One of life’s simple pleasures is to rediscover something that bought you engagement and enjoyment in the past. And in COVID lockdown, stuck at home, it’s the perfect time to rummage through boxes in dark corners to sort, throw out, and rediscover old treasures. So it was that I came across this Ten Tec direct conversion receiver board, built around 20 years ago.
My first reaction was to strip off a few components and drop the carcass on the e-waste pile. Why would I waste time with a drift-y, analogue single band receiver, with no opposite sideband rejection, and built on a board the size of one of today’s complete transceivers? Fairly quickly, however, nostalgia got the better of me and I resolved to turn it on, to see what I thought of it.
I expected turning it on would make me realise how primitive homebrew radio was in the late 1990s. The video tells the rest of the story.
I’ll keep this primitive receiver, for a rainy day. If nothing else, it is an antidote to modern microcontrollers and software defined perfection. It has all the well known compromises of simple DC receivers. But its simplicity evokes a hint of the wonder of radio, and the way we used to live with drift, and hearing both sides of the signals, and no AGC. It is like opening an old photo album — you look past the faded tones and the curling corners and reconnect with the people and places for a moment. You can digitise an old photo album or make a video of an old DC receiver, but it’s not quite the same as having it on the bench in front of you.