build my first rig instead of buying one.
However, work is really busy these days, and it doesn't look like I
will be able to do this soon. One of these days, I will construct my
own rig and wiggle the ether.

I am currently visiting Silicon Valley here in California. There is
much to visit and do here. For example, the De Anza Flea Market
happens every 2nd Saturday (which is my first introduction to a swap
meet):
http://www.electronicsfleamarket.com/

The Computer History Museum is amazing:
http://www.computerhistory.org/

For a limited time, you can see Jim William's work bench at the
museum. If you thought your workbench was messy, you haven't seen
anything:
http://www.eetimes.com/ContentEETimes/Images/EELife/williams%20desk.jpg

Now, imagine having the world's most smartest electronics engineers
having dinner together. That's what the Analog Aficionados Party is about:
http://www.edn.com/blog/Anablog/41523-Analog_Aficionados_party_Feb_18_2012.php

On top of that, there are a lot of trade shows which you can go to
check out the latest and greatest of test equipment. They don't have
the same feel as some of my analog oscilloscopes, but they are shiny.
As you can see, this is a paradise for anyone blessed with the knack.

Anyhow, this email is long enough and I hope your eyes haven't glazed
over yet. My best regards to you, Billy, Maria and your wife.

73,
Yi Yao
VA3YAO
Our book: "SolderSmoke -- Global Adventures in Wireless Electronics"http://soldersmoke.com/book.htmOur coffee mugs, T-Shirts, bumper stickers: http://www.cafepress.com/SolderSmokeOur Book Store: http://astore.amazon.com/contracross-20

Monday, April 2, 2012

Workbench Upgrade

Lots of good ideas in Todd's video. I need to do a lot of this kind of improvement.



Our book: "SolderSmoke -- Global Adventures in Wireless Electronics"http://soldersmoke.com/book.htmOur coffee mugs, T-Shirts, bumper stickers: http://www.cafepress.com/SolderSmokeOur Book Store: http://astore.amazon.com/contracross-20

Google CW!

Google announced this yesterday. VERY timely. I wish I had thought of this!



Our book: "SolderSmoke -- Global Adventures in Wireless Electronics"http://soldersmoke.com/book.htmOur coffee mugs, T-Shirts, bumper stickers: http://www.cafepress.com/SolderSmokeOur Book Store: http://astore.amazon.com/contracross-20
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