CQ Amateur Radio


It might be a bit pretentious or condescending to title an article “Your First Anything” when addressing such a diverse audience as the readership of CQ. We certainly have a fair number of “properly seasoned” hams in our midst, some of whom may have been building oscillators before I was a twinkling in my grandmother’s eye (not quite sure how that works).

That being said, probably no circuit creates more grief, grumbling, grousing, and groaning amongst analog newcomers than the oscillator. Analog circuits oscillate when they aren’t supposed to, and fail to oscillate when you want them to. If one’s first experience with analog circuit design is an attempt to make a stable oscillator, the experience is enough to make one abandon the analog universe altogether and devote one’s existence to flipping bits. Digital circuits either work or they don’t.

“I won’t let a flat tire get me down,” Tom said, without despair.1

And, we don’t want you to despair either. But first, an acknowledgement of reality.

Contradiction in Terms

One of the most difficult design tasks for the experimentally-minded radio amateur is the construction of a . This is understandable, because a circuit must be in order to oscillate in the first place. Therefore, at first blush, is a contradiction in terms. However, if we refine our definition of to mean a oscillator, sanity can ensue. In nearly every amateur radio application, the purpose of an oscillator is to produce an AC signal of a known, stable, frequency that only changes if and when we want it to. Sometimes, but not always, we are concerned with of our oscillator, as well. Although there are a number or radio circuits which function just fine with fairly appalling oscillator waveforms, it’s nice to know what the waveform looks like, even if you can’t really fix it.

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