I admit it, I have a ham radio license. I'm KF6KYI, a lowly Tech licensee. I went through a brief phase where I learned alot about radio, but then it kind of fell off for me as I realized that few people were interested in doing the kinds of work with radio that I was. But I did become interested in the world of QRP, or low power operation. What's cool about low power operation is that many people build their own rigs, and often very inexpensively. The idea of building a $10 transceiver and using it to talk to someone in the neighboring states is interesting to me, and no page that I've ever read was more in touch with this notion than
HOMEBREW QRP IS GUD 4 UHOMEBEW QRP IS GUD 4 U, now maintained by WB5UDE. Despite the atrocious use of abbreviations, the author shows just how simple it is to assemble a working ham radio station from scratch. Applause!
The schematic on the right is a 500mw transmitter. It's called the Michigan Mighty Mite, and has a single transistor which you can probably buy for a buck at Radio Shack. It's amazing what you can do with very little equipment/money/know how.
Somewhere in my workshop I've got a kit for the PSK-80 Warbler, which is another super cheap kit ($45), but in line with my technical interests. It uses the super-nifty-keen PSK31 modulation technique, which is a highly noise resistant digital mode. You plug this little transciever onto your laptop and you can type interactively to other PSK31 users. I'll have to struggle through the Morse exam sometime so I can give this a try.
I was also trying to find my notes of Lowfer or Low Frequency Part 15 broadcasting. Perhaps I'll give that a try sometime soon.
I'm tired of machines taking up several cubic feet of my under desk space, so the recent trend towards smaller machines suits me fine. I made an Spacewalker SV24 system a couple of years ago, but it is fairly long in the tooth, so I was glad to see Ars Technica: Small Form Factor Guide, a guide to building small form factor systems. Their Budget Box would make a respectable web server and could even play a few games.
Dan Lyke was musing about learning about FPGA technology on flutterby, which is a topic which has long been in the back of my mind for future projects. I rescanned the list of links I created on FPGAs a while ago, and found that Digilent has a new Pegasus FPGA board which looks promising. It uses their 50K gate Spartan 2, and includes both video and PS-2 ports and sells for a trivial $89, quantity one.