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Author Topic: The last of the real Radio Shacks...  (Read 11379 times)
N3OX
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« on: May 10, 2010, 08:18:56 PM »

http://www.wired.com/magazine/2010/04/ff_radioshack/all/1
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73,
Dan
http://www.n3ox.net

Monkey/silicon cyborg, beeping at rocks since 1995.
KX5JT
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« Reply #1 on: May 10, 2010, 08:25:53 PM »

Remember...

Radio Shack 
Questions? We have answers!

Now it's

Radio Shack
Questions?  We have cell phones would you like to make a shoutout?
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KE3WD
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« Reply #2 on: May 11, 2010, 07:14:24 AM »

The last sentence in that article just may be prophetic: 

"Once we were makers, now we are users." 


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N8EKT
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« Reply #3 on: May 11, 2010, 07:45:10 AM »

I can remember the good ole days when hams could build and repair their own radios and test equipment

Hams USED to INVENT new technology

Now they simply BUY new technology from China

I built much of my own test equipment when I first became a ham
Now I too have become lazy and simply buy the watt meters, VOMs, field strength meters and frequency counters I need.

We still have some very inventive hams in our ranks but as time has passed the CB radio conversations and those on the local repeaters have become the same.
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WX7G
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« Reply #4 on: May 11, 2010, 08:13:21 AM »

When did hams last invent technology? When did hams ever invent technology?
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N3OX
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« Reply #5 on: May 11, 2010, 09:03:54 AM »

Hams USED to INVENT new technology

I don't get too bent out of shape about that.  In the good old days some guys who ran a bike shop could invent new airplanes too.  Novel radio technology has, generally speaking, moved far beyond what any one person could accomplish even if it was their full time job to do so.  The real technological innovation is done by big teams of professionally trained people.  (A lot of them are probably hams, though... )


Quote
I built much of my own test equipment when I first became a ham
Now I too have become lazy and simply buy the watt meters, VOMs, field strength meters and frequency counters I need.

Is it laziness, or was it necessity?  Can't you do more interesting things with your ham radio time because you can buy a voltmeter for $14.99 that works better than anything you could ever build?    It would be silly to go back to building inexpensively available test equipment just because you feel lazy.  If you want to have a nostalgic trip back, I suppose it would be good, but it seems like most people who want that skip ahead to building the radios.

But what about tossing together some test equipment that you probably can't buy for $20?  There are excellent computer programs like DL4YHF's spectrum lab that turn a soundcard into sensitive audio spectrum analyzer.  Couple that with a little hardware:

http://www.astromag.co.uk/ssa/
http://ar.com.au/~softmark/page37.html

and you can test RF outputs for keyclicks and IMD problems in homemade gear.

You can (slowly) measure filter responses:

http://n3ox.net/files/160m_diplexer_meas.pdf

Someday, I might try to write some software (if no one else does) to control the RF generator and record the audio so that it takes a few minutes to generate that filter plot instead of 30 minutes of manual adjustment.  

---------

There are project types that the professional engineering sorts have been doing for YEARS.   I always  thought some of the projects that used a microcontroller were really cool, and it never clicked.  Some of that was because I hadn't done any sort of programming, and also didn't have a serious need.  But some of it was that you needed a programmer to burn the code onto the chip or you just had to buy one from the ham who designed the thing... I always filed it away as "something to do someday."  

But then I discovered the Arduino:

www.arduino.cc

This isn't a fancy microcontroller.  It's a cheap, simple $6 chip that's boosted in price considerably by the $25 prefab board with USB (or you need to put together your own).  HOWEVER, you can plug it into your computer's USB port, download some free software, and make it do something.  Is it the first microcontroller that's useful for ham radio?  Absolutely not.  

Is it the first microcontroller and development environment that seems to be widely adopted by casual hobbyists from a wide variety of backgrounds, some of whom actually use it as a first electronics project, instead of a very advanced one?  Yeah, I think so.   Is it the first one that I actually took a look at, like: "hmm, that looks easy enough"?  Yup.

And now it runs my antenna switch:

http://n3ox.net/projects/stepperswitch/

I probably would have started using microcontrollers eventually, and the use of the whole board in my project raises the cost vs. just buying the ATMEGA168 and the support parts and building them onto the board.  And now I do have a high-level programmer to flash the Arduino bootloader onto a bare ATMEGA168 for future projects, so that I can save money and space. But who knows how much longer I would have gone avoiding all the great stuff you can do with a tiny general purpose computer inside your project?

There is plenty of room in ham radio for innovations like this, things that make the more complicated measurements and techniques seem easier and friendlier.  

------------

Quote
Now they simply BUY new technology from China

The construction of a radio equal in performance and utility to a lot of common HF rigs on the market right now would take even the more electronics-savvy of us a year or year and a half of weekends and the same cost.

Was it really a choice for you to homebrew when you started?  And by that, I mean, could you have started in ham radio if you hadn't built your first radio and all the things you needed to test it?  

The reason to homebrew most stuff today is because it feels good to use home-made stuff... because it feels good to learn something and apply it and succeed.   Because you might want to add your own specific touches for how you want things to work. Hams also learned something when they were forced into making all of their own gear because commercial gear was too expensive in real, total cost, and in a lot of ham radio history, certain radio parts were really cheap... surplus or whatever.

Try to put together something that works as well as a beaten up TS-130S that you can buy off your buddy for $140 :-)  The nostalgia factor can be a good reason to lash up an old tube rig replete with wooden base and Fahenstock clips, but a lot of hams wouldn't find it to be a practical ham radio for the money and time you'll spend on it.

Homebrew radios are on the plate next for me, but they'll be little single band or few band QRP deals because I just don't have the time or inclination to tackle a bigger project.  I really envy the people who have built a full featured DSP HF rig at home (google Pic-A-Star!!!) but that's a project for much later.

There is something better about using your own homebrew gear.  It strips away one more level of dependence on other people to communicate around the world.  For me, a homebrew rig that works well will add even more transparency between me and the other end.  I love that I don't  need wires or fiber optics to reach Mongolia.... it will be even better when I don't need mass manufacturing ;-)

But there's no way I would have felt like that in 1995 when I started with a used Kenwood TS-440S bought from a friend of my uncle and a wire flung out my window with a tuner.  Every bit of the radio magic came through that commercially made radio back then.

Now the DX comes slow and the noise is high, and I know a homebrew radio would make it fun to work Belgium again... :-)

73
Dan
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73,
Dan
http://www.n3ox.net

Monkey/silicon cyborg, beeping at rocks since 1995.
N3OX
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« Reply #6 on: May 11, 2010, 09:05:24 AM »

Quote
When did hams last invent technology?

You'd have to cross check the world's patent records with the world's amateur license databases to know that.
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73,
Dan
http://www.n3ox.net

Monkey/silicon cyborg, beeping at rocks since 1995.
K5END
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« Reply #7 on: May 11, 2010, 09:18:42 AM »

Quote
When did hams last invent technology?

You'd have to cross check the world's patent records with the world's amateur license databases to know that.

I think it's more cogent to realize how many of the technological intelligentsia have at any time been licensed as hams, instead of pondering whether being a ham makes someone better at developing new technology.

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W7ETA
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« Reply #8 on: May 11, 2010, 04:34:13 PM »

There is still a store in Tucson that is well stocked with passive components and accessories.

Last night I finished and order so that I could rebuild a Dynaco FM-3 stereo tuner.  Mouser didn't have all of the parts I wanted, in stock, so I ordered them from a place in Canada.  Digikey was the only place that had the volume control I wanted.  Surplus Sales of Nebraska had the mica caps I wanted.

I finished ordering from those companies around 2AM. 

When I got today, I had confirmations from three of those places, two mailed the items today, one will mail tomorrow.

It seems to me, that the people who tinker around with electronics don't rely upon local stores--similar to not having to go to a book store to buy a book.

I'll be using some perfo board which I'll order on the internet.

Best from Tucson
Bob
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N6PJB
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« Reply #9 on: May 11, 2010, 08:10:12 PM »

I even built one of those Dynaco FM-3 stereo tuner kits.
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KB2CPW
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« Reply #10 on: May 16, 2010, 04:19:05 PM »

When did hams last invent technology? When did hams ever invent technology?

  Well gee whiz, Just recently we had a ham invent an RF device known to assist in curing cancer. In fact he wasn't involved in that field at all. Just about all of your current radio technology was derived or in some part connected to ham radio or industry people who were involved with ham radio and did their testing here. Frequency hopping, digital radio, APRS, packet etc. were all up and running in amateur radio long before consumer products had it. Auto patch and DTMF controls were all in place long before cell phones and other consumer products hit the market. We were transmitting data on RF long before cell phones had texting or email capability.

  The military consistantly turns to the ham industry for help in making products suitable for use by their people. Tarheel antennas, DX engineering and many others have contracts with the Government to make equipment for them. In fact, the father of the screwdriver antenna just passed away, BTW... He was a ham..

  You can now remove your foot from your mouth and once again, thanks for playing, we have this lovely parting gift for you.. Regards, Richy N2ZD
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K6LHA
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« Reply #11 on: May 16, 2010, 10:26:52 PM »

Well gee whiz, Just recently we had a ham invent an RF device known to assist in curing cancer. In fact he wasn't involved in that field at all.

Well, gee whiz, that radio amateur also DIED from the cancer he was attempting to "cure."

Just about all of your current radio technology was derived or in some part connected to ham radio or industry people who were involved with ham radio and did their testing here. Frequency hopping, digital radio, APRS, packet etc. were all up and running in amateur radio long before consumer products had it. Auto patch and DTMF controls were all in place long before cell phones and other consumer products hit the market. We were transmitting data on RF long before cell phones had texting or email capability.

Sorry, but that is a fantasy of wishful thinking...like most of the ARRL PR material.

USA land forces SINCGARS radios did both digital voice and digital data and frequency hopping, becoming operational in 1989.  See AN/PRC-119 (military designation).  It can use a "Plugger" to synchronize its internal crystal clock with GPS for exact time to network (while hopping).  Hops 10 frequencies per second in the 30 to 88 MHz range.

APRS requires the GPS to be operational for APRS location data.  GPS started as
NAVSTAR, a USN development, and was being air tested 1971-1972 at an NAS in Pennsylvania.  It was designed to be compatible with less-accurate consumer electronics GPS units.  Without GPS, APRS has to rely on GLONASS, the only "competitor" to worldwide accurate positioning.

"Packet" already existed in the world of non-amateurism.  Think AT&T.  Thank AT&T for their dual-tone medium frequency (DTMF) signaling for all subscriber telephones using push-button number selection.

I could go on and on to refute all that wishful thinking, but go ahead...sometimes fantasy is good entertainment to explain some of the magic in the world.

  The military consistantly turns to the ham industry for help in making products suitable for use by their people. Tarheel antennas, DX engineering and many others have contracts with the Government to make equipment for them. In fact, the father of the screwdriver antenna just passed away, BTW... He was a ham..

Yes, I've seen those small companies make such unspecified claims.  If they actual DO then they can post their DoD contract numbers.  Nothing secret about those contract numbers, the devices, nor their contract awards.

The first HF antenna auto-tuner was done by Collins Radio using the (now standard) Bruene RF voltage-current detector for a USMC contract.  Hardware was available in late 1955 in the T-195 transmitter (R-392 receiver was its pairing).  I got a demo of it that year in the US Army along with a couple dozen other signalmen, an effort by the Army to gauge reaction to its performance.

Base-loading coils for electrically-short whip antennas are far from new.  Even Rommel's Afrika Corps had them, along with NVIS propagation, back in 1942-1943.  Adding a sliding contact operated remotely by a small motor is a product innovation but not a BIG innovation.  Warren Bruene's little detector was a BIG innovation-invention that can be used with ALL HF antennas.

Back in 1939 the US Army invited some Galvin Manufacturing people up to Wisconsin to observe some maneuvers going on there.  They were asked if they could design a better field radio than the three-carry-bag set they had to use then.  Galvin Mfg, later Motorola after WWII, could and did, the result being the easy-to-use little "Handie-Talkie" that would work a mile in average terrain.  Crystal controlled on both Tx and Rx, the Army loved it.  It went to war when we did.  Motorola would also design and develop the "Walkie-Talkie" backpack VHF FM transceiver which wasn't exactly crystal-controlled.  Its tuning was VFO but it had one crystal calibrator for checking the VFO dial.  SCR-300, BC-1000 for the R/T.  Whether or not the Galvin/Motorola designers were licensed radio amateurs is beside the point. Those two "talkies" were developed for wide-environment conditions no ham would expect to face...like being faced with mortal danger in wartime.

By the Way, a whole lot of companies were involved in WWII innovations and set the stage for post-WWII design and innovation, such as the radio relay sets on VHF and UHF and a couple in the microwave region to handle four voice channels all at once with one frequency multiplexer to handle four TTY channels on one voice circuit.  The "carrier" equipment to multiplex it all came from 1920s AT&T Long Lines that gave us the first long-distance telephone service, four subscribers on one pair of wires.  Did you think that hams invented the transcontinental radio relay system built by AT&T and other companies in the 1950s?

  You can now remove your foot from your mouth and once again, thanks for playing, we have this lovely parting gift for you.. Regards, Richy N2ZD

Now, now, try to be civil or I shall put on my old Army boots and tell you to bend over as MY gift to you.

73, Len K6LHA
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W7ETA
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« Reply #12 on: May 17, 2010, 12:30:28 AM »

"current radio technology"

What hams were involved in the development of Surface Mount Technology? IC fabrication technology?  Technology for manufacturing SMC products?

Are you confusing technology and products?

Are you sure that military production of items isn't being used to produce ham radio products?  Sorta like RADAR technology migrating to consumer products?  Dishes for Sats finding applications in consumer products?

Maybe we will pull a "Mud Check" and ask if you've designed more "stuff" than WX7G?

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N3OX
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« Reply #13 on: May 17, 2010, 08:38:18 AM »

Well, gee whiz, that radio amateur also DIED from the cancer he was attempting to "cure."

That was uncalled for.  I don't care how much you hate amateur radio, how much you think we're all a bunch of goofy idiots.  I don't care if you think hams constantly minimize or ignore innovators that were never hams.  I don't care if you think we're all a bunch of superior blowhard assholes stuck in 1952.

The leukemia that K3TUP had couldn't have been cured by his technique, and as far as I know, he knew that.  Besides, what he actually died of was pneumonia.  The pneumonia was caused by complications surrounding his chemotherapy. 

The technique seems to show promise for selective heating of cancerous masses, and heating tumors up is a really good way to kill them.  Like any cancer treatment, it is extremely unlikely that this is the "cure for cancer."  We will probably never find one cure for cancer, because cancer isn't really one thing.  I think it is probably the case, though, that K3TUP's device will have some therapeutic benefit to some patients in the future.

I don't care if you spend your time going around trying to deflate pompous hams (actual or perceived).  It's not really weirder than my hobby of insistently beeping at distant rocks until they beep back at me.

But I think that comment was over the line.   

73
Dan
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73,
Dan
http://www.n3ox.net

Monkey/silicon cyborg, beeping at rocks since 1995.
K6LHA
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« Reply #14 on: May 17, 2010, 11:14:31 AM »

Well, gee whiz, that radio amateur also DIED from the cancer he was attempting to "cure."

That was uncalled for. 

No, it is just fact as reported on 60 Minutes.  Radiation has been used on cancer patients for about a half century.  Did it work with HF?  Apparently not... therefore it isn't a cure is it?

I don't care how much you hate amateur radio, how much you think we're all a bunch of goofy idiots.  I don't care if you think hams constantly minimize or ignore innovators that were never hams.  I don't care if you think we're all a bunch of superior blowhard assholes stuck in 1952.

I don't hate amateur radio.  Had I hated it, I wouldn't have taken the test and been granted my amateur radio license.

The real problem you have is that I am a realist and not gratuitously praising YOUR hobby as a group of innovators/inventors of radio technology.  That era ended around the pre-WWII era when the technology of 'radio' was still rather stuck in pre-WWII concepts of HF is the only part of the spectrum that matters.

As a realist, and living in the entertainment capital of the world (called Los Angeles), I don't take to the wish-fulfillment PR of the ARRL and its constant reference to radio amateurism as being either superior or active in "radio technology."  Self-promotion is standard operating procedure in the entertainment business.  It shouldn't be a part of a hobby which doesn't have any professional services to render by law.  There is nothing wrong with having a hobby, but it is, in my opinion, very wrong to promote it as superior to the professionals who have been doing the actual work since before WWII.

leukemia that K3TUP had couldn't have been cured by his technique, and as far as I know, he knew that.  Besides, what he actually died of was pneumonia.  The pneumonia was caused by complications surrounding his chemotherapy.

Not being a medical professional nor licensed for that, I'm not going to comment on the "actual cause" of that amateur's death.  I had an aunt (wife of my late uncle) who died as a result of leukemia so I've got some emotional basis to my comments. 

The technique seems to show promise for selective heating of cancerous masses, and heating tumors up is a really good way to kill them. 

Selective radiation heating has been done for a half century plus.  There has been much research done on which frequencies heat the body the most...resulting in the RF radiation regulations affecting many parts of Title 47 C.F.R.  Taking disparate factoids and trying to tie them together is not logical, only emotional.  The use of the word radiation since 1945 is embedded in the public and causes all kinds of so-called articles in journalism such as the fear of using cellular telephones emitting RF radiation.

Like any cancer treatment, it is extremely unlikely that this is the "cure for cancer."  We will probably never find one cure for cancer, because cancer isn't really one thing.  I think it is probably the case, though, that K3TUP's device will have some therapeutic benefit to some patients in the future.

Again, not being an alleged expert on carcinoma, I can't really respond.  All I know is that radiation therapy has been done on humans (and animals) for a long time, but with mixed results.  Such therapy prompted the research into which frequencies do the most heating in human tissue...which led to the RF radiation limitations in amateur radio regulations.

But I think that comment was over the line. 

Okay, and I thought N2ZD's (was KB2CPW a year ago) was way out of line.
No harm done to me.
========================
It is my opinion that Tandy Corporation's choice of "Radio Shack" as a store name was taken so literally by many hams as being a "radio store for hams" as in the old name of "Ham Shack."  It never was such a store.  It was basically a chain of consumer electronics outlets.  Consumer electronics outpaced amateur radio products by a wide margin in sales a long time ago.

No doubt some will take terrible offense to that remark of mine and "call me out" on that.   Cheesy     Cheesy       Cheesy 

Cheers,
Len K6LHA
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