A Primer on Cheap Software Defined Radios

Mixer Diagram.Grc

A Primer on Cheap Software Defined Radios by Yuval Adam.

I’ve always been fascinated by radio. I clearly remember discovering numbers stations at the age of 9 using my grandparent’s old shortwave radio, and I was fascinated by the concept of stuff being broadcast over the air – discounting FM radio which was ordinary.

Actually, I’ve always wanted to buy a frequency scanner and learn more about radio, but never got around to actually doing so, something didn’t feel right. Last week, the right thing I was waiting for was found – an open-source software stack and a $15 USB dongle turn my desktop computer into a software defined radio. Essentially, this means that anyone can, very cheaply, pull data out of thin air (literally), and analyze it using code.

Up until now, SDR could only be achieved using expensive equipment, and using proprietary drivers and software. The $15 SDR option is a serious breakthrough in making the SDR world more accessible. As with most new technologies, the open-source SDR world is still not very user-friendly, and in this post I’ll try to outline the basic stuff a beginner should know when entering this world.

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