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Bench Talk for Design Engineers

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Bench Talk for Design Engineers | The Official Blog of Mouser Electronics


Weird RF Part One: HAARP Barry Manz
When it comes to strange applications, the “ether” arguably has more than its share. To prove it, in my next few blogs I’m going to look at a few that have caught my attention over the years, and one that definitely meets the criteria for “Weird RF” is the Frequency Active Auroral Research Program (HAARP), a program administered by the Office of Naval Research and funded by U.S. Air Force and Navy, and DARPA, and located in Gakona, AK (2010 census: population 218). Work began in 1990 and it was made fully operational and instrumented in June 2007. The prime contractor was BAE Systems Advanced Technologies.

The Open Microwave Design Initiative Gets a Kick in the Pants Barry Manz
Welcome to the world of microwave systems, or at least those destined for service in defense systems. Owing to the unique requirements of radar, electronic warfare, and other applications, as well as politics, and a “stovepipe” mentality, the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) is the owner of a broad array of systems designed for a single platform and incompatible with others. It’s a bit like building “one-off” washing machines for each customer.

A Day at the Beach – on 10 Meters Barry Manz
If you’re a ham and haven’t been active for a while, I have the just the ticket: Get involved with someone who just got the bug (no pun intended), and is ecstatic about making his or her first contacts. I speak from experience here.

RF Power Transistors and the Mystery of Video Bandwidth Barry Manz
If you use RF power transistors, you may have come across a new term of late on the datasheets: video bandwidth (VBW). Now, anyone who uses spectrum analyzers knows about this key metric, but I’ve been poring over power transistor datasheets for years, and this one seemed to appear out of nowhere.

For Today’s Telecom Boom, Thank Judge Green Barry Manz
In 1982, telecommunications in the U.S. changed forever when U.S. District Court Judge Harold Greene ruled in United States vs. AT&T that the industry was a monopoly. Like smashing an ice cube, this single action created seven regional holding companies within which were 22 Bell local operating companies along with AT&T, which retained Bell Laboratories. Judge Greene’s ruling, his first case after taking the bench was, to say the least, a monument in anti-trust litigation, but is also largely responsible for today’s booming telecommunications industry.

The Results Are In: Ham Radio is Healthy Barry Manz
A few years back I wrote an editorial in which I bemoaned the fact that thanks to the effortless ability to communicate virtually anywhere by picking up the phone (wired or wireless), fewer young people were interested in communicating via the ether, and amateur radio in general was not growing. This went over like a lead balloon with the American Radio Relay League (ARRL), which refuted my claim by providing statistics proving just the opposite. And they were right; it was growing, albeit slowly. So I was wrong and they were right, although I received 29 emails, some of which were several hundred words long, agreeing that it was indeed difficult to get today’s youth interested in amateur radio.

Wireless in 2014: The Industry at Mid-Year Barry Manz
As members of the RF and microwave industry make their annual pilgrimage to IMS 2014 (this year in Tampa), I offer my opinion on the industry’s overall health at mid-year. Fortunately, it appears that it’s going to be hot in Tampa in more ways than one. Just how hot depends on many factors, many of them company-specific, so there’s no single answer to “How’s business?” Nevertheless, a realistic approach with this blog is to look at key markets in the wireless industry.

5G: Coming Sooner than Later Barry Manz
Now that most of us have smartphones with LTE capability, life is good. Video streams nicely, downloads are quick, and if you happen to be standing next to a base station data rates can be truly impressive. It won’t be long before LTE Advanced shoves LTE aside with data rates 10 times faster, which means we will be able to download HD movies very quickly and do virtually anything else almost instantly. That however, is apparently not enough for the wireless industry, if developments in South Korea and the European Union are any indication.

The “Death of the Downconverter”? Not Just Yet Barry Manz
The impact of converting analog signals to digital form is one of the greatest advances the electronics industry has ever achieved. Although today almost every consumer, industrial, commercial, and military system depends on this capability, one of the last remaining outliers is directly converting analog signals at microwave frequencies into digital data streams without using large amounts of intervening microwave hardware (i.e., downconverters).

When All Else Fails, Ham Radio Shines Barry Manz
Let’s face it: When it comes to communicating, we’re spoiled. We can talk, text, or e-mail nearly anyone we want whenever we want, by simply picking up the phone -- be it wired or wireless. But ham radio can work when nothing else can get through.

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