What could be more fun than building a miniature oscilloscope? Not one with an LCD screen, but a scope with a real live cathode ray tube just one inch in diameter. All the parts -- including two 6AU6 vacuum tubes -- will be housed in a 5” x 7” x 2” box.
In Part 1 of this series, I covered basic sweep alignment theory and construction/operation of an all-in-one sweep alignment instrument I dubbed the WhippleWay Sweep Alignment Board (or WSAB for short). In Part 2, I’ll describe sweep alignment procedures for AM and FM radios and give an actual example of each.
DC-to-DC (DC-DC) converters are a common part of modern electronics. The need for an “odd” voltage can arise for biasing, backlighting, analog components, communications, or — as in the case of the LP130 discussed in the last issue — programming and verification. If your main circuit is powered from +5V and you have a few chips that need 3.3V, a simple linear regulator will suffice. However, linear regulators can only reduce the supplied voltage. Most practical DC-DC converters are a type of switching regulator and in this article, DC-DC converter means a switching type of regulator.
The popularity of repairing and restoring tube radios has highlighted the need for a variety of test instruments. After repair or restoration of a radio, the final step is often alignment. For an AM radio, a signal generator and voltmeter will do a good job. But with an FM radio, using a signal generator and voltmeter does not always produce the best results. So, I came up with my own design using a digital signal generator module, Arduino processor, and digital display.
Now that I’ve retired, I’ve started experimenting with some of the analog subjects that I haven’t done much with since school back in the seventies. To begin with, I started with op-amp circuits; specifically, Colpitts oscillators. I built the circuit on one of those plug-in ‘protoboards,’ a ±15V power supply, an oscilloscope, and a multimeter. For my experimentation, I was using a trim pot. I would adjust until oscillation began, then power down, pull one end of the trim pot, measure the resistance, then re-connect, power up again, and continue adjusting until I reached the other end of the resistance range, where the oscillation would cease. I would then repeat the resistance measurement. That procedure was not ideal. In addition to the multiple tedious steps, adjusting a trim pot can be a pain. Enter my potentiometer box.
Sometimes called a VI curve tracer or an IV curve tracer, this oscilloscope Octopus generates AC excitation across its two leads and then displays a voltage vs. current plot in real time. The resulting plot can be used to track down opens, shorts, and noise in a component, as well as measure the breakdown voltage and phase relationship between voltage and current. The circuit has been around just as long as oscilloscopes, but this Octopus is a small battery-operated instrument with its own display. Instead of an octopus’ worth of jumbled cables, there’s just a pair of test leads.
This article discusses basic theory on the decibel unit and its role in electrical measurements of power, etc. It also describes the construction of an RF power meter which in the past has been difficult to use and expensive to own. With the breakthrough of new ICs in recent years, most of the former problems and expense have been eliminated. This is a simple and inexpensive unit to build, but has the accuracy, resolution, and dynamic range that was only obtainable in lab quality test equipment a decade or so ago. This kind of test equipment is almost mandatory for amateurs, radio frequency work, or test equipment calibration. Also, when built as described, it’s a very professional looking piece of gear that anyone would be proud to display on their test bench.