This module is an analogue and digital SWR and power meter/monitor, designed to replace analogue SWR and power metering in an AM Transmitter project. Of equal importance was the ability to detect high SWR and raise an interlock (a control line) to inhibit transmitter power in the presence of unreasonably high SWR. I make no claim to either SWR or power accuracy; my version is an indicative tool and an interesting experiment, not an accurate test equipment, although it could be made into same with some skill and patience.
Lockdown has made 2020 a year unlike any other. Melburnians were dealt a long and painful period of isolation with a CoronaVirus second wave, from around July to September, still in force, and looking like continuing to (at least partially) keep us housebound for some months yet. Days merge together, work and leisure time is largely indistinguishable. People are rediscovering reading, knitting, and endlessly bingeing TV. Makers are melting solder and stringing wires in the air.
Some winter nights were passed dreaming up an AM transmitter, and this VFO module is the first piece of it. It is designed for use in a two-band AM transmitter capable of around 200 watts carrier power, but could easily be used for other projects, such as a transceiver, or a transmitter for CW or digital modes. This module provides a 5v square wave clock at 1.8MHz or 3.5MHz (or any frequency you desire up to 144MHz), and transmit control lines needed to sequence a transmitter. It also includes a few ‘nice to haves’ including a transmit timer, CW ident, over-beep (or any CW character such as di-da-dit or da-di-dah), and a sleep mode which dims the displays when idle.
Amplitude Modulation holds a fascination for me. It dates back to those hours spent as a teenager listening to the big broadcast-like amateur AM stations in the 1970s and 80s, on 160, 80 and 40 meters. Signals that seemed as wide and loud as medium wave commercial broadcast stations, bearing sonorous, paced voices that projected a wealth of wisdom and experience, and in many cases, a grandfatherly manner. Back then, AM was known as ‘The Gentleman’s Mode’.
Peter DK7IH is a master of compact homebrew transceivers. I’ve been reading his excellent blog where he chronicles more than half a dozen homebrew HF transceivers and related projects. Most are compact SSB superhet transceivers with digital VFOs, AGC, metering and PAs in the range 5 to 50 watts. A few of these rigs are just so remarkably tiny I wonder how he has the persistence and patience, not to mention how he gets them stable. With Peter’s fine examples in my head, I started daydreaming about a compact SSB/CW transceiver, hoping to go a fair bit smaller than my slightly chunky attempt at a hand-held from last year.
Don W6JL’s 50 watt FET amplifier is a popular afterburner for FT817s and other QRP rigs and exciters. Don won the QST Homebrew contest in 2009 with this design. The amp offers a useful order of magnitude (12dB) power lift over QRP levels, and apart from the power FETs can be built from an averagely stocked junk box. The FETs are commonplace and cheap — they can be bought for as little as 98c each!
The remarkable compact transceivers of Peter DK7IH inspired me to dream up a compact transceiver of my own. This project would be an experiment on a shirt-pocket scale — not as dense as some of Peter’s rigs, but small on my scale. Starting with the PLL VFO/controller along the familiar lines of Raduino (Arduino Nano and si5351), I sketched out a physical design, and it became clear that the display choice would dictate the size of this module. Where small displays are concerned, there’s only one option … OLED.
After completing a 6-band SSB/CW QRP transceiver (Summit Prowler IV) I found myself thinking about a more compact QRP SSB/CW rig for SOTA, with two of the main day-time SOTA HF bands (40/20m). The design driver this time was to try a different ‘form factor’ — I wanted a rig with a narrow and long case, such that it would easily slide inside a backpack, and on a summit sit vertically against a rock or be hand held. All my SOTA rigs so far use both front and back panels for connections and controls, so they need to sit level on a horizontal surface. As most rocks or tree stumps are low, you can’t easily read the display. Some designers get around this by putting the display on the top of the box, a sensible adaptation but one that makes the rig look like a flounder. Because I spend a lot of time building and using these radios at home on the shack bench as well as on a summit, I wanted a design for use in both situations.
Eamon EI9GQ’s book (‘Building a Transceiver’, RSGB 2018) started me down the path of another modular transceiver project. For this build I wanted to continue working with surface mount but without the compulsion to pack it all in tight. More space and the freedom to replace a module later. It would be a Shack Sloth rig (a base station), not a Summit Prowler, so the space, weight and power budget shackles fell off from the start.
How could a GPS unit integrated with a SOTA transceiver assist in activations? I’ve been turning that thought over for a while now after seeing David VK5KK’s GPS and Arduino based grid square locator (posted to the ‘VK Homebrew’ group on facebook). The ready availability of cheap GPS units with a simple serial interface makes the option straight-forward. As my homebrew rigs are using Arduino Nanos and si5351 breakout boards, the GPS is just another (serial) attachment.
‘Summit Prowler IV’ is a scratch-built six-band SSB and CW transceiver, designed for portable and SOTA activations. It is based on Leon VK2DOB’s MST3 (Minimal Sideband Transceiver, third version) from 2016, with alterations to support multiple bands, my Arduino-based digital VFO/controller and keyer, and a few extras to support portable operating. The transceiver is a conventional single-conversion superhet with 12MHz IF and an si5351 and Arduino Nano-based digital VFO. This project comes after having done more than 50 activations with my 2013 MST Mk I kit radio on 40m SSB. This rig has performed well on 40m SSB (and CW after I added it) and has launched my interest in SOTA activating, turning me into an occasional weekend ‘summit prowler‘.
My journey of repairing and recycling anything I put my hands on that I believe is still useful. Not just hardware, but including software with relevant content and issues in the field of Cyber Security, Vulnerability Scanning and Penetration Testing.