Christmas is a good time to invest in testing equipment for your workshop. Here’s a look at some of my favorite ham Christmas testing gifts.
Recently, my friend Rupert posted an article about his favorite tools for model railroad work. I thought I would do the same thing from DIY electronics perspective, so here goes.
The biggest challenge for spouses and friends of electronics makers is that they have no idea what to buy us for Christmas unless we tell them! In part this is because they don’t really understand what we are trying to do. In part, they may not know what we have already. So, we must be specific on our Christmas lists.
Perhaps the best ham Christmas testing gift you can ask for is a Digital Storage Oscilloscope. You can find a variety of DSO in the $US 300 range. My choice a few years ago was the Siglent SDS1052DL 50 MHz scope, top left above.
If you have never owned a scope, there is a learning curve, but you can get up and running fast. If you plan to experiment with RF circuits, measuring the frequency, strength and quality of signals is necessary. Make sure you read the manual first.
With a modern, cheap DSO you can measure two channels at once, and view the spectrum with an FFT. Most newer scopes come with USB connectivity and supporting software to control and record your measurements. For hobbyist use, these cheaper scopes perform almost as well as professional gear, but at 10% of the price.
Ham Christmas Testing Gifts – Signals and Power
The following Christmas, I put the FY6800 Signal Generator on my list, shown top right. For around $100 I can generate all kinds of wave forms, up to 60 MHz. My minimum output is 1 millivolt, but this can be reduced with an attenuator. One nice feature is the ability to sweep a range of frequencies automatically.
Finally, a bench power supply is necessary for powering your test circuits, whether on a breadboard or PCB. Back in the 1980’s, my Christmas gift was the Heathkit IP-2718 three channel power supply, shown above bottom. You can buy modern bench supplies in the $50 to $150 range.