RAN Technology

The Sputnik Moment - the day everything changed


Ham Radio Information 0 Comments 01/15/2019

Oct. 4, 1957

Posted By: Robert Nickels (ranickels)
Post Date: 01/15/2019

It was a 58 cm (23 in) diameter polished metal sphere, with four external radio antennas to broadcast radio pulses on 20.005 and 40.010 MHz. Its radio signal was easily detectable even by hams using regular receivers and the 65° inclination and duration of its orbit made its flight path cover virtually the entire inhabited Earth. This surprise success of the Russian launch of the first man-made satellite into orbit triggered the Space Race and launched a "Sputnik Crisis" right here at home as Americans were stunned to find that Russia had taken such a bold leap before we did.   Sputnik marked the beginning of a new era of political, military, technological, and scientific developments,

How much was Ham Radio impacted by Sputnik?    It thrust hams into the national spotlight in a way never seen before, as some of the scenes in this clip of David Hoffman's documentary "Sputnik Mania" shows.    The transistor, relatively new at the time, acelerated to become the dominant technology by the mid-60s, driven in part by the space race.   Computer science became as essential as the map and compass was in the early days  as satellites and the space program added a new dimension to human exploration.    But few if any could begin to visualize how satellites would become the preeminent means of communication, information exchange, global broadcasting, geolocation, weather forecasting, military defense, and much more - well within the lifetime of those kids who watched the first Sputnik -- in fear, or in awe.


   The following obituary appeared in the Freeport Journal-Standard on Febr. 9, 2019.      I attended a lecture by Mr. Anderson in the late 1990s after moving to Freeport and working for Honeywell where despite being a supplier to DEC, few realized the local connection existed to the founder of what once was the second-largest computer company in the world.   Mr. Anderso...  READ MORE
- Robert Nickels (ranickels),  02/09/2019 
  

The Case of the Phantom Voltage

“When you have eliminated all which is impossible, then whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”
Category: Technical
A Heathkit HW-12 gave me a troubleshooting challenge the likes of which I've not seen before - or even heard of!A few days ago the transmitter wouldn't produce output, and in checking voltages and I measured -75 volts on the ALC line which should be -20.   But it corrected itself and I figured it must have been a solder splash or something that cleared by itself.  That theor...  READ MORE
- Robert Nickels (ranickels),  02/08/2019 
  

The Solvay Conference, 1927

The Smartest Photograph Ever Take
Category: Historic
The Solvay Conference, founded by the Belgian industrialist Ernest Solvay in 1912, was considered a turning point in the world of physics. Located in Brussels, the conferences were devoted to outstanding preeminent open problems in both physics and chemistry. The most famous conference was the October 1927 Fifth Solvay International Conference on Electrons and Photons, where the world’s most...  READ MORE
- Robert Nickels (ranickels),  12/27/2018 
   Put yourself in 1963...A stamp was a nickel, bread was 22 cents a loaf, and you could buy 3 gallons of gas for a buck.   The average wage in the US was $84 a week.  If you were a ham, you might have been able to build and trade your way up to a really nice AM/CW station - maybe a Valiant or DX-100 transmitter with an NC-300 or HQ-170 receiver - a huge improvement over the S-38 you s...  READ MORE
- Robert Nickels (ranickels),  12/17/2018 
  

Astro...Don Stoner's legacy

How many of these rare transceivers have you seen?
Category: Vintage Ham Radio
A recent post on the Cubic-Astro mail reflector noted the similarities between the rare CIR Astro 200 and the much more common Cubic Astro 150 transceivers.   And therein lies an  interesting story...I have done a little research on the CIR Astro 200, and the commenter was right - it is the progenitor of the Astro line we are much more familiar with as a result of Swan (already owne...  READ MORE
- Robert Nickels (ranickels),  12/09/2018 
  

The DX-60 Family

what hath Benton Harbor wrought?
Category: Vintage Ham Radio
When an engineer at Heathkit in 1962 turned his attention to designing a replacement for the somewhat flawed DX-40 novice transmitter, little would he have expected the DX-60 to remain in the Heathkit catalog for 14 years.    From the new solid-state power supply to the streamlined apeperance and dependable performace, the new transmitter was instantly popular with novices who had t...  READ MORE
- Robert Nickels (ranickels),  12/09/2018 
   Epson programmable oscillators are a good substitute for quartz crystals in many applications, but they're a bit different to use.   First, they are active devices that require DC power, typically 5 volts at 45mA.    Second, like all ICs they are easily damaged by static and voltages that exceed the design limits.   Finally they are in DIP packates that are i...  READ MORE
- Robert Nickels (ranickels),  12/08/2018 
  

Programmable Oscillators - the modern day "rock"

Cheaper and more accurate and stable than the old type
Category: Crystal Replacement
With the demise of  International Crystal in 2018, hams and experimenters lost the last US-based source of affordable one-off custom crystals.  (And the definition of "affordable" ended up over $30 each).     Sure there are some offshore sources but the reality is, manufacturing one crystal to a specific frequency is not simple or inexpensive, and all crysta...  READ MORE
- Robert Nickels (ranickels),  12/06/2018 
  

"A Pair of 6V6s"

What more does one need to hear good audio?
Category: Vintage Audio
The first audio amplififer I made (that worked) used a single 6V6 to amplify the output of a regenerative receiver.    Ever since they've been my idea of what a good audio tube should be and with a big speaker mounted on a piece of plywood, a 6V6 will produce "room filling volume" as the magazine articles fo the day said.   But as my music tastes grew acousti...  READ MORE
- Robert Nickels (ranickels),  12/03/2018 
   My primary aim when desiging the VERSA-TR was low power transmitters, and to protect the receiver from potentially damaging voltages when transmitting. 100 watts into 50 ohms is a +50dBm signal.  I'd measured the attenuation at the receiver connector in the labe at -60 to -70 dB (depending on frequency), which means that should result in -10 to -20dB at the receiver, which should be ...  READ MORE
- Robert Nickels (ranickels),  11/29/2018 

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