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Copyright: 1996 - 2024
    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 typing up your telephone line, and a nice lady's voice announced "You've Got Mail" when a new message arrived...

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Electronics Abbreviations and Glossary
May 1955 Popular Electronics

May 1955 Popular Electronics

May 1955 Popular Electronics Cover - RF CafeTable of Contents

Wax nostalgic about and learn from the history of early electronics. See articles from Popular Electronics, published October 1954 - April 1985. All copyrights are hereby acknowledged.

This is pretty much a ho-hum bit of information for most RF Cafe visitors, but there are a lot of people searching the World Wide Web (WWW - don't see that much anymore) for abbreviations and definitions of electronics terms. Most are readily available from multiple sources, but those which are more antiquated can present a challenge. As is almost always the case, the most reliable authority for information is from the original source, such as these lists in a 1955 issue of Popular Electronics magazine. Examples are the use of "cps" for cycles per second, before the adoption of Hertz as the standard unit of frequency in 1960 by the General Conference on Weights and Measures (CGPM); e.g., "m.c." was the equivalent of MHz.

Abbreviations and Glossary


a.f.c. -  Automatic frequency control: (1) control of the frequency of the local oscillator in a superheterodyne to keep the receiver in tune with a desired station; (2) control of the frequency of the horizontal oscillator in a television receiver to keep the horizontal deflection in step with the horizontal deflection at the television studio and thus to keep the picture steady horizontally.

a.g.c. -  Automatic gain control, control of the amplification of an amplifier so that its output is approximately constant in spite of variations in the input signal; especially such control in television receivers to reduce variations in picture contrast produced by variations in r.f. signal strength.

a.v.c. -  Automatic volume control (a.g.c. used in radio receivers to reduce variations in sound volume produced by variations in r.f. signal strength).

choke -  An inductance used especially to present a high impedance to a wide range of frequencies. Filter chokes are used in rectifier-type power supplies to remove from the d.c. output hum components equal to the power line frequency and its harmonics; audio-frequency chokes are used in audio amplifiers and radio-frequency chokes are used in r.f. and i.f. amplifiers, to present a high impedance load to a vacuum tube or to block unwanted signals.

crystal -  1. Rectifying crystal, one which passes electric current more easily in one direction than in the other and thus can be used to change alternating current to pulsating direct current; made of such materials as germanium, silicon, copper oxide, galena, and carborundum. 2. Piezo-electric crystal, one which transforms mechanical energy to electrical and vice versa. Such crystals, made of Rochelle salt or barium titanate, are used in microphones and phonograph pickups. When cut to a certain size and shape, a piezoelectric crystal, usually made of quartz, can be used as a resonant circuit, to control the frequency of an oscillator or as a frequency-selective filter.

decibel -  A measure of the ratio between two power levels or of a power level with respect to a designated reference level. Basically, the number of decibels is ten times the logarithm of a power ratio. One decibel is approximately the smallest difference in sound power which can be detected by the average human ear.

db of feedback -  The number of decibels by which inverse feedback in an amplifier reduces its over-all gain and distortion.

detector -  A circuit used to recover an audio or video signal from a modulated radio signal.

electrolytic capacitor -  A type of capacitor in which the dielectric or insulator is a thin film of oxide deposited on one aluminum or tantalum plate and an electrolyte is used between the insulator and the other plate. This type of capacitor provides a larger capacitance in a given volume than any other type. However, except for special a.c. electrolytics, this type can be used only in circuits where voltage of constant polarity is applied to it.

elevator -  Control surface of an aircraft which regulates its pitch attitude (level, climbing, or diving).

feedback -  Returning part of the output of an amplifier stage to the input of the same or a previous stage. Negative or inverse (out-of-phase) feedback decreases the gain and distortion of the amplifier; positive (in-phase) feedback increases gain and distortion and may produce oscillation.

frequency response -  The relative ability of an amplifier, loudspeaker, or other device to respond to different frequencies.

glow plug -  A type of internal- combustion engine used in models, in which starting is assisted by a filament in the combustion chamber, which is energized by an external battery.

harmonic distortion -  Distortion consisting of addition to the signal of components whose frequencies are multiples (harmonics) of the original signal frequency. It is produced by an amplifier or other device which is nonlinear (does not give the same ratio of output to input for all input amplitudes).

heterodyne -  A different frequency (beat) produced by combining two frequencies.

hole -  Absence of an electron normally present in an atom; a positive charge. The action of some transistors often is explained by referring to movement of holes or positive charges, rather than movement in the opposite direction of electrons or negative charges.

microammeter -  A meter for the measurement of current flow, which is calibrated in microamperes, or millionths of an ampere.

milliampere -  One-thousandth of an ampere.

modulated -  Varied in amplitude, frequency, or some other quality. Radio-frequency signals are modulated in order to carry signals of lower frequency, such as sound or picture signals.

multitester -  A meter which is a combination of a voltmeter, an ohmmeter, and (often) an ammeter.

octal -  Designation of one of the standard types of tube base or the socket to fit it. The base has eight equally spaced pins and a centrally located boss, which is made of insulating material and has a key to prevent improper insertion of the tube in the socket. The loctal tube base is similar, except that its pins are smaller in diameter and the central boss is of metal and has a groove which fits a one-turn spring in the socket, to hold the tube.

oscillator -  A vacuum-tube or transistor circuit or other device which produces an alternating-current power output without mechanical rotation.

plate dissipation -  The part of the power applied to the plate circuit of a vacuum tube which does not appear as signal output, but is dissipated as heat in the plate of the tube.

push-pull -  An arrangement of two vacuum tubes in an amplifier so that the input signal is applied in opposite phases to the two tubes and the signal outputs are combined in phase. This arrangement reduces even-harmonic distortion.

regeneration -  Positive feedback in detectors and amplifiers. Increases gain and distortion and may produce oscillation.

saturate -  To reach the maximum possible value of some quantity, such as magnetization in the core of an inductor or electron flow in a vacuum tube from cathode to plate.

servo-motor -  A special electric, hydraulic, or other type of motor used in control apparatus to convert a small movement into one of greater amplitude or greater force.

signal generator -  A test instrument providing electrical power substantially similar in amplitude, frequency, and other qualities, to signals found in electronic equipment.

signal tracer -  A test instrument for detecting the presence of a signal in electronic equipment and, with some signal tracers, measuring its amplitude, frequency, or other qualities.

superheterodyne -  A receiver in which all incoming radio-frequency signals are mixed with the output of an oscillator to produce a heterodyne or beat frequency. The oscillator frequency is variable so that the beat produced with any desired signal can be adjusted to a certain frequency. The beat-frequency signal is fed to a fixed-frequency (intermediate-frequency) amplifier, where greater and more uniform gain and selectivity can be obtained than at the original radio frequency.

superregenerative -  A type of regenerative detector in which the tendency to oscillation is controlled by a quenching voltage of ultrasonic frequency which periodically allows the gain to increase, then reduces it. The quenching voltage can be produced by the detector tube itself or by a separate oscillator. This type of detector has great sensitivity, but poor selectivity.

tone control -  1. In a radio receiver or an audio amplifier, means provided to change the relative response to audio signals of different frequencies; effects which can be produced are treble boost or attenuation and bass boost or attenuation. 2. In radio control of models, a system wherein the radio signal is modulated by audio tones and control is achieved by keying the modulating tones on and off, instead of keying the r.f. carrier.

v.t.v.m. -  Vacuum-tube voltmeter, a voltmeter using one or more vacuum tubes to increase the sensitivity of the basic meter movement, so that measurements can be made in a circuit without drawing much current and without disturbing very much the normal operating conditions of the circuit. May also be a combination voltmeter, ohmmeter, and ammeter.


a.c. -  alternating current

a.f. -  audio frequency

a.f.c. -  automatic frequency control

a.g.c. -  automatic gain control

AM -  amplitude modulation

amp. -  ampere

ARRL -  American Radio Relay League

a.v.c. -  automatic volume control

BCI -  interference with broadcast reception

b.f.o. -  beat frequency oscillator

cps -  cycles per second

c.t. -  center-tapped

c.w. -  continuous wave

db -  decibel

dbm -  decibels above one milliwatt

d.c. -  direct current

d.c.c. -  double cotton covered (wire)

d.p.d.t. -  double-pole, double-throw

d.p.d.t. -  double-pole, single-throw

DX -  distance

elec. -  electrolytic

FCC -  Federal Communications Commission

FM -  frequency modulation

freq. -  frequency

GMT -  Greenwich Mean Time

hi fi -  high fidelity (of sound reproduction)

hy. -  henry

i.f. -  intermediate frequency

K -  kilo (one thousand)

kc. -  kilocycle

M -  mega (one million)

ma. -  milliampere

mc. -  megacycle

meg. -  megohm

mike -  microphone, microfarad

mil -  milliampere

m.o.p.a. -  master oscillator, power amplifier

mu -  amplification factor

μfd. -  microfarad

μμfd. -  micromicrofarad

mw. -  milliwatt

m.w. -  medium wave

PA -  power amplifier

p.a. -  public address

PM -  phase modulation, permanent magnet (speaker)

pos. -  position (of a switch)

pot. -  potentiometer

pri. -  primary

R-C -  resistance -coupled

R/C -  radio control

rect. -  rectifier

res. -  resistor

RETMA -  Radio-Electronics-Television Manufacturers Association

r.f. -  radio frequency

r.m.s. -  root mean square

sec. -  secondary

SN -  self-neutralizing (escapement)

s.p.d.t. -  single -pole, double-throw

spkr. -  loudspeaker

s.p.s.t. -  single-pole, single-throw

s.w. -  short-wave

SWL -  short-wave listener

sync. -  synchronization

t. -  turns (of a coil)

trans. -  transformer

TV -  television

TVI -  interference with television reception

u.h.f. -  ultra high frequency

v. -  volt

v.f.o. -  variable frequency oscillator

v.h.f. -  very high frequency

VR -  voltage regulator

v.t.v.m. -  vacuum -tube voltmeter

vu -  volume unit

w. -  watt

wpm -  words per minute

tr. -  transmitter 



Posted September 3, 2019

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