HAM – Lab

Welcome to the top-level page related to HAM and my Electronics Lab.

History

Pretty much from the moment I could read, I developed a very strong interest in electronics, and from the moment I could count, I became more and more interested in the math underneath electronics. I finally ended up doing a Master’s in Electrical Engineering, and over the years, set up many electronics labs for projects and experimentation. I was born late enough to be introduced to the digital revolution in electronics, and had to divide time between soldering and hitting keys… Lots of programs, early home-computing frustrations and many projects in the DC to 20 kHz range…

However, around 1990 or so, I was completely blown away by an enthusiastic Chemistry (can you believe it?) student my age who totally outsmarted me on RF electronics, circuit design, antennas, propagation, and a whole lot more. In short, Remco PA3FYM introduced me to HAM radio. (If you read this Remco: Thanks!) I immediately went for my (by then) C license and started chatting with a modified KF-161 under the name PE1PQI. A little over a year later, thanks to the legendary Leen PD0MPL (not entirely sure about the call sign here…) I got my A license (I failed once, by the way), and received my final call sign PA3GYF. I liked it, and I’ve kept it ever since, despite later options to change it…

During the nineties, I DX-ed on 10m (with a dipole), 6m (the magic band, 4-el Yagi), 2m, 70cm, 23cm (the latter three with various antenna configurations). I also became active in the PE0MAR Lighthouse Contest Group.

This all went well until early 2000: We divorced with young kids, I moved out, and later dismantled the shack. I ditched most of the antennas and returned my mast to the person I bought it from years ago. No more HAM for 10+ years (I procrastinated, then bought an old house and went through a 5+ year renovation)…

When the dust settled around 2013, I was extremely lucky to be able to buy cheaply a lot of obsolete (to my employer’s taste) RF measurement equipment. (With many thanks to my colleague Peter PA3BIY.) This reignited my interest in RF electronics, only this time the interest was purely “lab-related” and no longer driven by HAM requirements. The yield included an HP-70000 Modular Measurement System that opened the way for me to explore the 1 GHz – 20 GHz (or so) range.

During 2013-2016, I worked at further deploying the lab, and once it was more or less usable, picked up a project for a 10 MHz GPS-Disciplined Oven-Controlled Crystal Oscillator. I went all the way on this project, including professional front panels, PCB designs and full documentation. The result, by the way, is on https://github.com/jandejongh/pa3gyf-gpsdocxo-2016.

A couple of years later, in September 2019, I had another opportunity at buying HP equipment through Peter, scoring myself for instance an HP-8566B spectrum analyzer and a (literally) massive HP-8663A signal generator.

The 2019 Auction Score.

Through e-bay, I purchased a lot more over the years, including a second HP-70000 MMS (this time with a color display) and a Wiltron 560A RF measurement system (SNA) including probes.

In 2019, I spent time on the lab itself: I desperately needed drawers for easier access to the rear of various instruments (like GPIB support), which led to the Chest of Drawers project.

The 2020 Chest of Drawers Project (this is the first).

The pictures below give an impression of the current lab. Note that they’re actually two sets almost a year apart (May 2020 and Feb 2021).

My HAM/Electronics Lab 1/13 [May 2020]: Center-South view.
My HAM/Electronics Lab 2/13 [May 2020]: South-West view.
My HAM/Electronics Lab 3/13 [Feb 2021]: South-West power cycle at night.
My HAM/Electronics Lab 4/13 [May 2020]: West view.
My HAM/Electronics Lab 5/13 [May 2020]: North-West view.
My HAM/Electronics Lab 6/13 [Feb 2021]: North-West view with monitor installed and a bottle of wine growing out of the desk. The computer (Intel NUC) attached to the monitor is running a screen saver.
My HAM/Electronics Lab 7/13 [Feb 2021]: North-West view with ICOM IC-706 and duplex filter.
My HAM/Electronics Lab 8/13 [Feb 2021]: North-West view with (medium) power supplies.
My HAM/Electronics Lab 9/13 [Feb 2021]: North-West view with transverters on the right.
My HAM/Electronics Lab 10/13 [Feb 2021]: North-East view; here’s when I ran out of flash.
My HAM/Electronics Lab 11/13 [Feb 2021]: North-East view with the partial paint job.
My HAM/Electronics Lab 12/13 [Feb 2021]: East view with attick-stair entrance from below and bathroom slip. This side is reserved for parts storage.
My HAM/Electronics Lab 13/13 [Feb 2021]: South-East view.

At the time of writing, early 2021, I need to complete just a few more things for what I call my HAM Lab:

  • Complete the painting of the “shack”;
  • Get rid of (even more) stuff that is in the way (leaking oil-filled HV capacitors, a box full of RS232/DB9 stuff :-));
  • Complete building two (or three) more drawers for RF instruments;
  • Complete my HPIB/GPIB strategy and data/Ethernet connectivity to instruments;
  • Complete, reorganize, and document my electronic-parts collection (mostly done already, actually).

But, perhaps more importantly: I need to figure out a new project. HAM has changed a lot over the years. I still really like it, but small-signal DX-ing seems somewhat out-of-reach. Maybe HF or satellite/space are interesting options. Or just design/build/measure stuff in the 1~20GHz range… Who knows…