Sunday, January 03, 2010

Making soldersmoke again after a gap

soldersmoke.jpgI bought Bill Meara's book "Soldersmoke - A global adventure in radio electronics" many months ago but until the recent holiday break haven't been able to get in to it.

It's a charming book and really inspiring for people like me who love to tinker with amateur electronics. Bill reveals a bit of his interesting life as a US diplomat and shares with us his desire to understand the actual operation of those circuits we construct and hope will work.

When amateur electronics enthusiasts get together and someone talks about a mixer, we all nod as if we know exactly how it works - Bill admits that he didn't fully, and his quest is to understand. As with a lot in physics, there's more to it than you think.

The book mixes stories of Bill's journey through ham radio with technical topics illustrated with diagrams that appear to have been scribbled on napkins.

Bill's soldersmoke blog and the associated podcast, are on my "must listen" list, his book, available through Lulu is to be recommended.

Shortly after I finished the book, my neighbour dropped in with a satellite phone that needed fixing, nothing too exciting just an external antenna connection that had been damaged in a vehicle accident. Primed by the book, the smell of soldersmoke in my nostrils drew me back into the shack and I'm happy to report I've just spent a pleasurable day beginning construction of a single frequency 80m (colour burst) single sideband transmitter.

ssb transmitter.jpg

Above you see a 741 mic pre-amp, an NE602 mixer (Bill knows how it generates the difference frequency) and a crystal filter to accept just one sideband. I'll update as it progresses. Yes, it's real "ugly" construction, but I'm sure Bill would approve.

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