Welcome to my blog for electronics and amateur radio.

Category: Commentary

Getting Back on the Air Soon

Hello everyone. So, what have I been up to for most of 2019? No posts here because I’ve not been doing much ham radio besides working on ideas and designs. The short story is I’ve been working at cleaning up the mess from a rather disastrous 2018. And, much of the mess still remains.

The good news is that for the past couple months I’ve been finding some time here and there to work on ham radio pursuits. I’m also doing one of the best things for getting back into the hobby, and that’s “Elmering”. I’ve become friends with a new ham, KE8NBP, Jason, who recently passed his General. Yay, Jason! Jason’s father was a ham, so he already had a pretty good idea of what the hobby is about. Besides teaching him some basic physics, electricity, and stuff about transmission lines, antennas, and so forth, we’ve been talking about Field Day. We’re working towards putting together a 2B operation in some remote spot here in West Virginia. That would be fun.

Unfortunately, I left my entire ham station in storage in Montana, so I have to rebuild from scratch. But that’s something I’ve done a half dozen times now, so I’m experienced at it.

Jason and I are also considering doing additional portable operations, not just on Field Day. I mean, if we build a 2B Field Day setup, why not use it as much as possible? The main reason for this thinking is that Clarksburg, WV is an old Rust Belt town, falling apart, including the electric power distribution system. The electrical noise is the worst I’ve ever seen anywhere. Cracked insulators, arcing connections, and kudzu growing up power poles and sizzling on the wires are common. The last time I operated HF here, power line noise was never less than +10 dB over S9. Digital modes like PSK can manage to some degree with noise like that so that’s what I used. Since then, it’s gotten worse. Jason lives about two miles from me and has a terrible situation because 375 kV marching giants cross directly over his home. He can’t hear anything on HF with a +30 over noise level.

The only solution is some portable operations where it’s quieter. Maybe we could activate some rare counties and so forth.

Anyway, that’s the news from KW2P. More to follow as progress is made.

Wednesday Night 40m Hellschreiber Net

40 meters was being ornery tonight at net time of 9 PM EST. Here in West Virginia I had no copy, no signal at all on net control or anyone else except I had about a 50 percent copy on WB2HTO. I saw the name Leslie go by, and I believe I saw a QTH in AL. At 9:35 PM EST I checked in again and the band had greatly improved. I had net control, about 90 percent copy on WB2HTO but work got in the way and I did not have time to check in.

I’ll be there next week unless work overrides my plans. Thanks to W8LEW for running the net.

Happy 60th Birthday to the Transistor

In honor of the 60th birthday of the transistor, here are some photos:

The First Transistor

The First Transistor

The First Transistor

Replica of the First Transistor:

Replica of the First Transistor.

Replica of the First Transistor.

Diagram of the First Transistor

Diagram of the First Transistor.

Diagram of the First Transistor.

The first transistor was developed in 1947 at Bell Labs by Shockley, Brattain, and Bardeen and it was made from germanium not silicon. Germanium was used through the 50’s and into the 60’s before being completely replaced by silicon transistors. Those of you who are old enough will remember the first transistor radios in the 50’s. I do. Before long there was a competition over the number of transistors in the radio. Seven transistor radios, nine transistor radios–a big advertising deal was made over the number of transistors and the consumer was led to believe that more is better. Around the time I got into electronics, around 1959, 1960, I disassembled a 14 transistor radio and discovered that several of the transistors were fake! (had only two leads, or had the leads twisted together) A good radio can be built with six to nine transistors but they added several fake ones to boost the count and fool the public into thinking it was a better radio. This was a interesting lesson.

Throughout the 50’s and into the 60’s, transistors were made and packaged one at a time, and then assembled into circuits that you could see without your glasses and work on with your hands and a soldering iron. Plenty of transistors are still used as individual devices today, especially in high-power or radio circuits, but in 1959 Jack Kilby at Texas Instruments patented the first integrated circuit, where more than one transistor was fabricated simultaneously on the same substrate, along with components like resistors and capacitors to form a complete circuit that performed a function. The photolithography techniques used to “print” these circuits soon made it just as easy to make a miniature 20 transistor circuit as it was to make a single transistor and this was the way to the future. In 1971, Intel introduced the first microprocessor, a slow little 4-bit micro containing about 2,500 transistors. By 1975, Popular Electronics published the famous article that launched the personal computer revolution. It was an article on how to build a computer using Intel’s 8080 microprocessor. The 8080 contained about 4,000 transistors. Today the micro in your average personal computer contains about 500 million transistors. The latest dual-core server processors contain about 800 million. Your typical desktop or laptop computer today contains over 2 billion transistors in all. The simple transistor has come a long way.