On tonight’s net, I mentioned that you can get on 40 meters for under $60, and without the need to be a virtuoso on the soldering iron or know tons about radios. Say hello to the BitX40, an almost completely-finished 7 watt transceiver. All you need to do is supply a box or case of some sort to put it in, a battery, and an antenna. Everything else is already there for you. To finish it, you solder on wires to a few controls, the battery (or 12 volt power supply), the antenna connector, and you’re ready to get on the air.
The BitX series of radios have an interesting back story. A ham in India named Ashhar Farhan, VU2ESE, was concerned about how low the number of hams there were in his country, as well as other third-world countries. After pondering this issue for a bit, he decided that one of the greatest problems a prospective ham faced was the high cost of even used ham equipment there. He set out to make a 20 meter voice transceiver that used less than $20 in materials. Thus was born the BitX20 about 10 years ago. He cut costs in some very innovative ways. For example, instead of the relatively-expensive ferrite toroids that are often used in radios, he substituted fiber or metal washers and wound his coils on them instead. He decided to limit the power output to less than 10 watts so that a very common power MOSFET transistor could be used. He also designed a novel main VFO tuning system made from a plastic drinking straw and a coil of wire. I have one of these original (slightly improved) kits.
About 6 months ago, Ashar decided to try and help employ women in India to make a radio that might sell in higher quantities if he made it easier to build, but still supplied a quality product. He created the BitX40, and founded a new small business to support it. This is what I have in a my hands today, and I have to say that it is a very high-quality product, and he’s made it very easy to complete.
Gone is the drinking straw VFO, replaced by a very cool “Radiuino” board. It is a very hackable Arduino that drives a 2-line LCD display and a DDS chip that outputs a highly-accurate, clean RF signal. This one item alone increases the “fun factor” quite a bit, and helps contribute to a feeling that you are using a high-quality product that you yourself completed and mounted in your own custom housing. Mount the display face and knobs to a plastic or metal ammo can and throw in a small battery pack, or put it in a cigar box (do they still have those?), or make your own custom wood enclosure. It’s all up to you.
I suggest you give this cutie a try. It’s not very intimidating, you’ll be very pleased with the results, and you’ll be helping some folks in India become more self-supporting. You can find his website and ordering info here: http://www.hfsigs.com/