Any interest in radio hardware development ? (DC + 15 minutes drive time residents please) #poll


Hello DC radio community.

First post here. I've found that as an occasional ham radio operator, after operating on HF, VHF, UHF, my interests keep returning  to the more basic: How does it work? What can I do to improve my signal? I can stare for hours at a needle representing signal levels, or a spectrum analyzer scope view showing carriers near our location. That said, many are not interested in handling a soldering iron, or to take on the challenges DSP mathematics for software defined radio. Yes, there are probably tools to make software defined radio (SDR) easier, but what about the more fundamental technology that underlies the whole discipline? Oscillators (still needed in SDR), Tones (still needed in signalling with repeaters like coded squelch) A/D and D/A (analog/digital and digital/analog converters, needed for digital voice), Antennas (mechanical bits and pieces with very clever and simple "matches" of impedance with copper wire), Propagation (hint: use the atmosphere and the moon for RF refraction and reflection, and when did you ever think about tropospheric scatter or meteor showers), video transmission, modems, packet, etc. the list goes on and one.

Also, if I may say so, it is a very important creative outlet for me if I have some down time, and in some of my work projects it has helped that I had direct experience with ham radio gadgets that I had to dive into since I bought it from Ebay or an auction site cheaply, and found it was broken, and the person selling it had no idea on what to do.

As an example,  late last year I found a seller (scrap seller) off loading a boat load of ruggedized (field portable, impossible to destroy) mobile network analyzers - that had no chance of being serviceable, but I took a guess and splurged $200 for two of them in very bad condition. The batteries were shot, the systems needed warming up, they were BAD and grungy and I had to invest in two sets of amazon AC/DC adapters with a weird voltage and very high amps for the charger. But after several days of TLC, and a lucky break in finding the specialized screwdriver to open up the chassis, and voila: Windows XP Embedded (in perfect working condition, with Solitaire! Color! Mouse, Modem, Ethernet, Internet Explorer 1.0) and real live RF spectrum analyzer up to 2.5 GHz  coverage, with umpteen professional settings, and oh by the way, T1 (time division mux) interface testing facilities as well - for #1 unit. Then next month I sent ($65 freight) the 2nd heavy unit to another ham who took a few weeks to tear it down completely and recondition the PCB, and replace a blown component - and it started up for him. He didn't like the solitaire, and didn't appreciate the windows interface, but it worked, and is worth about $$$$ to him as it is less of a boat anchor than an older HP system. 

So, my goal for summer 2020 is to use that spectrum analyzer in diagnosing why a TV dish antenna system I purchased to try to get some free channels, seems to not work, when it says it is working. The LNB is suspect, but to diagnose it I have to create a C-band signal (using .. what else... a software defined radio signal generator ... as I don't have a real signal generator in my possession any more) and it would require a balcony of some sort facing south for confirmation that I can get the signals I desire. Only problem: my apartment has (a) no balcony (b) face north. And no chance of paying a neighbor for using their balcony for RF experiments. This sort of work keeps my mind fresh and presents challenges to solve. So here is a question (multiple answers allowed) I am putting out for the local community.

Q: Has any one told you that you have "the Knack" ? See Dilbert - The Knack (Youtube video) for a clue. 


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