RF Cafe visitor Michael Maassel, an
electrical engineering professor in North Dakota State University's Electrical
and Computer Engineering Department, requested that I post these few questions
to help him effectively prepare students taking senior-level (aka "Capstone")
design courses for a real-world experience after graduation. Says the good
professor, "The biggest headache I have is getting the students to
document their work, both in hardware and in software. Currently, I am
requiring that the students use a quad line notebook. This has not been very
successful." How do you handle documentation in your every-day work?
For many years Melanie and I have been collecting
and reading The
Radio Boys series of thirteen books, which were written in the 1920s by Allen
Chapman. It was a time in history when the miracle of radio communications was capturing
- even enrapturing - the public with its seemingly miraculous ability to convey
messages across town and around the world without the need for wires, hence "wireless."
The stories center around four teenage buddies, namely Bob Layton, Joe Atwood, Herb
Fennington, and Jimmy Plummer (aka Doughnuts") who, with the assistance of a local
pastor, Dr. Dale, took an avid interest in radio and built from scratch a successful
crystal radio. Their enthusiasm compounds upon itself as adventures and experiences
using wireless foster interest in building better receivers and then building transmitters
for sending Morse code and audio ("phone"). In order to appeal to his intended audience
- primarily young boys - villains, good guys, hapless bystanders, government agents,
local law enforcement, family, and even the occasional damsel in distress...
About a decade ago,
photos began appearing on news websites showing Chinese citizens walking around
wearing face masks in order to filter out the massive air pollution pouring
from city factories and coal-fired electric power generation plants. Articles
were written advising on the best types of face masks to use while visiting or
working in China. The only topic about China competing for shock factor at the
time was the rash of suicides at Foxconn as the poor soulless, hopeless workers
who build our inexpensive electronics products jumped from upper factory windows
and roofs. Since around March of this year, nearly every location in the United
States and around the world is looking like China did for the entire last
decade. A worldwide pandemic was declared because of a deadly virus which
originated from the Wuhan area of China...
Have I mentioned that my YL, Melanie,
decided she would earn her Amateur radio Technician license? After living in a
household with a bilingual husband (English and Electronics) for nearly 38 years
and having become fairly proficient at ETL (electronics as a third language*),
Melanie decided to earn her Technician license. She has never delved into the
technical aspects of electricity / electronics, but has, along with hearing me
speak of it (too) often and having proof-read my writings and scanned and OCR'ed
more than a thousand articles from vintage electronics magazines, her gray cells
are permeated with the vocabulary, lingo, jargon, vernacular, slang, and argot
of the realm. Being an expert test taker, she will undoubtedly pass the written
test with flying colors. With much self-restraint, I have avoided offering my
sage advice and knowledge during her studies of the ARRL's Ham Radio License
Manual. The current edition is the 4th, being valid from 2018 through 2022.
Melanie has asked for a little clarification on SWR, decibels and couple other
minor topics, but otherwise has progressed...
The world was
introduced publically in 2007 to the concept of a 3-dimensional Smith chart by
Chris Zelley. In article published in IEEE Microwave Magazine entitled, "A
Spherical Representation of the Smith Chart," the radically new concept was
illustrated on the surface of a ping pong ball using a felt-tipped pen
(thumbnail at left). Inspired by the sight, Andrei A. Muller and a small team of
developers in 2013 created a version of the
3D Smith Chart in software using the Java language that allows it to execute
on any platform. In 2017, an expanded functionality commercial version of 3D
Smith Chart was released at a very modest price. A number of articles have been
published on the topic extolling the unique ability of a 3-dimensional complex
impedance volume to expose...
The other day a song entitled "Western Union" played
on my local over-the-air oldies radio station. It was released by the group The
Five Americans in 1967. I've heard it many times before, but it finally occurred
to me that the use of Morse code-like symbols in the refrain made it a perfect candidate
for a spot here on RF Cafe. The full lyrics of "Western Union" can be found at the
bottom of the page, but notice the "Dah-Dit-Dah-Dit-Dah" repeats in the refrain.
Even though I'm a licensed (as of 2010) Ham, my shameful (according to some veterans)
status as a post-Morse-code era did not require demonstration of code proficiency.
As such, my lack of a Morse code deciphering ability required that I rely on an
online translator for considering what the code might be. Depending on how you separate
the dits and dahs, the string of characters can be interpreted as TETET (- . - .
-), TAA (- .- .-), KA (-.- .-), NK (-. -.-), CT (-.-. -) or other combinations,
none of which seem to mean anything in particular...
A couple years ago a house two streets away
had an estate sale after the elderly gentleman who owned it passed on. There was
a lot of old amateur
radio gear for sale, and most of it had been bought early in the morning, right
after the beginning of the sale according to the man's daughter who was on-hand.
The newspaper notice mentioned the Ham equipment. In the back yard was a nice 40-foot
crank-up tower that was a bit weather-worn, but otherwise appeared to be in good
condition. She said that was the first item sold. I didn't ask how much she got
for it. The house was to be sold, and they were glad to have the tower gone before
listing it on the market. I have wondered in the past when seeing a "For Sale" sign
in the lawn of a house with one or more radio towers in the yard how much they would
impact the sale price. Some Hams would plan to take...
Lincoln Vocational Technical Center. One
day in late spring of 1973 I found myself walking around the gymnasium of Annapolis
Junior High School (AJHS) trying to decide which courses I would prefer upon beginning
tenth grade the following fall. It was one of the final days of ninth grade, which
had been by far my least happy year in school. Living in Mayo, Maryland, I and my
fellow neighborhood ninth graders should have attended Southern Senior High School
(SSHS) in Harwood, Maryland, where our predecessors had gone for ninth grade, but
overcrowding caused the Anne Arundel School Board wizards to decide that for at
least that year, we would remain at AJHS for another term. Historically, kids from
my area went to AJHS only for seventh and eighth grades and then switched to SSHS.
Annapolis, being the capital city of Maryland, was significantly more urban than
the rural areas which SSHS type people were accustomed to. The clientele was much
more aggressive in the big city. Sure, we had our "red neck greaser" rowdies in
the southern part of the county, but at least their parents would whip them if they
got caught getting into trouble. The north county parents, we believed at the time...
If you are annoyed by
and extraneous framework elements and/or SEO (search engine optimization) tracking
code accompanying application notes, white papers, and images, and videos, many
times you can get rid of them by editing the URL displayed in your browser address
bar. Compare the displays in this set of screen captures based on the original URL
provided in an e-mail (top) to the one where all the extraneous terms have been
removed from the URL (bottom). Note that the yellow highlighted components have
been eliminated. Often, I remove that stuff from hyperlink URLs before sending my
visitors to websites. Companies don't particularly like me doing that, but doing
so helps maintain your privacy. URLs in e-mails are particularly likely to contain
appended code that contains one or more "&utm_" parts. UTM is the Urchin Tracking
Module introduced by Google Analytics' predecessor Urchin and are now supported
by Google Analytics. They typically ....
Miscellaneous Earlier Smorgasbords and Factoids: