The Science of Radio (and Lock Haven State College)

The Science of Radio is an excellent book

This book is highly recommended by the author of “The Electronics of Radio” by David Rutledge, who based his book on the NorCal40A. Both books are excellent, but because Paul Nahin has figured out how to stay practical and keep the math to “first year calculus” – this book is more approachable than many. One other book makes it even simpler – “Practical Electronics for Inventors” by Simon Monk – who keeps the math more along the lines of the ARRL Publications – which is simple algebra and trigonometry.

This book reminds me of the one Physics Elective class that I took at Lock Haven State College in Pennsylvania (now called Pennsylvania State University at Lock Haven). The school at the time was quite small – I think only 2400 students, and the town had only 8000 or so residents – so the professor had to come up with a novel idea just to fill the class with even enough students. So he opened it up to non Physics majors by offering two tracks – the Physics students had to take the “full on” calculus, and the rest of us – Algebra and Trig (along the lines of the ARRL Publications).

I ended up getting a B if I remember right – and I had to work hard for that – our textbook went into Solid State Physics – and I remember discussing the composition and math surrounding solid state devices and “holes” – it was fascinating, but quite a bit more advanced than the tests I took to get my Ham Radio licenses. The non math theory was the same as the Physics students, so as a Computer Science Major – I was proud of my B grade – it still was a true Physics class.

Paul takes this concept one step further – he starts out – and even continues the discussion around history and other down to earth and practical (and I think much more interesting aspects) of the subject matter before diving into the theory – so you can get the best appreciation for just how much “magic” Radio and the Science of Radio is, and he offers how influential and exciting radio has been in his life. I don’t know if he is a Ham Radio Operator, but he sure does “Have the knack” . . .

One thing he does that also resonates with me (bad pun intended) – he uses vacuum tubes in circuits to describe the theory and the math. I know from experience that going off into solid state physics was fascinating but not at all useful in a practical sense. I wish my Electronics class was more like the content in this book – but what the heck – I am able to take the course by working through it and using my test gear to measure voltage and frequency in circuits.

In fact, when I learned how to use an oscilloscope and when a lot of the theory really clicked was when I was trouble shooting the KWS-1 and traced through the circuit – both the RF Deck and the Power Supply. Never mind that it (ironically) ended up being a mechanical issue – the pursuit of the problem and my troubleshooting gave me a great little education – and has “whetted my appetite” and led me to the next step up in my Electronics education.

Combine this with the fact that after 40 years of being a Ham, I also learned which Morse Code Key is best for me – all because of this KWS-1, and my rhetorical question is “Was it worth the money to buy the KWS-1”.

You betcha!

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