Daily Activities Log.

This page last updated Wednesday, October 28, 2020.

in, Adventures With a Network Analyzer.

This is my daily log page. It is what web users in their never ending assault on the English language have named a blog. I hate that word and that's the last time you will see it on my site. Instead of taking up bandwidth on the email list I will post my activities here so those who are interested can keep up and those who don't care don't have to be exposed to my more mundane writings, ravings, and rantings. I will report on things I am doing that may or may not become a part of the permanent site. Entries older than a certain number of weeks or months will be deleted. I haven't decided as yet on how long things will last here.

I often run projects in parallel so I won't jump from one to the other. At the beginning of each project there will be a centered heading with the title of the project followed by left justified dates for each entry concerning that project. The centered headings will help you jump from one project to the next. The date below the centered title will be the date I start a project. I will enter the entire project under that date in order going forward in time. When a project becomes mature it will either be given a page of its own on this site, or will be deleted as not important enough to warrant that honor.

Digital Microscope for Soldering.

Well, it has happened. Circuit boards and the components that go on them have become so small that even people with 20/20 vision need some optical help to work on them. The result has been a CCTV (closed circuit television) system that doesn't cost an arm and a leg. If you shop carefully and don't buy the first one you see you can get one for a little over $100. Here is an example.

They come in screen sizes of 3.5, 5, and 7, inches. While the smaller screens are less expensive they are also, well, smaller. But they may not come with one very important feature, that is a tilting screen. Without that feature you really can't adapt it to be used with tube circuits.

To work on a tube circuit you probably don't want to look straight down on it. That means a different mounting arrangement that permits the camera section to be tilted while maintaining the tilting screen feature. It doesn't look easy to separate the camera section from the monitor section. I don't recommend it. If you try, and mess it up, don't blame me.

To Be Continued.

Adventures With a Network Analyzer.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020.

Several years ago when a company called "Syscomp Electronics Design Ltd." Came out with their CGR101 I couldn't wait to order one. It wasn't and isn't just another software oscilloscope. It was and is capable of plotting frequency response and displaying amplitude on a log-log graph and phase information on a log-lin graph. In other words a network analyzer, also known as a Bode, pronounced "Bodey" plotter. My first major use of it was to make and post impedance plots of speakers. The file dates are in late march of 2014. Good grief, was it that long ago?

I don't remember when they came out with a new and improved version the CGR201. I bought one and when it came in I gave it a brief test and put it away for the next time I would need it.

The need arose when I wanted to plot the frequency response of the real version of the Tone control circuits I had been simulating with LTspice. I got it out, connected everything up and ran a couple of plots. Then I started getting an error message. I don't remember the message exactly but it was something to the effect "…can't read START_FREQ no such location.". This sounds to me like a variable name in a program. So I downloaded the software again and installed it over the original version. While doing all of this the device was disconnected from the computer. After a little finagling to get the program to look on the right port to find the device it worked. I started plotting the tone control circuit I had wired on the breadboard. After a few plots I started getting the same error message. By this time it was late so I went to bed to sleep on it.

I tried reinstalling the program again but this time I uninstalled the old version and deleted the directory which the uninstall program had left behind. It worked at first but started giving the error message again. I set it aside and moved on to another project. When I came back to it a few days later I tried it several more times from a cold start. On every try it worked for about 20 minutes and then gave the message. Then I began to think in terms of assembly language programming and a name given to a memory location. I must have a hardware problem. I didn't test it for a long time so it may have been defective out of the box but I was sure it was much too late for any repairs covered by the warranty. I went back to the website to buy a new unit. After all, it's only money. But it was out of stock. I found that everything listed on the site was out of stock. I suppose the company has folded. Oh well, it happens.

I never throw anything away.

You've already seen the picture of the original device so you know I still have it. It came with an installation CD in the bottom of the plastic box. Insertion of the CD resulted in an error message, what else is new, "this program cannot be installed on this version of windows". I'm not one who gives up easily. I ran the install program as administrator and it ran and installed. The program balked but I ran it with troubleshoot program compatibility and selected Windows XP as the program it last ran under. If you ever need to do this the last step is easily missed because you are not directly prompted for it. Before closing the troubleshooting window be sure to check the box "Remember these settings". I checked it and now the old program runs just fine with the old hardware. For those who may be wondering the old program would not recognize the new hardware and vice versa. So now I can add a little more to the tone controls page in which I compare LTspice simulations with results from a breadboarded circuit.

Case Closed.

Friday, October 23, 2020.

Case Reopened.

While searching the Circuit Specialists site for an alternative to the Syscomp I found the Analog Discovery 2 from Digilent.com. It was listed as out of stock but it looked so interesting that I ordered it and settled down for a long wait. Early in October C S informed me that the price had gone up and asked if I wanted to cancel the order. I said no and it eventually came in. I downloaded the software and set about getting it to work.

I installed the software, plugged in the device and started the program. It is my normal MO to start a program and try to figure it out. My reason is that help files are generally useless because when you do a search for something they tell you about everything else instead of just answering the question you have asked. I have found that after I have an idea of how to do the basic things the help files are comprehensible and I can then take in the subtleties Here is what I saw.

This is the welcome screen. At first I wasn't sure the program and the device were talking to one another. I eventually determined that they were. After the fact I noticed in the lower right corner a box containing "Discovery 2" followed by the serial number. This is how you know it's working.

The Analog Discovery 2 comes with a 30 pin socket which fits onto a mating plug on one side of the device. The 30 wires that come out of the socket have female connectors, one on each wire. These will fit the pins on Arduino compatible devices but a number 22 gauge solid wire will fit nicely. I decided to connect the outputs of the on board signal generator to the inputs of the scope. I did this using one of the 5E boards which I had purchased when they were discussed on the list some time ago.

Saturday, October 24, 2020.

I selected "Waveform" from the menu on the left and this screen came up.

This picture is not of the first screen I saw. The information for only one channel was displayed and it filled the window. The green triangle followed by the words "Run All" was encouraging. Green is always good, right? Just to the right of this is another button labeled "Channels". Clicking it causes a drop down menu to appear which will show channel 1 checked and channel 2 not checked. Clicking on "Channel 2" will check it but the menu doesn't get out of your way. I know from my own experience in programming that this is an oversight by the programmer. After a user selects an option from the menu the programmer has to include a line of code that will tell the menu to "get off the screen". To overcome the forgetfulness of the programmer you must click the mouse in any area of the screen that is not a button, dialog box, or drop down list. After checking both channels you need to set them to be synchronized. To finish setting up the generator you should move again to the right where a drop down list will be showing "No Synchronization". Click on this and change it to "Synchronized". Note: Somehow the word "Disabled" inside the red boxes escaped my notice. Well, I do have a valid excuse.

To bring back the welcome menu click on the word "Welcome" almost in the top left corner of the window.

Sunday, October 25, 2020.

Next I clicked on "Oscilloscope" in the welcome menu and this screen came up.

The o'scope settings are on the right. The screen came up with both channels set to 1 V/div but I changed them both to 500 mV/div to get a larger display from a 2 volt peak to peak signal. But as you can see there was nothing. Not even an undeflected trace line. What could be wrong?

The signal generator and scope are two parts of the same system. I decided that testing them separately would be a good idea. I fired up my bench scope and connected its probes to the outputs of the Discovery's signal generator while leaving the Discovery's scope connected. There was nothing. I went back to look at the settings of the generator and everything looked right. Frustrated, I decided to leave it alone for a while and cool off. I can't think straight when I'm P O-ed. I make mistakes that compound on each other and make things worse.

Prior experience with software has taught me that an orderly shutdown is always best particularly if things aren't going well. So I clicked on the green arrow which changed to a red dot. The red frame just below the buttons changed to green and the word "Trig'd" appeared inside it. AND, the two sine waves appeared on the screen with a 90 degree phase difference as I had set it up. Not only that but the same two waves appeared on the screen of my benchtop scope. Well, it appears that green does not always indicate that things are running. Except for the rectangle in the top left corner of the scope screen.

Monday, October 26, 2020.

I am accustomed to using music players in which the triangle is used to indicate play and the double vertical bar for pause. The button shows what you will get if you press it. By this rule if you press the button when the green triangle is showing you will go into the play mode which some might interpret as showing the wave on the scope. Then after you press it a red dot indicates you will go into record mode if you press it. I'll leave it to the reader to decide what record mode for an oscilloscope might be. Pressing the round red button takes you back to the green triangle but the displayed wave remains on the screen.

OK, I'm being nit picking. The button does say "Run" and that's what you get when you click it. When it is running the button says "Stop" and that's what happens when you press it.

Testing the Network Analyzer.

The next thing I did was to wire up a simple RC low pass filter with a 0.1 uf capacitor and a 1500 ohm resistor.

And here is the circuit wired on a 5E board.

With everything connected up I clicked the green triangle and here's what I saw.

The phase shift should be 45 degrees and the amplitude 0.707 volts peak. I leave it to the reader to verify this. Without any rewiring it should be possible to do the network analysis (make a bode plot) of the circuit. Click "welcome" then "Network".

The gray area on the left is the cursor. I pressed print screen just after it arrived there. This program keeps scanning as long as you leave it running.

We see that the phase shift is 45 degrees at 1 kHz as it should be. The amplitude should be -3 db. That's pretty hard to read on a 10 dB/div scale. If I were still using the Syscomp that would be the end of it but with this software the user can change the scales of the graph as seen below.

With a scale of 1 dB/div it is clear that the amplitude is -3 dB at 1 kHz as it should be. And as I continue to learn the program I found that when the stop button is pressed the traces do not disappear but the cursor does. Also if the scale is changed to look at a small part of the graph as was done here there is no need to do a rescan.

Wednesday, October 28, 2020.

The learning continues. Scroll back up to the photograph showing the resistor and capacitor on the 5E board. That's the one just below the schematic diagram. Now scroll down to the scope display of the two sine waves just below the photo. Look not at the "oscilloscope screen" but at the row of 5 tabs just below the menu bar. The "Welcome" and "Help" tabs are there at program startup and are always present. Tabs are added as you make selections from the "Welcome" menu. On this occasion the first thing I did after starting the program was to accidentally click on the "Supplies" button. That placed the power supplies tab in the tab bar and I didn't yet know enough to remove it. To remove an unwanted tab just click on the X to the right of the word. The next thing I did that day was to set up the wave generator so that tab appears next. Then I looked at the waves on the oscilloscope which is the next tab. Scroll down again to the network analyzer screen. The next thing I did was to go back to the "Welcome" menu and select "Network" the network analyzer. In the graphic you can see that the "Network" tab has been added to the tabs bar. In the next graphic down with the expanded vertical scale the tab bar has changed. That is because I closed and later restarted the program between taking those two screen shots. I would have run the network analyzer with the default scale of -90 to +10 dB and then adjusted the scale to -9 to +1. Remember these graphics are screen shots taken while the program was running not the program itself. Clicking your mouse on buttons will have no effect or one you didn't expect.

Clicking on the word in a tab will allow you to edit orview that function. Clicking on the green triangle will set it to run mode, clicking on a red dot will stop it from running. Clicking on the X will remove the tab from the tab bar.

Now Let's Look at Something Useful.

How about a 3 band active tone control. Here is one built on a solder breadboard. The BNC adapter had been ordered but not come in when I made these plots.

And here is its frequency response as revealed by the Analog Discovery.

That seems to be about all I have for the moment. I've got a lot more to learn but there seems to be no escaping the PDF manual. There are still some unexplored items in the welcome menu. So I won't give you a case closed or a to be continued.

Conditionally To be continued.

Hand rail for side-door steps.

Thursday, September 10, 2020.

For some time Sue has been asking me to build a hand rail for the side door which opens onto the car port. Rails of this kind are usually metal or at least wood supported by metal structures. I am a woodworker not a metal worker so I designed a rail that was not only made of wood but was also supported by wood.

It had to be held in place by led anchors set in holes drilled with a masonry bit. Most people know to buy a masonry bit for this purpose but not all know that there is a special drill designed for drilling through what is basically rock. It's called a hammer drill. This is not to be confused with an impact drill. They are completely different animals and one won't substitute for the other. If you have more than one hole to drill, don't even think of doing it with a standard drill. The progress rate for a standard drill is about 1 inch per hour. When a hammer drill is used it is about 6 minutes of drilling time for an inch of progress. I say that because it is wise to stop every two minutes to let the bit cool and rest your hands and arms from the intense vibration produced by the hammering of the drill.

The wooden structure, made of 2 by 4, holds the bottom of the sheet of plywood in place, and spaces it out from the steps so it won't interfere with opening the door and places it at the right distance for holding onto the rail while ascending or descending the steps.

You may think it's a little odd to stain wood surfaces that will not be visible after the project is finished. When it comes to finishing wood I am pretty much a "Johnny one note". I have found a product which contains stain and varnish in one. It seemed a waste to buy a new can of clear varnish to finish wood that will never be seen. The purpose of the finish is to seal the wood against moisture. As it is under the protection of the car port it will not be exposed to direct sun or rain but it is still outside and will feel the high, often 100 %, humidity of a typical Kentucky early morning. The support frame is held to the car port slab by 4 bolts in anchors and the brick wall by one.

It's not quite finished. I need to cut 4 pieces of plywood to fit between the steps and rail panel. Then they need to be seal coated. Everything else has 8 coats so I guess that will be enough. I am going to put a temporary piece over the largest hole which a foot could go through. That should keep it safe until I have recovered enough of my strength to get back to work in the shop.

Wednesday, September 30, 2020.

Below left shows how the upper end of the plywood sheet is supported and strengthened. Right shows Sue testing out the real thing. It met with her approval.

Brick is harder than concrete and in times past when all I had was a conventional drill I elected to drill into a mortar joint. Since then I have heard that this is bad for the structural strength of the wall. But with the hammer drill going into a brick didn't take long at all.

Below left a late afternoon sunlight view of the wooden steps, right just after sunset a flash shot of the steps showing more detail.

I couldn't figure out how to make my fancy schmancy Nikon camera add fill flash to a brightly lit and shadowed scene. No matter what mode I set it to the flash menu showed auto and off. I had to wait until after sunset before the flash would fire. Does anybody out there know how it's done?

Here is a better picture showing the entire structure taken after sunset

Case Closed.

Vacuum Tube Curve Tracer.

Monday, April 01, 2019.

This is not an April Fool joke.

On February first 2019 I received an email message from Circuit Specialists notifying me that they had added a semiconductor curve tracer to their product line. For many years, decades now, I have owned a Heathkit semiconductor curve tracer adapter that plugged into a standard oscilloscope. Its maximum voltage is 200 volts which is marginal for vacuum tubes. Somehow it never worked very well on tubes and as it aged it didn't work well on any device.

The one from C S has a maximum test voltage of 500 volts which is not only enough to give a good shock it is plenty for amplifier triodes as well as low and medium power pentodes. And it works with BJTs and FETs to boot. And it was on sale.

No use in clicking the blue button. It's just an image. To get to the real page click here. Image captured April first 2019. The link still works but the price has gone up. I did say I got it on sale.

Although I do occasionally work with discrete transistors and integrated circuits I tinker around with vacuum tubes more often. That says my primary reason for buying the new curve tracer is to use it with tubes. To that end I designed and built a tube test fixture to plug into the tracer. But first here is some information about the tracer itself.

Some Preliminary Information.

When a graph of characteristic curves of a tube or transistor are presented in a data sheet or book they are referred to as a family of curves. This term will appear throughout the following description of the curve tracer. This article will also include detailed operating instructions. The operating manual that came with this instrument is written in clear English although the syntax is a little unusual in places. The problem with it is it is rather brief. The writer appears to have assumed that the reader is already familiar with curve tracers in general. Many details of operation have been omitted.


It is exactly what it looks like, a traditional CRT oscilloscope with the sloping test panel at the bottom of the front as first done by Tektronix in their original tube curve tracer and since used in their semiconductor curve tracer and copied by HP and others including this latest example.

I don't know if they used a CRT instead of an LCD panel because the latter doesn't work well in X-Y mode or because CRTs actually cost less to make than LCDs.

There is no scale illumination on the CRT so pictures of the display cannot be taken in total darkness. If that were possible the intensity could be turned down to give a much sharper display.

The above picture contains a mistake in the setup. I came just that far, thumb and for finger held a centimeter apart, from making an embarrassing phone call to Circuit Specialists customer support. When the LEFT and RIGHT radio buttons are pressed in sequence they show a family of curves with the bottom curve making the bottom line across the bottom of the screen as it should. When the DUAL button is pushed in, the two displays are elevated. Look at the locking button (in or out) switch that is located center and above the DUAL radio button. It is in the TRANS position instead of the FET position as it should have been for checking pairs of FETs for matching. If I had made that call to customer support they probably would have been polite enough not to call me a stupid ass but they would probably have wanted to. In any case I surely would have felt like one when they told me what I was doing wrong. Don't want to feel like a stupid ass? When matching transistors, either BJTs or FETs, be sure to put the push button switch in the correct position.

The Controls.

Oscilloscope Controls.


The CURRENT/DIV knob has 3 distinct areas. Starting at the fully clockwise position they are IR reverse current of a diode. That is plugged into the IR test terminals. Next is IC collector current in mA milliamps. And finally is IC in amps for some real power. It may appear to you as if the knob pointer is between 1 and 2 mA/div. It's not an optical illusion. When the knob is fully clockwise the pointer and the numbers are in alignment. As the knob is rotated counter clockwise the pointer gets progressively ahead of the number positions. The error can be more clearly seen on the HORIZONTAL VOLTS/DIV control. The CURRENT/DIV knob is in the 1 mA/div position and the VOLTS/DIV knob is in the 50 volts/div position. Look at the part of the knob closest to the panel not the front.

The instrument I received after being repaired appears to be a different unit. The detent positions of the switches now line up with the panel markings as they should. I didn't specifically ask them to repair this problem. Perhaps they read this page.

The x0.5 pushbutton will double the size of the display in the vertical dimension.

The position knob works exactly the same as on any other oscilloscope you have ever used.

The INV (invert) locking pushbutton inverts both vertical and horizontal when pushed in. This is to permit viewing of the curves of PNP transistors or P channel FETs without standing on your head.


The VOLTS/DIV knob has 3 distinct areas. Starting at the fully clockwise position they are VBE base to emitter voltage on a BJT or gate to source voltage on an FET, VCE collector to emitter voltage on a BJT or drain to source voltage on an FET, and VR reverse voltage on a diode. The latter has not been implemented on this test set. Note that a voltage of 500 volts/div times 10 div is 5000 volts. When the switch is rotated from 50 volts/div to 100 volts/div the voltage goes to zero.

There is a funny symbol at the fully counter clockwise end of the VOLTS/DIV and CURRENT/DIV controls. If the +/- locking pushbutton in the STEP GENERATOR area is in the + position (out) and the volts and current controls are set to the symbol a trail of dots goes diagonally up the screen. This is for calibration. The tiny dots are useful for adjusting the FOCUS control. These settings are supposed to be for adjusting horizontal and vertical positioning while a device is being traced. These adjustments can be made with greater accuracy just by looking at the displayed family of curves and adjusting for the bottom line on the bottom grid line and the dot at the lower left corner of the family to the left grid line. These adjustments are critical if transistor parameters are to be read from the curves.

The TRACE SEPARATION control works only when the DUAL button on the TEST SET is pushed in. It will be explained when the topic of matching transistors is discussed.

The position control works the same as on any oscilloscope.

Biasing the DUT (device under test).

Collector / Drain Supply Voltage.

The MAX PEAK VOLTS is a set of radio buttons. They select voltages of 5, 20, 100, and 500 volts at maximum current ratings of 10, 2.5, 0.5, and 0.1 amps respectively. The VARIABLE COLLECTOR% knob permits adjustment from 0 to 100% of the selected value.

The SERIES RESISTANCE Ω selects a wide range of values. These are set to prevent the DUT from dissipating too much power.

Thursday, April 04, 2019.

Base Current or Gate Voltage.

The STEP/OFFSET AMPL* knob sets the amount by which the current or voltage changes with each step. It has three distinct areas. They are milliamps for power BJTs, microamps for small signal BJTs, and volts for FETs.
* I wouldn't have called it that. If I had my way I would remove the word OFFSET calling it STEP AMPLITUDE or STEP VALUE.

Below the OFFSET knob is a locking pushbutton that is marked only with the symbols + and - (plus and minus). This is the polarity reversing control. Use plus for NPN BJTs and P channel depletion mode FETs. Use minus for PNP BJTs, N channel depletion mode fets, or vacuum tubes.

Below the step control is a set of radio buttons that select the value of series resistance. I'm not certain of the reason for this feature. When operating as a source of base current it is a current source. And as we all know a perfect current source has infinite impedance. Add any number to infinity and you've still got infinity. When the step generator is supplying gate voltage to an FET the source resistance should be as low as possible to be sure of fast switching of the stair step function. This is especially true for high capacitance MOSFETs. Some resistance could be permitted to protect the voltage source against shorted devices. Since we have some choice set the resistance to the lowest value of 1 k ohm.

To the right of the three resistance selector buttons are two more that allow a change from continuous display to single sweep. When the button on the right is pushed in the display is turned off and when the second from the right is pressed the family of curves is swept once.

This feature was probably included to permit photography that is free of blurring caused by jitter. This requires a camera mounted in a shroud for complete darkness. I had one that I had made to mount an earlier camera to an earlier scope. The camera still works and the shroud was easily modified to fit this scope. But the problem was there is no scale illumination on this scope. The scale lines were only visible where they were crossed by a trace line and it was impossible to make accurate readings from a picture. I had tried to modify the shroud to allow just enough light to enter to render the scale visible but the lighting was uneven and the reflection of the camera became visible in the pictures. The only solution I can come up with is to tripod mount the camera and take pictures under normal room lighting. The scanning is slow enough that a 1/10 second exposure time is necessary. That's too slow for a hand held shot. Eventually I'll take the covers off the scope to see if a modification is practical.

The NUMBER OF STEPS is an analog control that acts like a digital one. The Heathkit tracer did exactly the same thing. When the knob is fully counter clockwise five levels are generated which gives rise to 5 curves in the family. As the knob is rotated clockwise curves are added one by one until the total number reaches eleven.

The OFFSET control is a bit tricky to adjust. When tracing a BJT the OPEN button on the TEST SET panel is depressed and held and the position of the single line is noted. It is usually desirable to adjust the vertical position control to place the line exactly on the bottom line of the grid scale. Then the OPEN button is released and the OFFSET is adjusted so the very bottom line of the family of curves falls on the bottom line of the grid. When tracing a depletion mode fet or a vacuum tube the SHORT button is depressed and held. All but the uppermost curve will disappear. Release the short button and adjust the OFFSET control until the top curve of the family is in the same place it was when the SHORT button was depressed. This adjustment can be made easier by repeatedly pressing and releasing the SHORT button.

Note: I have not as yet been able to produce any display from an enhancement mode MOSFET. Later I will present evidence that the designers haven't had any better luck than I have.

Some Additional Controls.

CRT Controls.

The OFF ON locking pushbutton turns the unit off when out and on when in.

The red POWER LED indicates that power is on.

The INTENSITY control adjusts the brightness of the display.

The FOCUS control adjust the focus of the display.

The TRACE ROTATION permits a screwdriver to be used to align the CRT trace with the grid lines on the screen.


The collector supply is derived from the power line and so is a half cycle of the line frequency. This means that the voltage and current go up and come back down. (Note: This is in contrast to the approaches of Tektronix and HP who used a linear upward sweep, then blanked the CRT beam for the retrace.) The main problem with the up and down approach is hysteresis. An example will illustrate. Suppose that a BJT (bipolar junction transistor) is being traced with a peak collector voltage of 20 volts. On its way up to 20 volts it passes through 10 volts. Suppose at this point going up that the current is 1.25 mA. Now on its way back down the voltage once again passes through 10 volts but this time the current is 1.21 mA. This is hysteresis. Meaning that the current depends on whether the voltage came up from below or down from above. The value depends on its history. Economizing on the generation of collector voltage requires some additional circuitry and two controls. I wonder if this is a false economy.

You may think that one setting fits all but this is not so. If you set the vertical range switch to .02 mA/DIV you will get what appears to be a high sensitivity indicator of proper adjustment for the LOOP and COMPENSATION controls. But when you start playing with the NUMBER OF STEPS control you will see that every other number of curves gives a good set of curves while the alternate numbers give a very bad one. You must adjust the two controls for the best looking family of curves for all settings of the NUMBER OF STEPS control.

Friday, April 05, 2019.


The TEST SET is where the transistor test fixtures are plugged into sets of banana jacks to connect the DUT to the testing circuitry. There are pushbutton controls to set the mode of operation and help with adjustment of the controls on the oscilloscope front panel. (Note: The TEST SET is apparently removable. There are two chrome plated knurled knobs on the front of the TEST SET. I cropped them out to allow the images to be as large as possible. I have no information on what other test sets are available for this unit.

LEFT, RIGHT, and DUAL, radio buttons.

When the LEFT button is pressed the testing circuits are connected to the left hand set of jacks. When the RIGHT button is pressed the testing circuits are connected to the right hand set of jacks. When the DUAL button is pressed switching circuitry in the test set alternates connection between left and right jacks. When DUAL mode is used the locking pushbutton above the DUAL button must be correctly set for BJT (TRANS) or FET devices. Failure to do so may cause you to make an unnecessary call to customer support as I related above.

The two remaining buttons are to aid in adjusting the OFFSET control in the STEP GENERATOR area. They are both spring return buttons. The OPEN button is used in conjunction with BJTs. When it is held down the base connection is opened setting the base current to zero. The OFFSET control is adjusted so the bottom line of the family of curves does not change as the button is depressed and released.

The SHORT button is used in conjunction with depletion mode FETs and vacuum tubes. When it is pressed the gate is shorted to the source, (grid shorted to cathode). When the button is pressed and held all but the top most curve disappear. The OFFSET control is adjusted so that the one remaining curve aligns with the top most curve of the family.

Saturday, April 6, 2019.

Tracing a BJT.

Calling a three terminal semiconductor device a transistor is incomplete information. "Do you mean a bipolar junction transistor or a field effect transistor?" You could call it a non FET but it seems more economical of ink to call it by the initials of its name, BJT. Apparently the Chinese engineers who designed this puppy weren't well enough acquainted with the English names of things to know this. With that little detail out of the way we can get on with it.

A curve tracer is not a simple device to operate. I used to have my students at the university do a lab experiment around the Heathkit unit. (My department head was not willing to buy one that was more sophisticated than that.) The result was two or three burned out transistors a year and a blown fuse in the tracer every couple of years. The reason is there is not one right setup for a given transistor. It depends on what it is about the device the user wants to see.

Rules of Thumb To Avoid Burning Out a Transistor Under Test.

First of all you must determine the polarity of the transistor you are going to test. Here are the proper settings.


INV button on blue line between VERTICAL and HORIZ sections: Out, +
INV button in COLLECTOR SUPPLY area: Out, +
+/- button in STEP GENERATOR area: Out, +


INV button on blue line between VERTICAL and HORIZ sections: In, -
INV button in COLLECTOR SUPPLY area: In -
+/- button in STEP GENERATOR area: In, -

N Channel FET.

INV button on blue line between VERTICAL and HORIZ sections: Out, +
INV button in COLLECTOR SUPPLY area: Out, +
+/- button in STEP GENERATOR area: In, -

P Channel FET.

INV button on blue line between VERTICAL and HORIZ sections: In, -
INV button in COLLECTOR SUPPLY area: In -
+/- button in STEP GENERATOR area: Out, +

BJTs Only.

To-92, TO-5, and Similar Sizes, without heatsink.

Setup the Tracer Before Connecting the Transistor.

For TO-92 CURRENT/DIV: 1 mA.
NUMBER OF STEPS: fully counter clockwise.
OFFSET: center of rotation.
Connect the transistor. Advance the STEP/OFFSET AMPL clockwise until the display is as large as it can be without overflowing the screen.

At this setting the transistor will become warm to the touch. If you want to increase the voltage to discover the secondary breakdown voltage, decrease the base current setting and increase the amount of SERIES RESISTANCE Ω.

Adjusting the OFFSET CONTROL for a BJT.

When tracing a BJT it is possible to deceive yourself and misadjust the OFFSET control. Be careful! With a normal BJT family of curves on the screen press and hold the OPEN button on the TEST SET. While continuing to hold the button adjust the vertical position control to position the line exactly on the bottom grid line on the screen. Release the OPEN button. Turn the OFFSET control in the STEP GENERATOR area of the control panel. Note that the whole family moves up and down. But no curve moves below the bottom grid line. Turn the offset control fully clockwise to be sure you are seeing the bottom most curve. Turn the control counter clockwise until this trace falls exactly on the bottom grid line. Stop turning at this point. Press and release the OPEN button a few times to be sure the bottom trace does not move.

TO-220, TO-202, and similar sizes, without heatsink.

Setup the Tracer Before Connecting the Transistor.

NUMBER OF STEPS: fully counter clockwise.
OFFSET: center of rotation.
Connect the transistor. Advance the STEP/OFFSET AMPL clockwise until the display is as large as it can be without overflowing the screen.

At this setting the transistor will become warm to the touch. If you want to increase the voltage to discover the secondary breakdown voltage, decrease the base current setting and increase the amount of SERIES RESISTANCE Ω.

Adjusting the OFFSET CONTROL for a BJT.

When tracing a BJT it is possible to deceive yourself and misadjust the OFFSET control. Be careful! With a normal BJT family of curves on the screen press and hold the OPEN button on the TEST SET. While continuing to hold the button adjust the vertical position control to position the line exactly on the bottom grid line on the screen. Release the OPEN button. Turn the OFFSET control in the STEP GENERATOR area of the control panel. Note that the whole family moves up and down. But no curve moves below the bottom grid line. Turn the offset control fully clockwise to be sure you are seeing the bottom most curve. Turn the control counter clockwise until this trace falls exactly on the bottom grid line. Stop turning at this point. Press and release the OPEN button a few times to be sure the bottom trace does not move.

TO-3, and similar sizes, without heatsink.

Setup the Tracer Before Connecting the Transistor.

NUMBER OF STEPS: fully counter clockwise.
OFFSET: center of rotation.
Connect the transistor. Advance the STEP/OFFSET AMPL clockwise until the display is as large as it can be without overflowing the screen.

At this setting the transistor will become warm to the touch. If you want to increase the voltage to discover the secondary breakdown voltage, decrease the base current setting and increase the amount of SERIES RESISTANCE Ω.

Adjusting the OFFSET CONTROL for a BJT.

When tracing a BJT it is possible to deceive yourself and misadjust the OFFSET control. Be careful! With a normal BJT family of curves on the screen press and hold the OPEN button on the TEST SET. While continuing to hold the button adjust the vertical position control to position the line exactly on the bottom grid line on the screen. Release the OPEN button. Turn the OFFSET control in the STEP GENERATOR area of the control panel. Note that the whole family moves up and down. But no curve moves below the bottom grid line. Turn the offset control fully clockwise to be sure you are seeing the bottom most curve. Turn the control counter clockwise until this trace falls exactly on the bottom grid line. Stop turning at this point. Press and release the OPEN button a few times to be sure the bottom trace does not move.

Sunday, April 7, 2019.

Depletion mode FETs Only.

To-92, TO-5, and Similar Sizes, without heatsink.

Setup the Tracer Before Connecting the Transistor.

Feel free to change this setting if the trace goes off the screen or only comes up a little distance from the bottom.
NUMBER OF STEPS: fully counter clockwise.
OFFSET: center of rotation.
Connect the transistor. You should see something like this.

The STEP GENERATOR always starts from zero regardless of the polarity setting. When the gate to source voltage of a FET is at or very near zero the drain current is at a maximum.* Rotate the STEP/OFFSET AMPL counter clockwise and you will see the traces separating and moving down from the top most one which doesn't move. You can adjust the STEP/OFFSET AMPL and the NUMBER OF STEPS controls to obtain a display that looks the way you want it.

* because the gate to channel is a silicon PN junction it is possible for the bias to be positive without any gate current. A junction FET can be operated in this region although it is rarely done in practice.

Adjusting the Offset control For an F E T.

Rotate the Offset control in the STEP GENERATOR area of the control panel. Note that the entire family of curves moves up and down as you do so. Press and hold the SHORT button. This places a short between gate and source. Note that a single trace appears. Release the button. Because you just disturbed it the top trace of the family probably is not in the same place as the single trace. Repeatedly press and release the SHORT button while adjusting the OFFSET control until the top trace is in exactly the same place as the single trace that appears when the button is pressed.

Higher Power depletion FETs or MOSFETs.

Power depletion mode FETs are not encountered very often but when one is you will likely want to trace it. The only change would be to set the CURRENT/DIV control to 5 or 10 mA instead of 2. Feel free to change the setting if the trace goes off the screen or only comes up a little distance from the bottom.

Calculating Power dissipation in the DUT.

As we all know the power in any device is the RMS voltage times the RMS current provided there is no phase shift. The collector or drain voltage is a full wave rectified sine wave so the RMS is easy, RMS volts = 0.707 x peak volts.

RMS current is not as trivial. Take the picture below as an example. A high precision way to find the RMS current would be to wright the equation for each curve as two straight lines then multiply the equation by a half cycle sine wave and integrate the equation and obtain the RMS value of current. This is heavier mathematics than we care to take on. We will make some approximations. 1) The vertical part of each line is exactly vertical and occurs at zero volts. 2) The generally horizontal part of the lines are truly horizontal. That looks like a bit of a stretch but with most transistors the lines do not slope upward as much as the one shown. This makes the current waveform versus time into a half cycle sine wave with a peak value given by the vertical reading at the tip of the line. 3) Although the voltage at the tip of each line is a little different we will ignore the difference as long as it is no larger than shown in this trace. 4) The spacing between values of peak current is constant. ,The peak values of current are,

I, 2I, 3I, 4I, and 5I.

I will factor out of this so there is no need to lug it around with us.

IRMS =I x square root ((1 + 4 + 9 + 16 + 25)/5) = 3.317

Where I is the average value of difference values between peak current values as read from the scope. The number 3.317 is unique to 5 curves. The bottom line which has the value zero doesn't count.

For the picture above the vertical setting was 10 mA/div and the horizontal was 5 v/div. With these settings the average current step seems to be about 1.5 div which makes the current step I = 15 mA. The average peak voltage is about 50 volts. Therefor,

P = V x I x 0.7072 x 3.317 = V x I x 0.5 x 3.317.

P = 50 x 15 x 10-3 x 0.5 x 3.317 = 1.24 watts.

The heating of the transistor is consistent with this amount of power.

Tuesday, April 09, 2019.

Matching Transistors.

The photo below shows a pair of MPF102 FETs being compared. Finding exact matched pairs can be tedious but this curve tracer makes it a little easier. You still need a large number of devices and a generis helping of patients. The trace separation control can be used to move the two traces very close together but they won't move to the total overlap position. This may be due to a mistaken internal adjustment or a mistake on the part of the designers. To judge the most precise matching it would be necessary to have the two families of curves exactly overlaid.

Matching JFETs.

Matching BJTs.

The setup of the controls is clearly visible in the photo. Now, what was that about a picture being worth some number of somethings? I forget.

Something is rotten in Denmark.
There is trouble in River City.
And things are not altogether right in Bowling Green either.

The circuits that supply base current to a BJT and gate voltage to an F E T aren't completely working. While the left hand set of test jacks is fine there are problems with the right hand test jacks. Also if the voltage or current is negative there is no problem either. When the voltage or current is supposed to be positive it is approximately 100 times smaller than it should be. It is possible this was a problem right out of the box. I didn't discover it until April 9th. That's why I didn't show matching a pair of BJTs. Attempting that was how I discovered the problem. Circuit Specialists appears to have a 30 day limit on returns for replacement which I am way past. I'm going to make the case as above but I doubt it will work. I'll have to repack it and ship it back at my expense to get it repaired. Further reports will appear as soon as I know anything. Stay tuned.

Thursday, December 05, 2019.

Here is how the matching of BJTs is supposed to look.

Matching BJTs.

As with FETs, matching BJTs requires a stock of transistors and a generous supply of patients.

Holey parallax Batman! In the tracer I originally had, the graticule appeared to be etched into the inside of the screen in the manner of quality oscilloscopes made after about 1970. See any other photo except the one above. In this one the graticule is clearly outside of the CRT. What a bummer. I guess I had better get to work on those X and Y outputs for my DSO.

Now, Back to Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Tracing Tube Curves.

Note: While I negotiated with Circuit Specialists over returning the curve tracer I continued to work on the tube test fixture. That part of the tracer was functioning properly so I was able to continue working.

Sometimes I wonder about the utility of a transistor curve tracer. There is so much variation from one to another of the same type number as to make a procedure such as load line analysis totally useless. On the other hand the few of us who are old enough to have been taught load line analysis in trade school or university know how powerful a tool it is in design of vacuum tube amplifiers. To that end I have built a tube test fixture. This is just the first of what is at present an unknown number.

Tube Test Fixture Mark I.

This is built using the 5E boards available from this website. These boards snap together. My first thought was to glue them but it seems that a glue that will really stick to plastic has yet to be invented. I was forced to use metal and screws as you can see in the pictures below.

This fixture is made primarily to test dual triodes for matching. They are wired for the 12A_7 series but it appears that there was a defacto standard for dual triodes. Because there was some room left over I decided to add two 7 pin sockets for matching pairs of 6C4s. They could also be used to match pairs of any 7 pin tube including pentodes. This should be the only one of this size that I need to make.

Below you see the fixture mounted on the TEST SET. The 6 holes give access to the 6 pushbutton controls. There are a little small for a finger but the end of a nut driver is the perfect tool to push a button.

The color coding of wires from the dual triode socket is; Blue - Plate, Green - Grid, and Black - Cathode. Pin 9 comes out to the yellow jack on the front for parallel heater connection. I might change this later making it easier to trace a 9 pin tube other than a dual triode such as a triode - pentode. There's no law that says you have to exactly duplicate my version.

On the seven pin sockets the coding is by the numbers. Brown-1, Red-2, 5-Green, 6-Blue, and 7-violet. Pins 3 and 4 are wired to the two Green jacks on the front. The black and red jacks are for the purpose of feeding constant DC screen grid voltage to the tube under test. The black jack is wired to the TEST SET's ground through a modular connector so it can be changed if needed. The red jack is wired to a connector in the center of the board at the front.

Above you see the two families of curves for the two triodes in a 12AY7. In the picture below the TRACE SEPARATION control has been used to bring the two together. There is a slight mismatch between the two sections. Ideally both sets of curves should end at the same Y coordinates. Estimating matching would be a little easier if the designers had permitted the two traces to get much closer together if not exactly overlaid. This would have permitted each user to decide how close together he or she wanted them rather than imposing a limit decided by someone who is thousands of miles away.

Supplied Test Fixtures.

In the pictures above that have the caption "Matching BJTs" and "Matching JFETs" you can clearly see the test fixtures for small transistors such as TO-92 and TO-5. These do their job well. They also supplied a fixture for diodes but mine arrived in about 7 pieces. It has now been replaced.

Also supplied were two fixtures for the TO-220 package which is useless. Here is a picture.

On the left is a TO-220 package and the right is a TO-202. That may not be the right number but if it isn't I'm sure someone will let me know.

The idea is that the hole in the transistor's tab is to be pushed down over the end of a banana plug that partially protrudes from the fixture. Some TO-220s and most TO-202s have holes that will not fit over the plug as you can see.

And furthermore the leads are supposed to be bent outward to fit into the holes. I contemplated enlarging the holes but it was obvious that this would not be sufficient to allow the leads to be bent without the possibility of breakage. Where they need to be bent is within the wide part of the lead. It is about as likely to break as bend. A very sharp bend at the end of the wide part is also likely to result in a broken lead and a useless transistor. The TO-202 is even worse off. I doubt if any amount of reforming of the leads would get them into the holes.

To put it simply and bluntly, this is slip shod design. You would think a manufacturing company, even a Chinese one, would be ashamed to put something like this on the market but it seems that shame, along with many other things, is something that is no longer being taught to the younger members of society worldwide.

Before sending it off for repair I was already planning how to make these fixtures useful.

I ordered some of those 16 pin sockets with a flip lever that allows leads to go in easily and then locks them firmly in place. The leads on a TO220 are spaced at one tenth of an inch so these sockets are good for this even though they have a few extra pins. My plan is to make provision for mounting the DUT on a small heatsink with its leads in three contacts of the socket. That way the transistor need not be deformed for tracing and it will even have a little more tolerance of higher current or voltage. This is the plan. Watch this page for its outcome. From here on out everything will be in the present space time continuum.

Wednesday, December 04, 2019.

I shipped off the tracer in late May and it arrived back on my doorstep last Friday the 29th of November. It must have been shipped all the way back to China for repair. But in the end they sent me a different one from the one I sent off. The offset of the numbers from the detents has been fixed. Perhaps a new unit was the only way to fix this problem. It is fully functional and there was no charge. I will continue to do business with Circuit Specialists. However I will do a thorough checkout of everything I buy from them so as not to have to talk my way around their very short return time limit.

All in all I can't complain very much about the performance of the repaired instrument. I wish it had scale illumination. I also wish it had X and Y outputs so I could feed the signal to my digital scope. This DSO performs quite well in X Y mode provided I get the sample rate right for the signals. The sample rate is set by the time sweep which must be properly set before going into X Y mode. Other than that it is perfectly normal.

Friday, December 13, 2019.

Enhancement Mode MOSFETS.

Much earlier I promised you a comment about the instruction manual and MOSFETs. It appears that the builders of this tracer have not had any better luck than I have at getting curves for enhancement mode MOSFETs. There is not a word or picture about it in the instruction manual. So much for that.

I am going back to work with the coil winder some more so it may be a while before I get back to the tracer. I think I'm going to say "Warranty and factory repairs be damned" and tap into the amplifiers to bring the signals out for display on my DSO. The advantages of that are large. One is accuracy. As you have seen above the graticule is etched on a plate in front of the CRT rather than being on the inside of the tube. The other is transferring images to the internet. With the DSO this can be done with the push of a button instead of setting up my camera on a tripod to take a picture of the screen.

To Be Continued.

Want A Good Laugh?

Friday, March 29, 2019.

The little module shown in the photo below is being advertised as a 60 watt amplifier.

Worse than that it is being sold by Amazon. So much for a trusted site.

You can see the voltage rating of the capacitors. If you use a split power supply of plus and minus 25 volts and assume the full swing of 50 volts peak to peak is possible you could get 39 watts into an 8 ohm load or 52 watts into 6 ohms. Sure you could! For about 250 milliseconds before the output transistors liquefied. Yet there are people who will believe it. What a world.

Saturday, April 20, 2019.

Now you will get an even bigger laugh as you watch me eat my words.

Chomp, chomp, chomp. Chew, chew, chew. Gulp. Burp. Someone who is not on our list informed me that this is a class D amplifier based on an IC chip made for the purpose. It is filter free. I wonder how that works. With 28 volts applied it will put 38.6 watts into 8 ohms while drawing 1.6 amps DC. To save you the trouble of reaching for your calculator that's 44.8 watts and an efficiency of 86.2 %. The chip shuts down above 28 volts. Using my newly acquired noncontact thermometer I measured one of the transistors at 199 degrees F. The power is rated into 4 ohms so I have to give them the 60 watt rating with a little to spare. You can't ground either side of the load (speaker). Fortunately the negative of the power supply and the common of the input are connected together so no special input transformer is required. Because it is so compact the entire board gets quite warm. I measured the capacitor's temperature at 140 degrees. A small fan would probably be a good idea although most music listeners don't like to have a fan whirring away in their listening room. Perhaps this amplifier is aimed at the electric instrument market where the small noise of a fan would be lost among the twangs and distortion. Mounting the board on a heatsink would be a good idea if a suitable electrical insulator and thermal bond could be devised.

Case Closed.

Where Have I been For the Last Four plus Months?

Thursday, March 28, 2019.

Well, let's see if I can remember that far back. I was just getting ready to start on refining my coil winding technique and the winder itself. I wanted to wind coils with different "gear ratios" to see how that change would affect the inductance, Q, and self resonant frequency. Note: (The old way of changing the tightness of the coil was to change physical gears on the Morris coil winder to change the relative speed of the camshaft and coil shaft. In my version all I have to do is change the ratio of frequencies sent to the stepper motor controllers. The effect is the same as changing physical gears but I am not limited by the number of teeth on a gear.) Also the next refinement I was contemplating was to add an electronic turns counter with automatic shutoff. This should improve the repeatability of coils produced with the machine.

The first thing to get in the way were the Christmas and new year's holidays. In addition to college bowl games, and the NFL playoffs, there was my birthday inconveniently placed 3 days before Christmas. I had no control over that. My mother always claimed she had no control either.

Then Circuit Specialists Rolled out a semiconductor curve tracer with high enough voltage and current ranges to be truly useful as a tube curve tracer. It also has a low enough price to be attractive to the home brewer. Eventually I will cover it under the "Reviews" heading. As you probably already guessed I bought one. I set the coil winder aside and started making test fixtures for tubes.

Then my antique man brought me a radio he wanted fixed. So the tube testing jigs got pushed onto the stack and the radio held down a spot on my workbench for a couple of weeks. Note: (Only old time assembly language programmers will know what a stack is and how to use it.)

Next I got into a round of email correspondents with someone about stabilizing the feedback loop of an amplifier. I talked him into buying a Circuit Gear Soft scope and network analyzer, model 201. I had used the 101 for an article on how to do that but the software would not install in Windows 10. To keep up with him I bought the 201. Then I returned to the Newcomb D-10 to see if I could win this time. It had defeated me on our last go round. That story is a new article and its link can be found at or near the top of the "New" section on the home page of this site. After going another 10 rounds with the Newcomb I declared a victory and put it back on the shelf.

By this time my workbench was so cluttered I couldn't work on it without cleaning it up. Project "Find the top of your workbench" is just about finished and I will soon pop the tube testing jigs off the stack and give you a full report as they are completed.

Case closed.

Winding I F coils.

Previously on Adventures in Coil Winding…

Our intrepid hero was given part of a Morris coil winder by Bill and bought another one on eBay to emulate Bill's setup. Then he felt overwhelmed by the complexity of the whole process and had doubts about going on with the project. After some consideration he found new confidence and decided to forge ahead. He assembled his coil winder powered by stepper motors and successfully wound a total of 12 coils. He also tested several solder fluxes and several methods of coil doping. Details can be seen at the page on winding IF transformers.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018. Making transformers from the coils.

I had ordered some polycarbonate rod from McMaster Car to support the coils. I thought I could make the square end pieces from sheet plastic I had on hand. It was only 0.09 inches thick so my plan was to glue two pieces of it together. In the past someone had recommended the use of silicon rubber to glue Plexiglas together but I found that the bond was not very strong. Crystal Clear Gorilla glue makes a strong bond but the pieces move on each other and it's hard to keep them lined up while placing a heavy object on top to clamp them together. It's best to glue first and cut and drill after. I found some 1/4 inch sheets at Home Depot which solved the glue up problem. Here is what they look like.

The 4 copper wires are for electrical connection and add no significant structural strength to the assembly. The polycarbonate rod is made slightly oversized and is a very snug fit in a 1/4 inch hole. The square end pieces had to be tapped onto the ends of the rod with a small hammer.

These transformers will use the same tin plated steel cans made by J. Ed. Earlier these were found to reduce the Q of coils inserted into them.

Table X, Q of coils as effected by Shield Can.
Coil # Q Shield
10 88 None
12 86 None
10 58.5 Tin Plated
12 58.2 Tin Plated
10 64 TPS Can Lined with
Copper Foil Tape
12 63 TPS Can Lined with
Copper Foil Tape

The transformers behave quite differently when in or out of the shield cans. That means that the coupling (distance between coils) must be adjusted in small increments and the transformer reinserted into the shield for the measurement. Also the can must be grounded to the system ground. We can take measurements from the scope screen shots below and learn something about the transformers.

Input impedance = VCH2 R / (VIN - VCH2

ZIN = 1.56 x 470 k ohms / (10 - 1.56) = 86.7 k ohms.

Insertion loss = 20 LOG (VCH2 / VCH1)
Measured at the same frequency.

Loss = 20 LOG(1.61 / 1.42) = 1.1 dB.

Because the output is slightly higher than the input the second transformer has insertion gain rather than insertion loss. Because of this it took two pictures to show everything.

Making the same calculations for transformer 2 as for 1 gives.

ZIN = 1.65 x 470 k ohms / (10 - 1.65) = 92.6 k ohms.

Gain = 20 LOG(1.74 / 1.65) = 0.5 dB.

I'm beginning to think that this coil winding business is more of a black art than a science. In the case of transformer 1 the slight asymmetry of the secondary voltage curve indicates over coupling. But if I pushed the coils any farther apart the loss factor began to climb. Perhaps I should have tried to achieve equal bandwidth in the two and losses be damned. But I didn't and the bobbins on which the coils are wound are glued to the polycarbonate rod with Crystal Clear Gorilla Glue. In the early part of the drying phase it behaves somewhat like rubber cement including the ability to roll off glue that is where you don't want it. But when it is fully dry it is much stronger than any rubber cement ever imagined. It might be called super industrial strength rubber cement.

I am returning Ed's transformers to him but all he will get back will be the original TPS cans and the trimmer capacitors. I have replaced his original wooden structure with plastic and the coils with ones wound with litz wire in a standard winding. This has added considerable value so I don't expect Ed to complain.

My next step is to try making the tin cans myself. I have all the necessary tools but the precision cutting required is likely to test my ability to cut a straight line on my band saw.

Stay Tuned.

Chinese Function Generator.

J Ed steered me to An inexpensive function generator that might work for sweeping low frequency IF transformers and filters. It was only $50 so I decided to get one and ring it out to see just how good it really is. It's a FeelTech FY3200S. It came with the manual on a CD ROM but it is for a 2200. The manual is written in such broken English that is almost incomprehensible. The generator does not have a high resolution screen and so does not have soft keys. The menus are accessed by repeatedly pressing the keys. This makes it less intuitive and harder to learn. The manual does not make the learning process any easier. I did finally figure out how to setup the sweep. However I have failed so far to store the setup in memory and recall it. For setup information and a scope picture see this location.

Case Closed.

Returning to Ham Radio.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018.

To Be Started Tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018.

An old song says "Tomorrow never comes" but it seems to be here. After the fiasco with the ubitx I was about to give up but I had this brand new antenna installed on my tower so, what to do? Once again K8HSY came to the rescue. He told me about a second hand Kenwood 570 that was for sale from a local reliable source. His wife drove me, my wife, and Ron over to Glasgow where the man lived. He had it set up and connected to an antenna so I could test it hands on. After a couple of minutes of tuning I was in love and knew I wanted it. The power supply, 2 microphones and speaker were included in the price which made it an even better deal. He also had for sale a giant SWR meter and an antenna bridge both made by MFJ. These products had not received good reviews on Amazon but I figured that because they had been owned and used by a ham who was also an engineer they would be in good working condition. My conclusion proved to be correct.

The W5GI mystery antenna was tuned for the CW bands and showed a 5 to 1 SWR at 3810 which is the frequency of the Kentucky phone net. The Kenwood has a built in automatic antenna tuner so I could operate at 100 watts output. I checked into the net for the first time on August 6th.

With band conditions being what they are on 75 meters in the summer I really needed more power. I already owned an SB200 linear amplifier and a Johnson Viking Matchbox to tune the high SWR antenna. I tried the matchbox first but it wouldn't tune. Both dials were at the ends of their ranges. I took it apart, 46 screws, and found that someone else had been in there since I had. I had loaned it to someone a long time ago and unbeknownst to me they had worked on it for what reason I can't imagine. The input is to a link coil and the connection was made with a little specially made screw clamp. The clamp was gone and the copper strap had been soldered to the link. According to a photograph of the innards of the matchbox in the manual it was soldered in the wrong place. I made a clamp out of small pieces of steel and connected the copper strap from the input connector in what looked like the right place. The matchbox tuned up the way I remember it working. My parents had bought it for me when I was living at home in Dunedin Florida. I had dragged it with me through 3 moves. Although the paint job is a little worse for wear it's like an old friend.

Although I once built and used a Heathkit SB200 I had sold it at the time of my marriage to Sue. The one I have now I had bought from a ham in Texas about 10 years ago. I couldn't make it load into the matchbox so I connected a 50 ohm dummy antenna and it still wouldn't load up on 80 or 40 meters. The load and tune capacitors were at maximum capacitance. It was fine on 20, 15, and 10 meters. The band switch connects fixed capacitors in parallel with both variable capacitors on 80 meters only. This would not account for the failure to load on 40 meters. So I took it apart which was not as big a chore as I had at first thought it would be. The RF shield, plate coil, and band switch, came away from the chassis leaving behind the tuning and loading capacitors. There is not much that can go wrong and I couldn't see anything obvious. I reheated all the connections on the band switch and applied a generous amount of contact cleaner to the switch wafers. I even went as far as measuring the inductance and Q of the coil on each band using my Q meter. The values looked right. I put it all back together and…long story a little less long, it worked.

So now I have a modern transceiver and a somewhat less modern linear and antenna tuner. I can say that if I didn't have a rig as good as the Kenwood, operation on 80 and 40 meters would be impossible. The reason is power line noise. The primary line for the neighborhood runs along the back line of my property. So I turned on the noise blanker and forgot about it. I frequently use the noise reduction as well.

The older linear and tuner don't cover any of the new bands. The Kenwood is a slightly older model and doesn't cover the 50 meter band. It does cover 30, 18, and 13 meters. The new technology has also changed linears and tuners. Linears require no tuning and tuners tune themselves automatically. When I looked at the prices of these modern wonders I almost had a heart attack. I'll have to luck into something second hand as I did the transceiver. So until then here is what my ham station will look like.

At the top the object with fins is the dummy antenna. According to its name plate it is a 600 watt 50 ohm load good to 3 GHz. On the shelf below is the matchbox, a Radio Shack speaker and the ubitx just peeking out from behind the speaker. Next shelf down, on top of the Kenwood is an interface to prevent the silicon based Kenwood from being damaged from being connected to a tube based linear amplifier. The giant SWR meter is to the right and the hand held microphone to the left. Next shelf down is the SB200 and a control box I built many years ago when I had a triband beam and an 80/40 meter trap dipole. It controls coaxial relays that are mounted on the back of the matchbox to select from the correct antenna, or put the dummy load on the linear instead of the matchbox. I stuck an L E D strip to the underside of the first shelf to throw light onto the log but not into my eyes. The edges of the L E Ds can be clearly seen. A twisting force applied by the power cable has caused the tape to peel away from the shelf a little at the right end above the linear.

So what's with the funny knob? I do have all three original Heathkit knobs and they are all undamaged. When I am tuning up the linear for maximum output I am concentrating on the SWR meter with my magnifying glasses and operating the linear by feel. I have been known to turn the band switch instead of the plate tuning capacitor. Changing bands with power and drive applied is not good for the linear in general or the band switch in particular. So I put a different knob on the band switch so I will know to leave it alone while tuning.

Case Closed.

The Sting.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018.

Back on Monday the 9th I was going out to the shop to make a mounting bracket for the light that goes under the equipment shelf of my workbench when the following happened. I unlocked the pad lock, opened the door, turned on the light and then I was stung on the lower lip by a wasp. I swatted it away and made some comment about its parentage. Then I locked up the shop and returned to the house for first aid. There wasn't much first aid Sue could do but she gave me symphithy and encouraged me to lie down and rest. The sting was on the right side just where the lip ends and my beard begins. My lip started swelling up then the right side of my face, then the area under my chin giving me a double chin. I spent the rest of the day resting. I didn't sleep much Monday night and on Tuesday morning the swelling was much worse. Sue took me to a walk in care center where we only had to wait for 15 minutes to see a doctor. If we had gone to our family doctor we would have needed an appointment which we may or may not have been able to get. Even if we could have gotten one we probably would have had to wait for 45 minutes to an hour. The lady doctor gave me three prescriptions and told me to go home and rest. One of them was for a box of Epipens. I was stung a couple of months ago and this time the reaction was much worse. Maybe the next one will be worse again. Oh, I hope not. Here is what I looked like on Tuesday morning before going to the care center.

I am looking and feeling a little better now.

Case Closed.

Non RFI Workbench Lighting.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018.

Fluorescent lights are good for workbench lighting in that they generate less heat than incandescent bulbs and produce light with more diffused shadows. But ever since their introduction in the 1950s they have been the bane of AM radio listeners because of the large amount of 120 cycle hash they generate.

In recent years light manufacturers have introduced instant start ballasts that excite the tubes with low frequency RF, or is it high frequency audio. Usually 50 kHz. This leads to spurious signals every 50 kHz throughout the AM band. That means that only some of the stations are wiped out instead of all of them. This can be said to be an advantage unless you want to listen to a station that operates at an integer multiple of 50 kHz.

Enter the light emitting diode. I don't have any numbers but L E Ds seem to be a bigger leap in efficiency over fluorescents than fluorescents were over incandescents. The problem with L E Ds seems to be the voltage step down. An individual L E D operates at about 1.5 volts. They can be connected in series but if too many are in series the Christmas tree effect comes into play and reliability goes down. Note: remember those old Christmas tree lights? When one light burned out the whole string went dark.

I have some Edison base L E D lights and the base section, below the clear part of the bulb, gets too hot to touch. I don't believe the efficiency claims that are being made for these bulbs.

The L E D replacements for fluorescent tubes have to be compatible with the fixtures they are going to be put in. The most commonly available are compatible with RF ballasts but not with the older magnetic ballasts.

When I built my new workbench in 2012 I decided to hard wire enough light right from the start. I used 6 lights that used 18 inch gas filled tubes. These lights generated very little RFI in the AM band. The harmonics were down far enough not to cause any problems. The picture below was taken before the bench had acquired any clutter. As is the custom in this family the bench was christened by a teddybear.

The other main source of light is a 30 year old shop light that is suspended from the ceiling by chains.

This is a magnetic ballast fixture and generates hash up and down the radio spectrum.

I got a surprise when I made the first distortion measurement on my new bench. The reading was higher than it should have been. It occurred to me that one of the lights with its audio/RF ballast was directly under the analyzer. I started pulling chains to turn off the lights and the reading kept dropping. After installation I had almost decided to cut off the pull chains. After that moment I was sure glad I had not. The hanging light was far enough away from the DUT and analyzer not to cause any interference with distortion measurements.

Even though Fluorescent lights are more efficient than incandescent lights they still get quite warm to the touch and radiate enough I R to be uncomfortable especially on a hot day. The combination of heat and RFI pushed me to seek out more efficient lighting.

I had found success with the lights in my woodshop. I had replaced all 16 fixtures, 2 tubes each, with L E D tubes. These fixtures were recent enough to work with L E D replacements. I didn't notice any interference with radio reception so I decided to try them as my workbench lighting.

I had found that 18 inch L E D replacement tubes were very expensive so I decided against converting these fixtures. I found that Lowe's still sells something called a shop light. It even comes with chain for hanging. I bought two of them. One was hung by the same chains that had held the old shop light. I removed the front row of small fixtures and replaced them with the other shop light.

I gave the 3 small fixtures and old shop light complete with gas fluorescent tubes and 3 wire line cord to my next door neighbor who will take almost anything that I cast off. Then I found out how bad the interference from the new lights was. I could even see it on the scope riding on a 10 volt RMS sine wave. My temporary solution was to install a switch and duplex outlet so I could turn off the lights while making a measurement. The overhead light in the room remained on. But I knew I had to do something.

Inquiries on the FWT list followed by a little searching on DuckDuckGo led me to two possible solutions. One was a fluorescent style tube but with L E Ds in it that could be wired directly to the 120 volt line with no ballast or other kind of external voltage conversion. The other was a strip light of surface mount L E Ds on a flexible printed circuit board that is 9.8 feet long and about 7/16 inch wide. The strip light operates from 12 volts at a specified 6 watts per foot of strip.

The direct wire L E D tubes sound interesting but they must have some kind of voltage conversion built into the tube. They are not going to get an iron core transformer inside a 1 inch tube so it probably uses a switching power supply for conversion. I ordered one tube out of curiosity. I don't expect it will be useful in this application. So my hopes are pinned on the strip light of L E Ds.

I ordered one strip for testing and here is the test.

The input end of the strip was taped to the inside top of the bench. It was run the length of the bench and draped over the HP signal generator on the right. The strip was powered by the power supply with the blue knob. The camera shutter is faster than the display strobing. The voltage was set to 12.00 volts and the current was reading 4.396 amps. Only the 1 and 4 were caught by the camera. This was the full length, 9.8 feet, of the strip. I ordered two more strips to be sure I would have enough and a couple of power supplies. I hope they aren't switching but I fear they are.

If they do turn out to be switchers I have an idea. I can put them in a steel box, I have one, with a lot of filtering at the exit point. Then just for good measure put the box on the top shelf to get it far away from whatever I am doing on the bench. If that doesn't work I'll have to order some filament transformers from AES to juice up the strips.

Sunday, July 08, 2018.

With the power supplies in hand I could do some measurements. The supplies were 12 volt 5 amp and didn't weigh enough to be linear supplies. I connected a times 1 probe, more commonly known as a BNC to alligator clip, to my scope and shorted the alligator clips together. When I held the one turn coil near the supply there was nothing. Then I connected a load to the supply. That resulted in lots of noise pickup. But I'm not giving up so easily. I used my stereo amplifier dummy load with both 8 ohm resistors connected in parallel to really load up the supply and capacitively coupled the output to my spectrum analyzer. (Note: 12 volts DC would not be good for the 50 ohm input resistance of the analyzer.) Here is the picture I saw.

The thing I don't like about this spectrum analyzer, (in fact I'm down right pissed off about it), is that the frequency scale isn't labeled. If you know where to look on the screen you can figure it out but I'm going to save you the trouble. The frequency scale is 500 kHz per division for a total range of 0 to 5 MHz.

The frequency scale on this one is 50 kHz per division for a full range of 0 to 500 kHz. An interesting thing is that the frequency of the peaks was moving back and forth as they were frequency modulated by the duty cycle modulation used in the closed loop regulator circuit inside the power supply. This would make sure that no AM radio station would be safe from interference. I shot several stills and the screen seemed to always be frozen at what appeared to be the average frequency of the peaks. However, look at the level. The 0 dB at the top of the screen is 0 dBm in 50 ohms which is 223.6 mV. -20 dBm is 22.36 mV. Remember that this is a direct connection. Next I capacitively coupled to the hot side of the AC line from an outlet next to where the supply was plugged in. I saw some funny stuff going on in the audio band but it wasn't from the supply. The rest of the spectrum was at the noise floor of the analyzer. I decided that 22 mV on the "antenna" wouldn't be likely to radiate from the hanging light to the instrument shelf so I proceeded to convert that light.

I took the light down from its chains. Then I removed the tomb stones and ballast and threw them away. They generate so much interference that I'm not likely to use them for anything. I used double stick foam tape to mount the switching supply where the ballast had been, shortened up the line cord and connected it to the existing 3 wire cord that the shop light came with. When the light fixture is reassembled the supply will be surrounded by steel which should take care of that magnetic radiation I detected with the shorted probe.

I laid down two rows of the peal and stick L E D tape, one for each former tube in the fixture. Here is a good look at the tape and how I connected one row to the other.

When I soldered the wires to the ends of the tape, first of all I used number 24 AWG wire and taped the wire to the other side of the metal plate. Then I positioned them and soldered them to the somewhat fragile tape.

Proof of the pudding.

I had kept the last phase inverter circuit on the breadboard for testing the new lighting system. I fired it up and got a reading of 0.044% with the light unplugged and it stayed the same when I plugged it in. So I am good to go for the hanging light. It's really intense if my eye wanders to it. I'm going to see if I can find a defusor of some kind. Maybe frosted Plexiglas.

I'm going to try converting the under shelf light but I'm not going to bet the farm on it working. I may have to put the switching supply in a box on the top shelf. If I have to I will do it.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018.

A close encounter of the third kind with a wasp has delayed posting about this subject but here is the rest of the story. The good outcome with the hanging light has encouraged me to go ahead with converting the under the shelf light. This light is much closer to the test instruments and the DUT but maybe I'll get lucky. The conversion process was exactly as for the hanging light except that I also shortened up the white 3 wire line cord that emerged from the end of the shop light fixture. There are two humps on top of this fixture which prevents flush mounting. I had planned to cut a piece of wood the same size as the lamp footprint with holes drilled in the wood to accommodate the domed shaped humps. But a wasp got in my way so I decided to just go ahead and mount it cockeyed as it was before. I didn't feel too bad on Monday which was the day of the wasp so I went ahead and wired and mounted the fixture.

Time to Taste Some more Pudding.

The undershelf light is plugged into the switched outlet which I added to get through the end of the experiment with the noisy lights. The hanging light is on the main bench line and is switched on and off by the main bench power switch. So here it is.

Light on, 0.045%.
Light off, 0.042%

The old lights added about 1% to the reading and I had to pull 6 chains to turn them off. If the distortion reading is higher than about 0.15% I won't even have to turn off the light. But if I do it is only one switch to throw instead of 6 chains to pull. That's a bargain I can live with.

Case Closed.

Zenith Transoceanic.

Saturday, April 21, 2018.

The other day Sue and I visited an antique mall which we frequent on a regular basis. The proprietor placed a Zenith Transoceanic on the counter and asked me if I could fix it. I wasn't about to walk away from an opportunity like that.

Wednesday, July 04, 2018.

Bad news on the Transoceanic. It took me a while to get to it because I wanted to wrap up the phase inverter project. Here is what I found. The tuning knob was missing and when I found one and installed it wouldn't tune to the ends of the ranges. Getting it out of the case was somewhat of an adventure because a metal bracket was getting caught on the edge of the covering that had been folded over and glued on the inside. The glue had turned to powder leaving the edge free to get caught. Once out of the case I could see that the dial cord was strung up all wrong and ordinary string had been used. So I unstrung it and as I turned the variable capacitor wheel I more felt than heard a sound that no repairman wants to hear. It was the grinding of rubbing capacitor plates. It was over almost half of the rotation of the capacitor. From what I can see of the capacitor it looks alright. I know which gang is rubbing but that doesn't do me much good. To find the exact place I need to get the capacitor out of the chassis and that is impossible. Oh, I could get it out but there would be no putting it back together. It's only good for parts or as a shelf queen. I'm assuming the latter is what the owner will want but he hasn't returned my call as yet.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018.

The events reported below happened about a month ago. I am just now getting around to reporting them. When I finally got in touch with the owner he ask me to bring it back. I did so and he wanted a full explanation of what was wrong which he wrote down as I dictated. Trying to be modest I told him that he might be able to find someone else who could fix it. I stated without equivocation that I couldn't. I think he will keep it as a shelf queen behind the counter of his antique mall. I quoted a figure that I thought it was worth at the time with the notation that it is likely to go up in value as fewer and fewer of them are on the market. I would have liked to have bought it from him so I could try to fix it with nothing to lose. But that wouldn't have been ethical after having quoted him the price.

Case Closed.

Building a µBITX Transceiver.

Saturday, April 07, 2018.

Yes, I have been infected with the µBITX bug. I have a friend who is working very hard on me to get back on the air. It seems like a good way to get back in after being away for so many years. He was even so kind as to order the board and enclosure for me.

What is and isn't in the shipment.

When ordering the board you get the fully assembled board, the microcontroller, a display board, and a few miscellaneous parts. The enclosure order includes a very nice pre punched/drilled and painted enclosure and duplicates of many of the parts that came with the board. A bit of time and money could be saved if they provided a complete kit of board and enclosure.

Just one thing is missing, a Heathkit style manual. Not providing a printed manual is fully understandable but there was no CD ROM nor is there one well organized website with logical step by step instructions. There seem to be lots of pages like this one made by lots of independent builders and users but a search turns up so many that it's impossible to even figure out for certain which are official and which are like this one. A URL printed on the packing list would have been most helpful.

Beginning Construction.

The enclosure is made up of 4 pieces, top, bottom, front panel, and rear panel. It is very nicely painted. Apparently it was dip painted after being drilled and punched. Even the inside of the holes are covered in paint. What that means is when put together the 4 pieces of the enclosure may or may not make electrical contact. This may not seem important for a 10 watt transmitter but a transmitter needs to be fully shielded to ensure stable operation. Some of the effects of incomplete shielding could be, modulation hum on received signals, hand capacitance effects on both receive and transmit, and parasitic oscillations when used with a linear amplifier. The first thing I did was to take the enclosure parts to my shop and use a disk sander and Dremel tool to remove paint from certain areas of the inside.

Note the end view of the rear panel showing the end tab that will be in contact with the inside of the top and bottom shells. Also the shells themselves. On the front panel note paint removal around the holes for the microphone connector (especially important for hum free operation), the mounting holes for the three mini jacks and the two pots. On the rear panel the only one to be worried about is the hole for the antenna connector. This is also very important for stable RF operation. The fuse holder, on/off switch and power jack are all made of plastic so there is nothing to ground.


Here I must take issue with those well meaning but ill informed posters. Even the U Tube videos are wrong. They have a good idea but it is implemented in such a way as to cause as much damage as they hope to prevent. First the diagram.

The suggestion is to put a diode across the power supply to prevent damage to the board from reverse polarity. A laudable goal. But what they are suggesting is the A part of the figure above. Here are several scenarios any one of which would be disastrous to one degree or another.

  1. The power supply is connected incorrectly and the diode either remains undamaged or goes into its primary failure mode which is shorted. Meanwhile the power supply has a total short across it. If not protected by a fuse it will be burned out leaving you off the air.
  2. The power supply survives the adventure due to current limiting but the diode is left shorted. A short is a short regardless of polarity so you are off the air. So you open up the box to unsolder the diode and replace it. You wouldn't be in such a hurry to get back on the air that you would just snip out the diode, would you?
  3. If the power source is a car battery the diode would short, melt and go into its secondary failure mode which is open. Now the reverse polarity infinite current supply goes to work on the board and microcontroller. Good bye.
Figures B or C are alright but I recommend B which is how I wired mine. In this one the fuse will blow as soon as the power supply is connected and if the power switch was off at the time of connection the board will never see the nominal 0.8 volts of a heavily conducting silicon diode. Fuses are meant to protect so wire your circuit so they can do their job.

Another mistake that I saw in a U Tube video. The person suggested connecting the switch in the positive line from power jack and the fuse in the negative lead. This is against electrical code in AC wiring but code doesn't deal with 12 volt wiring. Imagine this, you take the advice and connect the fuse in the negative lead. Like any good ham you have a main station ground to which each Piece of equipment is grounded. So the µBITX is grounded and so is the power supply. Both ends of the fuse are connected to the ground which shorts out the fuse. This is like putting a penny in the fuse box. Decidedly not recommended.

The enclosure kit included a short length of RG 174 and you should use it to connect from the plug that goes to the board and the RF connector on the rear panel. This is visible along with the diode and power wiring in the photo below. A note is in order. The supplied fuse holder has two solder lugs at the thread end of the fuse. When the fuse cap is installed these lugs are electrically connected together. I used one for the diode cathode and the other for the wire to the on/off switch. This makes it the circuit shown in figure B above.

Next step the front panel and finding a connector to match microphones that were made in the USA.

Monday, April 09, 2018.

Today I wired the analog part of the front panel. I found to my dismay that the 1/8 inch phone jacks have no metal parts that are in contact with the inside of the front panel. To ensure that I don't have any RF running loose I will have to very carefully remove some paint on the front of the panel around each jack mounting hole so the mounting nut can make electrical contact. That microphone connector is weird. It's even the wrong gender. You don't have audio input connectors in which the hot input pins can be touched. This will send a strong line frequency input to the amplifier which is never a good thing. I have mounted it just to fill the hole. I have wired the 1/8 inch TRS jack for normal PTT operation. The mic is always on the ring so if the plug is removed or inserted hot the mic element will not be exposed to the PTT control voltage. I have connectors to make an adapter for my D104.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018.

On this evening I completed the digital wiring of the front panel.

The pins on the display plug didn't quite line up with the holes in the raduino socket. The holes were low and to the left. The holes in the chassis bottom are somewhat larger than they need to be giving some adjustment. But first I removed the board and standoffs and put small #4 washers between the spacers and chassis, two each. Then I reinstalled the spacers pushing them as far to the right as possible. The board was reinstalled also the Raduino. After that the pins were just slightly off and they went in with a little gentle persuasion. I think it is ready to test but I haven't installed and wired the speaker as yet.

Sunday, April 15, 2018.

I received some messages that freaked me out. I was told that if a 12 volt power supply was used with the uBITX the audio output IC would blow up. I was even sent a picture of a 8 pin DIP with a diagonal crack running across it. One suggestion that I received was to operate the uBITX from a 9 volt regulated power supply. That didn't sound right. Someone else suggested connecting a 1.5 ohm resistor in series with pin 2 of the IC and then bypassing the pin to ground through a capacitor to avoid instability. That would require a 350 uf capacitor for bypassing at the communications low end frequency of 300 Hz. Actually 10 times the capacitor for the corner frequency for effective bypassing. Much bigger and I would need a separate chassis for the capacitor.

After thinking about it for a while I decided that a device designed to operate from 12 volts should operate from 12 volts without modification. As I soldered a connecting lead to use my bench transistor power supply to juice it up I thought, "if it blows up I'll just write it off and forget about it."

It didn't blow up. The display lit up and it drew about 153 mA and there was no burning smell. I plugged in a pair of headphones which I spent a couple of hours looking for. I heard some noise and as I tuned I heard some birdies just above the noise. Then I connected an antenna. It was just a random length piece of wire in the attic but I could hear signals on 75 and 40 meters. Note: I have no intention of attempting to transmit on that antenna.

I substituted knobs from my personal stock for the volume and tuning. I prefer larger knobs and the tuning takes a lot of cranking to get from one band to another so what could be better than a crank. The displayed frequency goes all the way to 99.999 MHz but it sounds like it's tuning the AM BC band at around 40 MHz. The low end goes to 1.000 MHz and it really is tuning the AM BC band at that end. I heard signals on 75, 40, and 20 meter SSB on my makeshift antenna. Nothing on 160, 15, or 10.

The tuning control works backward but I assume reversing the wires going to pins 1 and 3 of the encoder will reverse the action. I suppose India learned from Europe where light switches are on when down and off when up. I suppose on controls counter clockwise increases the frequency, volume etc. Come to think of it I am told that some of the sites on assembling the uBITX have the volume control wired backward. The page I am working from has a section on tune up so I guess I'll follow the steps tomorrow.

Meanwhile I have an old Mosely 80/40 meter trap antenna which at present is in pieces on the ground. I did find both traps so I think I can get it back up with a little help from my friends. I'll probably need to buy new coax because what I have is 50 years old if it's a day.

Friday, April 20, 2018.

Although the page promised a tune up section it didn't materialize. The ubitx doesn't seem to need any tuning up. I connected it to a dummy load and an old Radio Shack power and SWR meter. Key down the meter read 6 and 1/2 watts. I wondered just how accurate this meter was so I set up an oscilloscope with a 100X probe for maximum safety. I checked the calibration with a digital function generator and touched up the probe compensation a little to get an accurate reading at 7150 kHz which is the power on default frequency. The voltage reading on the scope calculated out to 6.25 wats. Not bad Radio Shack.

Then I connected my D104 microphone and started counting to 4. Why do hams, broadcast, recording, and PA engineers always count to 4 when testing a sound system? I guess we'll never know. By the time I got to Phoenix, no, that's another story, by the time I got to 4 I realized there was no visible deflection on the scope. Switching ranges finally gave me a power reading of 40 mW. I tried an Electro Voice mic that I know to be a dynamic. It didn't do any better. That's when I found that in transmit mode the rig puts 10 volts on the microphone. It takes more than that to damage a crystal or dynamic mic. OK. I'll try the electret mic that came with the ubitx. If I SPEAK VERY LOUDLY AT CLOSE RANGE I CAN GET ABOUT 5 WATTS OUT OF IT. Now all I need is an antenna.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018.

Ron, K8HSY and his grown son came over and put up a W5 GI mystery antenna which I had ordered. Actually, Ron is blinder than I am so his son did all the work while we stood on the ground out of the way. I was trying to tune my Viking matchbox to load the antenna when an accident happened. (Note: The mystery antenna is tuned for the CW bands and has an SWR of about 5 to 1 at 3800 kHz. I am aware that the matchbox doesn't alter the SWR but deceives the transmitter into thinking that it is working into a 1 to 1 SWR load.) I was getting output from the ubitx by plugging a shorted plug into the key jack. One time I missed and plugged it into the headphone jack instead. When I didn't hear the CW side tone I unplugged the plug and didn't hear the receiver noise. It didn't take me long to figure out that those few seconds of short across the audio had blown the delicate audio output IC. At first I was under the impression that there wasn't a pin for pin replacement. So I posted a question on the ubitx group. The very first reply to come back through the list said "We've already covered that topic." Nothing else. If he was going to take the trouble to type a message he could have answered my question with only a few more keystrokes and a few more seconds of time but he chose to be a smart ass instead of a helpful ham. Fortunately there were a couple of H.H. who gave the number of the replacement amplifier IC. I resigned from that list right after that. I have ordered several of the ICs but it is uncertain that I will ever install them. The ubitx board is surface mount and although I can cope with through hole boards I doubt I can get the 8 pin dip installed. The pins of the IC were bent outward and tack soldered to the pads on the surface mount board. Two of the pieces in the uBITX are an Arduino which the ubiters call a raduino. It has a very wide range digitally controlled frequency generator tacked onto the Arduino board. That might be interesting to play with in a wide tuning range receiver or homemade spectrum analyzer. Meanwhile I think I am through with the ubitx and its many derivatives which have already gone far beyond the version that I have.

There are many hams who have modified the ubitx. The problem is they are not building on top of each other's mods but each one is unique unto itself. So the ubitx is diverging in a hundred different directions as each person makes changes to the hardware and software. There is no one place where all of these changes can be looked up. This anarchy has proven to be the antidote for the ubitx bug.

Cure Completed and Case Closed.

Play It Again Sam.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018.

Note: I am fully aware that Humphry Bogart never uttered that phrase in "Casa Blanca". End of note.

The article about phase inverters was nearly finished when I got a shock caused by an intermittent ground on my HP 334A THD analyzer. "That shouldn't have been possible" I told myself but there was no denying that it had happened. The meter on the analyzer had been jumping on the most sensitive measurements with some hand capacitance effect. I attributed this to an electrically noisy environment and kept on working. After the shock which wasn't a tingle but a real jolt I shut down and began a thorough check of everything.

Like many measuring instruments the 334 has 3 terminals at the input. Two of them have a metal strap between them that can be easily removed. The panel has the legend "+/- 400 V" between the two that can be strapped. It's a good thing it will stand that much because that's what I had on it from the Fluke power supply. Fortunately I took the current through one hand not from one hand to the other. The panel mounting of the ground binding post is broken and hanging by the internal wire and the metal strap. I thought that would be enough but evidently the wire behind the panel has developed a break which sometimes makes contact and sometimes doesn't.

Right after the ground post broke I pulled off the bottom cover only to find that this area behind the panel is highly inaccessible. It looked like a total disassembly of the front panel which was not something I cared to do. I put it back together and continued using it. It was fine for at least a couple of years but time and metal fatigue finally caught up with me.

I still was in no mood to do a total panel disassembly so I did something that will no doubt earn me the wrath of retired HP engineers and repair technicians. The "NORM/RF DET" switch is just above the input terminals. I loosened the left hand screw that holds this switch. I could tell by the feel that it was nutted on the inside so I was cautious. I soldered a short length of number 18 wire into an open ended lug because I don't trust crimp on lugs over the long term. I put the lug under the screw head and retightened it. The other end of the wire went through the hole in the low input binding post thus grounding it to the panel.

The hand capacitance effect was gone and I was getting significantly different readings of distortion. What to do? Start over. At least the text of the page is written and the figures drawn. I will have to repeat the measurements and change the contents of the many tables. Did I hear you say you want to be an experimentalists when you grow up??????

Case Closed.

The Fluke Again?

Thursday, March 22, 2018.

I have been working on improving the phase inverter. On Monday night I closed down after collecting a bunch of THD (total harmonic distortion) data. I didn't start taking IMD (intermodulation distortion) data because I knew it would keep me up too late. On Tuesday morning I turned everything back on and measured THD at 30 times what it had been the night before. Something was clearly wrong. After a little bit of looking at signals on the scope I realized that the output signal had a strong 60 Hz component. A little more tracing revealed that the Fluke power supply was the source. Also the DC output was about 20% off from where it should be. So I cleared some workspace on the bench and lifted the fluke down to be worked on. I soon found that the -250 volt reference had 60 Hz riding on it. A little study of the schematic showed the rectifier that powered this supply was half wave. Why? I suppose to save money. This supply uses silicon rectifiers and when it was made they were rather costly as well as lacking the high voltage capability of today's rectifiers. It took two diodes in series to form the half wave rectifier. A bridge would have needed 8 diodes and it seems that a somewhat larger filter capacitor was less costly than 6 more silicon rectifiers. OK, as it turned out the filter capacitor was open. Replacing it was no real problem.

But it made me stop and think. This was the third metal can filter capacitor to fail in about the last two years. There were 3 more can filter capacitors in the same area of the chassis and they were original parts and of the same brand, Sprague. So I replaced all three remaining capacitors although they tested good.

The two capacitors on the left were replaced the last time I was in capacitor mode. The capacitor with a black top which is next to the oil filled capacitor is the filter for the floating screen grid supply for the pass tubes. You see two empty holes where capacitors were. One of their replacements is the tubular cap that is peaking through the holes and being held in place by two nylon ties. A small part of the other one can be seen next to the little green capacitor. The green one is a lesson in how far capacitor technology has come. The capacitor which was originally in this hole was listed in the parts list as a 2000 μf 25 volt. The can was engraved 2000-20 VDC. It was physically largest of the 6. The little green cap is a 2200 μf 25 volt radial lead cap. The picture below shows the view from the underside of the chassis.

The blue capacitor which is held down by nylon ties is the filter for the unregulated supply for the -250 volt line. The lighter blue one connects from the -250 volt line to common with a 4.7 ohm resistor in series. The resistor is clearly visible. I decided this capacitor was there for a reason and if it were to open the load on the -250 volt line would be changed which would probably alter the performance of the supply.

Case Closed, for a long time, I hope.


Was it just a fluke?

Saturday, March 03, 2018.

I just spent the entire afternoon working on my Fluke power supply. Last night I had this circuit on the breadboard.

Schematic of Bootstrapped Amplifier.

Suddenly the gain was reduced to a very small value. While I was trying to figure out why, I heard a most unusual sound from inside the Fluke power supply. Then I smelled that smell of burning resistors. I quickly shut everything down and did some power off tests. I found that all 3 zener diodes were low resistance in both directions. I also found that the FET was shorted everything to everything.

I disconnected the load and turned the Fluke back on and with some trepidation turned on the high voltage. It came on and appeared to be working properly. It was late so I decided to go to bed and deal with it the next day (today).

Just after noon I lifted the power supply down from the equipment shelf and placed it on the work surface. The smell had definitely come from the Fluke not the breadboard. After removing the covers I found the source of the sound. A resistor soldered to the base of one of the 807s had totally and completely exploded. The other two resistors on the other 807s were fine. To make a long story short I did not succeed in finding the cause. I did the most obvious first which was to check the tube for a short. All three 807s showed no shorts. There is no way the circuit on the breadboard could have caused resistors in the power supply to explode. The 3 shorted zener diodes placed a 36 k ohm load on the supply. That's 11 mA. The Fluke was sitting there saying "when are you going to connect a load to me?" Or that's what it would have said if it could talk. I hated to replace the resistor and put it back together but I couldn't find anything else wrong.

I did a calibration while I had it down and found that the bias pot was bad again. I replaced it again. I can't figure out why it went out. It's only dissipating 1 and 1/4 watts. I haven't been drawing excessive current from the bias supply and neither has anyone else. I'm the only person who uses it.

As far as I know, Case Closed.


DIY Resistance Coupled Amplifier Charts.

Friday, February 02, 2018.

I'm doing more work on the phase inverter. In the process I needed to set up some tubes that don't have entries in the resistance coupled amplifier charts in the back of the tube manual. What I found is, it's not as easy as you might think, especially for a pentode. For a triode you really only have one resistor value to play with and that is the cathode resistor. Plate load values are set by the precedent of the existing charts. The values always seem to be 47 k ohms, 100 k ohms, 270 k ohms, and 470 k ohms. Depending on the amplification factor of the tube either the 47 k or 470 k ohm will be omitted.

A pentode has the addition of the screen grid resistor so once the plate resistor is set both the cathode resistor and the screen grid resistor need to be juggled. For any given value of screen resistor there is an optimum value of cathode resistor. Also for any given value of cathode resistor there is an optimum screen grid resistor. The interesting thing is that no matter what the starting values are, the minimum distortion occurs at the same plate voltage. The amount of distortion doesn't seem to vary all that much but the gain does. For the pentode section of a 6BL8 the sweet spot is 60 volts. It doesn't matter if the screen voltage is above or below the plate voltage.

I'm working with 6BL8 number 3 from the pentode triode phase inverter circuit. I'm going to try others of that type and a few other pentode sections that are pin compatible. I also want to try a couple of 6BH6s which have an entry in the chart to see how my values compare with Sylvania.

Friday, February 02, 2018. Later that same day…

I'm not really going to develop a bunch of resistance coupled amplifier charts. I need tools to find proper operating points for the amplifier section of a phase inverter, be it split load or long tail pair. So my plan is to bring the Heathkit IP17 on line in addition to the Fluke and use the heath to supply a constant screen voltage. That doesn't change the number of variables but when I change to a different plate load resistor maybe I won't have to change the screen voltage by very much. But wouldn't you know it after a few months of disuse the Heathkit wasn't working properly. Its output voltage wouldn't go below about 100 volts.

It wasn't as simple as a bad tube. It never is, in spite of what the signs on those drugstore tube testers said. It turned out to be a resistor in the voltage divider that supplies the screen of the 6BH6 error amplifier tube. A 1/2 watt carbon composition resistor that was color coded 1 .1 meg ohms measured at 10 meg ohms. Since the manual value is 1.0 meg ohms it appears as if it has been replaced before. This time I replaced it with a 1 watt carbon film resistor and the supply is once again working fine. Now we will see how pentodes behave with fixed screen voltage. If this results in one or more practical circuits I will probably end up regulating the screen voltage with a zener diode.

Here is a picture of the breadboard.

Photo of breadboard.

Case Closed.


Musings upon building a tube analyzer.

Monday, January 15, 2018.

For some time I have been contemplating building some kind of tube tester, curve tracer, or analyzer. Over the years I have received a few emails asking if I have a design for a valve or tube tester. As the usage indicates some of these have come from Europe. The main problem with tubes is getting all of those pins connected to the correct voltage source.

It's easy with transistors which have only 3 leads. There are even devices you can get that don't care which leads go into which socket holes. It will figure out what kind of device you have connected and which socket connections go to which elements of the device. It's not nearly so easy with tubes.

A given tube may have anywhere from 7 to 10 connections.

Note. I get 10 connections from a 9 pin tube with a top cap. I have removed from consideration the 12 pin compactron and the very old 4, 5, and 6 pin tubes. I may include the old 7 pin socket for testing 807 tubes. I may also make adapters for these somewhat rare species.

The most difficult part of a home brew tube tester is how to set it up for each tube type. The service shop tube tester, which I have one of, used a chart in the form of a scroll which listed all known tubes and gave the settings of a number of controls on the tester. The user has no idea of what is being set, I include myself in that. He just sets each knob to the position indicated on the chart pushes the test button and reads good or bad on the meter. These switches have many wafers and the wiring is quite complicated. Duplicating this method is not practical for the home brewer.

After a lot of thought I have concluded that a system of relays driven by a small microprocessor is the only way to go. Let's make a list and see how many connections we need to make.


  1. Filament or heater supply.
  2. Ground. For cathode and suppressor grid.
  3. Control grid bias.
  4. Screen grid supply.
  5. Plate supply.
  6. Open circuit.
Note: Some tubes have a pin that is indicated as "internal connection, do not use". This pin must be left open.

The most obvious way of making these connections is shown below.

Figure 1 Easy Circuit.

This circuit is simple to understand and simple to build. It would also be simple to program but for the number of outputs from the Arduino, 50, that are needed to control the relays for 9 pins and a top cap.

Figure 2 Another Circuit.

Another circuit looked like a saving of one relay per tube connection until I realized that it needed one more relay to provide the necessary open circuit. Also double throw relays are usually more expensive than single throw.

Figure 1 is the one to go with. For controlling the relays I intend to use one of those binary to 1 of 10 decoders or maybe 1 of 16 depending on what's available now. I have on hand a few Nixie display drivers that should do the job. This will only require 3 active bits. The 23 bit can be tied permanently low. Alright, 3 bits times 10 tube connections, Hmmm. Still too many bits. Well, let's use another Nixie driver to address the tube connections. That's 4 bits. Now we are getting somewhere. 4 bits to address the tube pin and 3 to tell it what to connect to. 7 bits is no problem. Each set of relay drivers will need its own 4 bit latch but I have them also.

If you are thinking that I must have been buying for a frequency counter at one time you are right. The ICs were a small part of the cost. Before I got started making the PC boards a Heathkit came out that cost less than I would have put into an enclosure, displays, board making material, etc.

Here is my idea for a programming panel.

Figure 3 Tube Connection Setup Panel.

The double circles are the symbols for the push button switches and the circles with lines radiating out from them symbolize indicator LEDs. The power up default will be for all pins to be open. A push of a button will set a particular pin to the intersecting source. The switch array will be scanned. The drivers will be through another Nixie driver which will use 4 bits. The state sense will use up 6 bits for a total of 17 bits. Oops. Looks like I need to rethink something. Let's see. The top row is the open state which will be binary 000. If I connect the set of open switches directly to the clear input of the latch for that tube pin without going through the processor that will reduce the number of sense inputs to 5 which now makes 16 bits for connection programming. Scanning and sensing the switch array in software should be a piece of cake.

Now that we have the tube properly connected what are we going to do with it? Every entry in a tube manual has a "Typical Operation" section where the operating point is completely specified. Plate voltage, plate current, and control grid voltage. In the same table are listed the plate resistance and amplification factor or transconductance whichever is applicable to the tube type. I would like an analog test in which the plate and screen voltage could be independently set and the control grid bias also set. Then the plate current would be read out on a meter, either digital or analog.

Then pressing another button would cause the plate resistance, amplification factor, and transconductance to be calculated based on measurements and read out on a single or multiple meters. Some processor time would be a great help with the measurement control and calculations. Since the 16 binary connections on the Arduino can work in either direction a 16 bit CMOS analog switch would need to be used to change between setup and measurement mode. The problem is how to tell the Arduino to run a different program based on the setting of a front panel switch. Perhaps the interrupt input can be used for that.

The ultimate addition would be to add scope outputs to the tester and curve tracing software. Modern DSOs have a way to dump the screen to a thumb drive. The screen image could then be transferred to a PC and a graphics program used to draw load lines on the curves. Or if you want to be a little more retro the image could be printed out and the load line be drawn with a pencil and straight edge.

The one remaining problem to be solved is the power supply for all of this. The low voltage for the Arduino and external logic is no problem. It's the plate supply that will deliver enough current to test a KT99, 6550, or 6146 that is going to add a lot of weight and volume to the tester. A connection for an external power supply would seem to be the answer. This is in direct conflict with the ease of use rule. "The harder something is to use the less often it will be used." That calls for a built in power supply. Then we run into another ease of use rule for a piece of test gear that is stored on a shelf and must be moved to the bench for use. "The heavier and larger it is the les often it will be moved for use." Perhaps a compromise is in order. Enough built in power supply for testing small receiving tubes but external power connections for testing audio output and some transmitting tubes. This is something I will have to weigh before starting the construction process.

If anyone has opinions on this feel free to start a thread on the FWT list. It's easy for one person working alone to miss something. Any input you may have would be appreciated.

To Be Continued.


More Changes.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017.

In the two days less than 3 months I have been rather busy. Among the things I have done are wrestling with a printer which I should never have carried from the store to the car, trying to figure out why one of my motion sensing lights stopped working, trying, unsuccessfully, to find the same model so I could use the same mounting bracket, and learning how to operate a new o'scope and then writing a review of it.

My wife and I walked into Staples looking for a new printer because the old one was streaking quite badly and replacing the ink cartridges didn't fix it. She fell in love with a monster that turned out to be almost too tall to fit on my computer table. It was so heavy we had to destroy the box in getting it out. That meant we couldn't take it back. The thing has been trouble from the start. I won't go into the details but in a nutshell they are Trouble installing the software because one of the install screens didn't draw correctly, not knowing that the printer had two paper trays because the salesman didn't tell us, failing to print until the computer is rebooted, and the cost of ink cartridge replacement being in the neighborhood of 250 dollars. Yesterday I told her that I was going to take it out on the car port and bust it up with a sledgehammer. I do have one. She talked me down but I can still imagine how satisfying it would have been to lite into that printer with a 9 pound hammer. Or is it 15. This is a printer designed for a professional office and the salesman should have never sold it to us. But he doesn't care as long as he gets a nice commission. I have ordered a printer more suitable for a home office from Amazon and it should be in tomorrow. This monster is a combo scanner printer and it will function as a standalone copier. It's going into her office to serve in that capacity or into the storage shed where it will stay until it rusts away. And she can buy the ink carts out of her money.

Over the years I have tried several solar power motion sensor lights. The first ones were ruined by getting the sun directly in their eyes. I mounted the first one on the ceiling of the car port where it was impossible for the sun to shine directly on it. Other than that there is no place where a sensor can be protected from direct sunlight at every season of the year and every time of day. You may be thinking "put it on the north side of the house." But in the summer the rising and setting sun is north of an east west line and it will shine on the sensor. More recent models seem to have solved that problem and the sensors will stand up to direct sunlight. One of the lights stopped working and it turned out to be a defective battery. I couldn't find a replacement. It meant a trip back to Lowe's where I found one that looked about the same but wasn't. The battery is different but they look like something that will be around 3, 4, or 5 years from now. They look like shorter fatter C cells. Two of them. Even the plug on the end of the solar panel cable is different so I will have to install the new panel instead of using the old one.

If you have been keeping up with this site you will know that I wrote a review of a Hantek DSO that was not totally complementary. Back in May I bit the bullet and bought a Siglent scope which is on a par with Tek scopes. So is its price. It was on sale for a lower price and I grabbed it while I had the chance. I just finished writing a review and in the process learned a lot about it. The sale included a 4 channel 100 MHz scope and the 2 channel 200 MHz scope I bought. They were essentially the same price. After giving it a lot of thought I decided that I would be likely to use the extra bandwidth more often than I would use the two extra channels. About two weeks ago I saw a 4 channel 50 MHz scope on Amazon for about 300 dollars and on a whim bought it. I fired it up with all engines running to make sure it worked and haven't done anything with it since. I'll get around to reviewing it eventually.

And then there is the matter of my workbench. I found that the power supply sitting on top of the distortion analyzer was inducing interference into it and moved it. Here is a picture of my bench as it now stands, or sits whatever.

Latest version of my ever changing workbench.

The big scope, on top of the distortion analyzer, and the spectrum analyzer, on top of the Fluke power supply,, are not used in those locations. When one is needed it is lifted down to the bench top.


Changes To My Workbench.

Thursday, July 27, 2017.

If You scroll down to the heading with the date Tuesday, March 07, 2017 you will see the rolling cart I built to hold a number of pieces of test equipment. (Note: It might be quicker if you do a search for the date. Be sure to type it exactly as you see it here.) Because the spectrum analyzer was quite expensive and sitting on the very top I went to great lengths to tie it to the cart so it couldn't fall off. But the analyzer was very inconvenient to use when up there. Because I had gone to great lengths it was difficult to unhook and remove from the cart. Also I have replaced the Hantek oscilloscope with a Siglent model SDS2202X which is somewhat larger. I decided that some changes were necessary.

You can see the previous state of the equipment shelf by scrolling down to Monday, October 03, 2016. The shelf above has changed since then but the bench's equipment shelf is shown exactly as it was before the current changes. Here is how it looks now.

At first glance it looks as though I have 4 oscilloscopes. The two smaller screen units that are stacked are programmable digital function generators. The large scope on the left that sits on top of the Fluke power supply is the spectrum analyzer. Although it is high off the floor it is sitting on something that doesn't move so it should be secure. It is not meant to be used there. I take it down and place it on the bench for use. To the right is the Siglent scope which is a good one. You will be seeing a review of it in time. To make it fit I had to remove the Heathkit power supply and move the low voltage high current supply and the DMM to the top of the HP distortion analyzer. It also gets lifted down to the bench for use. These changes have made a bit more space on the equipment shelf. The end items no longer have their feet right on the edge. The Heathkit power supply is not needed now that the Fluke is working properly. The black case between the Fluke power supply and Siglent scope contains the directional coupler which works with the spectrum analyzer to make return loss and VSWR measurements. The Heathkit frequency counter now sits on top of the two function generators.

Case Closed.


Spectrum Analyzer Impedance Buffer.

Monday, July 17, 2017.

Looks like it's been almost another month. I suspect you know how it is. You get to working on a project and it is so much fun that you don't want to stop and document it. Well, it happens. The power meter is finished and now lives on a page of its own. It also lives on my equipment shelf where it looks good. Even Sue likes its appearance. This permits my return to the blind fisherman's buoy. To make some tests on that project I need to use the spectrum analyzer but the input impedance is too low to do what I need. And so it goes.

That's right, I now own an RF spectrum analyzer. In February I decided to spring for it. Not a Keysite, not an Agilent, not even an old HP, but a Siglent. Probably made in China but isn't everything these days? It goes up to 2 GHz although I would have been quite happy with 200 MHz. It isn't useful for audio work because it only goes down to 9 kHz and the tracking generator is specified to go down to 100 kHz although it is usable down to 50 kHz. That makes it worthwhile having for receiver IF and RF stages and filter work. Its main limitation is that the input impedance is 50 ohms. Well I hear the manufacturer saying, it is intended for RF work. True. But when I need to sweep out an IF filter at 80 kHz a 50 ohm input impedance is a little low.

My mission then is to design and build a buffer amplifier that will have an input impedance equivalent to that of an oscilloscope so I can use a standard 10 meg ohm probe with it and a bandwidth wide enough to match my needs. Also I want it to be very compact and battery powered, no tubes, sorry.

I don't expect there will be huge demand for this circuit because there might be one other person on the FWT list who owns a spectrum analyzer. When I finally come up with a circuit you can duplicate I'll leave it up for a while. BTW, if anyone knows of a good spectrum analyzer that does audio frequencies please let me know.


When I started out I had no idea just how much bandwidth I could get with transistors on hand. I had to decide what would be the absolute minimum I could live with and the answer came back 30 MHz. What would I really like? 100 MHz came to mind. Anything above 100 would be chocolate sauce on the ice cream.

I started digging through my store of transistors and found a couple of dual FETs and a few BJTs all with Heath part numbers. They must be replacement parts for a Heathkit oscilloscope. As such they probably have some pretty respectable Ft values. So I thought up a circuit using one of the FETs and one BJT. It looked like I could get 30 MHz out of it but it wasn't all that far down at 100 so I decided to try for it. Here is the original circuit.

I tried adding series RCs to the emitter with smaller capacitors but couldn't get the curve right. Guess I need to sleep on it as it is getting late.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017.

I must admit that I was not using the best techniques for broadband work. The tracking generator in the analyzer has a 50 ohm output but I didn't have it terminated. In fact I was using cables with clip leads on the ends for both input and output.

Also, these socket breadboards are not the best for RF work. I do have a version I built that incorporates some features that should make it a little better. When I mounted the socket I put a piece of Plexiglas under it to cut down capacitance to the chassis. It has BNC connectors on the left and right and a lid that can be closed. There is no power supply which means that power must be introduced from the outside or in this case included inside, a 9 volt battery that sits inside with the circuit board. Eventually you will see a picture of it farther down this page. There is an older one WAY on down. It is just after the heading "Thursday, December 01, 2016"

I snapped a 50 ohm through termination on the left hand BNC and ran the shortest possible cable from the TG output to the breadboard input. Since the amplifier has a 51 ohm resistor in its output I just ran a cable from the right hand connector to the analyzer's input. Of course. Signals go in on the left and come out on the right. Right?

That was a much greater improvement than I had expected. Next I investigated the effect of changing the value of the source resistor in the FET source follower. A large value, 10 k ohms, gave more gain while a smaller value, 2.2 k ohms gave lower gain but better high frequency response. This is what I would expect. The wide dynamic range of the analyzer means that high frequencies are more important than gain.

Oscilloscope vertical amplifiers that I have seen schematics of show emitter followers between every stage no doubt to isolate the miller capacitance. I think I'll add an emitter follower between the source follower and the BJT common emitter stage.

Monday, August 14, 2017.

The blind fisherman's buoy is as good as I can get it with parts from China. Any improvement will require a considerable outlay of cash. I will have to consult the end user about that. Meanwhile I can get back to the impedance buffer for the spectrum analyzer.

I eventually came up with this circuit. It gives a really good looking sweep from 0 to 100 MHz as shown below.

To be continued.


How Time Flies.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017.

It has been almost a month since my last entry. I have been working on the audio power meter while buying a minimum of new parts. That has meant recycling enclosures and using parts on hand. Something I would like to do more of because it saves money. It will without doubt make it harder for others to duplicate. The power meter will reappear on a page all its own within a short time.

I have also been discovering that the noise from power lines and neighbors security lights is at such a high level as to make radio astronomy impossible. Even ham radio operation will not be under the best of conditions. And then there was our wedding anniversary.

Sue asked me what I really wanted and I told her "a Fender Stratocaster". That was back in February and she said she would buy it right then. I suggested it might be more appropriate if we wait until June. On the second of June she said "Let's go buy your new guitar. Our anniversary is on the 19th. She bought me a brand new Stratocaster and a 6V6 amplifier to go with it. It has been several years since I played because my aging bones protested when I tried to play my big acoustic guitar. I had two problems. One was that my right arm went numb when I Reached around it to play for more than a few minutes and my left hand was in pain when I tried to form chords that were more interesting than C, D, E, or G. Yesterday was our anniversary and I bought her a cameo necklace. She likes them but they are very hard to find and expensive because they are out of style. Neither one of us worries about what's out of or in style. We wear what we like.

Here are three pictures of me with a captive audience, the Stratocaster, and amplifier.

Case Closed.


Radio Jove.

Monday, May 08, 2017.

The largest planet in our solar system, Jupiter, gives off intermittent radio emission in the HF band. Sorry, it's not little green men or women trying to make contact, It is totally natural. It is caused by electrons spinning around in the strong magnetic field of Jupiter and colliding with its largest moon IO pronounced I O. This became of interest to me when I was an undergraduate at the U of F. One of my friends from my home town and a fellow ham arrived at the university a year ahead of me and he found employment with the radio astronomy department as one of those lucky people who got to stay up all night to operate the radio equipment to catch the occasional, and at that time unpredictable, radio Jove events. The observatory wasn't complicated. It consisted of about two dozen Collins 75s1 receivers and some paper chart recorders that used an ink pen writing on a moving roll of paper.

After I entered graduate school the Jupiter program became more important to me as I began to see it as a possible connection to employment after I graduated. Long story short, I did get a job with the department which led directly to my position with Western Kentucky University where I did various jobs including teaching for 33 years before retiring.

Meanwhile the cause of the radio emissions from Jupiter has been figured out and the events, often called storms, can be predicted with more accuracy than weather on earth. Most of the research in this area has fallen into the amateur scientist area and it is being coordinated out of NASA's educational program. Anyone who is interested can buy a radio Jove kit for just a little over 300 dollars. The receiver is now all silicon based and confined to a single frequency of approximately 20 MHz. Long range radio propagation on this frequency is so rare that is little interference from terrestrial stations and the ionosphere is highly transparent to radio signals of this frequency even in the daytime. As a result the little receiver when connected to a simple half wave dipole antenna can pick up radio emissions from the center of the milky way galaxy and the sun. The latter is what has revived my interest in the project. In August there is going to be a total eclipse of the sun and the shadow of the moon is going to pass over my house. NASA wants to collect data from as many amateur radio astronomy stations as possible. They want data from in the path of totality, near the path and far from the path. Since the radio Jove program gave me my life's employment I thought I would offer a little payback by participating in the experiment.

So I have spent last week building the receiver which is pictured below just before putting the cover on it. The kit includes the coax, wire for the antenna, and insulators. I have to buy the masts myself. The best thing is that because it looks at the sky it doesn't need to be 50 feet in the air to work DX. 10 feet is about right to use the ground as a reflector for an extra 3 dB of gain over a dipole in free space. I need to get going on the antenna because NASA wants us to collect data of the normal sun over as many days as possible prior to the eclipse. I'll keep you posted on how things turn out.

To Be Continued.


Updating Two Heathkit Resistor Substitution Boxes.

Sunday, April 23, 2017.

Back in the distant past I bought and built two Heathkit resistor substitution boxes. My thinking then was in some circuits resistors come in pairs. My intended purpose for the boxes was circuit development rather than repair which was actually their original intended purpose. They were made with 10% 1 watt carbon composition resistors. Most of the resistors were near the edges of the tolerance range and over the years many of them have drifted out of tolerance. I decided it was high time to replace the original resistors with 5% carbon film resistors.

As with most jobs of this kind it turned out to be more work than I had anticipated. I started on Thursday the 20th with a little time out to marvel over my wonderful new camera. Since I have two boxes I can easily show before and after.

Having finished with one I intend to start on the other eventually but I have another iron in the fire that is awaiting my attention. I won't bother to write about the second one.

Case Closed.


Learning a New Digital Camera.

Saturday, April 22, 2017.

So why do I need a new digital camera? Isn't the one I have working just fine? I'm not one who will buy something I don't need, unless I want it. But in this case it is a need because of the nature of the old camera.

It's a Kodak. If you have been asleep or living in a cave or survivalist commune for the last 5 years or so you may not know that Kodak declared bankruptcy and shut down their operation. It's a shame because they did make a good camera that didn't cost an arm and a leg. I have been taking pictures with it since 2004. Most of the photography on my websites was done with that camera. So what's wrong with it?

It uses a very special rechargeable battery that is made out of unobtainium. It's charge discharge cycle is getting shorter and shorter. It won't be long before that camera will become useless.

Also the software that transfers the pictures and allows me to process them a little to fit and look good on my website won't install in Windows 10. An updated version is not available. My wife's computer is an XP box which is where I have the program installed and where I have to take the camera to upload pictures. That computer is on a home network with this one and after I get the pictures in the shape I want I transfer them to this Windows 10 box. I have a duplicate set of picture files on the two boxes witch doesn't hurt but I would like it better if I didn't have to run from one room to the other and Sue would like it better if I didn't keep messing with her computer.

My Brother-in-law is a member of Costco in Nashville and he bought me a Nikon outfit which on special for a couple of hundred dollars less than the price for the same one on Amazon. Here is a picture of it.

Obviously this was taken with the Kodak. It is probably the last picture taken with that camera that will be seen on any of my sites. The outfit came with two zoom lenses. The one mounted on the camera is an 18 to 55 mm zoom and the other is a 70 to 300 mm zoom lens. Not shown are a camera strap, carrying case, two rechargeable batteries, and charger. And by way of saying goodbye to the old Kodak which has served me well here is a picture of it taken with the Nikon.

As you might imagine the Nikon has lots of features which make it very complicated. I think I have learned the ones I am most likely to use but there are many more that I am only aware of but haven't mastered yet. By the way, the model is D3400.

Case Closed.


Repairing an old capacitor substitution box.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017.

Many years ago, before I was married, I had recently finished building a Heathkit capacitor substitution box. Its range is, I still have it, from 0.0001 uf (100 pf) to 0.22 uf. Almost within a month I needed values larger than 0.22 uf and so I built one of my own in a 3 x 4 x 5 aluminum box. It started at 0.2 uf and went up to 1000 uf in a 1 2 5 sequence.

A few days ago I needed it again and it took a bit of looking to find it. When I did find it not all the capacitors tested good. I accomplished my purpose while avoiding the capacitor values I had judged to be too leaky to be connected into a circuit.

Set the wayback machine for Monday, April 17.

I decided I needed to replace some of the capacitors and took it apart. What I found was appalling. The capacitors were not only leaky they were leaky. Almost all of them were exuding some kind of sticky oily substance. I took them out and threw them away. It took a good part of Monday to unsolder and remove the old capacitor leads from the switch lugs. I recovered the switch without breaking any of the lugs. Then I started selecting the capacitors I would use in the new version of the box. With values on hand I could make up 0.2, 0.5, 1.0, 2.0, and 5.0 uf with voltage ratings of 630 volts. That was a considerable improvement over the old version. It required some paralleling of capacitors to obtain the values within 2% or less. I can't really justify this especially now that capacitors come in the standard 10% values, for example 0.22 uf and 0.47 uf.

I was able to find or parallel 50 volt electrolytic capacitors over the range of 10 to 100 uf. This is also an improvement. For the 200, 500, and 1000 uf capacitors I was stuck with 25 volt parts.

I printed out a label on photographic printer paper, soldered the capacitors to the switch, and installed the switch in the box. I didn't give as much thought as I should have to how long the capacitor leads should be and what capacitors went where around the switch. I managed to squeeze everything into the box and tested the box. Two of the switch settings measured 7.5 pf on the digital RLC meter. I had broken two of the switch lugs during the assembly.

Tuesday, April 18.

The switch was already ruined so I cut the tops off the lugs to make it easier to remove the capacitors from the switch while preserving the caps. I soldered lengths of hookup wire to each capacitor to avoid putting stress on the lugs of the replacement switch. Luckily I had a replacement on hand. This time I carefully planned out what capacitors would go where so the largest parallel combination would have plenty of room. I soldered the wires that now served as capacitor leads to the switch lugs and things seemed to be a lot better.

Then I found that the label had been damaged and I scraped it off and printed out a new one. As I had done before, although not noted, I turned the printed label over to Sue to cut just inside the outer lines. She can do this with much greater precision than I can.

I sanded off the remaining dried glue from the front of the box. Then I glued the paper to it. In the past I have used and recommended the use of rubber cement but time has shown that it deteriorates over time and the edges of the paper start to curl up. Now I am using something called Aleene's tacky glue. It dries clear but doesn't get hard as a rock. It does a good job of sticking paper to metal. Ask me in 5 or 10 years how it holds up over time. The important thing is to spread it evenly over the surface of the metal panel all the way to the edge of where the paper will go. The product is available from Hobby Lobby and probably other arts and crafts stores.

Some have reported problems with the paper wrinkling under the heads of screws when they are tightened. I have not experienced this problem with good quality photo paper and glue that has had plenty of time to dry. I use flat washers under the retaining nuts on controls and switches. When possible I hold the screw still on the label side and turn the nut tight on the inside of the panel. But when all this is impossible I rely on the strength of the paper and glue and don't use all my manly strength to tighten the screws.

Wednesday, April 19.

Now we are up to this morning. I used an Exacto knife to cut away the paper from the holes where the switch and grounding post go. I installed both and started soldering capacitor leads to the common wire as shown in the photo below.

This time there were no broken lugs or other open circuits.

So I put it together and back on the shelf where it is ready to be used the next time I need a large capacitor for some kind of test.

Case Closed.


Swapping an HP 608D for a 608A.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017.

Now I am helping a totally blind friend who is also an avid fisherman. He needs to place a buoy at his favorite fishing spot and be able to keep track of where it is when on his boat. We are going to plant a low power transmitter on the buoy and use a receiver on the boat with a directional antenna to track it. After some discussion we settled on 433 MHz because transmitters and receivers for that frequency are easily found on eBay.

I did a series of distance tests using my Arduino to turn the transmitter on and off and powering the receiver from a 9 volt battery. It looked promising. I needed to test the receiver with a known and variable input level in order to locate a point on the board that had a DC voltage that was proportional to received signal strength. So I fired up my HP 608Dpictured here.

Imagine my surprise when I found it only went up to 420 MHz. I had been sure that It went up to 500. Fortunately I hadn't gotten rid of the first piece of used HP gear I ever owned, a 608A. Right after buying it I wrote a letter to HP explaining my situation and asking if they could supply a manual and any parts I might need. I received a manual by return mail and a very nice letter dated October 22, 1973. I'm sure the man who wrote it is long ago retired and very likely is no longer living. The 608A does go up to 500 MHz. Pictured below.

I opened it up for the purpose of reforming the electrolytic capacitors only to find that it had oil filled capacitors. I tested them under voltage anyway just to be sure but all was well. I found that it worked well in CW mode but when modulation was switched on the carrier level dropped to zero. I put it back together anyway and did the test on the receiver. There was no analog voltage proportional to signal strength. It is a transmitter and receiver set intended for data transmission by amplitude on or off and that's all it would do. A search on eBay turned up a superhet receiver that did have an analog output of signal strength. The interesting thing is that it costs more to ship than it costs. Both prices were less than two dollars. How do they do that and make any money?

While waiting for the arrival of the slow boat from China I removed the 608A from its cabinet again and started tracing out the modulator. Looking at the schematic I picked out a capacitor that if shorted or even a bit leaky would cause the symptom. It was one of those metal cased rectangular block capacitors that were used mostly in military equipment from the 40s and early 50s. I replaced it with a modern 630 volt capacitor that I could solder directly to the wafer switch and tube socket. That fixed it.

A look at wave forms on the scope was in order. The envelope looked good up to about 90% modulation but the meter seemed to saturate at about 75%. The meter read about right at 50 % which is probably where I calibrated it the last time I worked on the generator. I decided that was good enough so I put it back together.

Right after I got the generator, back in 73, the RF output level was quite low and I had replaced both of the pencil triodes in the RF box. This threw off the frequency calibration a little but I needed it for a project and accurate frequency readings were not necessary as I had access to a frequency counter. I'm pretty much in the same situation again. I have a project to do and there isn't time to get involved in frequency realignment. I have a means of measuring frequency with sufficient accuracy to do what I need to do. So the signal generator that is anywhere from 60 to 65 years old will have to wait a little longer for a frequency alignment. Although the last time I calibrated the output amplitude was 20 or 25 years ago when I checked it, it was accurate to within 1 dB. I wonder if the products that Keysite is making today will still be operational 65 years from now.

Case Closed.


A Nuvistor Preamplifier.

Sunday, April 02, 2017.

Another item I brought in from the shed was a Nuvistor preamplifier. This device gave me something to test with my recently acquired spectrum analyzer. Before being moved to the shed it had spent many years in the attic. I removed its case and reformed the electrolytic capacitor as with the tube tester from yesterday below.

This one formed up and did a good job of filtering the B+. Since it is obviously intended for use by hams I tested it on the traditional ham bands of 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10, and 6 meters. The results are shown below.

About the Spectrum Analyzer.

It is a Siglent SSA3021 100 kHz to 2.1 GHz spectrum analyzer. I ordered the tracking generator add on and that is what I used to make the above plots. The generator only has a 20 dB range of adjustment from -20 to 0 dBm. Even at the lowest setting it proved to be a little too much for the preamp. I inserted 20 dB worth of fixed coaxial attenuators into the line between the generator and the preamp. Now with the adjustment range of -40 to -20 dBm I could investigate the gain compression which I suspected was going on. Sure enough the compression (reduction of gain) was about 3 dB at -20 dBm input to the preamp. In all the pictures above the input to the preamp was -40 dBm and as you can see the gain on most bands was pretty close to 20 dB which is as specified on the Ameco website..

I will do an extensive review on this analyzer soon but for now I can say the most disappointing thing about is the lack of labels on the frequency scale as there are on the amplitude scale. It is possible to trick it in to revealing the frequency units per division as you see in the pictures. As the analyzer is set up, "frequency step" is equivalent to frequency per division. Without labels the frequency span must be kept a whole number so the arithmetic is easy enough to do in the operator's head. Values of start frequency and stop frequency may be entered via a keypad and so can take on any value unlike traditional analyzers that have switch selectable ranges and so are restricted to what the manufacturer provided. I'm not sure the new way is advantageous.

The little preamp works well and can be of benefit when using an older tube receiver especially on bands of 20 meters and higher frequency. Unless you are using a real antique it probably wouldn't help much if at all on 160 and 80 meters.

Scared the ____ out of me.

I did a Google search for the schematic and followed a link to BAMA. I received a warning from my anti virus program that the site was attempting to download militias software onto my computer. Sometimes a site that isn't part of the establishment will give this warning. While I was reading the information from my program and deciding if I would trust BAMA the malware must have found a way in because the page came up that said my computer would be deactivated in 5 minutes unless I called a phone number. Attempting to close the page failed. I have had this happen before and I didn't call and my computer was not deactivated. I decided to take a chance and unplugged the power cord. When it rebooted it worked and I did a virus scan. Nothing was found. I suppose the BAMA site has been hacked and I wouldn't go there for a while.

Case Closed.


Playing With an Old Tube Tester.

Saturday, April 01, 2017.

I'm waiting for some parts to come in for the Arduino project. So I thought I'd do a couple of things that have been languishing at the bottom of my to do list for at least 15 years if not longer.

When my older brother passed away, as the only surviving member of our immediate family, I wound up with a lot of his stuff. I passed some of it on to his friend in Texas but I kept a few things. One was the tube tester pictured below.

He was mainly a mechanic but he dabbled in electronics a little. This is an interesting little tester because it takes advantage of the fact that many tubes have the same base diagram. It is well known that the 12AU7 etc all have the same pinout. The 6AU6 is another with a large number of pinout companions. So I took it apart and used my bench power supply to apply 150 volts across the filter capacitor with no other power applied. It showed a just detectable amount of movement of the current meter so I disconnected the power supply and plugged it in. I measured 120 volts between the negative of the filter capacitor and electrical ground. Oops? Although it has a power supply it seems as if the B+ is derived directly from the line. So I plugged it into my isolation transformer and scoped the voltage across the capacitor. It showed peaks rising to 170 volts with a DC between peaks of about 50 volts. Hmmm. High ESR in the capacitor. So I replaced it. While I was getting ready to button it up I notice some broken insulation in the power cord. "Wake up stupid" I told myself. I was lucky not to have joined the great balls of fire club. Again. I replaced the cord and did some continuity testing. Sure enough the B+ was line connected but it was totally isolated from the chassis. There is a transformer in it. That's where they get the different heater voltages.

After getting it back together I grabbed a tube and tested it. There was no difference between the tube being plugged in and not plugged in. I guess I had better look for the instruction manual to get the schematic diagram. To my surprise and delight a Google search found it right away. Reading the operating instructions was an eye opener. No change in the indication of the eye tube means a good tube. As it turns out this is not a cathode emission tester. It is a grid emission tester. The correct operating procedure is to adjust the "eye adj" knob for just a thin sliver of dark in the eye tube with the tube under test not plugged in. Then set the heater voltage and plug the tube in. If there is grid emission the eye will open. So no change means a good tube. The manual discusses TV set symptoms that are caused by grid emission and stresses how fast a service man, (this was the 1950s after all", can find the problem tube using this tester. In the back of the manual the company is advertising its full blown tester, cathode emission, mutual conductance, and grid emission. The advertised price is $139.50. It would be worth having a time machine just to go back and buy things at the prices of 60 years ago.

Case Closed.


Learning to speak Arduino.

Thursday, March 09, 2017.

Everything new has its own lingo or as some call it bafflegab. The Arduino is no exception. I had bought the beginner's kit from MCM Electronics about 3 months ago but my incentive to open it up was a request from a totally blind friend who also is a ham for a talking SWR meter. It came in a nice plastic box and the lid is scanned below.

My years of experience with Heathkits taught me that the first step is to check the parts against the parts list. As you can see I have checked off every part except one. OK, there is one part left over and it has to be the "Prototyping Shield for Arduino" but some identification pictures would have increased my confidence.

I went to Arduino.cc and downloaded the IDE (Integrated Development Environment). I started it knowing that the board was not connected and the first words I saw in the window were "void setup". "Well" I reasoned "the Arduino isn't connected" so I connected it. No change. Now to me "void" means empty or invalid something is wrong. Roget's Thesaurus gives me the following synonyms.

I soon figured out that void had something to do with the programming language, I'm not quite sure what as yet. But I can't get the IDE to talk to the Arduino over the USB cable. If anyone can help I'd like to hear from you.

Friday, March 10, 2017.

The day after posting the appeal for help in this space I had help from Chuck who worked with me for more than an hour, maybe it was closer to two, and the IDE made contact with the Arduino. Following installation instructions on the IDE download page I ran a sample program named "Blink" and a green LED that was soldered on the Arduino board began to turn on and off. At this stage I was willing to settle for even small successes.

So on to project 1. There are 15 individual project cards. Below you see scans of both sides of the first one.

I have to admit that now that I see the picture blown up on my computer screen I understand what to do to connect the experimental circuit. However, I know enough about computers to know that without a program it's just a useless lump of silicon. There is no other literature with the kit than what you see above. It would be pointless to scan the other 14 project cards. What you see is what I got.

So I went to the DFRobot website and became frustrated because what I was looking for didn't jump off the screen at me. I admit, it is a fault of mine that at times I get short of patients and give up too quickly.

Sunday, March 12, 2017.

So I went to Amazon and searched on "Arduino for Dummies" in books. Remember books? There is such a book but it has a date of 2013 so I looked down the page for more recent releases. I settled on 3 recent books all listed as best sellers on Amazon. They are;
  • Arduino 101 beginners guide by Eric Savasgard.
  • Programming Arduino by Simon Monk.
  • Make: Getting started with Arduino 3rd edition by Massimo Banzi & Michael Shiloh.
I didn't make a mistake. That's exactly what is in print on the front of the third book. The first book listed is very thin and DaVinci read through it in less than an hour. That gave me just enough information to understand what came next. And what came next was, I had the good luck to see an email from someone with some Google search hints. One was to enter what you are looking for on a given site followed by "on website.com". Many websites have search engines that range from slightly helpful to totally useless. As I found the first time I tried it letting Google do the walking works a lot better than the pathetic search engine on the site itself.

If you click on this link you will see exactly the kit that I have. Probably the first thing you will notice is that it is out of stock. The email from MCM said it was a closeout price which was considerably less than the price from the linked site above. I suspect this is a discontinued product.

On this page was a U-tube video and some files to download. The most useful file was a zip file named "Starter Code.rar". I couldn't make it unzip correctly and I had to in effect put everything back together. There were a bunch of folders which were empty and the files listed below them which belonged in them.

I have now performed experiments 1 and 2. The wiring was identical except for the pin connections and the color of the LED. The color didn't make any difference but the pin connection did.

As you see above the LED and resistor were connected between pins "GND" and 13. When I loaded the program, which for unknown reasons is called a sketch, and compiled it the led didn't flash. Fortunately I had learned just enough from reading through the first book to find the trouble. The variable declaration "int pin = 10" placed the output on pin 10. Changing the line to "int pin = 13" made it work. You would think that the person who drew the figure and the one who wrote the program would have agreed on which pin to use. My first impression was that the kit was put together by a committee that never met.

Project two was exactly the same circuit but using ground and pin 10. The program was in agreement and it worked. It flashed the LED to send SOS on the flashing LED. The programmer didn't know the rules of Morse code so the timing was a little off. I decided to correct it. I found I didn't exactly know the syntax for this programming language. Several error messages later I finally got it to work but I need to do some reading in the second book listed above. Note: I didn't just change the numbers imbedded in the code, I defined new variables and entered their names instead of the numbers. I am learning.

If you look at the U-Tube video on the kit page you will see there are some rather sophisticated experiments.

Monday, March 13, 2017.

Project 3 was a traffic light, or half of one. Three LEDs, red, yellow, and green, were for the cars and two, red and green represented the walk/don't walk pedestrian lights. A pushbutton switch initiated the pedestrian crossing sequence. Sue was totally fascinated with it. It might be fun to put together a toy with several options. Perhaps a light detector so when someone's shadow fell across it, it would cycle.

It seemed as if project 4 was a step backward because it went back to a single LED and was called flashing light. Didn't we do that already? It wasn't on or off, it was a brightness modulator. I didn't understand the code at all. I looked at the voltage on my scope and it was a 490 Hz square wave that was being duty cycle modulated from 0 to 100%. So it's time to stop playing with prepackaged circuits and programs, I'll never get used to calling them sketches, and study the book I have on programming. There really won't be anything to report day to day. When I get to the point of writing my own code I'll let you know.

Saturday, March 18, 2017.

I'm not quite to the point of writing code from scratch but I am big into modifying someone else's code. An example from Monk's book was a morse code generator. It did it by flashing a L E D but the beginner's kit included a "buzzer". It generates a click every time the state of the input changes so if it is fed a square wave at an audio frequency it will produce a steady tone. The built in functions are tone(pin, frequency) and noTone(pin). This is admittedly a simple conversion but in spite of my best efforts it generated a good many error messages. One was caused by a Basic habit. The function in Basic chr$() returns the character for the ASCII code argument. In Arduino char* declares a string variable. Consequently there were a few chr* declarations.

There are still some unanswered questions. For example the Arduino syntax of the for - next loop familiar from Basic is

for(int I = 0; I < 20; I++)

Contrast this with the Basic syntax,

For I = 0 to 20 step 1.

In Arduino can the step be different from 1? In what is similar to a let statement it uses i++ as shorthand for I = I + 1. Can the last part of the for statement be I = I + 2? I don't know. Arduino has eliminated the need for a next statement by placing the contents of the loop inside braces sometimes known as curly brackets { }. Well, this seems to be turning into an Arduino language tutorial. That is not my intention.

The language seems to be alright but I have many complaints about the IDE (Integrated Development Environment). In short it's lousy. In long, It's too small, hard to read, hard to manage, and very picky.

Too Small. When it pops up on my 22 inch monitor it is 5-3/4 by 5/3/4 inches. Only 7 lines of code are visible at any time and if there are comments on a line the horizontal scroll bar must be used to see them. But I hear you say "use your mouse to stretch the window or maximize it. That would be a practical solution if it had a memory. But it doesn't. When you select New from the menu to start a new program a new instance of the IDE opens and it is the same size as the original startup.

hard to read. The text is small and low contrast. It appears that the programmer used a text color of gray rather than black. If it were black that would help only a little. IT'S TOO SMALL DAMIT! No doubt it was programmed by someone in his 20s who probably has vision a little better than the so called perfect 20/20. OK mister twenty something, come back in 50 years and tell me if you can read the text in your program. You'll have to tell it to my grave stone because I won't be on the green side of the grass to hear you. In case you still don't get it people's vision gets less sharp as they grow older. So by programming as you have you are discouraging the older part of the population plus the visually impaired and legally blind.

It won't work with JAWS either. I searched for scripts that could make it work but they don't seem to exist. I don't know how to write scripts or I would write one. I received a suggestion that I look up something called java access bridge. I downloaded the zip file but I can't figure out what to do with it. I read the installation instructions and all I got was a headache. Apparently it must be manually installed by copying files to certain directories but there are so many alternative choices I couldn't make heads or tails of it. I doubt if there are many fully sighted people in the world who could successfully install it. Someone who is blind? Forget it. Someone told me that the Arduino language is similar to java. That doesn't convey any information because I don't know java from cappuccino.

Hard to manage. Every time you open a new program * it a new window opens. If you have stretched or maximized the window the new one is hidden behind it. You have to use Alt Tab to find the window that should have appeared but didn't. You have to manually close windows that you are no longer using even empty ones. If you get behind in closing unused windows the latest one slowly moves down to the right and eventually creeps off the screen. Trying to move them creates such a mess that it's easier to close every one and start over.

* (I refuse to call them sketches. Anyone who knows English knows that a sketch is a rough drawing not a set of lines of program code.)

Picky. I moved a program from one directory to another and when I tried to load it I received an error message which I will paraphrase because I don't remember the exact wording. This "sketch" must be in a folder with the same name as the "sketch". Create the directory and move the "sketch" to the folder. PICKY PICKY PICKY!

Well I'm struggling along as best I can which is all any of us can do. I have taken to composing code in WordPad and copying and pasting it into the IDE. After finding and correcting errors I copy and paste back to WordPad. However it seemed as if earlier corrections weren't making it back to WordPad. I may have forgotten to do something. I was working later than I should have been. If the problem persists I'll try Note Pad and see where that gets me.

What about void? The word "void" precedes the name of a procedure that does not return a value to the procedure which called it. Undoubtedly a poor choice of words but probably too late to change it. Beginners should be warned in advance to prevent panic attacks.

The text to Morse code converter works and I amused myself and my wife with it this morning. It needs my PC to create the text and transfer it to the Arduino over the USB line. This begs the question why not just program the whole thing on the PC? Well, I'm having fun with Arduino. And by the way it looks like there is enough interest on the fun with tubes email list to make it the fun with tubes and Arduino email list. If that's what approximately 750 people want who am I to stand in their way.

Thursday, March 23, 2017.

I am now getting help with the Java bridge. Darrel is helping me by phone and email. He tells me that it works but so far it isn't working on my computer. It's too bad we can't get someone to write an automatic installer. It is done for all other programs, why not this one?

This issue has distracted me from learning Arduino. I hope I can get back to it soon before I forget what I have learned to date.

Monday, March 27, 2017.

Well the IDE is a total disaster. Darrel has given up and so have I. We seemed to have arrived at this point totally independently. The IDE was written in the JAVA language and it is totally inaccessible with the software known as screen readers or text to speech converters. So the folks who made java came up with something called the java access bridge to help the blind operate java programs. But there's just one catch. The access bridge does not come with an automatic installer as 99.999999999999% of all programs do. The program must be manually installed. Apparently figuring it out is largely a matter of chance and I have not been as lucky as Darrel.

What were you java people thinking. It's as if someone was providing seeing eye dogs to the blind but to qualify to get a dog they had to read an eye chart. This goes beyond stupid. Beyond callas. I have no words. I curse you to a horrible death being eaten by fire ants. I curse you to the hottest place in hell. I curse you for ever and ever and ever.

That did nothing to make java bridge work but it did make me feel a little better.

Windows has had a built in magnifier since 98 and maybe since 95, I'm not sure. Anyway it looks as if it was left out of windows somewhere between XP and 7. I am now running 10. I found if I call up the Run box and type in magnify it starts. I did a search and found magnify.exe. Should any one wish to duplicate what I did the search will turn up at least 3 instances of magnify.exe. Select the one with the shortest path (least number of characters) and write it down. Then create a desktop icon to start it. I went one more step. I put magnify.exe in the startup menu so it starts automatically when the computer boots up. When I set the magnifier to 1.5 it enlarges the IDE sufficiently to allow me to use it without the help of jaws (my screen reader). I'm not happy about the other problems but I can live with them

Meanwhile back at the ranch, what's going on with Arduino? I wouldn't recommend the beginner's kit for anyone past the sixth grade. The canned programs teach nothing about programming. The only thing to be learned is wiring circuits on a breadboard. The experiments do have a fairly high wow factor but that's not enough for those who really want to learn how to program.

However, I have been working my way through Monk's book (listed above) and the parts in the kit have been very useful for that purpose. It might be worth the money if it ever comes back in stock. I have bought and started Monk's second programming book, Programming Arduino Next Steps. It seems to be more about the C++ language which the language used by Arduino seems to be a subset of. I have some ideas using the parts in the kit and writing some programs, sketches for all you conformist, to do some things that are more interesting then turning on a light.

To Be Continued.


Where have I been and what have I been doing?

Monday, February 27, 2017.

For years I have had a Specific Products model SR7F WWV receiver sitting in my rack unused. It has been unused because its power transformer was burned out. I finally got tired of tuning in WWV on the Drake 2B with some special crystals I had installed. I removed the WWV receiver from the rack and examined it. I removed the power transformer which required removing a set of audio filters. Someone had told me the transformer was bad but I decided to test it. I connected line power to the primary and measured secondary voltages. Hmmm, everything looked normal. I let it run like that, no load, while I did something else. After about 20 minutes I began to sniff that hot smell. Not a burning smell but the smell that metal gives off when it is very hot. I unplugged the transformer and touched it. "OUCH!" It was really hot and with no load confirmed that it was bad. I found a replacement on the AES website and ordered it.

Mounting it wouldn't be easy. I really didn't want to drill any new holes in the receiver's steel chassis. The original transformer was one of those that mounted with the core laminations parallel to the chassis with a large cutout for the windings and end cover. The replacement was a conventional tab mounted type with the core perpendicular to the chassis. Two of the four tab holes did line up with the original mounting holes but the leads exiting the transformer from the bottom would have been squeezed by the chassis opening. I had to devise another way of mounting it. So I cut an adapter plate from a piece of aluminum plate I happened to have. Its shape is not important because this is an ancient receiver and it seems unlikely that anyone reading this page has ever seen one of these receivers let alone has one.

Meanwhile I am working in my wood shop to build a rolling cart to house the new spectrum analyzer as well as the Boonton Q meter and the Boonton/HP RX meter. These are true boat anchors that currently I have to lift down from a shelf and carry to the bench and then return them to the shelf when I am finished with them. Both my wife and my doctor are telling me that I'm getting too old for all that heavy lifting so a cart on casters seems to be the best answer.

Meanwhile a totally blind friend who is also a ham wants my help to adapt an Arduino speech synthesizer for a talking SWR meter. I have an Arduino starter kit but I haven't had time to do anything with it other than open the box and look at the parts and wonder "What is that for?"

And if all that wasn't enough I bought a spectrum analyzer and although I could easily get started with it based on my previous experience with an HP analog spectrum analyzer some of the more esoteric functions required reading the manual. The analyzer came with a program that will control it over a USB line from my computer. I installed the software and the next time I tried to use Corel Paint Shop Pro X it wouldn't start.

Why is this important? Paint shop is, was, the link between MaxCAD and the internet. All those schematics you see on my website were created in a drawing program I wrote myself that I modestly call MaxCAD. The printer interface was easy to write for so it has printer output. I was not able to figure out how to write a gif, jpg, or bmp output. By examining the HPGL output of AutoCAD which is an ASCII file I was able to figure out how to write an HPGL file. HPGL (Hewlett Packard graphics language) was designed to drive a plotter directly and is very straight forward. The file extension used is PLT. But HPGL is not recognized as a graphics interchange format on the internet. I was using Paint Shop to scale the files and convert them to GIF format which is universally recognized by web browsers. This was a crisis that took my attention away from the new toy as well as the WWV receiver.

I tried reinstalling the program but it would come to a point where the process would just stop dead in its tracks and no matter how long I waited it wouldn't go any farther. This is a problem I have seen before so I uninstalled the program, that is I tried. It would run for a while and then go dead in the water. This is the definition of being stuck between a rock and a hard place. I can't go forward and I can't go backwards. I bounced back and forth between these two boulders several times before giving up. I don't know for certain that the spectrum analyzer software was the cause of this problem. The appearance of my windows 10 screen changed slightly at about the same time. A windows update may have been the cause. That version of Paint Shop was originally intended for windows XP. Microsoft has of late shown an increasing disregard for compatibility with older programs and that is likely what killed my only link to the internet.

So - I starting Googling and eventually found a program called reaConverter 7 Pro. I downloaded the trial version and found it did exactly what I needed. So I bought it. Problem solved so you can take your paint shop and shove it.

With that panic moment taken care of, and believe me it was a panic situation, I can get back to the other alligators that are snapping at my heals. I have so many digital clocks that I really need the WWV receiver. Being able to turn it on and select the best received frequency by the turn of a rotary switch is a real time saver. So fixing it and getting it off my bench is number one at the moment. The equipment cart will solve a number of other problems and then I can tackle those other problems as well.

Monday, March 06, 2017.

I got the transformer installed and managed to get the filter assembly back together including the terminal where a wire had broken off. I called in Sue and she spotted the broken end in a minute. So the receiver worked but it didn't seem to be performing very well. I checked it with a signal generator and found that all frequencies were 5 kHz low. There are individual trimmer capacitors on all the crystals but the consistency pointed to the IF being off frequency. All the same I tried correcting the frequency with the trimmers but they didn't have the tuning range to correct the error. So I retuned the second IF to match a couple of frequencies I had not mess with and that brought everything into alignment. The receiver covers 2.5, 5, 10, 15, 20, and 25 MHz. I don't think they are transmitting on 2.5 and 25 anymore. I know you are curious so here is a picture of it.

Now with that problem solved I can get to the other alligators that are snapping at my heels. Glue up on the equipment cart started today and the first two subassemblies are drying. Tomorrow they go together to make the framework which will have to dry overnight and then the shelves and casters will go on. I find it much easier to apply the stain and varnish before assembly so once it is together all that will remain is to mount a power strip and the voltage regulator for the Q meter.

The cart will hold the 10 drawer tool box which is now taking up floor space, a file box that holds equipment manuals and really doesn't have a home, the Q meter, RX meter, Spectrum analyzer, filter choke analyzer, the power supply it needs to work, and the analog scope which in spite of advances in digital technology is needed often enough to be kept ready for immediate use. It may also hold a few odds and ends if I can place them somewhere they will not be in the way of using the other equipment.

Tuesday, March 07, 2017.

The equipment cart was finished yesterday and I put a few finishing touches on it last night and today. What follows are four thousand words on the subject.

Case Closed.


Modifying the HP334A RF Detector Circuit.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017.

Getting at the RF detector board turned out to be easier than I thought it would be. I did have to remove the main shield in order to get at it. It wasn't hard. Then there was a small shield around the board which was held to the rear panel by two screws and to another part of the internal shielding by two more screws. The circuit board was held to the rear panel by two screws. Just to make things interesting the HP designers had routed the output wire from the detector board through a hole in the detector board shield and the cable did not have removable connectors. The input cable did. So I had to work with the board and shield still connected to the main unit. It was difficult but not impossible.

Below is the unmodified detector circuit in figure 1 and the modifications drawn in by hand in figure 2.

Figure 1 Unmodified RF Detector in the HP 334A.

Figure 2 Modified RF Detector.

I replaced the diode on the board and also the spare which was held to the outside of the RF shield by two farnstock clips. I tacked on a 5.6 k ohm resistor to inject bias and reinstalled the board and shield. The resistor lead exited the shield through an extra hole which may have been put there for the purpose of biasing the diode. If so the hole would have been left in because there would have been a cost associated with removing it which over the production run would have been greater than the cost of leaving it in. At least that's my speculation. I used a shield mounting hole and screw to fasten a terminal strip to hold the two resistors and capacitor for biasing the diode and filtering the bias voltage to avoid adding noise from the power supply to the signal under test. See figure 8 under the heading "Low Distortion AM Detectors" below. I stole a bit of -24 volts from a nearby edge connector and I was ready to trial and error the resistor values. First I connected a substitution box between the power supply connection and the resistor lead coming out from the detector shield. I found a value that gave a minimum distortion reading at 100% modulation of my test generator and put a resistor of approximately 2/3 of the value to the detector and the filter cap that goes to ground. Then I tried the sub box between the negative lead of the capacitor and the negative power supply connection. This value came out larger than I had planned on for good filtering so I increased the value of the resistor going to the detector and found a new value for the other resistor. After several iterations of this procedure I found the following values. For the vertical resistor in figure 8 36 k ohms and for the horizontal resistor that connects to the voltage source 18 k ohms.

I put the whole thing back together and made some measurements. I was initially disappointed with the results. It was late and I was very tired and I probably read the wrong scale. Upon testing today I find satisfactory readings. I have flipped the axes of the chart so I can test at several different frequencies.

Signal source, SiglentDSG810.

Modified HP334A RF Detector.
Frequency (MHz) THD (%) @ 90% Mod THD (%) @ 60% Mod
0.54 0.147 0.098
0.8 0.165 0.122
1.2 0.182 0.140
1.6 0.190 0.150
2.0 0.197 0.161
3.9 0.242 0.218
7.2 0.274 0.234
14.3* 0.340 0.249
21.3* 0.430 0.257

* Using a Siglent SDG1025 which may have more distortion.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017.

There are no readings for 30% modulation because the meter was reading carrier leak through and noise.

Thursday, January 19, 2017.

I find it interesting that I was able to get better carrier frequency rejection in my test circuit than the HP engineers got in a device that was sold under the HP brand name. This is mainly due to the layout of the PC board. The three capacitors C1, C2, and C3 were all in the center of the board, parallel to each other, and close together. I found when setting up my test breadboard that putting the capacitors in close proximity allowed the carrier frequency to be coupled around the filter by parasitic capacitance.

But before I break my arm patting myself on the back I need to remember that the diode available to the HP engineers in 1965 was nothing close to the 1N6263. I'm sure they thought of adding a small amount of forward bias to the diode, after all they weren't stupid, but because in 65 every diode that came off the semiconductor line was different from all the others the bias would have needed to be adjustable and this would have added one more step to the final calibration procedure and probably one more piece of test equipment to the alignment station. For mass produced equipment economics drive the decision and it is likely that improving the filter was found to be economically unfeasible.

Case Closed.


Low Distortion AM Detectors.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016.

This investigation was started when I received an email from John Wise who has developed a modification for the Williamson amplifier. At this time he is interested in building a low distortion AM transmitter. He sent me some references from the WWW in which a pentagrid converter is used as the modulator and the RF output is detected and the recovered audio sent back to the audio amplifier to apply negative feedback around the modulator and detector. The catch is, and there is always one, that if the detector is not perfectly linear the feedback might well make the distortion worse rather than better. My goal in the following is to test the basic voltage doubler AKA peak to peak detector with several different diode types including a vacuum tube with various combinations of source and load resistances to determine how they will perform.

Testing the test instrument.

The danger in such a project is that the instrument being used to generate the AM signal that is being fed to the detector may itself have some distortion. To measure the distortion of an AM signal generator it is necessary to detect, rectify, the AM signal and pass the recovered audio to a distortion analyzer. To test a detector you need a low distortion AM signal generator. To test the signal generator we need a linear detector. That's a catch 22 if there ever was one.

At some point we have to rely on Mr. Hewlett and Mr. Packard to provide us with a linear detector. The HP 334A harmonic distortion analyzer has a built in AM detector for testing AM signal generators and transmitters. That seems like a good place to start. It's getting late and there is something else I need to do or Sue will be very unhappy in the morning because the cable TV box is locked in some mode I can't get it out of. So it's a call to tech support then to bed.

Friday, November 25, 2016.

Let's begin by testing the HP-606B signal generator. It has a modulating signal output so we can look at the distortion of the internal sine wave oscillator. The internal oscillator has two selectable frequencies of 400 and 1000 Hz. I will test it on both frequencies.

Distortion of 606B internal modulation oscillator.
Frequency (Hz) Amplitude (Volts RMS). THD (%)
400 3.95 1.8
1000 3.85 0.68

We will use 1000 Hz as the modulating frequency and make measurements with the RF detector in the 334A.

606B with amplitude at 3 volts 90% modulation. Output unterminated. RF = 1.6 MHz.

Distortion = 1.23%.

Substituting the low distortion function generator for the internal oscillator in the 606 gives,

Distortion = 0.93%.

I'd call that a significant improvement.

When the RF amplitude is reduced to 1 volt the distortion goes up to 2.26%.

This indicates that the linearity of the detector in the 334A is dependent on input amplitude as expected.

Now we will test the function generator under the same conditions as the 606, 90% modulation and 1.6 MHz carrier frequency. Just one little problem. The maximum output amplitude of the FG is 20 V peak to peak (P-P).

The distortion is 1.6%. <-p> When the output amplitude of the 606 is adjusted to give the same recovered audio level as the FG the distortion is 1.46%. No. I didn't reverse those numbers. I just checked them again.

The 606 when modulated by an external low distortion audio generator does a little better than the FG but not by much.

Now here's a surprise. I didn't know if the RF input was terminated in 50 ohms or high Z. That sent me to the manual to read the specifications. The input is high Z which means that I was getting twice the output from the 606 as indicated on the meter. The wavelength at 1.6 MHz is 187.5 meters. For the metrically impaired that's 615.16feet. The 3 foot maximum cable length is not going to have any significant effect on the impedance. But that's not the surprise. It is that the distortion in the detector is specified at 30% modulation. I knew that 30 % was the standard for signal to noise ratio measurements and now I know it is also the standard for distortion measurements.

With both generators operating at 30% modulation and the levels matched as above the 606 read 0.325% and the digital function generator read 0.32%. The "distortion added" by the detector specification on the 334A at frequencies in the AM broadcast band and input levels between 3 and 8 volts RMS is 0.3%. Given the inherent precision of digital circuitry I think it is safe to assume that the distortion in the DFG is less than 0.1%. The 606 uses analog circuitry and vacuum tube to boot so it may run higher levels of distortion at higher percentages of modulation.

I think I can account for the seeming contradiction in the numbers above for 90 % modulation. When you connect a nonlinear element in the feedback loop of an amplifier the output is the inverse of the nonlinear function. The 606 and 334 have the same detector circuit so the modulation envelope of the 606 is being predistorted with the inverse of the detector function. Then the detector in the 334 gives an output which has better linearity than the original modulation envelope thus giving a lower distortion reading.

Thursday, December 01, 2016.

I think I can rely on getting low distortion figures from the digital function generator. So now I will breadboard a standard detector to see what distortion figures I can get and how, or if, I can alter them by some circuitry tricks.

One thing that is necessary when making distortion measurements is to be sure that the carrier frequency output from the detector is way down. 0.3% distortion means that the sum of the harmonics is 50 dB below the recovered audio fundamental level. The filter in the circuit below shows a theoretical attenuation of 91 dB at 1.6 MHz. .

Figure 1 Basic Detector With Filter.

As constructed on the shielded breadboard shown in the photograph below the -3 dB frequency is 9.5 kHz and the attenuation at 1.6 MHz is 98 dB. I'll take that. The top on the breadboard's lid was closed for the measurements.

Test conditions. Input voltage = 20 V p-p at 100% modulation. (10 volts p-p unmodulated carrier).
Carrier frequency = 1.6 MHz.
Modulating frequency 1000 Hz.

The residual noise measurements may seem strange. We are accustomed to thinking of the noise floor as being constant. It is but it's the gain of the analyzer that has changed. The modulation percentage of the function generator is set and the "set level" is adjusted for a reading of 100%, not to be confused with 100% modulation. Then the modulation percentage is set to zero and the range switch on the analyzer is cranked down to the lowest range which is 0.1%. So the reading in the first column of 0.008% is actually 0.008% of 90%. 0.011% is 0.011% of 60% and 0.021% is 0.021% of 30%. These numbers aren't quite consistent but remember we are not just pushing the limits of accuracy we have totally knocked them over. If we strictly follow the rules of measurement we wouldn't report a reading that is less than 0.03 that was read on a range setting of 0.1. Some may say that values can be read down to 1/10 scale but this is pushing very hard on the limits of accuracy.

THD Values for Figure 1.
Diode # Recovered Audio (V)
@ 100% Mod.
THD (%)
@ 90% Mod.
THD (%) @
60^% Mod.
THD (%) @
30^% Mod.
Residual (%)
No Mod.
-- 0.008 0.011 0.021
1N270 (1) 2.40 0.605 0.295 0.130
1N270 (2) 2.38 0.65 0.32 0.148
1N270 (3) 2.40 0.600 0.285 0.120
1N933 (1) 2.47 0.63 0.294 0.119
1N933 (2) 2.49 0.555 0.240 0.094
1N34A (1) 2.42 0.812 0.400 0.170
1N34A (2) 2.18 0.88 0.37 0.158
1N34A (3) 2.42 0.74 0.342 0.143
1N34A (4) 2.44 0.78 0.382 0.163
1N4148 (1) 2.55 0.58 0.194 0.076
1N4148 (2) 2.55 0.582 0.199 0.076
1N5819 (1)
1.79 4.1 2.3 1.05
1N5819 (2)
1.79 4.0 2.32 1.05

Well, that produced a few surprises. The 1N4148 silicon diode did much better than expected while the Schottky diode did much worse than anticipated. You may be wondering where I got some of these diodes. The germanium 1N270s came to me on a computer board I got from somewhere. There were originally 40 of them in 10 resistor-diode gates. The number is now down to 21. I have a plastic drawer full of the 1N933s also germanium. I don't remember where I came by them. The 1N34As are brand new. That seems to be the type that everyone is using in these linearizing detector circuits.

The older germanium type seem to be more closely matched while there is a lot of variation among the 1N34As. The Schottkys have good repeatability but they have a serious linearity problem. If the modulation percentage were to be limited to 90% the 1N4148s could be used but the voltage applied to the detector needs to be relatively high, 20 volts p-p at 100% modulation.

The oscilloscope tells the story.

Figure 2 Detector Input and Output with 90% Modulation.

Figure 3 Detector Input and Output with 100% Modulation.

Note: The channel two range is actually 1.5 volts per division. As you will observe on the right of the picture this channel is still set for the X10 probe when in reality the scope was connected to the output of the shielded breadboard by a length of Coaxial cable.

The silicon diode gives the most recovered audio and best linearity except at that last little bit near 100% modulation. I remember reading something about adding a little DC to bias the diode just short of conduction for use as a detector. I think I'll try it. But that's all for today.

Wednesday, December 07, 2016.

Figure 4 Modified Detector with Biased Diode.

All data below is for a 1N4148 silicon diode. The FG was set to 100% modulation and the bias adjusted for minimum distortion. Then distortion was measured at a few intervals concentrated just below 100%.

Some investigation which is not included showed that the optimum amount of bias is somewhat dependent on the percent modulation. The percentage change is small and when the bias is optimized at 100% modulation the distortion at 90%, 60%, and 30% modulation is still less than with no bias.

THD Values for Figure 4.
All Diodes = 1N4148
Bias = 15.00 V
Modulation (%) THD D1 (%) THD D2 (%) THD D3 (%) THD D4 (%)
100 0.803 0.810 0.795 0.795
98 0.603 0.630 0.620 0.620
96 0.540 0.545 0.540 0.540
94 0.485 0.495 0.485 0.490
92 0.445 0.450 0.445 0.440
90 0.410 0.415 0.401 0.405
60 0.174 0.177 0.174 0.172
30 0.0745 0.0730 0.0725 0.0705

I am amazed by the repeatability of these numbers. Or am I? Maybe the detector is not adding any significant distortion at each point and I am measuring the distortion of the function generator. Right now I have no way of knowing. I'm going to start experimenting with different detector circuits with the hope that I am able to find one that will give either consistent or better figures than the simple diode detector I have been experimenting with. As I think about I am not encouraged. The best EEs in the world worked on a detector for the HP334A and the best they could was a simple half wave diode detector. The only thing that gives me hope is that they would have been working to stay within a budget. I have no concerns about large quantity production costs and can try very complex circuits such as the phase locked loop. Now, what did I do with those NE561s I ordered 35 years ago.

Friday, December 09, 2016.

Well, I'm not quite ready for that just yet. I'm still perfecting the detector circuit itself. John Wise pointed out to me that the detector circuit in the 334A uses the diode in shunt rather than in series. So I modified the circuit accordingly and found that different values were required for the biasing resistors and the distortion was somewhat lower. When I put this article up as a permanent part of this site, and I will, I will leave out the false start with the series diode. But for the daily log it stays just to show that lab work doesn't always lead to the best circuit on the first try.

Figure 5 Detector with Shunt Diode and Bias.

Recovered audio for this detector at 100% modulation is 3.00 volts.

THD Values for Figure 5.
All Diodes = 1N4148
Bias = 12.00 V
Modulation (%) THD D1 (%) THD D2 (%) THD D3 (%) THD D4 (%) THD D4 (%)
With Values
Shown in Fig 6
THD D1 & D4 (%)
Doubler, Biased
15.9 V Fig 7
THD (%) 1N6263
Small Sig
100 0.700 0.710 0.690 0.690 0.720 0.830 0.430
98 0.545 0.555 0.540 0.540 0.565 0.699 0.321
96 0.475 0.480 0.470 0.465 0.495 0.600 0.281
94 0.430 0.435 0.420 0.420 0.450 0.545 0.258
92 0.395 0.400 0.390 0.385 0.410 0.405 0.234
90 0.360 0.370 0.360 0.355 0.380 0.470 0.210
60 0.164 0.166 0.160 0.160 0.180 0.227 0.108
30 0.055 0.056 0.055 0.054 0.062 0.072 0.060

I found that the output of the function generator has a small DC offset and there doesn't appear to be any way to adjust it to zero except to add a small offset from the control panel. This was adding some extra bias which had to be made up when a DC blocking capacitor was used. I cannot account for the fact that all distortion levels are less than with the series diode but I'll take them.

Half Wave or Half Wave Doubler, That is the question.

Every AM transmitter circuit I saw used the voltage doubler. I suspect this circuit will give more distortion than the half wave rectifier but I'm going to keep an open mind and test the circuit on another day. I think I see the rationale for using a doubler but I also think it is unnecessary. It isn't needed for the extra voltage, there is plenty of RF voltage available. I assume that those who design such circuits are thinking that there is a possibility of asymmetric modulation and in that case the feedback loop needs to know the peak to peak voltage rather than the peak voltage on just one half of the RF cycles. If such asymmetrical modulation was taking place applying this information back to the audio amplifier in analog form would not correct the problem. The envelope would remain distorted and the detector might well make the distortion worse.

Actually I think it is difficult if not impossible to create asymmetrical amplitude modulation. Scope patterns can be deceiving. If some audio becomes mixed with the RF output it can give the appearance of modulation of only, say, the upper half of each wave and none or very little on the lower half of each wave. The audio cannot be transmitted through the ether along with the RF. At the reception point the audio is gone and the modulation envelope is once again symmetrical.

When I was at the university of Florida there was an EE student who was a couple of years ahead of me who thought that he could transmit stereo on AM by modulating the upper halves of each RF cycle with the left channel and the lower halves of each cycle with the right channel. He thought he had it until he tried to send the signal to a receiver across the room. He was seeing mixed audio and RF at the antenna connection but the audio part wasn't getting to the receiver. If such a transmitter had been possible receiving a monaural image would require the receiver to be equipped with a peak to peak detector. A common AA5 which uses a half wave detector would only reproduce one channel. As it turned out nobody had to worry about those things.

Saturday, December 10, 2016.

Before I move on I was wondering what would happen at a higher impedance level. So I changed the circuit as shown below.

Figure 6 High Impedance Detector Circuit.

I have added a column to the table above. I no longer see the need to plow through many different diodes when they all give pretty much the same results. The bias supply voltage for the new values is 15.00 volts. All the values are a little higher than they were but they are still less than when the diode was series connected.

I can't postpone it any longer. I must face the music and connect a voltage doubler circuit.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016.

Today I added the 7th column in the table above. It is for a voltage doubler aka peak to peak detector. The bias was set at 15.9 volts. The distortion is higher as one might expect. Such a detector might be necessary in a crystal set but as I stated above it seems unnecessary as used in the feedback loop of an AM transmitter.

Figure 7 Voltage Doubler With Bias..

Also I finally got hold of some small signal Schottky diodes. The ones I tried before were intended for use as rectifiers in switch mode power supplies. They had forward current ratings ranging from 1 to 30 amps and looked like rectifiers. It was tested in the circuit of figure 6 with one small mistake, a 220 k ohm was used in place of the 470 k ohm resistor. The diode and bias supply were turned around.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016.

In case you are confused by the entry above figure 8 below should clear things up.

Figure 8 Shunt Half Wave Schottky With Bias.

I think I have struck gold this time. I'm going to run 4 of these small signal Schottky diodes (1N6263).

THD Values for Figure 8.
All Diodes = 1N6263
Bias = 10.60 V
Modulation (%) THD D1 (%) THD D2 (%) THD D3 (%) THD D4 (%)
100 0.420 0.420 0.420 0.420
98 0.320 0.320 0.320 0.320
96 0.276 0.276 0.276 0.276
94 0.248 0.251 0.250 0.250
92 0.230 0.229 0.229 0.229
90 0.208 0.209 0.206 0.207
60 0.107 0.107 0.109 0.105
30 0.059 0.059 0.060 0.060

Wow! I am totally knocked out, blown away, and have had my socks knocked off. I see no reason to search any farther for a low distortion detector. These diodes are not at all expensive. At Jameco they cost $0.29 in single lots, $019 in lots of 10, and $013 in lots of 100.

I think I'll build an AM transmitter, at least on a solder breadboard, to see how it sounds. I doubt if I own an AM tuner that will give distortion figures this low but it should be enlightening to do some testing.

I am still curious about how vacuum diodes such as the 6H6 and 6AL5 will perform. I have some of each so it's just a matter of wiring a socket and plugging the wire ends into my shielded breadboard pictured above. I'm not quite ready to pronounce "case closed" but for those interested in the bottom line on low distortion detectors you have just read it.

Friday, December 16, 2016.

Thoughts About Detectors and Holidays.

The common uses for circuits like this are,

  1. Audio only detector, recovers the audio from an amplitude modulated radio signal in a receiver.
  2. AGC detector, recovers a DC level proportional to the average carrier level in a receiver.
  3. AC to DC converter in a voltmeter, starting with an AC input it recovers a DC level which is proportional to either the average, peak, or peak to peak, level of the AC input.

When bias is applied to linearize a diode detector the DC output is not zero when the AC input IS zero. This means that the circuit as shown is suitable only for number 1 above. A DC blocking capacitor must be present in the output circuit to prevent the DC level from upsetting the bias level on subsequent amplifier stages.

It is possible to remove the DC offset from the output if uses 2 or 3 are desired. There seems to be little point in using a highly linear detector for AGC.

As an AC to DC converter in a voltmeter linearity is absolutely necessary if printing special scales on the meter face is to be avoided. If the meter is to be entirely silicon based the offset can easily be removed by a simple op amp circuit. If all vacuum state is desired the whole circuit could be floated to remove the offset. These investigations will be performed after the Christmas and new year's holidays are passed.

The next two weeks are the busiest time of the year in most households and this one is no exception. As if Christmas and new year's weren't enough my birthday occurs three days before Christmas. Sue and I will be entertaining and visiting the homes of friends and family members. This is most likely to be the final entry in 2016.

Thursday, January 05, 2017. A digression.

And so it was. I'm back now and ready to face the new year, NOT! Well, I'll do the best I can.

While playing with my new Christmas toy, a hand held digital storage oscilloscope, I stumbled onto something. The math function has a number of functions that take the ch1 + ch2 from the analog scopes and add the other 3 functions from the small calculator plus FFT. After I got tired of playing with FFT I decided to see what the multiply and divide functions might do. I got the biggest surprise when I started with two triangular waves at a phase angle of 90 degrees and multiplied them.

The yellow and blue traces are the two waves and the pink or purple wave is the product. I haven't yet figured out exactly why it looks so much like a sine wave. There doesn't seem to be any way to get the calculated wave out of the scope for processing by other instruments. I may have to set up an analog multiplying circuit using a 595 four quadrant multiplier to see just how good a sine wave it is.

Thinking about it in the time domain I think each half cycle may be made up of two parabolas one a mirror image of the other and connected.

Thinking about it in the frequency domain I can't see how harmonics could be canceled leaving only the fundamental frequency.

If you have any thoughts I hope you will post them to the list rather than directly to me. It might start a good discussion.

End of Digression.

Monday, January 09, 2017. And Now, Back to our Story.

All that is left is to investigate the vacuum diode. Here is the schematic diagram of the circuit.

Figure 9 Biased Detector Using Vacuum Diode.

We will begin with the 6AL5 since the miniature version is more likely to be used by experimenters. Here are photographs showing the wiring of the socket and the tube in socket in breadboard.

THD Values for Figure 9.
All Tubes = 6AL5
Bias As Noted
Modulation (%) THD V1 (%)
Bias = 19 V
THD V2 (%)
Bias = 19 V
THD V3 (%)
Bias = 19 V
THD V4 (%)
Bias = 15
100 1.08 1.07 1.27 1.14
98 0.810 0.810 0.960 0.900
96 0.700 0.690 0.860 0.780
94 0.605 0.600 0.765 0.700
92 0.540 0.540 0.685 0.640
90 0.490 0.490 0.625 0.585
60 0.196 0.202 0.266 0.275
30 0.069 0.072 0.098 0.10
Tube Tester
Diode 1
2/3 Red 2/3 Red 3/4 Red 3/4 Red
Tube Tester
Diode 2
2/3 Red 1/2 Red 3/4 Red 3/4 Red

The meaning of the tube tester results is as follows. 2/3 Red means 2/3 of the way up the red part of the scale. 3/4 red means 3/4 of the way up the red part of the scale. It appears that an old weak tube will give less distortion than a new one. I knew there was a good reason not to throw away those used tubes.

Comparing results at 90% modulation between the 1N6263 and 6AL5 shows that the tube gives about 2.5 times the distortion even for the best case. Looks like the 6H6 will have to wait for another day.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017.

In searching my old tubes I found 9 6H6 tubes. One is an RCA and it looks to be the oldest of the lot. Another is a GE which although the black paint is shiny there is a paint chip. Several others are RCA and are labeled JRC-6H6 and on the next line VT-90. I selected two of these for the test below. V1 is the old RCA, V2 and V3 are the military VT-90s, and V4 is the GE.

THD Values for Figure 9.
All Tubes = 6H6
Bias As Noted
Modulation (%) THD V1 (%)
Bias = 8.0 V
THD V2 (%)
Bias = 9.5 V
THD V3 (%)
Bias = 7.0 V
THD V4 (%)
Bias = 25 V
100 1.28 1.35 1.54 2.79
98 1.00 1.10 1.35 2.50
96 0.905 0.945 1.22 2.20
94 0.810 0.860 1.13 1.98
92 0.745 0.780 1.05 1.81
90 0.685 0.720 1.01 1.67
60 0.320 0.330 0.540/td> 0.700
30 0.130 0.130 0.234 0.285
Tube Tester
Diode 1
2/3 Red 2/3 Red 2/3 Red 3/5 Red
Tube Tester
Diode 2
2/3 Red 2/3 Red 2/3 Red 3/5 Red

The results here contradict those for the 6AL5. It appears as if I pretested the tubes and ordered them from best to worst. I did nothing of the kind. The probability of that happening is small but not zero. The order in which the tubes were tested was just the luck of the draw.

I and others were curious about how tube diodes perform as detectors. Now we know. If someone who has heard about this page but not seen it should ask me "did you test tube diodes?" I can answer yes and they scored pretty low. And by the way I did some undocumented testing of the effect of reduced heater voltage. The effect was very small, not enough to be worth it.

Once again I want to point out that biasing the diodes can only be done when AC modulation is to be recovered. The bias adds a DC offset to the output which is blocked by the capacitors in an audio detector. If the circuit is to be used for converting AC to DC for measurement purposes or detecting the carrier level of a received radio signal some means must be found to remove the DC offset. That's easy to do with a silicon based op amp but somewhat difficult with tubes.

What Now?

For one thing I plan to look into modifying the detector circuit in my HP334A distortion analyzer. It may prove to be inaccessible without disassembling half of the unit. If so I will build a small box containing a diode and 9 volt battery to do the detecting.

Next I am going to build a low power AM transmitter that is similar to many that are posted on the www. Most of these use a 6BE6 as the modulator oscillator. That will be a separate article on this page. So as porky pig would say "a the a a the a a the a a that's all folks".

Case Closed.


Updating Used Tube Storage.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016.

Ever since I installed the swingout parts storage cabinet the storage for my stash of used but still good tubes has been in a state which is not to my liking. I have been wanting to improve it but I just haven't gotten around to it. Well, I found a round to it in the yard the other day so I can make the desired improvements. Here is how my used tube storage looked on July 15, 2011.

It took about three weeks with time off to replace the decaying shop ramp, which is another story. Here the new drawers.

Case Closed.


Filter Choke in the Negative Lead.

Monday, September 05, 2016.

Why would you want to connect a filter choke in the negative lead? We all have been taught to build circuits that look the same as the schematic diagram. All schematics show the choke in the positive lead.

Hammond makes a 20 henry 500 mA choke that would work nicely in a transmitter power supply for a pair of 813s or 4-250As. Such a power supply should be 2000 volts for the 813s or 2500 for the 4-250As. Just one little problem. If you read the fine print on the Hammond site you will be made aware that the maximum voltage between the winding and the frame is 800 volts. You put that choke in a 2 kV power supply and BANG! There goes a 50 dollar choke. Before you start thinking about ceramic insulators, read on.

The trick of course is to wire the choke in the negative lead as shown below.

The top diagram shows the conventional way of wiring a choke. The one below that shows how to put it in the negative lead. Notice there is only one ground point which is after the choke. The center tap of the transformer winding experiences a relatively small voltage. Even if a choke input filter is used simply by removing the capacitor on the left the voltage at the center tap should not exceed the breakdown ratings of the transformer.

The third diagram shows a trick that might be employed if the circuit has already been wired up. Reversing the diodes will of course reverse the polarity of the power supply so the ground point will have to be moved and connections to the powered circuit reversed. The reversed diodes alternative has been shown to keep someone from saying "you didn't show what happens if the diodes are reversed".

When I was a teen-aged ham operating 40 and 75 meters in Florida there was a case of a Globe King 500 that went off the air. A couple of weeks later it came back on and the owner reported that the filter choke had shorted to ground. He had solved the problem by mounting it on ceramic insulators. That presented a real hazard to whoever came into possession of it after he became a silent key. Placing the choke in the negative lead wouldn't have made it work because some point of the winding would still be shorted to ground. But it would have made it safer. At that time I didn't know enough to give him advice on the matter but even if I had I wouldn't have offered it because he wouldn't have taken it. He was well known among Florida hams for not taking kindly to any advice which he always interpreted as criticism and became highly offended. At my age at the time I stayed out of his way as much as I could. I never knew what happened to his equipment when he went silent but I and lots of others would sure have loved to have that Globe King even with its hot filter choke.

Case Closed.


Fluke 407 Power Supply.

Friday, August 12, 2016.

Two members of the email list have Fluke 407 power supplies and they may have set a record for the amount of traffic generated. I am one of the two and my faulty memory has been the reason for a good part of the traffic.

The original post rectifier filter parts in the fluke were two twist lock can capacitors which were 90 uf at 500 volts in series. On July 27 2010 I discovered that one of the two capacitors had failed open. I know the date with such accuracy because I had the good sense to take pictures of the original configuration.

And my repair.

Apparently, the nylon tie passed through the grommet partially visible above the top capacitor and back through the hole now vacated by the original capacitor. I must have had the 40 uf 500 volt capacitors on hand. Although the combination made only 80 microfarads that is within the tolerance range of the originals and the replacement. I wasn't concerned about any possible imbalance in charge due to unequal values because of the tolerance and the robust balancing resistors used by Fluke.

The next part of the repair is not as well documented but it seems as though it was a relatively short time later, say a year. The other capacitor failed open and left me with nothing to do but replace with two more 40 uf 500 volt capacitors. These are recently taken pictures of the 4 capacitor repair.

I mounted a piece of Plexiglas to the top side of the chassis using the former capacitor plate mounting holes. A small hole drilled in the Plexiglas in the center of each large chassis hole permits the wire to pass through and keeps it well away from the chassis.

Two terminal strips, one mounted to the chassis but with the intervening lug removed, and another one mounted on a ceramic insulator hold the capacitor bundle and the two balancing resistors.

In the bottom picture the Plexiglas is rendered visible by the reflection of one of the bench lights.

In my faulty memory I thought I had used two 220 uf 250 volt capacitors in series with their own balancing resistors to replace each 90 uf 500 volt capacitor. Also I didn't remember how careful I had been to make a somewhat robust installation. True, it wouldn't survive a rocket ride to the space station but it should survive normal usage in my shop. However, I am now committed to replacing this fix with one that is much closer to the original. It makes sense to do that since it isn't really my power supply. If it were mine I would just button it up, lift it back to the shelf and declare "case closed".

Monday, October 03, 2016.

The Fluke is finished as far as I am concerned. After much flailing about I settled on a pair of 220 uf 600 volt capacitors and clamps along with replacement rectifier diodes supplied by Mike Grant. Sorry the picture is a little blurry. I must have forgotten to press the close up button. The power supply is back together and on the shelf as you can see in the picture below. I'm not going to haul it down and take it apart to take another picture.

Case Closed..


Swinging Choke.

Tuesday, August 09, 2016.

Remember this?

I clicked "buy now" on this item and wound up with it. The seller had listed it as an eight henry choke in spite of what was printed on the side. It turns out that what is printed is right and the seller didn't have a clue.

With no direct current in the choke it reads 52 henrys on my Filter Choke Analyzer.
At a current of 20 mA it reads 32 henrys and,
at 40 mA it reads 16.5 henrys.

Just right off I would say that aint too bad. Tomorrow I will try it in a small power supply with my load box to see what happens. There have been predictions on the FWT list that when the current falls below the critical value for the inductance that the ripple will increase. We'll see.

When I was back at the University of Florida someone said that a breadboard is a form of truth table.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016.

The power supply pictured below may be a bit rusty because it goes back to 1958 when I started my DeVry course. That was prior to, and I suppose a test run for, my enrolment in the University of Florida's EE program.

In its original form the four screws along the front were insulated from the chassis and held spring clips which I don't know how to spell. Phonetically they are call Farnstock clips. A clip carrying 300 volts isn't very safe but in 1958 people were credited with more intelligents than they are today. I don't recall ever getting a shock from it.

After the DeVry course was finished, I got my general class ticket, and bought a Viking VFO, I modified the power supply to power it. The octal socket was where the VFO plug went and the 7 pin mini socket was for a VR tube. The VFO had its own VR tube but I decided that it wouldn't hurt to have two bow strings. The VFO soon got a more compact power supply of its own and the next job for the little supply was powering a dedicated headphone amplifier. It can be seen in pictures on the page for that project.

This is the underside of the chassis. Look closely at the tube socket next to the transformer. That's right, those are top hat diodes soldered to what once was a socket for a 5Y3. The red capacitor is a dual 8 uf at 450 volts. The big resistor is a 1000 ohm. It is not marked with a power rating but I think it is a 10 watt. You can see how DeVry saved the cost of a bayonet lamp socket. The grommet is hard and would probably disintegrate if I tried to remove the lamp.

For this experiment I removed the old rectifier tube socket and filter elements. The modern 1N4007 diodes, swinging choke and filter capacitor are on the breadboard. Here is the schematic diagram of the test setup.

And here is a picture of the setup. I used the decade resistance box for low values of current which were impossible to hit exactly with the load box. When the power was above 1 watt I switched over to the load box. In most cases I was able to hit the stated current within 4%.

Here are the data I collected for the above circuit.

Load Current (mA)

Output (VDC)

Ripple (mVP-P)
































































Thanks to a gentleman whose name is not in his email address and not in his message either I have learned the well kept secrets of Microsoft Excel. Here is a graph of the above data.

One interesting thing. When the load was "zero" mA, the scope and voltmeter in parallel for a load of 5 megohms, the ripple waveform look like this.

For all loads of 2 mA and higher the ripple waveform looked like this.

You will also note that the sawtooth ripple had a much lower amplitude than the sinusoidal ripple.


I was given some very good and useful help on the Fun With Tubes email list and managed to produce the graph above. The kind of graph I want is called a "Scatter Chart". I would never have thought of looking at that one in a thousand years. Just shows how important communication is. If you called a spade a digging tool most people would probably figure out what is meant. But if you call a spade a hydraulic jack who would figure that one out?

The problem is that there is no way to independently find out how to work with Excel. The help screens which were never very good have gotten much worse in the 2013 release. I have a conspiracy theory as to why. Microsoft sells courses in using products such as word and excel. For a "small?" fee you can get tutorials from them. If they make it too easy to get help from the built in help they can't sell as many tutorials.

Do I really believe that? Sometimes I do and sometimes I don't.


Unless there are questions, Case Closed.

Monday, January 16, 2017. There Were Questions.

Someone on the email list asked what the waveform looks like if the capacitor is omitted and just the choke and the load are present. The three scope screen shots are the answer.

Load Current = 1 mA.

Load Current = 10 mA.

Load Current = 30 mA.

Schematic of Updated Power Supply.

This is the power supply as updated from the original DeVry version. The 15 k ohm resistor across the switch makes sure that the capacitor is always charged to the average voltage to minimize the magnitude of the pulse of charging current when the switch is closed. When the switch is open the full unfiltered 370 volts peak to peak output of the rectifier is coupled by the 100 uf capacitor and applied across the resistor. That is why it needs to be a 1 watt. When the switch is closed there is likely to be a pulse of current depending on where the line is in its cycle at the instant of closure.

The photo below illustrates how I make holes in a chassis to fit parts similar to the choke. I measured the choke with digital calipers to accurately determine the locations of the four mounting studs and terminal insulators. I made a drawing using my graphics program and print it out. Then I taped the paper drilling template to the chassis with double stick tape. The template covers the hole left when the tube socket was removed. Refer to the photo of the power supply just after the first picture of the choke at the beginning of this article. Next I had Sue, whose vision is better than mine mark the holes to be drilled with a marker punch. The terminals pass through the tube socket hole. The punch marks are a bit small so I enlarge them with a 1/16 inch bit held in the chuck salvaged from a electric drill that died decades ago. The hammer, punch, chuck with bit, chuck key, choke and power supply with template in place can be seen in the photo below.

This is the power supply after the holes were drilled and the wiring completed. One of the 100 uf capacitors can be seen peeking out from under the chassis.

Then it had to be tested. Here are the data for both choke and capacitor input modes. Notice that in choke input mode the critical current is somewhat higher than the value obtained above using a 22 uf capacitor. The circuit is the same except for the capacitor value. The 100 uf cap and 15 k ohm resistor in series across the input have no effect. Values did not change when this part of the circuit was opened. The 150 k ohm bleeder resistor was not present during the data collection.

The final test was to power my original headphone amplifier that I made for the first Koss headphones. When in the choke input mode the 120 Hz ripple was somewhat audible in the phones. It disappeared when the switch was set to capacitor input mode. There is some 60 Hz hum being coupled from the heater wiring. I don't remember this from when I used to listen to it regularly. True, that was more than 50 years ago but I would have taken measures to eliminate it if it had been that audible back then. My music source then was a turntable with a magnetic cartridge and now I am using one of those little music players that is smaller than some of the parts in the amplifier. The output of it is a lot less than line level so maybe I never heard the hum because I didn't need to turn up the volume that high.

Case Closed, again.


A New Radio with Old Tubes.

Monday, August 01, 2016.

I have had the idea of building a superhet radio around tubes that have only a 2 digit number for some time now. My first iteration will be with tetrodes and pentodes but I hope someday to build one entirely with early triodes. This action was precipitated by an offer from J. Ed to sell some 2.5 v two digit tubes. My plan is this.

35 - RF Amplifier.
24A - First Detector.
27 - Oscillator.
35 - IF Amplifier.
75 - First Audio and Second Detector.
47 - Audio Output.
80 - Rectifier.

I have used terminology from the early days of the superhet. Ever wondered why the diode detector is called the second detector in some radio data? In the early days the mixer was called the first detector.

There is no pentagrid converter in the two digit family so I will have to use a separate mixer and oscillator. The 35 is what we know today as a remote cutoff tube. The old manuals refer to it as a super control tetrode. I think the 75 was a late addition to the two digit group partly because of its relatively high number but mostly because it has a 6.3 volt heater.

I have ordered most of the parts or I already have them on hand but I had to order a special power transformer to get the 2.5 volt filament windings. Then a separate 6.3 volt transformer for the loan tube that requires that voltage. Also an output transformer. I haven't worked out the chassis layout yet. I'm going to wait until I have the transformers in hand before I do that. I think I'll use those old Meissner IF transformers. At least some of the passive parts will go with the tubes.

Friday, August 05, 2016.

Upon checking my parts on hand I found I had plenty of Hammond antenna and RF coils but no oscillator coils. I have corrected that oversight.

The three transformers came in today so all I need is an oscillator coil. I'm still working on the schematic diagram. I will post it here as soon as I have done all I can without breadboarding. I am anticipating the power supply, mixer, and oscillator, will require some circuit testing and modification.

Saturday, August 06, 2016.

The oscillator coils and 6 pin tube socket came in today. I also have done all I can on the schematic without breadboarding. I'll do the chassis layout next and get it drilled and punched. Since this is a "one of" the chassis will serve as a breadboard.

Figure 1 First Schematic of Radio.

Tuesday, August 09, 2016.

I had an assortment of 5 pin sockets but decided it would look best if all sockets were the same. To that end I have ordered some 5 pin ceramic sockets. They should be in shortly. Meantime here is a chassis layout.

Figure 2 First Chassis Layout of Radio.

This is for a 17 by 10 inch chassis. I haven't worked out in my mind as yet how I am going to do the dial. I haven't even decided between airplane or sliderule. Sliderule style is easier to make calibrations for but I think the airplane style will be easier to make.

To Be Continued.


Building a Better Monitor Stand.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016.

I'm not making a habit of posting my woodshop projects here unless they bear directly on an electronics project. For example when I was cutting printed circuit boards for the IF transformers I documented two crosscut sleds for my band saw. One for square cuts and the other for 45 degree cuts. But most of my woodshop projects will go undocumented on this page.

This one may be of interest although it will not include enough information to permit duplication unless there is demand.

The Problem.

The problem is a rather special one for me because of my extremely limited vision. I have a screen reader to do the heavy lifting when there is text to be read. There are hot keys used by the totally blind to deal with menus and ribbons. That's a lot of memorization which the totally blind are accustomed too. I used to be able to memorize like that but I find as I grow older I either can't or don't want to do all that memorization. So I do a lot of looking at the screen. I have a pair of special glasses that have a magnifying lens mounted in regular glasses frames which allows me to view items through the magnifier hands free. Note: That's how I solder. Looking at the screen through this lens places the end of my nose about half an inch from the screen. That means if I want to look at something near the top of the screen I have to stretch up as tall in my chair as I can, or to look at something near the bottom of the screen I have to scrunch down. Neither position is especially comfortable and it would be nice if the monitor stand permitted up and down adjustment.

My HP computer I bought in 2004 came with a flat screen monitor that had such adjustment built in. Shortly after that monitor makers decided that a majority of computer users didn't need that feature so they discontinued it and to hell with the minority. That now 12 year old computer is still functional and is the weather station computer. There are still some programs that run on it that won't install on this one so it is on a network with this one so I can transfer files. My excuse is the weather station and Sue. I call it her computer.

The solution.

After stretching and scrunching for about a year and a half I decided it was time to do something about it. So I used my own graphics program to design a system that would allow me to raise and lower the monitor. I stretched and scrunched until I had a good design and then I went to my shop and built it. I started on July 6 and finished today. That was working 5 days a week. On Saturdays and Sundays I watch movies with Sue. No matter how long a marriage has lasted one can't totally ignore ones wife. You know you've been married a long time when she says "Hand me that thing over there on top of that thing." And you know what she means.

Here is a picture of it. It is based on two physical principles, the teeter totter, and the parallelogram. OK, so the parallelogram is a principle of geometry. That doesn't keep it from working. The forward and back movement of the monitor is only about half an inch which is not even noticeable in use.

At the rear I constructed an open top box to hold the counterweight. The white box you see sitting in it is a new Hammond 1650K. Without the monitor and counterweight the rack is balanced. With help from Sue I brought it into the house and borrowed the scales from the bathroom to weigh the monitor. It was 5.6 pounds. I opened the drawer where I store new transformers and grabbed one at random. When plopped onto the scales they read 5.6 pounds. I snapped the monitor onto the front, placed the transformer in the counterweight box and there they sit. When the day comes that I want to build an amplifier around that transformer I will have to find another counterweight. Meanwhile there is no reason to change it.

Case Closed.

Using the Pentode-Triode Tube as the Amplifier-Phase Splitter..

This article is now listed on the home page under the heading of Audio Amplifier Design. Click here to go directly to it.


AM Radio Stations Heard.

Tuesday, May 03, 2016.

After Sue goes to bed and I have nothing to do I fire up the 5 tube superhet which now has transistor IF transformers doing the work of tube IF transformers. The receiver seems dead above about 1000. I think I need a small capacitor connected from primary to secondary of antenna coil as I often see in older radios that do not have a built in antenna. Here's the list of what I have heard so far.

Entries are nighttime unless otherwise noted.

610 WRUS Russellville KY. Local daytime.
620 WRJB
630 WLAG or WLAP
650 WSM Music City. Day and night
660 WFAN
670 WSCR Sports
700 WLW Cincinnati
720 WGN Chicago
750 WSB Atlanta
760 WJR Detroit
770 WABC New York
780 WBBM Chicago
830 WCCO
840 WHAS Louisville
860 Speaking French
870 WWL New Orleans
880 WCBS New York
890 WLS Chicago
930 WKCT Local. Bowling Green. Can see towers from kitchen window.
1000 WNBP
1020 KDKA Pittsburgh
1040 WHO Des Moines Iowa. I grew up listening to this one.
1120 KMOX St. Louis
1130 Speaking Spanish.
1340 Sports, local station
1450 sports, local station.

I have a lot of interference between about 1100 and 1500. It sounds like sync pulse buzz as in old analog TV. I think it's the internet data leaking out of my cable modem box which is in a plastic case. I need to string up a wire antenna that goes out away from the house. Now I am using a wire strung the length of the house in the attic.

Slim possibility of updates.