I finished populating the RockMite board. Construction of the entire kit was amazingly easy, even the little bit about grounding the crystal cases which I expected to be a pain.
I added the connectors from the connector kit, set the radio up on its smoke bench and took a listen. Last night, here in Boulder, I couldn't hear a thing so I tried again this morning. As the sun got up over the horizon, there were first a few and then plenty of CW signals coming in!!!
Once I realized their were hams on the air, I started casting about for a makeshift Iambic keyer. I gave away my straight key along with my radio about five years ago. I recently gutted an old TV and had pulled out a strip of front panel buttons. I broke off three of them, (I was trying for two, but three came out), and tacked them onto the key plug for the RockMite to create the KD0FNR/Panasonic Iambic Keyer:
I listened for a bit and heard W9FFU calling CQ. I banged out a quick replay and... voila, W9FFU called right back. What a great little radio! On the first try, it called from Boulder, CO all the way to Oak Harbor, Washington. Oh, and I didn't even mention the antenna! I'm using a half wave dipole. One end runs out my balcony door and over the banister, and the other end runs in the opposite direction across my living room floor. As much as I've stressed about antenna design in the past, it's always fun to see how much can be done with so little effort. I just calculated a length of 16.645 feet per leg on an internet antenna design page, cut two 17 feet lengths of bell wire, and the little RockMite was off and running!
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Keep watching here for more RockMite news. I'm planning on writing about some of the circuit concepts and components behind the radio. What's your favorite RockMite story? I'd love to hear it!