CREATIVE AMATEUR RADIO “The most versatile hobby on earth”
With pure creativity, Radio Amateurs have been developing nearly room-sized radios of earlier years into pocket-sized modern rigs with multifunction properties these day’s, no other hobby can make a statement like this. “Amateur Radio – the most versatile hobby on earth” must surely also be the most creative hobby ever.
There are various methods of building radio circuitry: proper PC board through-hole electronic component construction, where etching of copper-clad boards, leave the needed copper conductors on the fiberglass sheeting, would be the most common for the older components with wire leads.
These older components could also be assembled “Ugly construction”, like in the olden days of valve radio; the component leads being soldered directly to the adjacent component; not really artistic masterpieces but it works. A further development of this is the “Manhattan style” method where the component leads are soldered to glued copper-clad islands onto the copper-clad fiberglass board that serves as the ground plane. Lots of fun is to be had home-brewing stuff using these methods.
Modern trends in component packaging are however catching up with the above mentioned methods: the leaded components are getting scarcer by the day and of course, outdated. The new trend is Surface-Mount Technology (SMT): the components are getting smaller and smaller and of course the newer (IC’s) Integrated Circuits are multifunctional, with one component taking the place of various older IC’s on the PCB. Surface-Mounted Components (SMC) are mounted directly onto the surface of the PCB. Although done with these minute components that scare away home-brewing Hams, to my mind it is just an advancement of the old “Manhattan style” building method. It is easy once you get used to it – practice makes perfect.
Home-brewing in Surface-Mount Devices (SMD’s) only have one drawback – the small size of things. All the old electronic principles stay the same; only the physical components feel and look different. I assure you, with the right tools in hand we can adapt. Due to the fear that Hams have for these SMD’s, the ready-made circuits from the Internet or publications are scarcer than you can find for the larger through-hole component circuits. However, nothing withholds you from using a through-hole component circuit and experimentally replacing the components prescribed with SMD’s. Taking note of and experimenting with component value changes due to power rating, capacitance, inductance and of course component size, you can still build your favorite circuit from your favorite Ham publication. Higher-power Tx (Transmitter) builders could however have a bit of a problem, since these SMD’s don’t come in the higher wattage ranges. Luckily the saying goes: “The science of electronics doubles itself every eighteen months”. Higher power SMC could be just around the corner and you might just be building that 1000 Watt linear circuit shortly.
The truth is, we Hams have to make an effort with these new technologies; we have to keep up our creativity. “Home-brewing” should constitute a major part of the Ham experience and we have to promote it as a priority in our general activities. It is also a lot of fun, it livens up the hobby and provides for greater leaps of personal growth and knowledge to the individual. Let us then be creative with our construction projects – implement these new SMD technologies in your projects and then publish your creativity on the Web and elsewhere for others to use. This is the right thing to do if you really care for this amazing hobby. Be creative and give it a go and then share.
Vic – ZS6EA