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Author Topic: Newbie Question: Where's the magic in the high end transceivers?  (Read 28480 times)
KK6GNP
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Posts: 158




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« Reply #60 on: October 10, 2013, 10:09:39 AM »

I see this as an issue with what people consider knowledge these days.  What people consider adequate understanding.

People want to be able to Google solutions to their specific problems.  I admit, it's convenient.  My rig is doing something funny?  Google it.  Need to code some sort of task?  Google it and cut-and-paste.  (I do that when I'm in a hurry, or if I just want a result and don't really care about knowing much.)  There doesn't seem to be much interest in foundation-type knowledge, though.  In reading books laid out in a linear, building-on-previous chapters, manner.  In acquiring and exercising the fundamental information that allows someone to navigate confidently and competently through a technical endeavor.  It's all about making the answers easy to find at the tip of your fingers.  Copying what others have done because the result is more important and immediate than the journey.

This may be the new reality and it does have its plusses, but I argue that it has drawbacks, too.  

There is nothing inefficient with reading a book like the ARRL Handbook.  It has an index, chapters, etc.  It is written in an accessible style and covers enough of the fundamentals to generally steer people in the right direction.

I am becoming curmudgeonly -- and still in my 30s.  lol. Don't mind me.  Grin

You aren't bothering me. Wink  You are talking about deeper training, and I'm talking about image and presentation.  Helping newcomers get into the hobby where they can then dig deeper.  RF is a complicated thing, no two ways about it, but if the hobby is to continue growing, it needs to stay up with the times.  That doesn't mean trying to hand it all to them on a silver platter, but it does mean showing the hobby in a modern and exciting light to the "video game generation", or whatever you want to call it.

Let me put it this way.  Which one of these sites do you think would encourage a tech savvy newcomer to get into radio:

http://makezine.com/  (not a radio site, but look at the way info is presented)

or

http://www.hamuniverse.com/firstradio.html

By the way, you get a mixed bag of people when you try to suggest everyone go find an Elmer these days.  I was put in contact with a local guy who seemed nice enough right up until he started trying to convince me to buy an Icom 7100 because he has one.  I told him I didn't like the black/white touch display, which ticked him off, and I had to respectfully move on.  I don't particularly feel like bouncing off of people until I find one I can get along with, and I am not hard to befriend.  In this day and age, the internet can provide a lot of what Elmering does, and it can do so 24 hours a day.
« Last Edit: October 10, 2013, 10:21:20 AM by KK6GNP » Logged

73 ~ Cory (JeepEscape)
KK6GNP
G3RZP
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Posts: 4116




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« Reply #61 on: October 10, 2013, 11:04:54 AM »

 I wonder where the next generation of RF design engineers will come from if they don't start as amateurs? We're already seeing new graduates who can only design by simulation and don't understand when the simulator is wrong. One example was a new graduate told to simulate interference distances between two low power short range devices. Firstly he forgot that the C/I needs taking into account and then calculated the interference distance over some 200 metres - and because the simulation gave 4 decimal places, quoted the distance to 100 microns without seeing how ludicrous that is! At 868 MHz...Another one used a simulator that didn't look for optimum noise match, just optimum impedance match...One who claimed to know about RF when asked how to design a 200MHz amplifier with a voltage gain of 10 said that he'd look for a transistor with a gain of 10 at 200 MHz.

But the classic was the three relatively experienced designers who asked why I wanted a cascode PA stage at 400 MHz, because feedback through drain - gate capacitance would be negative in a grounded source stage, even with a tuned output.

Fortunately, we got hold of a 1955 edition of Terman and showed them 'stability in triode amplifiers' and introduced them to Miller Effect with a reactive plate (drain) load....


Makes me glad I am retired.
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KK6GNP
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Posts: 158




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« Reply #62 on: October 10, 2013, 11:10:33 AM »

I wonder where the next generation of RF design engineers will come from if they don't start as amateurs? We're already seeing new graduates who can only design by simulation and don't understand when the simulator is wrong. One example was a new graduate told to simulate interference distances between two low power short range devices. Firstly he forgot that the C/I needs taking into account and then calculated the interference distance over some 200 metres - and because the simulation gave 4 decimal places, quoted the distance to 100 microns without seeing how ludicrous that is! At 868 MHz...Another one used a simulator that didn't look for optimum noise match, just optimum impedance match...One who claimed to know about RF when asked how to design a 200MHz amplifier with a voltage gain of 10 said that he'd look for a transistor with a gain of 10 at 200 MHz.

But the classic was the three relatively experienced designers who asked why I wanted a cascode PA stage at 400 MHz, because feedback through drain - gate capacitance would be negative in a grounded source stage, even with a tuned output.

Fortunately, we got hold of a 1955 edition of Terman and showed them 'stability in triode amplifiers' and introduced them to Miller Effect with a reactive plate (drain) load....


Makes me glad I am retired.

Well, young people are building stuff like this now, for other frequencies:  

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/mossmann/hackrf-an-open-source-sdr-platform

There is a lot of interest in SDR starting up now with the DIY electronics crowd.  Actually, right now there is a boom in the electronics hobby outside of amateur radio.  They are doing all kinds of experiments, building their own prototypes, creating products that can go on the market, etc.  I wouldn't be too quick to discount the hobbyists and engineers that aren't from you generation, especially since we are completely immersed in technology that they are building today.  Check out the DIY drone/robotics hobby too.

I know, I know... every generation thinks they are/were the best.
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73 ~ Cory (JeepEscape)
KK6GNP
G3RZP
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« Reply #63 on: October 10, 2013, 11:27:37 AM »

I couldn't find any parameters listed for IMD (in and out of channel, 3rd and 2nd order, at various input levels), blocking (gain compression) and blocking (reciprocal mixing), radiation from antenna port, signal to noise improvement ratio, and integrated dynamic range against interferer offset - i.e. combination of reciprocal mixing, blocking and 3rd order IMD. Plus AM rejection which is usually (but not always) related to second order IMD. Or spurious response performance - internal and external.

Those are the parameters that differentiate a toy from a radio receiver......
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KK6GNP
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Posts: 158




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« Reply #64 on: October 10, 2013, 11:41:33 AM »

I couldn't find any parameters listed for IMD (in and out of channel, 3rd and 2nd order, at various input levels), blocking (gain compression) and blocking (reciprocal mixing), radiation from antenna port, signal to noise improvement ratio, and integrated dynamic range against interferer offset - i.e. combination of reciprocal mixing, blocking and 3rd order IMD. Plus AM rejection which is usually (but not always) related to second order IMD. Or spurious response performance - internal and external.

Those are the parameters that differentiate a toy from a radio receiver......

It's relevant to the current generation in frequencies where most of the current tech devices are.  Tomorrow's radios probably won't be concerned much with HF.  That particular device was made for experimenting, prototyping, programming, etc. which is why it's called HackRF. Some people have requested an add-on board for HF bands, and the designer says they may do it. There are a few other "hacker friendly' boards like this too.

I hang out with both the amateur radio crowd now, and the hacker/maker crowd.  Those guys generally don't know much about this hobby, other than it existing, and having misconceptions about radio communications being generally irrelevant.

My conversation here has been about refreshing this hobby's image to make it more appealing, but if no one wants to do that, then we'll just have to see where it is in 5-10 years.  I've seen a lot of people here who are invested in keeping the bands we have, and growing the hobby, but my suggestions for ways to do so are usually met by people who are seemingly interested in letting it age out instead.

« Last Edit: October 10, 2013, 11:44:44 AM by KK6GNP » Logged

73 ~ Cory (JeepEscape)
KK6GNP
W1JKA
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« Reply #65 on: October 10, 2013, 11:58:23 AM »

Re: KK6GNP reply #62

   It's not that every generation thinks they are/were the best, it's that with every passing generation we realize that more of the basic knowledge of things is being lost. This is due to the rapid advancement in science and technology which will continue to be the nature of things in the future. Can't feed yourself or cook? no problem just go to the grocery store, buy some chemically processed "food" and throw it in the micro wave. Can't fix your child's bike? no problem, just go to Wally World and buy him a new one. Can't do basic car maintenance? no problem, just go to Jiffy Lube. Want to be a ham radio operator (I intentionally left out AMATEUR)? no problem just  get your FCC learners permit, order your instant rig from HRO and get on the air. The list goes on and on. In to days society this is the norm and accepted way of doing things for most folks but the rest of us prefer to find our own capabilities and limitations.
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KK6GNP
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Posts: 158




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« Reply #66 on: October 10, 2013, 12:08:55 PM »

Re: KK6GNP reply #62

   It's not that every generation thinks they are/were the best, it's that with every passing generation we realize that more of the basic knowledge of things is being lost. This is due to the rapid advancement in science and technology which will continue to be the nature of things in the future. Can't feed yourself or cook? no problem just go to the grocery store, buy some chemically processed "food" and throw it in the micro wave. Can't fix your child's bike? no problem, just go to Wally World and buy him a new one. Can't do basic car maintenance? no problem, just go to Jiffy Lube. Want to be a ham radio operator (I intentionally left out AMATEUR)? no problem just  get your FCC learners permit, order your instant rig from HRO and get on the air. The list goes on and on. In to days society this is the norm and accepted way of doing things for most folks but the rest of us prefer to find our own capabilities and limitations.

I generally agree with this, and one of my other hobbies is self-sufficiency.  I cook, build my own computers, grow a little food, work on my own cars, etc.  I like to do things with my hands to disconnect from the connected world I work in all day.  I only do so if I have something to learn from the activity though.

The thing is though, there's also a price on free time these days, since most households feature both parents working full time+.  Factor in children, and there's not much time in the day for learning to be self-sufficient. I weigh things against what I believe my free time is worth monetarily.  Do I want to go hiking with my daughter, or change the oil, which requires next to nothing for thought process, and assures that I will have 6 quarts of waste oil to deliver to a recycling place (or dump it in the woods like idiots do).  Do I want to do yard work for three hours on the weekend, or pay two guys a low rate to come and get it done for me in an hour?  

What's the point of technology if it isn't to make things easier, better and hands off?  One of my other-other-other hobbies is contemplation of the future (futurism).  We're heading into an era where most jobs, white and blue collar, are going to be automated.  Most people's jobs are nothing more than simple decision making (algorithm), based off of knowledge (database).  Software is capable of doing most of the jobs for the people I know, it just hasn't been written yet.  Artistic/highly creative jobs are the main exception, as computers aren't going to be any good at this for a long time.

That thought process will lead you down all kinds of roads, one of which is, how does our buy-sell-waste economy work in an automated world?  What will people be doing for a living, especially those who have skills that are not relevant in 5-10 years? Maybe people will soon have more time on their hands to learn how to be self-sufficient. Wink
« Last Edit: October 10, 2013, 12:40:24 PM by KK6GNP » Logged

73 ~ Cory (JeepEscape)
KK6GNP
KK6GNP
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Posts: 158




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« Reply #67 on: October 10, 2013, 12:31:28 PM »

By the way, if people are wondering "where all the jobs went" after this recession, part of that answer is the automation factor that came as a result of companies having to streamline processes, largely with technology.  Those jobs aren't coming back, and the longer we dwell on them, the further behind we get.  I personally helped many of my clients replace people with technology, and guess which one gets the job done faster and more accurately, without dealing with sick days, vacations, and benefits.

We should start thinking much more about the future, and much less about the so-called "good old days".  Those who don't, will be left behind sooner than they think.  

(This is way off topic now, but it's a pet subject of mine, so I can't help myself.)

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73 ~ Cory (JeepEscape)
KK6GNP
AK7V
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Posts: 227




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« Reply #68 on: October 10, 2013, 02:12:22 PM »

KK6GNP,

I agree with you on much of what you're saying here, even on your tangents (esp. relating to employment) -- you are an intelligent guy and I suspect we would agree on lots of things. 

One aspect of amateur radio that I like is that I can "drill down" into the fundamentals of the technology at my own pace.  I can re-discover things that may be old news to an RF engineer, but are new and fascinating to me.  I'm not getting paid for it - I don't "have" to do it.  Family and work obligations come first, of course. 

I'm here because I love physics, not because I love technology.

I believe that when people come to amateur radio because they're fascinated by radio waves, they can find what they're looking for - at a price they can afford - and at a pace they set.  Not "dolling it up" for mass consumption prevents someone from thinking it is something it isn't.  Amateur radio isn't going to replace text messages.  It isn't the best way to make a friend in Mongolia.  The gadgetry isn't the most whiz-bang there is (it doesn't need to be -- Maxwell's equations don't stipulate a CW/SSB preference or an acceptable touch screen resolution Wink  I can send a message around the world with a transistor, a crystal, a couple resistors and caps, wire and a battery!  And I can tell you how it all works, in English and in math!  Talk about efficient!)

And if you're coming to ham radio because you are fascinated with RF, you can enjoy a basic rig for a long time.  You want to start at the beginning, with circuits you can understand, so you are "closer" to the magic.  Ones you can modify.  Experiment.  You build on that knowledge.  Eventually you add abstractions and you get ICs.  Then you go to a higher level and get SDRs.  (Of course, this is coming from a guy who likes programming in assembly or C better than Java or Python Wink

It might be impossible nowadays for someone to be familiar with technology from its mathematical/physical roots all the way up to the state of the art.  It's probably not commercially efficient to be.  But for a hobby, it's fun to try! 


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KK6GNP
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Posts: 158




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« Reply #69 on: October 10, 2013, 03:04:13 PM »

KK6GNP,

I agree with you on much of what you're saying here, even on your tangents (esp. relating to employment) -- you are an intelligent guy and I suspect we would agree on lots of things.  

One aspect of amateur radio that I like is that I can "drill down" into the fundamentals of the technology at my own pace.  I can re-discover things that may be old news to an RF engineer, but are new and fascinating to me.  I'm not getting paid for it - I don't "have" to do it.  Family and work obligations come first, of course.  

I'm here because I love physics, not because I love technology.

I believe that when people come to amateur radio because they're fascinated by radio waves, they can find what they're looking for - at a price they can afford - and at a pace they set.  Not "dolling it up" for mass consumption prevents someone from thinking it is something it isn't.  Amateur radio isn't going to replace text messages.  It isn't the best way to make a friend in Mongolia.  The gadgetry isn't the most whiz-bang there is (it doesn't need to be -- Maxwell's equations don't stipulate a CW/SSB preference or an acceptable touch screen resolution Wink  I can send a message around the world with a transistor, a crystal, a couple resistors and caps, wire and a battery!  And I can tell you how it all works, in English and in math!  Talk about efficient!)

And if you're coming to ham radio because you are fascinated with RF, you can enjoy a basic rig for a long time.  You want to start at the beginning, with circuits you can understand, so you are "closer" to the magic.  Ones you can modify.  Experiment.  You build on that knowledge.  Eventually you add abstractions and you get ICs.  Then you go to a higher level and get SDRs.  (Of course, this is coming from a guy who likes programming in assembly or C better than Java or Python Wink)  

It might be impossible nowadays for someone to be familiar with technology from its mathematical/physical roots all the way up to the state of the art.  It's probably not commercially efficient to be.  But for a hobby, it's fun to try!  


Thanks for the kind words, I imagine you are correct that we would have a great time talking about all kinds of stuff.

BTW, this came up on my Facebook feed from NPR today, and it's relevant to our discussion:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/13.7/2013/10/09/230696399/step-into-science-lets-abandon-nerdy-stereotypes

The reason people are spiffing up science and electronics right now is because we need more kids to get involved for the future.  We have a massive shortage of talent to take on the stuff coming down the line.  Programming is in its infancy compared to where it's going.

Makezine.com is largely a site about DIY electronics and citizen science projects, and I think ham radio could be presented the same way.  There's nothing glamorous about making an LCD say "Hello World" with a circuit and code you put together, but it sure feels great.  It's not even about dolling ham radio up as much as just bring the presentation up to date so that it can attract more people, especially younger people.  I'd like to see this hobby continue on, and I question how long that's going to happen with the price of entry into HF, and the old school 90's websites using the "wall of text" approach to presentation.   It's simply a turn off.  People can scoff at that fact if they want, but it is.

BTW:  I'm aware a lot of those websites are "homebrew", and that explains the layout.  I'm grateful people share all the info they do.  I just want to be clear on that fact.
« Last Edit: October 10, 2013, 03:10:27 PM by KK6GNP » Logged

73 ~ Cory (JeepEscape)
KK6GNP
KG4NEL
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Posts: 373




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« Reply #70 on: October 10, 2013, 10:15:52 PM »

KK6GNP,

I agree with you on much of what you're saying here, even on your tangents (esp. relating to employment) -- you are an intelligent guy and I suspect we would agree on lots of things.  

One aspect of amateur radio that I like is that I can "drill down" into the fundamentals of the technology at my own pace.  I can re-discover things that may be old news to an RF engineer, but are new and fascinating to me.  I'm not getting paid for it - I don't "have" to do it.  Family and work obligations come first, of course.  

I'm here because I love physics, not because I love technology.

I believe that when people come to amateur radio because they're fascinated by radio waves, they can find what they're looking for - at a price they can afford - and at a pace they set.  Not "dolling it up" for mass consumption prevents someone from thinking it is something it isn't.  Amateur radio isn't going to replace text messages.  It isn't the best way to make a friend in Mongolia.  The gadgetry isn't the most whiz-bang there is (it doesn't need to be -- Maxwell's equations don't stipulate a CW/SSB preference or an acceptable touch screen resolution Wink  I can send a message around the world with a transistor, a crystal, a couple resistors and caps, wire and a battery!  And I can tell you how it all works, in English and in math!  Talk about efficient!)

And if you're coming to ham radio because you are fascinated with RF, you can enjoy a basic rig for a long time.  You want to start at the beginning, with circuits you can understand, so you are "closer" to the magic.  Ones you can modify.  Experiment.  You build on that knowledge.  Eventually you add abstractions and you get ICs.  Then you go to a higher level and get SDRs.  (Of course, this is coming from a guy who likes programming in assembly or C better than Java or Python Wink)  

It might be impossible nowadays for someone to be familiar with technology from its mathematical/physical roots all the way up to the state of the art.  It's probably not commercially efficient to be.  But for a hobby, it's fun to try!  


Thanks for the kind words, I imagine you are correct that we would have a great time talking about all kinds of stuff.

BTW, this came up on my Facebook feed from NPR today, and it's relevant to our discussion:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/13.7/2013/10/09/230696399/step-into-science-lets-abandon-nerdy-stereotypes

The reason people are spiffing up science and electronics right now is because we need more kids to get involved for the future.  We have a massive shortage of talent to take on the stuff coming down the line.  Programming is in its infancy compared to where it's going.

Makezine.com is largely a site about DIY electronics and citizen science projects, and I think ham radio could be presented the same way.  There's nothing glamorous about making an LCD say "Hello World" with a circuit and code you put together, but it sure feels great.  It's not even about dolling ham radio up as much as just bring the presentation up to date so that it can attract more people, especially younger people.  I'd like to see this hobby continue on, and I question how long that's going to happen with the price of entry into HF, and the old school 90's websites using the "wall of text" approach to presentation.   It's simply a turn off.  People can scoff at that fact if they want, but it is.

BTW:  I'm aware a lot of those websites are "homebrew", and that explains the layout.  I'm grateful people share all the info they do.  I just want to be clear on that fact.

I'm 27, so I may be aging out of being relevant to this discussion, but I was young enough to be exposed to the Internet long before I ever saw an HF radio in person.

AK7V's point about radio for radio's sake is a good one - we're never going to get everyone, but that's OK. I've been in this hobby since 2001, and I still don't think I could come up with a good answer if someone asked me point-blank why they should become a ham. Either you grok what we're on about - whether it's writing code for an SDR or pruning a dipole - or this whole thing seems like a silly adventure that could be accomplished with a smartphone. It brings a joy that's very difficult to describe to the layperson, much like a couch potato trying to rationalize why a marathon runner would do that to themselves.

But people my age and younger have flocked to analog solutions, as well - I don't know whether it's a backlash against the iPod-ization of electronics in general, but it's interesting that in 2013 the LP has a better prognosis than the CD does. The market for DIY tube audio has exploded in the last decade. It's a curious world where a 1930s-era triode power amp design might be used with a 192KHz DAC playing a lossless codec. I think we've seen what W1JKA mentioned about the ever-increasing "throwaway-ness" of our technology, and more than a number of us have become quasi-Luddites, if not Facebook and Twitter-active ones  Tongue

Bringing it back to ham radio, I think the key is not to stifle the discussion of anything new, but we shouldn't be ashamed of the fact that some of this stuff has been around for a long time. You never know how future generations will assimilate the ideas of the past Smiley
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G3RZP
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Posts: 4116




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« Reply #71 on: October 11, 2013, 12:57:43 AM »

Some 'old'  technologies still have an enormous appeal anyway. Look at how many people turn out to see a steam train! Further, despite CAD control of machine tools, there are still a number of youngsters learning how to use lathes and mills to make live steam models.

But in the RF field, you need more than just the ability to put numbers into a simulator. In the boom times for cellphone manufacture in Europe, there was one Scandinavian company where if you see lightning and hear thunder, you got taught how to simulate a circuit given to you. When the downturn came along, a lot of these people were looking for jobs and thought they were RF engineers - but they weren't capable of doing RF circuit design from scratch to meet a requirement.
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W1VT
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« Reply #72 on: October 11, 2013, 05:41:13 AM »

What is lacking in ham radio is a "unified front" for newcomers.  Something that shows off all of the best attributes of amateur radio as a hobby and science, in a modern presentation.  As I've mentioned in other threads, the microelectronics/DIY hobby is exploding right now, and there's a lot that can be learned from the major players there to help bring ham radio up to date

The only way you are going to do this is to create your own organization/web site. 

I knew a guy who wanted to do weak signal VHF--he wasted years of time and effort trying to convert other clubs to support his interest.  He finally got smart and created his own club--putting up the cash to make it happen.  One of the wisest investments he ever made----the club is still going strong today!

I have three hobbies, radio, roses, and rocketry.  One is doing really well, with membership and numbers at an all time high, another has basically been at the same level for decades, and the other, unfortunately, has a membership only a tiny fraction of what it once was.  Anyone care to guess which is which?

Zack W1VT

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KG4NEL
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Posts: 373




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« Reply #73 on: October 11, 2013, 04:39:07 PM »

I don't know is on third?

 Grin

I know the overall numbers of ham ops is at an all-time high - and if Wikipedia is to be trusted, about a quarter of a percent of the US population. It'd be interesting to compare that percentage to the late '50s or '60s, though.
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K5TED
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« Reply #74 on: October 11, 2013, 06:43:20 PM »

"It's a curious world where a 1930s-era triode power amp design might be used with a 192KHz DAC playing a lossless codec"

My chill zone amp is a vintage KG-250 with original Mullard tubes, and homebrew full range speakers, through which I generally play DVD-Audio discs (96/24).

I just sounds better...
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