Author Archive

“Sending Radio Messages” – 1943

Here’s an interesting piece of radio history.

Great introduction to the Arduino

I’m a huge fan of the platform.  Don’t get me wrong, a lot of the projects I think are just too simple and can be done on a PIC for a lot less cash.  That being said, there are some REALLY neat Arduino projects out there and I’ll be Highlighting more ham related projects here in the future.

Just in case you’re really not sure, here’s a snip from the Wikipedia entry on Arduino:

Arduino is a popular open-source single-board microcontroller, descendant of the open-source Wiring platform, designed to make the process of using electronics in multidisciplinary projects more accessible. The hardware consists of a simple open hardware design for the Arduino board with an Atmel AVR processor and on-board input/output support. The software consists of a standard programming language compiler and the boot loader that runs on the board.

Arduino hardware is programmed using a Wiring-based language (syntax and libraries), similar to C++ with some slight simplifications and modifications, and a Processing-based integrated development environment.

The whole entry can be read here:

The Geek Group is a hacker/makerspace in Michigan that does a lot of really neat things (and they have one hell of a machine shop as well!).  In this video, they give a good basic introduction to what Arduino is, what sets it apart from a PIC and how you can get started programming and tinkering with Arduino.

If you know of any great ham radio related Arduino projects, post them in the comments and share!  I may add them in a future post.

Here’s “The Geek Group” video:

MITx – MIT’s new learning initiative – free online courses!!

I’ve mentioned similar courses in the past, but here’s a new twist….. you’re not just watching videos of lectures, you can actually participate.

Here is a description of the purpose of the MITx program, from MIT:

“MITx will offer a portfolio of MIT courses for free to a virtual community of learners around the world. It will also enhance the educational experience of its on-campus students, offering them online tools that supplement and enrich their classroom and laboratory experiences.The first MITx course, 6.002x (Circuits and Electronics), will be launched in an experimental prototype form.

Watch this space for further upcoming courses, which will become available in Fall 2012.”

The Circuits and Electronics course has already started.  Though I can’t participate at this time, I did notice I could still click on the link and enroll.

If you have the time, check it out.  Maybe come back and give us some feedback on the experience.  The link to the course is:

I’m baaaaack!

OK, I owe ya’ll a bit of an explanation.

No, the site hasn’t been abandoned!  I had a very busy summer, plus I moved and I managed to go from employed, laid off, employed, laid off, employed again…..

So, the long and short of it is this……

The site is still here, isn’t going anywhere and new posts will be coming back shortly.  I’ll try to go back to my original format of at least one educational post a week.


Power supplies – good info about them and one really neat project

We’ve all seen the neat projects on the web where someone uses a power supply taken from an old PC.    There is something simple about the project, yet so insanely useful and versatile.

I have not seen many that were as “polished” as the power supply project here.  This is from the blog “TG’s Electronics Exploration”.  The project is laid out in a way that will give you multiple power options as well as a digital readout.  Most of the power supply projects I’ve seen are relatively simple hacks where the basic simple values of a PC power supply are used (5 volts, 12 volts, etc).  This has many more options.

I really like how clean the layout is as well as the LCD’s.  The other really neat thing about his – the work isn’t wasted if the power supply eventually dies on you.  It is relatively easy to move all the electronics to a new supply.

The project page can be found at:

The next website we will talk about comes from a sit I visit on a regular basis.  Not ham radio, but plenty of electronics information and kits –  I used to run a hackerspace in my area.  We did a few projects to get people soldering.  One neat project was a “TV be-gone”.  Simple device where you build it, put it in a container (I, of course, used an Altoids tin) and use it to turn off TV’s.  Great when you’re somewhere where a TV is on, loud, and nobody is actually watching the thing and you can’t even carry a conversation with the guy next to you.  Simple enough project.

This site goes into several questions I get from potential hams when I teach radio classes, including:

What is a power supply?

Why use a power supply?

What’s inside a power supply?

AC/DC theory.

A really neat primer geared towards those that may not understand anything about all those wall warts that are drawing tons of power when not used!  I almost passed this up, as I know enough about power supplies to get me through what I need for my projects.  I found it a neat article that allowed me to probably explain it easier to those that aren’t technically inclined.

Check it out at:

Now, if you have any links to great projects or informative sites, please leave them below.

Cheap boom for a mic with this Ikea hack

I’ve modded a lot of Ikea stuff in the past (I mean really, if you receive something and decide not to use it, do you think you’ll actually get that thing back in the packaging????). Here is a rather simple, inexpensive mod you can do to create a rather decent boom for your mic.  I did something similar with a drafting lamp years ago and it really does work well.

Grab yourself a Tertial desk lamp.  Last I knew, it was around ten bucks at my local Ikea.  All you really need to do is lop off the lamp and cord.  Grab the hardware for your mic (you may need a few pieces of assorted hardware or epoxy, but it really isn’t difficult).

I have a few pages with links to help you out if you get stuck.

The following link:

Cheap DIY Boom Mic Arm Stand

has a decent write up.  However, I really have NO clue as to what that mic is in this tutorial.  The process is similar for any of our XLR or similar type mics and cages.

I think this is a little more for what we are looking at with this project.

I hope this works out for you and if you know of any similar boom hacks, let me know.  We can save a ton of money on buying something similar specific for our mics.

And if you find any neat Ikea ham radio hacks, let me know and I’ll make a post.  I like these rather inexpensive hacks!

Simple AM transmitters

I had a lot of good response from some bread board based projects in the past.  so, here is a neat little AM transmitter I stumbled on Instructables.

It’s simple enough that you may already have most of the spare parts, yet detailed enough to allow you a little room for modification.  I like building transmitters like these and sending audio to my old broadcast radios or even amateur receivers like my old Hallicrafters gear.

Want to really freak people out?  Build one of these and hook it up to an MP3 player or portable CD Player (not like we have a massive use for these) and use it to stream old time radio.  Tons of resources online.  it just seems right to listen to classic radio on…… a classic radio.  I have an old American Bosh console with great woodwork, classic styling and such.  Hooked it up to my MP3 player and listened to the entire broadcast day of CBS on “D Day”.  Really kewl!  The Shadow hasn’t sounded this cool in quite some time.

Here is a link to the AM transmitter in the photo:

Here is a slightly different approach.  Lets say you have found a great condition cabinet at a tag sale, but the parts inside are truly destroyed.  I, don’t like modifying a restorable gem.  But…….  If you want, you could take an MP3 player, load it up with your favorite shows and have a great tabletop discussion piece.  You can get MP3 players REALLy cheap even at a drug store for ten bucks or so and load quite a bit of audio.

Here is the link for the MP3 player in a classic radio project:

Don’t think I left you guys out with some neat radios from the 70′s and such.  Especially those radios that came out around the time of the great Sci-fi flicks.  Ohhhh, I wish I had one of those vintage Welltrons!!!!!!!!

Below is a neat FM transmitter project.  I like this because it gives you a different dimension into the different modes and won’t cost a lot of money to truly learn a lot.  This title is called “How to build the simplest FM transmitter”:

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