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Today in Science History

Electronics & Tech  Headlines

Tech Industry Headlines - RF Cafe - Archive -

• ECSN UK/Ireland Electronic Components Market "Back to Normal"

• CTIA Recommends Additional 100 MHz of Spectrum to Fuel 5G

• FCC Grants 1st Batch of 2.5 GHz Licenses

• China's Latest Regulation on 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz Equipment

• Nova Scotia Students Contact Astronaut via Ham Radio

• Manufacturing Orders from China down 40%

• Universities Recruited for Defense Research (a la the olden days)

• Ookla Finds Starlink Speeds Continue to Dip

The Field-Effect Transistor

The Field-Effect Transistor, November 1965 Electronics World - RF CafeHere is a bit of history of the field effect transistor's (FET) history presented in a 1965 issue of Electronics World magazine. Author Gene Jackson mentions how the FET was being researched in laboratories toward the end of World War II, predating the junction type transistor developed by Ball Labs, with the first working model announced in late 1947. A primary difference between the bipolar junction transistor (BJT) and the junction FET is that the BJT is current-controlled and the FET is voltage-controlled (like a vacuum tube). The abbreviation JFET is not mentioned in reference to the junction FET, although MOSFET is used for the metal-oxide-semiconductor FET. Magazine editor William Stocklin adds a comment about the difference between electron current flow (negative to positive) and conventional current flow (positive to negative), which was a relatively new distinction at the time. See the follow-on article...

John Bardeen's Transistorized Music Box

John Bardeen's Terrific Transistorized Music Box - RF Cafe"This simple gadget showed off the magic of the first transistor. In 1949 an engineer at Bell Labs built three music boxes to show off the new transistors. Each Transistor Oscillator-Amplifier Box contained an oscillator-amplifier circuit and two point-contact transistors powered by a B-type battery. It electronically produced five distinct tones, although the sounds were not exactly melodious delights to the ear. The box's design was a simple LC circuit, consisting of a capacitor and an inductor. The capacitance was selectable using the switch bank, which Bardeen 'played' when he demonstrated the box. Bell Labs used one of the boxes to demonstrate the transistor's portability. In early demonstrations, the instantaneous response of the circuits wowed witnesses, who were accustomed to having to wait for vacuum tubes to warm up. The other two music boxes went to Bardeen and Brattain. Only Bardeen's survives..."

Shocking But True

Shocking But True, August 1959 Popular Electronics - RF CafeVictims of electrical shock have been around as long as experiments in electricity and electrical appliances have been around. For that matter, even ancient men unfortunate enough to have come into contact with an electric eel or a lightning bolt, or even those who rubbed against sheep's wool in an arid environment and then reached for a metal implement, know the pain of an electrical shock... or worse. This article in the August 1959 edition of Popular Electronics warns readers of the dangers lurking at the end of every electrical cord. One of the cartoons shows a guy being zapped while using an electric drill. About a year after graduating from high school, a friend of mine was using a power saw in a garage that had a damp, dirt floor. Even as late as the mid 1970s there were still a lot of power tools that had metal bodies, and usually had no ground wire. Electrocutions were not uncommon. My friend died from his contact with 120 VAC...

Curved Lines on Orion Solar Panels?

Orion Solar Panel Curved Lines - RF CafeDo you have any idea what the curved lines and other patterns visible on the Orion Artemis moon probe are? I cannot find any information on them. NASA assembly photos show only a bluish regular matrix of solar cells with no hint of these patterns. They look like digital oscilloscope displays resembling various waveforms and text blocks. I've never seen anything like it. Are they circuit elements showing through from behind the PV cells? Maybe this is a way of communicating with the space aliens who monitor Earth activity and live among us ;-)

Jensen Christmas Radio Advertisement

Jensen Christmas Radio Advertisement, January 1945 Radio News - RF CafeSeeing an advertisement like this from a national corporation - especially one that did work for the government - in a major magazine would be rare these days. In 1945 when this Christmas advertisement was proffered by Jensen Radio Manufacturing Company in Radio News magazine, it was meant as an inoffensive message of thanks and goodwill to all people, and particularly to servicemen. Today, some would like to prosecute the purveyor for the crime of "hate speech," which is basically anything suggesting America's founding was fundamentally righteous and just. "Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!"

RF Cascade Workbook

RF Cascade Workbook - RF Cafe RF Cascade Workbook is the next phase in the evolution of RF Cafe's long-running series, RF Cascade Workbook. Chances are you have never used a spreadsheet quite like this (click here for screen capture). It is a full-featured RF system cascade parameter and frequency planner that includes filters and mixers for a mere $45. Built in MS Excel, using RF Cascade Workbook 2018 is a cinch and the format is entirely customizable. It is significantly easier and faster than using a multi-thousand dollar simulator when a high level system analysis is all that is needed. An intro video takes you through the main features...

Many Thanks to Centric RF for Their Continued Support!

Centric RF microwave components - RF CafeCentric RF is a company offering from stock various RF and Microwave coaxial components, including attenuators, adapters, cable assemblies, terminations, power dividers, and more. We believe in offering high performance parts from stock at a reasonable cost. Frequency ranges of 0-110 GHz at power levels from 0.5-500 watts are available off the shelf. Order today, ship today! Centric RF is currently looking for vendors to partner with them. Please visit Centric RF today.

The Integrated-Circuit Industry

The Integrated-Circuit Industry, November 1965 Electronics World - RF CafeAccording to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, inflation has increased the cost of goods by a factor of 9.4x since 1965 when this article appeared in Electronics World magazine. Although the number does not apply directly to semiconductors, the products made with them generally follow the trend. If you apply 9.4x to the prices here, the cost of a Fairchild uA914 dual, two-input NOR gate would have risen from 99¢ to about $9.31, which is highly unreasonable. The article does mention the rapidly lowering cost of semiconductors. Figure 2 projects the average price of integrated circuits to decrease from $20 to $1 between 1963 and 1970, whereupon the curve flattens. Of course that was based on a knowledge and limitations of existing technology. A dual, two-input NOR gate will cost you 54¢ today from DigiKey (only 13¢ in quantities of 25,000). The single-copy price works out to about 6% of the inflation-adjusted 1965 price...

Electronics and Electrical Engineering Jobs Decline

Electronics and Electrical Engineering Jobs on the Decline - RF Cafe"Electronics and electrical engineering job outlooks are on the decline due to interests and global materials shortages, but that could change based on several dynamics. The pandemic has done its best to hinder chip production on a global scale. But while the shortage shows signs of subsiding, semiconductor companies are encountering another problem that could set them back: a lack of qualified electronics and electrical engineers. In June of this year (2022), Intel engineer Raja Koduri attended the IEEE Symposium on VLSI Technology & Circuits and raised the issue of engineer scarcity within the U.S., which painted a negative forecast for the near future (to say the least)..."

Resistive Attenuators and Pads

Resistive Attenuators and Pads, May 1966 Electronics World - RF CafeHere is a real cornucopia of attenuator information from the May 1966 issue of Electronics World magazine. If you need circuits diagram and equations for "T," Bridged-T, Ladder, Pi, Balanced-H, Balanced Ladder, Potentiometer, and Balanced (Dual) Potentiometer type attenuators, then you've come to the right place. A discussion is included on attenuator selection and specification for ordering rather than designing and building your own. The distinction between a "pad" and an "attenuator" has always been vague to me and I, like most people, use the terms interchangeably. Author Chester Scott seems to believe a "pad" always has a fixed value whereas an attenuator can be either fixed or variable...

Tracking Testers for Radars & Communications Systems

Tracking Testers for Radars & Communications Systems - RF CafeAxiom Test Equipment, an electronic test equipment rental and sales company has published a new press release entitled "Tracking Testers for Radars & Communications Systems," that explains how ideal signal sources for testing communications and radar equipment should combine high performance with versatility. Communications systems transfer information between locations while radars search for targets. A quick review of the essential differences between communications and radar systems can help target the types of test equipment with the capabilities needed to optimize the performance of each type of electronic system. The types of signals used in communications and radar systems are as diverse as the types of systems themselves. Communications systems range from short-range wireless Bluetooth links, such as between a computer and printer, and more complex 5G wireless networks with billions of users worldwide. Radars are now used in all markets, from automotive safety to weather forecasting, with signals covering a wide range of power levels...

FCC's Secrecy of Communications for CB Radio

Editorial: FCC Secrecy of Communications for CB Radio, May 1969 American Aircraft Modeler - Airplanes and RocketsThis is a very interesting article about the FCC's "Secrecy of Communications" rules. Manmade radio interference (QRM in Ham lingo), has been a problem since the early days of wireless communications. You might convincingly argue that it was worse at a time when many transmitters were of the arc type that basically spewed out a mess of RF energy within a specified bandwidth (very wide compared to today) to signal the presence of a "dit" (a digital "1"), with the absence of a signal being a "dah" (digital "0"). Filter technology for both the transmit and receive sides was also poor, allowing unintentional RF noise to be sent over the air and to find its way into the detector circuits. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), first formed in 1934, nearly four decades after Guglielmo Marconi first demonstrated his wireless set in 1896. Sometime around 1952, the FCC allocated a half dozen frequencies in the 27 MHz for radio control (R/C) model use, mixed within the existing citizens band (CB) radio channels. As you might imagine, interference problems were rampant, especially near metro areas and highways with heavy truck traffic. This editorial in a 1969 issue of American Aircraft Modeler magazine reports on just how bad things had gotten, especially that caused by operators using faulty and/or illegally modified transmitters, and even by malicious intentional attempts to "shoot down" model airplanes by keying transmitters in the vicinity of flight activity. In 1965, the FCC allocated...

RF Cascade Workbook

RF Cascade Workbook - RF Cafe RF Cascade Workbook is the next phase in the evolution of RF Cafe's long-running series, RF Cascade Workbook. Chances are you have never used a spreadsheet quite like this (click here for screen capture). It is a full-featured RF system cascade parameter and frequency planner that includes filters and mixers for a mere $45. Built in MS Excel, using RF Cascade Workbook 2018 is a cinch and the format is entirely customizable. It is significantly easier and faster than using a multi-thousand dollar simulator when a high level system analysis is all that is needed. An intro video takes you through the main features...

Many Thanks to ConductRF for Continued Support!

ConductRF coaxial cables & connectors - RF CafeConductRF is continually innovating and developing new and improved solutions for RF Interconnect needs. See the latest TESTeCON RF Test Cables for labs. ConductRF makes production and test coax cable assemblies for amplitude and phased matched VNA applications as well as standard & precision RF connectors. Over 1,000 solutions for low PIM in-building to choose from in the iBwave component library. They also provide custom coax solutions for applications where some standard just won't do. A partnership with Newark assures fast, reliable access. Please visit ConductRF today to see how they can help your project! 

LadyBug Technologies RF Power Measurement Videos

LadyBug Technologies RF Power Measurement Videos - RF CafeFounded in 2004, LadyBug Technologies has quickly built a reputation as one of the world's premier (they would argue "the" world's premier) manufacturers of RF and microwave power measurement test equipment. Their line of fast, accurate and NIST-traceable power sensors cover the 9 kHz to 50 GHz frequency range with 86 dB of dynamic range. In the process, LadyBug engineers have produced many very helpful instructional and educational videos for the benefit of their customers who use the power sensors, but also for anyone interested in making precision power measurements. A few of the videos are presented below, including titles such as "Peak and Pulse Power Demonstration," "RF Noise and Power Sensors Power Meters ," and "75 Ohm RF Power Measurements." and you can access the entire collection on LadyBug Technologies' YouTube channel...

Electronic Crosswords - December 1965 Electronics World

Electronic Crosswords, December 1965 Electronics World - RF CafeUnlike many of the crossword puzzles found in many magazines, the majority of the words and clues in this 1965 Electronics World "Electronic Crosswords" puzzle pertain to electronics, physics, mathematics, and other technical topics. Only a couple pertain to items not used in modern electronics assemblies, but you probably know what they are, anyway. I took the liberty of inserting alternate clues for the non-technical words, thus effectively rendering the entire crossword puzzle as totally compliant as my weekly RF Cafe Crossword Puzzles. You're welcome.

Opportunity Mirror: Reflections on Your Future

Opportunity Mirror: Thoughtful Reflections on Your Future, May 1970 Popular Electronics - RF CafePreparing for a technician career in electronics today is not so different than it was in 1970, when this article on resume preparation appeared in Popular Electronics magazine. Sure, particular job descriptions have changed, but the basics are pretty much the same. In 1970, being able to list television and radio repair on your resume was a valuable indication of your schematic reading and troubleshooting prowess. The keywords Sams Photofacts would jump right off the page at a knowledgeable interviewer (you can still buy documentation packages from Sams Technical Publishing). Then, as now, having a two-year college electronics degree or a stint in the armed forces as an electronics technician - or both, preferably - is almost a requirement for landing a job at a defense or aerospace electronics company...

The Transistor at 75

The Transistor at 75 - RF Cafe"Seventy-five years is a long time. It's so long that most of us don't remember a time before the transistor, and long enough for many engineers to have devoted entire careers to its use and development. In honor of this most important of technological achievements, this issue's package of articles explores the transistor's historical journey and potential future. In 'The First Transistor and How it Worked,' Glenn Zorpette dives deep into how the point-contact transistor came to be. Then, in 'The Ultimate Transistor Timeline,' Stephen Cass lays out the device's evolution, from the flurry of successors to the point-contact transistor to the complex devices in today's laboratories that might one day go commercial. The transistor would never have become so useful and so ubiquitous if the semiconductor industry had not succeeded in making it small and cheap..."

Ham Radio Earth-Moon-Earth Contact

Ham Radio Earth-Moon-Earth Contact, October 1960 Electronics World - RF CafeWe recently passed the 62nd anniversary of the first successful earth-moon-earth (EME) communication path by amateur radio operators. What is today a routine operation by Hams was a big deal back in the day. The moon was still a mystery to most of the world since at the time not even an unmanned probe had been sent for exploration. As reported in this 1960 issue of Electronics World magazine, 1,296 MHz was the frequency of choice using a 1 kW klystron on the transmit end and a highly sensitive parametric amplifier on the receive end, with high gain parabolic antennas on both ends. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has allocated the 144.00-144.20 MHz, 222.0-222.025 MHz, 432.00-432.07 MHz, 902.8-903.0 MHz, 1295.8-1296.05 MHz, and 2303.9-2304.2 MHz bands for various modes of EME operation per Part 97 rules...

RF & Electronics Symbols for Visio

RF Electronics Wireless Analog Block Diagrams Symbols Shapes for Visio - RF CafeWith more than 1000 custom-built symbols, this has got to be the most comprehensive set of Visio Symbols available for RF, analog, and digital system and schematic drawings! Every object has been built to fit proportionally on the provided A-, B- and C-size drawing page templates (or can use your own). Symbols are provided for equipment racks and test equipment, system block diagrams, conceptual drawings, and schematics. Unlike previous versions, these are NOT Stencils, but instead are all contained on tabbed pages within a single Visio document. That puts everything in front of you in its full glory. Just copy and paste what you need on your drawing. The file format is XML so everything plays nicely with Visio 2013 and later...

Thanks to Copper Mountain Technologies for Continued Support

Copper Mountain TechnologiesCopper Mountain Technologies develops innovative and robust RF test and measurement solutions for engineers all over the world. Copper Mountain's extensive line of unique form factor Vector Network Analyzers include an RF measurement module and a software application which runs on any Windows PC, laptop or tablet, connecting to the measurement hardware via USB interface. The result is a lower cost, faster, more effective test process that fits into the modern workspace in lab, production, field and secure testing environments. 50 Ω and 75 Ω models are available, along with a full line of precision calibration and connector adaptors.

Integrated Circuit Techniques

Integrated Circuit Techniques, November 1965 Electronics World - RF CafeMy first exposure to bare die integrated circuits was in the early 1980's, while working at the Westinghouse Oceanic Division in Annapolis, Maryland. It was my first job as an electronics technician after separating from the U.S. Air Force. After working there on the evening shift for a couple years building sonar systems for the U.S. Navy, I had an opportunity to move to the day shift if I could pass muster for a high level security clearance. A small group of engineers, with just one technician, was formed to serve the needs of a "special" customer. A couple other guys with more seniority them me interviewed for the position, but they failed the background check, which included two polygraph tests ...but I digress. Part of my job entailed building microcircuit assemblies using bare IC die and surface mount passive devices epoxied to very tiny printed circuit substrates, and then using a thermosonic wirebond machine to do the interconnections. 1 mil gold wire was used. A week-long class at the company's plant in Baltimore provided the basics, but the work we did was very unique and required developing new techniques that probably would not pass inspection by the crotchety Navy inspectors...

How to Become a "Non-Degree Engineer"

How to Become a "Non-Degree Engineer", May 1966 Electronics World - RF CafeCall me a snob, but IMHO except for rare circumstances, if you expect to hold the title of "engineer," you really should have earned a college degree in engineering. Sure, there are talented people without an engineering degree that can do certain engineering jobs more competently than someone with an engineering degree; however, it certainly is not so in the majority of instances. It is foolish to look around at all the technology you share your life with and conclude that people without the benefit of a formal engineering education could turn out so much at such a fast pace. When someone learns that you are an engineer, there is an automatic assumption that you hold at least a Bachelor's degree in engineering, software, or the physical sciences. If you tell someone you are a technician, the assumption is that you have earned an Associate's degree and/or received training in the military specific to your job's nature. When I see messages like the one in this advertisement, I get a little perturbed because: 1) It is misleading since unaware people will believe that becoming an engineer really is a easy as taking some home instruction courses, and 2) It diminishes the accomplishments, financial and time investment, and hard work of those who did earn an engineering degree...

One Transistor Pocket Radio

One Transistor Pocket Radio, July 1960 Popular Electronics - RF CafeIf this 1960 Popular Electronics magazine article was written today, the title would more likely be, "One IC Pocket Radio," and rather than a couple dozen resistors, capacitors, and inductors (and a transformer), and there might be one or two decoupling capacitors. Everything else would be contained within the integrated circuit. There are plenty of single-chip radio circuits available from distributors like Digi-Key, Newark Electronics, etc. Oh, and how many of you even know what a phenolic board looks like? Better yet, how many of you can identify the unique smell of one heating up or burning due to component overheating? If you can't, then consider yourself lucky, because that probably means you're 40-50 years younger than I am, and you have that much longer to live then me...

Electronics-Themed Comics

Electronics-Themed Comics, March 1956 Radio-Electronics - RF CafeThis set of six electronics-themed comics appeared in the March 1956 issue of Radio-Electronics magazine. The one on page 84 is pretty clever, but would need to be modernized in our semiconductor era. I'm not quite getting the page 114 comic. Computer dating is a fairly recent phenomenon - or is it? The page 142 comic suggest otherwise. In fact, I know three married couples who met via an online dating service, all within the last ten years; my daughter is one of them! The shopper in the page 145 comic might have misinterpreted the gist of the signs, but taken literally maybe her assumption isn't so unreasonable. The page 148 comic shows how a "futuristic" concept proposed in the middle of the last century has not only been realized by 2022, but has evolved much farther than imagined...

CMT: Near & Far Field Measurement

Copper Mountain Technologies: Near & Far Field Measurement - RF CafeCopper Mountain Technologies (CMT) has a whitepaper available entitled, "Near and Far Field Measurement." It begins, "To obtain optimal performance in an over the air RF system, the antennas must be chosen to meet specific requirements. Performance parameters such as size, wind-loading, environmental ruggedness, transmission pattern, bandwidth, and power handling capability should be considered. Especially important in an RF system design is the 'link budget.' This parameter determines the end-to-end RF loss and is affected by transmitter output power, feedline loss, transmit antenna gain, path loss through the air, receiver antenna gain, feedline loss once again and receiver noise-figure among other factors. A failure to meet the link budget in an RF system design will result in noisy performance and loss of coverage. In this application note, methods of measuring the transmission (or reception) pattern which determines antenna gain with a VNA will be examined. Most antennas possess some directionality to their performance..."

Please see the RF Cafe Homepage Archives for previous items of interest...

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    Kirt Blattenberger,


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 World Wide Web (Internet) was largely an unknown entity at the time and bandwidth was a scarce commodity. Dial-up modems blazed along at 14.4 kbps while tying up your telephone line, and a nice lady's voice announced "You've Got Mail" when a new message arrived...

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