On 1 March from 12 noon -3pm we met over a light lunch at Mike ZL1AXG’s QTH.
The Branch 50 NZART Committee ordered in a light finger-food lunch (savouries and sandwiches) as we were hosting Branch 74 for a combined branches event. Disappointingly, only two guests showed up … they were our guest speaker for the workshop, and one Branch 74 member! Mike noted that the year had not got off to a good start with few turning up for the combined branches BBQ organised by Kapiti Branch. It appears many amateurs simply don’t want to come out any more to events. However, complacency may well spell the end of amateur radio as we know it. Member attendances at most branches appear to be plummeting, even those that still have 100+ members on their books. Things are getting tougher for ham radio, with suburban QRM often sending the meter over s9 on the low bands, the sunspot cycle likely to be at its worst for some years, and Councils getting tougher in their district plans on amateur antennas (see the recent decision by Kapiti District Council).
It is likely that something radical will be required to breathe new life into our pastime. Maybe the new IC705? (just kidding!).
Putting aside the challenges for our hobby, our special guest presenter – Charlie Morris ZL2CTM – talked us through his approach to building homebrew transceivers. Charlie has built many working transceivers and uses them regularly, including on tramps into the bush.
Charlie has a range of experimental radios using quite different techniques. They are mostly built inside Sistema lunch boxes, with full visibility of the “inner workings”. He has a global following of QRP and homebrew affiacondos who follow his latest creations. For example, check out his videos on Youtube and this review of an SDR design on Soldersmoke: http://soldersmoke.blogspot.com/2016/02/zl2ctms-teensy-sdr-ssb-superhet-very.html
Some wonderful hints were dropped, including a suggested order for constructing modules in the transceiver, how to use veroboard (matrix board) by placing all the components on one side of the board (the side with the tracks on it), how to bond a module to the ground plane so as to reduce the chances of unwanted feedback. Charlie also made a suggestion on how to switch the IF strip between TX and RX so you don’t crossover inputs and outputs using relays (hint: switch the mixer frequencies on your PLL device).
Charlie’s well received session ended with tea and coffee and a lot of chat amongst members with most members leaving around 3.45 pm. Charlie received many compliments and he provided a lot of stimulation for members. Maybe some of us will be buying those design manuals and building our own transceivers? For the Chair, it presents a challenge to move away (at least in the first stage) from a focus on getting the enclosure looking good, to coming up with new solutions to old problems by using a breadboard approach. i.e. it is time to use the box of processors being built up and have a play with a few IF strips, etc. Now if only there was time to do so!