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Pixie 2: A Minimalistic QRPp CW Transceiver
 

Daniel Adi Nugroho dot Net

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Pixie 2: A Minimalistic QRPp CW Transceiver

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Pixie 2I remember when I was a kid, I used to enjoy listening to shortwave broadcast using an old transistor radio, and as I browse along the shortwave bands to find a clear signal and intelligible voices, I often stumbled upon some strong morse code signals. My shortwave listening hobby goes all the way through my early days of high school.

When my radio hobby surfaced again in 2009, I bought Yaesu’s VHF transceivers – VX-7R handheld portable, (which I sold already), and then I bought FT-1900R, a VHF-only transceiver. I love experimenting with it, and most actively in APRS mode, to study the propagation of low-power signal over different conditions and weather. For further experimentation, especially in HF SSB and CW, I would like to get an FT-817ND all-mode QRP transceiver or an FT-450, an HF transceiver, both from Yaesu. However, due to restricted cash, I am postponing the purchase, and prefer to try the much more primitive, and cheaper, alternative – Pixie 2, while learning morse code and wire antenna techniques.

The original Pixie 2 circuit was designed by Dave Joseph, W7AMX, based on the earlier transceiver design by Oleg Borodin, RV3GM. The Pixie 2 first appeared in the June 1995 issue of the NorCal QRP Club's magazine. This simplistic CW transceiver, Pixie 2, is capable of transmitting 200-300 miliwatts of RF power, hence it’s called QRPp operation, a lower power class than QRP operation which transmits 1 watt to 5 watts of signal.

The Pixie 2 transceiver is available as kits, and for me that is a challenge which takes me back to my good old days. This Pixie 2 is the first radio I built after my electronics assembling/building hobby ended 13 years ago, taken over by my curiosity to computers and computer programming. I ordered two kits from HSC Electronics in Santa Clara, California, for less than USD 10 each (I have to admit that shipping from USA to Indonesia has doubled the cost). Here’s the schematics of Pixie 2 transceiver, as drawn by K5FO (Chuck Adams, now K7QO), very similar with the schematics supplied by HSC Electronics.

Pixie 2 schematics

After waiting for about three weeks, finally my kit arrived from California in good condition after travelling half the world away to Jakarta. It consists of a small PCB, and 24 electronic components, only 4 of which are active components. The instruction sheet is very clear and straightforward, which allowed me to build the kit in about two hours without any significant trouble, although it’s been many years since the last time I did this kind of thing. I chose 7.04 MHz crystal oscillator to set the frequency of my Pixie 2, since I heard that 40 meters band is one of the most active bands in CW.

Finally, after the soldering is complete, and all components are double checked against the schematic, I powered it up using 9 volt battery. No smoke! Afterwards, I connect it to the end of my 2 meters VHF antenna, and then plugged in my earphones.

Pixie 2 components Pixie 2 components

After adjusting my ear to the background noise, I start to identify a few dit and dahs – morse code! I was excited to hear those faint overlapping dits and dahs, which is almost indiscernable from the background noise. I think I have assembled the components successfully!

In order to improve the reception, I decided to ground it by connecting it to a copper wire which runs all the way to the backyard and ends on a large piece of metal I buried in the damp clay soil. I was surprised that I suddenly hear the nearby BC stations, which were quite loud. At least there are two BC stations with strong enough signal to completely cover all the faint dits and dahs. As listening to a faint background signal with strong foreground is very difficult, I decided to disconnect the unit from the ground. Listening to faint high-pitched morse code with a background hiss of noise is more fun!

I have not tested the transmitting capability, as I don’t have any 40 meters antenna set up yet, and also as for now I am not proficient enough in morse code. All I have right now is just a vertical 2 meters VHF antenna mounted on top of a 4 meters-high water tower and a rudimentary morse code skill. I am planning to set up a compact 40 meters wire antenna and I need to improve my morse code before getting on the air. Plus, I don’t a have amateur radio license yet.

The next step is to find a compact enclosure for this transceiver, to make it less fussy to work with. I have an old USB flashdrive plastic case, which will make a good shell for my Pixie 2 transceiver. I’ll post the pictures once I complete it.



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Last Updated on Saturday, 28 August 2010 18:22
 

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