In my 2nd grade classroom, where the teacher, Mrs. Jeffers, provided something besides the usual puzzles and games for spare-time play. There were wires, light bulbs in porcelain sockets, knife switches, motors, buzzers, tools...and #6 dry cell batteries. Several of the boys and I couldn't finish our work fast enough and would have gladly skipped recess to be able to wire up new contraptions that often didn't work, but fascinated us nonetheless....
My name is Bob (Robert) Nickels and by the time I'd moved into junior high, I'd graduated to a different kind of bulb - the vacuum tubes that made radio possible. I'll tell more of my story on the blog here, but suffice it to say I'm a lifelong radio and electronics nut and what started in Mrs. Jeffers classroom has provided me with endless challenges, opportunities, and a career in the electronics industry, (I am now retired from Honeywell), and have the time and ability to indulge myself in my hobby full-time. I've been a licensed amateur radio operator since age 15, hold an Amateur Extra class license (W9RAN) and have been active on many bands and modes over the years. But no matter where I've lived or what's been going on in my life, I've never lost the fascination with making things, fixing them when they don't work, and playing radio.
This site reflects my wide-ranging interests and perspectives, from historian to author, experimenter, and developer of my own products under my business and technology consulting umbrella, RAN Technology Inc. It will be an eclectic mix but I'll try to make it worth your time to hang around and see what's new, because I know I will run out of time long before I ever run out of projects and ideas that I want to pursue. And there comes a time when it's time to share the knowledge, experience, and toys that have been acquired with others.
where's the copper subchassis from?
I didn't set out to buy this homebrew CW transmitter, it was included in an auction lot that I wanted so I had to take it to get the desired item. But even though I always like to see good quality homebrew gear, this one is just a mystery.Most of the transmitter, including 6CL6 oscillator and buffer stages and a 6146 PA are built on a sub-chassis that is clearly part of a com... READ MORE
last gasp from Swan/Atlas founder Herb Johnson
Most hams are aware that Herb Johnson W6QKI founded Swan in Benson Arizona to make single-band SSB transceivers and then moved his operation to Oceanside CA where Swan thrived throughout the 1960s. Swan merged with Cubic Corporation in 1967, and Johnson managed Swan as its subsidiary until 1973. Johnson founded Atlas Radio in 1974, with the assistance of Southcom International fo... READ MORE
Speculation about a mystery receiver
The Harvey-Wells Company was formed through a partnership between Clifford Harvey W1RF, and John Wells W1ZD in 1939. Cliff Harvey had earlier founded Harvey Radio Labs in 1933, and prior to that, he was associated with the Hendricks and Harvey Company, another partnership. Producing police radios, transceivers, transmitters, and crystals. Their most popular product was the TBS-50 trans... READ MORE
introducing hams to SDR
I became aware of a few hams playing with a thing designed to receive digital TV in Europe on your laptop - a little plug-in dongle that used an RTL-2832 IC and sold for $20 or so. Some clever fellows had determined that it could be put into "radio mode" in which it would generate an IQ stream over USB, and by writing to control registers in the tuner IC, it could... READ MORE
One even Dachis doesn't know about!
A while back I acquired a six channel HF transceiver made by the Radio Industries division of Hallicrafters, probably in the 1960s, called an SBT-20. It is capable of 20 watts SSB or 5 watts AM (or CW with an optional board) in the range of 2-12 MHz and thus was probably aimed at commercial and light-duty military applications. The radio could by ordered with fu... READ MORE
It's not just for VHF!
I'm always thinking about interesting combinations of equipment to try out on the air. One day while rearranging the shack I was getting ready to connect my Globe Scout Deluxe back up with a Collins 51S-1 receiver when the LED (the energy-efficient version of the old light bulb) came on.When I first started playing with DVB-T dongles back in 2012 I wanted an upconverter so I ... READ MORE
Classic circuit with some modern twists
There's a good chance that more homebrew ham transmitters have been built using a 6L6 than any other tube, and when combined with the superior performance of the 6AG7 oscillator, it's a hard combination to beat (click here for an explanation of the 6AG7's benefits)I'll be adding more info about this project soon, but one of my goals was to reproduce what was a budget-friendly... READ MORE
A time capsule from JA-land
All who operate AM in the midwest know and probably have talked to Masa, AB9MQ, who is a very active AM operator. Having become interested in ham radio while still living in Japan in the early 1960s, Masa's memories of the "dream rigs" is a bit differen than most US hams, and because the markets were still quite regional at the time, much of the ham gear... READ MORE
Manufacturer of marine radios in the 1940s
I enjoy playing with old marine radios that operated in the AM mode between 2-3 MHz. This was the standard for "ship to shore" radio and telephone service from marine radio operators from after WWII until about 1970 when SSB was phased in and AM became obsolete. Through this era a number of manufacturers were major players including RCA (Ra... READ MORE
Bead blasting is the secret
I've always thought that knurled aluminum knobs were a high-class option for radio gear, and while they are more durable than plastic they do accumulate tarnish, corrosion, and grunge from dirty fingers over the years and start to look poor. Fortunately it is easy to restore them to a new attractive appearance using a bead blaster. Mine is a Harbor Freight floor-standing... READ MORE