RF Cafe Software
About RF Cafe
1996 - 2016
BSEE - KB3UON
RF Cafe began life in 1996 as "RF Tools" in an AOL screen name web space totaling 2 MB. Its primary purpose was to provide me with ready access to commonly needed formulas and reference material while performing my work as an RF system and circuit design engineer. The Internet was still largely an unknown entity at the time and not much was available in the form of WYSIWYG ...
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These images have been chosen for their uniqueness. Subject matter ranges from historic events, to really cool phenomena in science and engineering, to relevant place, to ingenious contraptions, to interesting products (which now has its own dedicated Featured Product category).
Cool Pic Archive Pages
Thomas Edison Photo on New York Times Meeting Room Wall
A headline news story appeared today that reported on president-elect Donald Trump's meeting with the New York Times editorial board. My eye was immediately drawn to the large photograph of Thomas Edison on the wall behind Trump's campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway. Many other recognizable people of note are there as well. From what I can find out, those are all autographed pictures of people who have visited the boardroom. I have identified ...
Lampen & Röhren (Lamps & Tubes) Online Museum
If you like pictures of sehr cool-looking devices involving vacuum-filled (an oxymoron?) glass enclosures, i.e., lamps and tubes, then you will want to spend a few minutes perusing the personal collection of Giorgio Basile, of Nivelles, Belgium. Per the homepage of his Lamps & Tubes website: "My collection consists of more than 3,500 lamps and vacuum tubes. This is a wide area! In addition to well known incandescent lamps, radio tubes and cathode ray tubes, it includes, among others: arc lamps, light sources for the laboratory, transmitting tubes, camera tubes, flash lamps, microwave tubes, photocells, photomultipliers, radiation detectors, rectifiers, relays, thyratrons ..."
2016 EPSRC Science Photography Competition Winners
The winners of the 2016 EPSRC "Science Photography Competition" have been announced. It was held by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), the "UK government agency for funding research and training in engineering and the physical sciences, investing more than £800 million a year in a broad range of subjects - from mathematics to materials science, and from information technology to structural engineering." Recipients of funding from EPSRC submit photographs for judging. This year's top prize titled "Microwave Ion-Trap Chip for Quantum Computation" went to Mrs. Diana Prado Lopes Aude Craik, University of Oxford, for her photo of a gold ion trap. Per the website, it "shows the chip's gold wire-bonds ...
Telefontornet in Stockholm, Sweden
This late 19th century photo of a telephone cable tower in Stockholm, Sweden, is seen frequently on the Internet. The 'telefontonet' tower, owned by Stockholms Allmänna Telefon AB (which later merged with Ericsson), supported 5,500 lines. Those four decorative turrets at the top were added to beautify the tower after residents complained about it being an eyesore. Raise your hand if you think it was a good solution. A couple decades later, the company began burying phone lines underground and the tower was eventually taken down. At a smaller scale, many modern data centers look a lot ...
NIST 83 GHz 16-Antenna Array
For many years I posted a weekly "Cool Pic" item derived from articles I read in magazines and websites. I'm not sure why I stopped doing so - probably due to lack of time - but seeing this über-cool-looking 16-element antenna array that operates at 83 GHz. At initial inspection it appears to be a 16-port switch unit because unless you are familiar with how small an 83 GHz antenna can be, those devices hanging off each port look like push-on coaxial connectors, but they're not. This work is being done by engineers at the NIST in a project researching how to best increase available wireless channel frequencies and bandwidth …
Anaconda Copper Mining Company Advertisement
It's not often that you will see a full-page ad promoting a particular element in the periodic table, but in 1950 that wasn't the case. This advertisement for Anaconda Copper Mining Company promoted the virtues of element number 29 - copper (Cu , from the Latin "cuprum"). Aluminum and iron were other popular topics of advertising. If you do a search on the history of Anaconda, which is today owned by the Atlantic Richfield Company (ARCO), what dominates is the harm done to workers and to the environment. The short video below is one of the less vicious reports on the company's operations in Butte, Montana and in Chile. As with many forms of mining back in the day, miners were subject to very hazardous conditions, lived in company towns in company houses, sent their kids to company schools, and bought their groceries at company stores. It was a rough life, and we who enjoy the abundant freedoms and conveniences availed to us today owe ...
John Nelson is a User Experience Lead* for IDV Solutions (business intelligence software) who likes to graph various types of data in a visually meaningful way. One of his latest projects is plotting the paths of tornados in the U.S. for the past 56 years based on data from NOAA as available on Data.gov. The storms are presented according to the tornado F scale rating; the brighter lines represent more violent storms. One commenter asked why all of the tracks appear to be straight lines when we know that tornados typically take circuitous paths as they wreak their havoc. The answer is that the only the beginning and end points for the storms were available. *So, what is a User Experience Lead? According to a job description I located: "Senior User Experience (UX) Leads are responsible for defining successful high-level strategies for client projects including multimedia, desktop and mobile websites, web-based applications, technology solutions, and other digital experiences. Gather, define, and clarify clients’ business objectives, brands, and audiences. Ttranslate this understanding into documentation that defines the 'big idea' and guiding creative vision that will shape the entire project." Qualifications include BS/BA degree in psychology, human factors, interactive design, information architecture, library science, anthropology, or related field.
You might think I tend to dwell too much on the past because of all the articles posted and references to vintage electronics companies and their employees. Maybe I do. My motivation is two-fold. First, I enjoy waxing nostalgic over the simpler, less crowded days of yore that were the 1920s through 1940s, and even into the 1950s. Things were not ideal by any means, but America was a thriving bastion of national innovation and manufacturing. A "wow" factor surrounded new discoveries and deserving heroes were created. Our friends as well as our enemies were well-defined and our schools put more effort into teaching literature, mathematics, and science than into what "rights" could be demanded without earning them. Second, which really follows from the first, is that I hope by reminding people of, or in some cases - especially younger website visitors - introducing for the first time, the fact that being a country that is fundamentally independent while at...
Some might call it artistic license. I call it epic failure. The May 2012 edition of QST (p.79) had a photo from Bob Kernish, KD2ADL, of an avant-garde-style public bench in Auckland, New Zealand, that features a repeating string of Morse Code characters. Bob was puzzled over the apparent message, "SPARKLAG WATERS." After checking with some Aussie Hams, they believe it was intended to say, "SPARKLING WATERS." I'm guessing it was a government project, designed by committee, and no authority on Morse Code was engaged during the process. The project was probably over budget and late, so there was no more money to re-paint the message. Per the poster's investigation, "The Port of Auckland is part of the Waitemata Harbour ('sparkling waters' is the translation of this Maori word)." Maybe the Maoris pronounce "ing" an just "g." The original photo and a short description of the phenomenon is available at http://auckland-west.co.nz/?p=9153 . These benches are located at the entrance to Queens Wharf. I did a search using Street View on Google Maps, but could not locate the benches. Maybe they were installed after the Google camera vehicle captured their images. I cannot find a spot that looks like the other photo on the page. There appears to be trolley or train track embedded in the sidewalk, and I do not see them anywhere...
A decision was made by the United Kingdom in 1994 to produce 2-pound (£2) coins for general circulation. Public input was sought regarding a theme for the design of the reverse face (back) of the coins; the obverse (front) would feature the standard bust of the Queen. Four year later, the British Royal Mint issued its first coin. The bi-color coins all have a nickel-brass (dark) inner component and a cupro-nickel (light) outer component. Designs would tell the story, through symbolic devices, of technological development from the Iron Age to the Industrial Revolution and from the Computer Age to the Internet. An edge inscription was included to identify the object or event being commemorated. Designed by Robert Evans, the third coin in the yearly series pays tribute to the contributions of Guglielmo Marconi. Per the British Royal Mint's website: "100th Anniversary of Marconi's 1st Wireless Transmission across the Atlantic. Radio waves decorating centre and outer border while a spark of electricity linking the zeros of the date represents the generation of the signal designed by Robert Evans." The chosen design contains a rendition of Guglielmo...
For the last few years, IEEE's International Symposium on the Physical and Failure Analysis of Integrated Circuits has held an "Art of Failure Analysis" photo contest. Familiar shapes and pattern occur regularly in nature at the macro level that can be seen and recognized by almost anyone; e.g., the Nautilus spiral, the Fibonacci series in plant life, and fractal structures. It takes a high power optical microscope or even a scanning electron microscope (SEM) to see those familiar sights in the realm of the very small. Sometimes, though, the images are downright bazaar and look eerily familiar. This first-place winner from the 2012 "Art of Failure Analysis" is a good example. Titled, "People on the Beach," this first-prize-winning SEM image by Infineon's Lim Saw Sing. It is an exposed a polyimide surface that was etched by reactive ions. Is that cool or what? "The Hope Terrace" is another familiar sight. It looks just like a formation of tiered cliffs with wind-blown snow or sand upon them. "Silver Leaves" appears to be an infrared type image of a cluster of plants. We have seen a lot plant-like SEM images. "Big Nose" reminds me of Mr. Bill yelling "Oh, nooo...." while pleading for mercy from Sluggo. "Lunar Eclipse" looks more to me like an annular solar eclipse, but I suppose artistic license permits the photographer to name it anything he wants...
Popular Science magazine ran a short feature titled "Outer Space, Indoors," in the January 2013 edition. The main photo is a shot of the inside of the RF anechoic chamber at the Technical University of Denmark (DTU). Its thousands of RF absorbing pyramids are painted a dark, electric blue with black tips, which makes for a very stunningly artistic image. Narcotics-inspired sculptors of sculptures could scarcely improve on the visual impact of this imminently and supremely functional structure. Interestingly, I could not find a single picture of the anechoic chamber on the DTU website other than a small section of it from before the new paint job. According to my search for the original, the one in PopSci appears to have originated on the website of photographer Alastair Philip Wiper, where many high resolution views of the anechoic chamber's inside are posted. A steel Faraday cage encloses the chamber, but I could not find any photos of it. A picture of the power, data, and RF cabling interface(s) would have been interesting to see.
Remember the recent epic patent-related court battle that resulted in Samsung being ordered to pay Apple one billion dollars in damages? Well, Samsung paid payed up - with 30 truckloads of 5-cent coins! Per the article: "This morning more than 30 trucks filled with 5-cent coins arrived at Apple’s headquarters in California. Initially, the security company that protects the facility said the trucks were in the wrong place, but minutes later, Tim Cook (Apple CEO) received a call from Samsung CEO explaining that they will pay $1 billion dollars for the fine recently ruled against the South Korean company in this way." While this certainly is hilarious, the fact is that it must have cost Samsung a significant amount of money to have 30 trucks filled with coins and to pay for the security for having it transported to Apple. Sure, it'll cost Apple some amount to process the exchange (no pun intended on the "change" part of "exchange"), but Steve's ghost and Apple shareholders are doing the real laughing as they deposit an additional $1,000,000,000 into the coffers and then collect dividend checks.