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Hans Solves Exploding Power Transistor with Siglent’s Help! And a New Product…

Exploding power amplifier transistors! Hmm…that’s not a good start to any ham’s operating session. But it happened to Hans Summers G0UPL as he was doing development work on the firmware (version 1.03) designed to accompany his very popular QCX transceiver sold through his company, QRP-Labs. Hans, the recipient of the 2019 Homebrew Heroes Award, was doing some firmware enhancements for CAT control of the QCX (version 1.03) to drive an external amplifier when the amplifier’s power transistor …. well, see for yourself.

RF510 power transistor blown apart

But what on earth caused the explosion? Here’s where a product donated to our Hero for 2019 came to the rescue. Siglent Technologies donated their SDS1202X-E oscilloscope to Hans as part of their sponsorship. He documents how he used the Siglent oscilloscope to diagnose the power spikes that led to the complete component failure in certain circumstances on his blog.

I had switched the QCX off and on again with the toggle switch on the my front panel, rather fast. There was a bright flash and a loud bang. My QCX is connected to a 0-30V 0-20A linear-regulated bench power supply, capable of supplying a lot of power. Investigation revealed that one of the IRF510 power transistors had blown up quite spectacularly. This photo shows the result. Note that the explosion did not blow the IRF510 pins off; my safe removal strategy for replacing components, is to CUT the component out then remove the pins one-by-one from the board by de-soldering them.

Hans G0UPL

Hans explains his diagnostics further, “Investigation with my nice new Siglent SDS 1203X-E oscilloscope (thanks to kind donation by Siglent, sponsors of the Homebrew Heroes award 2019), revealed the following different power-up characteristic, depending on whether the QCX is switched on by turning on the power supply, which is what I normally do, or by switching it on at the toggle switch.

The Siglent SDS 1203X-E oscilloscope has storage features where the display can be frozen by pressing the Run/Stop button at top right. So it is possible to capture an event in “human scale time” with the horizontal timebase running at something like 100ms/div or 200ms/div; then with the display frozen you can scroll it left/right using the horizontal position control, then zoom in on the feature to be investigated, using the Horizontal Zoom knob. Once the display shows the section of waveform of interest, you can use the cursors to make precise measurements of time difference, voltage difference etc. This is very useful to examine and understand features which happen too fast to be seen or captured normally. Screenshots can be captured easily by plugging in a USB flash drive and pressing the “Print” button.”

Siglent SDS 1203X-E in action on Hans’ Workbench
“…this is what the voltage at the PA supply connection pad looks like, when I press the On/Off button on the 0-30V 0-20A bench power supply. It rises nice and gently to 20V, reaching 90% of its final supply voltage after about 56ms and the full 20V supply voltage another 20-30ms after that.”
“(This) is what happens when the toggle switch on the QCX enclosure front panel is switched on (with the power supply already on). The combined effect of the smoothing capacitor in the power supply and the 2200uF capacitor in the QCX enclosure, is that the voltage at the Power Amplifier pad rises extremely fast, and with a significant overshoot; the trace shows a rise to 33V 364us after power-on. There’s another very short spike 2ms after switch-on.”
“Here is a zoom of the first spike with the overshoots. Pretty nasty!”

Hans gives more technical details behind his diagnosis on his blog post but the “nasty” spikes were detected through bench testing and then diagnosing the issues producing it using his new Siglent SDS 1203X-E oscilloscope. This provides a cogent illustration of how our Hero for 2019 goes about his development and testing work for his product line. Like a fine wine, it takes time to ensure that the finished product, whether it’s hardware or a firmware update like in this instance, is working as the higher level block diagrams are intended for it to.

Hans G0UPL diagram of why the IRF510 self-destructed

Hans states, “My theory is, that the first PTT signal, at power-up, when coincident with all those nasty spikes at switch on (via the toggle switch), and with the PA circuit not yet settled down (all its capacitors charged up, solid state Rx/Tx switching in stable state, etc), creates the right conditions for catastrophic positive feedback in the PA to set up a huge spurious oscillation which is sufficient to self-destruct, via the explosion of one of the transistors. This does NOT occur in my normal power-up sequence via the on/off button of the power supply. Neither does it occur if I switch off with the toggle switch, wait a second, then switch on again. It only occurred when I switched on and off quickly.” The hand diagram above illustrates his theory of the self-destructing PA transistor.

This does NOT occur in my normal power-up sequence via the on/off button of the power supply. Neither does it occur if I switch off with the toggle switch, wait a second, then switch on again. It only occurred when I switched on and off quickly.

Hans G0UPL

The solution? He says it’s an easy fix. “This situation can be resolved very simply by adding a 10K resistor (value entirely uncritical) between the RX signal and +5V. When the processor pins are floating while the processor is starting up, the RX signal is therefore pulled to +5V, until the processor has started and is ready to take over the job. In this fragment of the schematic (below) the additional resistor is shown in the yellow box. I simply soldered it between IC3 pins 13 and 14 which is convenient and easy.” The diagram below illustrates the remedy shown in yellow.

Hans told me by e-mail that, “The QCX + 50W PA is now back in order and I had 9 nice QSOs this morning, with YL Elvira ZA1EM, then E74LZ, UR5MUY, IK7XJA, LZ1HDA, OM3CAZ, R7BW, EW8CP and RW3KE.” So a 10K resistor plus the workbench savvy with a new modern oscilloscope came to the rescue.

Psst…New Product!

The 50W Power Amplifier is a new product that QRP Labs has in very late development. No, it’s actually almost ready to announce with this final change. Hans wrote me today, “Yes, This 50W PA is a new product…This 50W amp is designed as a low cost single-band amplifier for the QCX (which is my flagship 5W CW transceiver http://qrp-labs.com/qcx ).”

New 50W Amplifier Kit to be announced soon!

The description of the new 50W amplifier was sent to me earlier today and should approximate what will be on the QRP Labs website (always subject to last minute changes, of course). Hans says he is finalizing the manual now and expects an official announcement in a week or so from today. So watch his website for the official announcement. The description is in Hans’ words to me by e-mail earlier today.

This 50W Amplifier includes the Low Pass Filter. It can be built for any of 40, 30 or 20m using the supplied components in the kit and therefore covers 95% of QCX owners. Any other bands would be possible too if suitable inductors and capacitors were substituted in the Low Pass Filter.

Inside the box

The amp kit also includes two substantial heatsinks, which are the same design of custom-made heatsink I use in my 10W Linear kit http://qrp-labs.com/linear. Each heatsink is black anodized aluminium and sized 130 x 28mm, with 25mm fins. ALL the connectors are also included in the kit.

A key feature of the amplifier kit is that it has solid state PIN diode Transmit/Receive switching, which is fast, reliable, low cost and silky smooth quiet… it enables full break-in operation (QSK) which is very important for many CW operators (hearing the band during the tiny gaps between your own dits and dahs). Perfecting the transmit/receive switching took 80% of the development time of the kit.

Front panel board

I have used the prototype for over 500 QSOs over the summer on 40m, working from US to New Zealand, Japan, Northern Europe to Middle East. With band conditions in the doldrums they are, or if people wish to have a sked with a friend at a particular time and location, that little extra power can be very useful! QRP has its place, QRO does too.

The custom-manufactured enclosure kit is extruded black anodized aluminium, size 130 x 63 x 25mm and the heatsinks bolt on the top. On the rear are BNC in and out connectors, DC power connector, and a jack for the PTT signal from the QCX. It is designed to match the QCX but could easily be used for other QRP CW rigs too; it may even work well in Linear operation (with the bias adjusted correctly) but this remains to be seen and tested.

50W amplifier rear view

Conclusion

This is the type of bench work that great designers go through, largely unbeknownst to amateur radio operators who purchase their products. Of course, there are issues that get by even the most careful workbench. But here’s a case of precisely why the corporate donors to the Homebrew Heroes Award program have chosen to participate: to give our recipient tools to help that person to do their best work on what they do in the homebrew maker space. To see more of Hans’ illustration of this episode in homebrew development, see his website for a forthcoming video.

Here’s to you, Siglent! And, to Jason Chonko who believed in the HHA program immediately and signed his company on as a sponsor. To see this 200 mhz oscilloscope in action, go to this link.

If you’d like your company’s equipment on the workbench of our next Homebrew Heroe, contact us through the HHA website. We are accepting sponsors for the 2020 HHA now and will announce a new one soon.

Windfall for Winterfest 2020!

Sometimes things just drop in over the transom. But it’s usually when the transom-owner is effective, organized and the opportunity coming along is looking for such a place to land. In short, those who are effective tend to get unsolicited opportunities. And a true windfall does come along some time. What the recipient does with it depends on their vision. That is what’s happening at the hamfest hosted by the The St Louis and Suburban Radio Club (SLSRC) in Collinsville, IL. Called Winterfest, this annual hamfest appears to be blowing-and-going and, not surprisingly, growing. The unexpected opportunity that represents a Windfall for Winterfest 2020 is the Wes Shum W9DYV Radio Symposium is moving from it’s temporary home this past year in the outskirts of New Orleans to Winterfest in the St. Louis metropolitan area.
Here’s how it happened. This past year at the Huntsville (AL) Hamfest, Bob Heil engaged me in a conversation about the recent Slidell (LA) Symposium to help figure out a great permanent location. Some hamfests want to shoehorn “new” program activities into Sunday, to keep traffic on the sales floor so that vendors will want to remain open before breakdown and departure. But attending hams generally have to depart for home on Sunday since most work, too. This would kill such a whole day program. Along with Nick Tusa K5EF, Bob Heil K9EID was able to find an ideal situation with the SLSRC as Winterfest added the Symposium on Friday January 24th starting at 8 a.m.
The opportunity for the St. Louis & Suburban Radio Club Winterfest event to work with the W9DVY Radio Symposium is a fantastic chance for us to help promote vintage radio and the history of the Amateur Radio hobby. We are looking forward to this relationship between the two groups to bring Amateur Radio operators together. We hope to have a strong attendance and we are looking forward to hosting the great Symposium forums. Rebecca Carroll, KC9CIJ – Winterfest 2020 Chair
The Winterfest is located in The Gateway Center, in the shadow of the St. Louis Arch on January 24-25, 2020. No winter weather worries inside the Center! Lots of hotels at various price points nearby. And there are many other activities, such as Contest College with 10+ hours of forums, presentations, Q&A and contesting discussion, as well as the DX & ARRL Banquet and…the ARRL Midwest Conference with CEO Howard Michel and other staffers from Newington. Ward Silver NØAX is the Banquet speaker along with Craig Thompson K9CT on the Pitcairn VP6R DXpedition. Flex Radio Systems will be there as a vendor with their newest SDR technology, among other popular vendors. See the Winterfest website for more details. There is a lot going on, competing with most any regional ham fest in the U.S.
So there’s an additional day-long set of forums at a hamfest. What’s big about that? OK, fair question. Do you use phone when you transmit? If so, you likely use Single Side Band (SSB) most of the time, especially on HF. The Symposium is named for Wes Schum W9DYV (in Chicago, as Bob Heil says he always signed). Wes W9DYV was instrumental in getting SSB adopted in the amateur radio community. Some say he’s the Father of Single Sideband (see Ham Nation, Episode 86). Now that’s a big deal, no? A little bit of history, provided by Nick Tusa K5EF. “The Symposium was formed to honor one of amateur radio’s key advocates of the then-new technology, Single Sideband, and his company’s ground-breaking ideas that culminated in the Central Electronics 100V Transmitter. Wes Schum (W9DYV) introduced single sideband to amateur radio in a very big way, beginning in 1951 with is Model 10A sideband exciter and continuing though his company’s eventual ownership by Zenith Radio, Inc.
Wes Schum W9DYV and early SSB transmitter
This picture shows Wes with one of his very early SSB transmitters. I vividly recall hearing the 75 meter AMers calling them “mush mouth” operators. I immediately understood since the old RCA “winking eye” floor model shortwave receiver I heard them on did not have a BFO so as to tune to one side of the bandwidth. Those cat-calls soon faded into obscurity. Today, AM aficionados and SSB mode operators generally habitat HF bands without quarrel, appreciating what Wes Schum’s “appliances” did for the ham radio market and ham radio itself. Nick K5EF continued, “Initially, a group of Central Electronics enthusiasts decided the time had come to try a true boatanchor field day, with Wes Schum as the guest of honor/celebrity roastee. Thus, the first Boatanchor Field Day was born in Jonesborough, Tennessee – June, 2013. Later, and with two vintage field days under our belts, the group next sought to include technical SSB workshops into a Field Day setting and with it the encouragement of homebrewing and documenting the history of the many wonderful and colorful amateur radio manufacturers of the 1950s and 60s. Wes always encouraged learning and creativity in the amateur’s workshop, thus the W9DYV Radio Symposium was born.” Think about that legacy for a moment. Starting a “field day” to honor a member of your club or employer where hams are prevalent just doesn’t happen that much. When it does, it’s because the legacy being continued is a big deal. Like the development of Single Side Band.
Bob Sullivan W0YVA operating Wes Schum’s Central Electronics 200V/600L combo
Marge Schum K9EMP, Wes Schum W9DYV, and Nick Tusa K5EF at a former Radio Symposium
Today, the Symposium is taking an exciting step forward by holding its event last year in the New Orleans area and now more permanently at Winterfest 2020, to facilitate access to the forums without having attendees travel more than a day’s driving distance. It is important for the Symposium to be affiliated with a hamfest and flea market as its target audience is for those who are: (a) interested in the history of amateur radio and its innovative technology; (b) would like to get more involved in the restoration/collection of vintage equipment and to preserve our heritage; (c) are looking for encouragement to homebrew and experiment; (d) are interested in hearing ideas that can improve every ham’s HF operating experience. Besides … what ham can resist a good radio boneyard? See www.ce-multiphase.com for more photos and information on previous Symposia and the history of this important company, Central Electronics, later part of Zenith Inc. I learned a lot when I spent some time on that website. Like this picture from 1956, when a little dab’ll do you (Brylcreem slogan).
Predecessor to the W9DYV Radio Forum, the SSB Dinner, 1956
The lineup for the W9DYV Symposium at Winterfest 2020 contains a host of well known speakers. Hollow state technology is the theme but—surprise, surprise—high performance SDR kicks off the Symposium. This latest innovation in amateur radio reflects the legacy of how W9DYV launched SSB back in the day! So innovation continues:
  • A High Performance SDR Receiver for the Ham-Bob Nichols W9RAN
  • HF Receiver Performance-Rob Sherwood NC0B
  • Understanding of Human Speech Articulation-Dr. Bob Heil K9EID
  • The Collins S-2 Line History and Evolution-Dave Beckler N0SAP
  • Wes Schum (W9DYV) and Central Electronics-Nick Tusa K5EF
  • Drake T4XC: Low Power Output and Why-David Assaf W5XU
  • ARRL, AM and the story of the Gates BC-1T-Bob Allison WB1GCM
  • Another “major homebrewer” presentation is pending
The BC-1T story should be most interesting. Bob Allison WB1GCM works in the ARRL Test Lab at HQ. He’s visible in every issue of QST in one or more places. What’s the ARRL’s connection to the Gates BC-1T? Bob will tell us. How the Collins S-2 line developed by Dave N0SAP will surely be a favorite. The Collins S line has such a proud place in the history of amateur radio manufacturing. And, the history of Central Electronics by one of W9DYV’s close friends, Nick Tusa, will undoubtedly be informative and reveal the nuances of just how SSB came to be prevalent. Videos of many previous W9DYV Symposium presentations can be viewed on the Youtube Channel maintained by W5Video Productions. This set of videos are well worth watching. I learned so much about my own Drake TR-7 through Dave W5XU’s video from the Slidell (LA) Symposium last year. You should take a few minutes to see what you’ll learn there, too.
Planning a successful, and growing, hamfest takes vision and the willingness to engage “over the transom” opportunities. You might be surprised at the reticence of some well-known hamfest Chairs and Committees to see beyond last year’s program. Frank Howell K4FMH
Planning a successful, and growing, hamfest takes vision and the willingness to engage “over the transom” opportunities. You might be surprised at the reticence of some well-known hamfest Chairs to see beyond last year’s program. Online sales are eroding the ROI that major manufacturers, their resellers, and the small ham radio business companies get by committing thousands of dollars just to get to a hamfest. Individual sales through boneyards can yield surprise inexpensive purchases but, on the average, hamfests face a similar battle with eBay sales, too. It is programs—the continuing education of hams who spend money to attend a hamfest—that bring’em in, repeatedly over the years. And the Winterfest 2020 team is doing that in spades.
Rebecca Carroll KC9CIJ, Winterfest Committee Chair
I asked Rebecca Carroll, Winterfest 2020 Committee Chair, about this year’s events. Here’s what she said, “The St. Louis & Suburban Radio Club Winterfest has added some great events from previous years. We have added floor space to include Education Alley, doubled our forums and increased our operating hours to 4pm. In addition to these changes, Winterfest has been selected as the ARRL Midwest Conference for 2020. The weekend starts on Friday January 24th with the W9DYV Radio Symposium during the day and a DX/ARRL banquet that evening. Saturday January 25th Winterfest kicks off at 8 a.m. with the opening of the sales floor, VE testing, all day topical Forums, and Contest College starting at 1 p.m. with 10 plus hours of contesting forums and discussion hosted by top area contesters. We invite all hams to come to Winterfest for a weekend of Amateur Radio fun.” If you can’t make Tim Duffy’s big shindig at Xenia, the famous Contest University, the St. Louis Contest College is a great option on Saturday at Winterfest. That leaves room for the free Schum W9YDV Symposium on Friday and the (pay) DX/ARRL Banquet that evening. Plus, the next day (Saturday) when the sales floor opens, there’s another set of Forums for the price of entry to Winterfest. Most impressive. As I stated earlier, you’d be surprised at how many hamfest Chairs just follow last year’s program like a mule with blinders, plowing a long row until their successor takes over the reins. Not the SLSRC’s Committee. When I quizzed Rebecca about her vision for Winterfest, I got an impressive response. “We would like to develop Winterfest into another ‘destination hamfest’. Future goals include expanding to a longer hamfest, scheduling more forums, extracurricular activities and growing Education Alley while supporting new and innovative ideas. We would like to build on our previous successes but also adapt to the changing hobby. With the changes in 2020, we hope to continue the momentum and build upon that for years to come. Adding the Symposium, the DX/ARRL banquet and Contest College was a big step for Winterfest 2020 and so far it’s been a well received addition. The key players in getting Winterfest 2020 to this stage include: Kyle Krieg AA0Z, Dale Holloway K4EQ and Pam Caldwell KE0OWG. It takes a team effort.
Geographic Proximity of Winterfest to Major Cities within a Day’s Drive
To examine Rebecca’s point of making Winterfest a destination hamfest, the map above illustrates how many major cities easily within a day’s drive are in the proximity of Collinsville, IL, a suburb of St. Louis. The ham population from the perimeter cities, and their constituent less populated areas, include Chicago, Cincinnati, Louisville, Nashville, Huntsville, Memphis, Little Rock, Tulsa, Omaha, and Des Moines. Add early bird discount airfares from Dallas, Atlanta, Denver, and the like, and they will come. Because of attractive programs. And, because there’s one major hamfest for the St. Louis area, not a dozen. This is a key strategic point regarding the SLSRC.
Dale Holloway K4EG
Take Atlanta as a case in point. There are a dozen or so amateur radio clubs in the 20 county Atlanta metropolitan region. And a bunch of smaller hamfests. Vendors do not attend more than one hamfest per market due to the travel and setup investment. (Ask them. I have.) Smaller hamfests tend to have poorer quality venues due to the rental fee structure. (OK, Dayton and now Xenia with Hamvention are exceptions but they have a grandfather clause an arm’s length in size due to history.) The Atlanta area once held a hamfest at the wonderful Georgia World Congress Center downtown adjacent to CNN Center, the World of Coca Cola, the Omni Hotel, the Aquarium, and a myriad of other attractions. But the clubs in Atlanta’s region will not band together to put on a single, knock-your-socks-off hamfest in a great venue, with discounted Delta airfares, and coupons for the other attractions, and major vendors. Oh, the various clubs have great talks at HamJam, Techfest, and in other gatherings but imagine what it would be if they were all at one, single, large hamfest gathering. Cooperation and what social scientists call “social capital,” the ability to make strategic decisions for the betterment of the collective, has largely escaped the various clubs in the Atlanta area. If they’d put all of this together as SCLRC has done in the St. Louis area, Atlanta could become a destination hamfest with a major calendar commitment much as Orlando’s Hamcation has over a decade or so. Of course, those clubs prefer to go their own separate ways and that’s their individual right to do so. Sometimes, though, it leads to canceling the annual hamfest, as the Atlanta Radio Club did last year. So clubs tend to be dying if they’re not growing. See the RSGB Panel discussion a month or so ago led by Martin Butler M1MRB, called Grow, Merge or Disband Your Club. Vision. Collaboration. And a willingness to see a windfall coming your way when it does.
Pam Caldwell KE0OWG
The vision of Winterfest, located at The Gateway Center and in the shadow of the major St. Louis attractions, of reaching the goal of a destination hamfest is quite reasonable. Look at how Hamcation in Orlando—say Mickey and the kids are in and say warm weather in February and spouses are in—has grown in the past decade. A quick tour of St. Louis attractions and food venues at, for instance, TripAdvisor.com, makes a clear point of the diversity of non-ham radio things for the family to do. But it takes the vision of leadership by hamfest Committees to understand how to leverage these assets for the benefit of the sponsoring club. Other clubs would do well to study what this one is doing. They may be doing it better but most aren’t. Compete in Field Day but cooperate on hamfests. Like the St. Louis and Suburban Radio Club does.
Kyle Krieg AA0Z
Rebecca and her team, including SLSRC President Kyle Krieg AA0Z, have clearly been organized, progressive, and communicative. I’ll wager a guess that with the addition of the “windfall” of the Wes Schum W9DYV Symposium, Winterfest will indeed move into the destination category of regional hamfests very soon. The radius of a typical regional hamfest’s market area, especially when buttressed by a significant ARRL presence, major vendors like Flex Radio Systems and others, and significant continuing education activities like Forums, Contest College, and the W9YDV Radio Symposium, makes the St. Louis metro area a natural draw from the region. There’s more work to be done by Rebecca and her team, but this “Windfall for Winterfest 2020” is a great launching point!

Oh, They Should’ve … Here’s Why and Why Not on the QSX

How often have you seen into the thinking process of the development engineering team for an amateur radio manufacturer? Or an industrial test and measurements manufacturer of devices used frequently by amateur operators? In the latter case, the HP Journal was (and still is for vintage equipment) a key source for their line of equipment and often had an in-depth article from the engineers who designed one of their popular test devices. Less so but often with the Tek Journal, too. I always see if there’s a “design article” for any HP or Tek vintage equipment before I make a purchase. While MFJ Enterprises frequently gives factory tours, even for a single visitor, Martin Jue rarely gives public disclosures of the thought process of a device. At least, not until it’s well into production and sales.

Hans G0UPL tells why and why not in his design of the new QSX multimode, multimode QRP transceiver

But Hans Summers G0UPL, recent winner of the Homebrew Heroes Award for 2019, has done just that! In the October issue of QRP Quarterly (Vol 60, Number 4: 24-38), Hans weaves his thinking and design choices for the SSB QSX multiband, multimode 10-watt QRP transceiver. He’s been publicly discussing the concept since 2017 but rarely do we get this level of detail and insight for a major transceiver release. Oh wait. It’s not a product of one of the major manufacturers so what makes it a major product?

Review the QRP-Labs website on the QSX for the interim specifications and feature set. And pay attention to the projected price. Now, let’s revisit the reticence at calling it a major product release. Block diagrams, schematics, mock-up designs, and the pricing-performance choices going into Hans’ decision matrix for each element of the forthcoming rig are there. Even the case and the choice of no hardware volume control! And the choice of a soft switch for power on and off. The inclusion of several test equipment circuits built directly into the transceiver package ramps up what other manufacturers have included. And did I mention that the target price is $150 USD?

Ashar Farhan made a real splash in the QRP homebrew space when he released the Bitx40 ($59USD) and uBitx ($130USD). There is a small army of builders, modders, and third-party add-ons and case makers surrounding Farhan’s products. But reading the target specifications for “just a little bit more” at $150USD on the QSX QRP transceiver (including a nice case), it will set a new bar for the value proposition in the QRP market place!

And who knew how much the inclusion of a “simple” potentiometer for power on/off and volume control could impact the overall design and cost for a multiband transceiver? If you read this article, you’ll be somewhat shocked and amazed at how the designer’s careful analysis of his product target goals factored into the decision to just not include one. But that’s only one of the interesting twists and turns in this intriguing article on the design of the QSX transceiver.

Read the article and see if you agree with my assessment. QRP Quarterly is edited by Mike Malone KD5KXF. It is the publication of the QRP Amateur Radio Club International with an annual subscription price at $25 USD for domestic subscribers and $28 USD for international subscribers. The QRP-ARCI sponsors the Four Days in May Symposium held in conjunction with Hamvention in Xenia, OH. Hans G0UPL is also a member of the QRP Hall of Fame.

Hans G0UPL Homebrew Hero 2019 and QRP Hall of Fame Member
Source: HomebrewHeroes.org

The market shall see what the final version, performance, and exact price will be. Reviewers will leave no stone unturned in putting the QSX through it’s paces when it’s available for retail purchase. But very rarely will buyers know as much about a transceiver’s design and why it was so as with the QSX. The snarky reviews that we almost always see of why didn’t “they” do this or that in a rig will almost all have been answered well in advance of the official release of the QSX. While “they” usually represent an engineering design team, QRP-Labs is staffed by one, Hans G0UPL, Hero 2019.

Homebrew Hero 2019 Announced

The Homebrew Heroes Award Program announced its first annual recipient, Hans Summers, Call Sign G0UPL. The recipient is the very popular proprietor of QRP Labs and maker of numerous homebrew style projects in amateur radio. He’s been producing them for over a decade now. The details are available at this link, including a video of the award to Hans.
Hans G0UPL Hero 2019
Being involved with launching the Homebrew Heroes Awards Program with Martin Butler M1MRB and Colin Butler M6BOY on the Steering Committee has been exciting as we’ve been very busy with development since the idea hatched at Xenia Hamvention this past May. But the payoff is seeing the impact that such attention can bring to a most deserving recpient, like Hero 2019 Hans Summers. “I am just blown away by it all!” said Hans when he received the plaque and customized clothing designating him as Homebrew Hero for 2019. This annual award recognizes persons, groups or organizations who help define the frontiers in amateur radio technology through the long-standing tradition of “home brew” construction. This is the first of the annual awards to be given by the new program, housed at the website address, homebrewheroes.org. A video of the award is available here. A longer feature interview with Hans is available in Episode 308 of the ICQ Podcast which is the promotional partner of the Award Program.

The Hits Just Keep On Coming: Heil Sound Joins HHA Corporate Sponsors

RIDGELAND, MS. September 4, 2019. “The hits just keep on coming,” announced Colin Butler M6BOY of the Homebrew Heroes Award Program Steering Committee. “We are delighted to include Heil Sound as our newest corporate prize donor to our pending 2019 Hero recipient.”

Bob Heil K9EID said, “Heil Sound is very honored to be a part of the Homebrew Heroes Award. Designing and building Amateur Radio projects has been the basis of my career and I am always promoting ‘home brewing’ so let’s warm up those soldering irons and build something! Thank you guys for making this happen.” The CEO of Heil Sound, now celebrating it’s 50th year, is an avid builder and recent winner of the January 2018 QST Cover Award for his famous Pine Board Project. He launched the Ham Nation podcast on May 24, 2011, some 411 episodes ago. The video podcast is published weekly and includes Gordon West WB6NOA and other well known co-hosts. Bob K9EID continues to elmer a wide audience of amateur radio operators through his popular hamfest forum talks and other demonstrations. He also frequently gives presentations to amateur clubs via Skype.

Martin Butler M1MRB of the Steering Committee added, “I met Bob Heil this year at Hamvention in Xenia. A busy man, he kindly took the time to show this bloke from across the pond his new Parametric Receive Audio System. After 30 minutes or so, I left feeling as if I’d known Bob for a lifetime. He really, really knows the design and building of amateur radio devices!” Committee member Frank Howell K4FMH concurred, “Bob was kind enough to have me on as a guest on Ham Nation on the TWiT.tv network, to discuss the Homebrew Heroes Award concept and what we were trying to build. He followed up quickly with telling me of his desire to have Heil Sound as part of the sponsoring donors. That’s Bob. He’s going to help if he believes in something.”

Heil Sound will provide these items to the winner: Heil Wire, XT-1 Matching Transformer, Heil Stealth connectors, Heil XLR broadcast connectors, Heil 5.1 dynamic microphone element, and 
Pro 3 Headphones. All will no doubt be used in the recipient’s subsequent build projects.

Ham Radio Workbench Podcast Donates to Homebrew Heroes Award Program

RIDGELAND, MS September 2, 2019. A very popular podcast about the ham radio workbench scene has joined the donor list for the Homebrew Heroes Award Program. George Zafiropoulos KJ6VU, co-host of the Ham Radio Workbench show, said, “While we were aware of the Homebrew Heroes Awards Program being organized shortly after Hamvention this year, we were not sure how we could help, other than to promote it on our own podcast. But when Digilent Inc. led the corporate donor list by committing to donate their very popular Analogue Discovery 2 test gear to the recipient, it became very clear. Our new Benchduino kit, which connects directly to the AD2 for design development, is a perfect addition for the 2019 recipient!”

Martin Butler M1MRB, HHA Steering Committee Member, said, “I’ve used the Digilent device, the AD2, and this donation by these innovative chaps just hits the spot for the prize package. The many test and measurement tools in the AD2 when it’s connected to the Benchduino platform just help the homebrewer get things done properly and in short order.” Frank Howell K4FMH, also of the Steering Committee, said, “This addition to our prize donor roster is most appreciated. It exemplifies the spirit of the Award that we are offering: helping others by example, including the fruits of one’s labor at his or her own workbench.” Colin Butler, M6BOY, the third member of the HHA Steering Committee emphasized, “The lads on the Hamradio Workbench show are demonstrating what this Award is about. There addition just underscores the reception of it by the homebrew space in amateur radio.”

Jeremy Kolonay KF7IJZ, co-host of HRW, added, “This just works out perfectly. Our show focuses on what the Homebrew Heroes concept is about: helping the homebrewer and maker audience in amateur radio learn more about the science and craft of designing and building new things.” The podcast has committed to donate multiple Benchduino sets so as to cover the various development platforms the Homebrew Heroes Award 2019 recipient might use.

Our new Benchduino kit, which connects directly to the AD2 for design development, is a perfect addition for the 2019 recipient!

George KJ6VU, co-host of the Hamradio Workbench Podcast
The Benchduino development platform accessing the Digilent Analogue Discovery 2

The Benchduino is a new project developed and offered for sale by the two co-hosts of the Ham Radio Workbench podcast. An active community of homebrewers have joined the support group at Google.io. The technical specifications are as follows, taken from the HRB website:

The BenchDuino is a development platform for building projects based on the Arduino, Raspberry Pi and PIC microcontrollers. The platform defines a common foot print for processor and expansion boards to make it easy to expand the functionality of the system. The BenchDuino motherboard includes many commonly used peripherals which can be connected to the CPU pins with jumper wires or plug in shunts. The BenchDuino is an open platform and we encourage the development of plug-in CPU and expansion boards.

CPU Boards Available: Arduino Mega, using a RobotDyn Embedded 2560 high end 8 bit MCU; Raspberry Pi Zero; PIC – 40 pin 18F series processor such as the 18F4620; and Adafruit Feather common foot print.

Built-in Peripherals include: (Jumper selectable 5v or 3.3v operation), 4 push button switches, 3 slide switches, 4 LEDs, 2×16 Character I2C or parallel LCD display, 1.3″ I2C OLED bitmap display, 1 Potentiometer, 1 Rotary encoder, Xbee data radio socket, Digilent Analog Discovery II test equipment jack, and various jumper blocks.

The Homebrew Hero Award details can be read at it’s website, homebrewheroes.org. Questions or interesting in joining the corporate prize donor list can be submitted through the website. The promotional partner for the HHA is the ICQPodcast. Martin M1MRB, Colin M6BOY and Frank K4FMH are Presenters on the podcast, now in it’s 12th year with over 300 episodes. The podcast home is at ICQPodcast.com.

MFJ JOINS CORPORATE PRIZE DONOR LIST

RIDGELAND, MS – August 23, 2019 – The list of corporate prize donors is growing for the Homebrew Heroes Awards program. MFJ Enterprises of Starkville MS has agreed to donate a key prize for the workbench of the Hero in 2019. “We owe our corporate success to the practice of homebrew electronics in amateur radio,” said MFJ Founder and President Martin F. Jue. “MFJ is delighted to support this annual award. We sell a high volume of parts to the homebrew and maker community. It’s in our business interests to encourage and support hams and other enthusiasts to design and build things that contribute to this space in the hobby. And, it’s just good business to encourage it, too!” Martin added.

MFJ has identified the popular HF/VHF Two-Port Graphic Antenna Analyzer sold as product number MFJ-225. The 225 uses free downloadable software to access the vector analyzer through a PC. Richard Stubbs, Customer Services Manager at MFJ says that “It has all the basic analyzer functions plus a host of advanced features like a built-in LCD graphics screen, two-port VNA measurement, PC-Interface using IG-miniVNA freeware, precise DDS frequency control, and is self-calibrating.” Mike Enis, Manager at MFJ, says that the MFJ-225 should enhance most every workbench that uses RF circuits, especially through the S-parameters that the device measures, all without a lot of computations required without a two-port vector device.

We owe our corporate success to the practice of homebrew electronics in amateur radio.

MFJ Founder and President Martin F. Jue
MFJ 225 Dual-Port Analyzer
George W5JDX on the MFJ-225 Dual-Port Analyzer

Homebrew Heroes Award Steering Committee member, Frank Howell K4FMH said that “MFJ’s joining our corporate donor list with this test gear shows leadership in the amateur radio maker space. We are delighted that this corporate list is growing in support of our annual award winner.” Details on the new awards program can be found at its website.

MFJ Enterprises, Inc., was founded in 1972 by Martin F. Jue. The company began operations in a small rented hotel room in the old Stark Hotel in downtown Starkville, Mississippi. The company began marketing its products in October of 1972. The first product was a high selectivity filter that would enable a receiver to separate one Morse code signal from scores of other signals that were being transmitted over the radio airwaves and was offered as a kit to homebrew builders in amateur radio.


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  • Matt W1MST, Managing Editor