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Software-Defined Radio: the Apple I of Broadcast? 153

Posted by Soulskill
from the will-it-sell-for-hundreds-of-thousands-in-35-years dept.
benfrog writes "A company called Per Vices has introduced software-defined radio gear that Ars Technica is comparing to the Apple I. Why? Because software radio can broadcast and receive nearly any radio signal on nearly any frequency at the same time, and thus could 'revolutionize wireless.' The Per Vices Phi is one of the first devices aimed at the mass hobbyist market to take advantage of this technology."
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Software-Defined Radio: the Apple I of Broadcast?

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  • by OverlordQ (264228)

    Most significantly, the widespread adoption of software-defined radio hardware could undermine the FCC's control over the electromagnetic spectrum itself.

    No, no it wont. The FCC will bring down the banhammer. If you cause issues, they *will* be knocking on your door.

    Right now, the FCC largely focuses on limiting the transmission frequencies of radio hardware. But this regulatory approach is likely to work poorly for software-defined radio devices that aren't confined to any specific frequency.

    Yes, yes it wi

    • Re:Eh? (Score:5, Informative)

      by icebike (68054) * on Friday July 06, 2012 @05:14PM (#40569479)

      Not really.
      There are large blocks of spectrum already set aside for use of personal radio devices. Just about anything goes in those bandwidths, subject only to power limitations and staying inside of the spectrum block.

      The FCC is all for this type of use. The FCC is also fully in favor of reallocation spectrum when the situation and demand changes, which is why analog TV is a thing of the past.

      There is precedent for this.

    • ...they *will* be knocking on your door.

      Black van pulls up and discharges a swat team:
      [*bing bong*]
      Resident: Who's there?
      Guy in black body armor: "Pizza man!"

      I looked at the Ettus Research hardware for a while with the thought of experimenting, but my life is already saturated with work and tech. Software radio will remain alongside playing the guitar as something cool I wanted to do, but could not squeeze in between /. postings.

      • by osu-neko (2604)

        Software radio will remain alongside playing the guitar as something cool I wanted to do, but could not squeeze in between /. postings.

        Your priorities... need prioritizing. :p

    • by BlueStrat (756137)

      Yes, yes it will. You cause issues, FCC gets complaints, it sends in the goon squad to shut you down.

      No, the FCC field operations are a joke. They have been for many years. Budget cuts have all but neutered what little FCC field-monitoring & enforcement that did exist. Many of the monitoring facilities have been shut down or turned into unmanned remote-operated stations.

      They've typically got two or three men and one or two tracking vans for a multi-State-wide area. They're kept so busy tracking things like interference to first-responder/aircraft/military/commercial broadcast that most stuff gets a rep

    • by grumling (94709)
      • by seringen (670743)
        That's RIGHT next door to Travis Air Force Base. It is hardly surprising that they noticed.
  • USRP is expensive (Score:5, Informative)

    by chihowa (366380) on Friday July 06, 2012 @04:55PM (#40569219)

    The USRP is really cool, but stupidly expensive. Some really cool stuff is happening with the RTL2832 based TV dongles, though. These are $20 devices that can be used to receive from ~64-1700 MHz (or DC-30ish with a little tweaking). So far, much of the info is here []

    The USRP would be cool if current PCB layouts and schematics were available or if the development effort went to a system that wasn't just making Ettus a profit. A truly open development platform would really benefit the SDR community.

    • I have a USRP2 and I agree, the cost is prohibative, but to be fair, some of the SMD parts are as much as $45 bux each, and it's a 8 layer PCB.

      • by Anonymous Coward


        LIke tbe B100+WBX bundle for $849.00? That's only a little more than the Per Vices device, which I'll point out, has no market history, and they have what I
        would have to describe as "kindergarten" Gnu Radio support.

        Compare that to the latest gee-whiz ICOM/YAESU/KENWOOD does-everything-with DSP HF-only "rig", and it's dirt cheap. I get frustrated by ham-radio guys
        (and I'm one) balking at "computer stuff is too expensive", and then a month later at the club meeting

    • by thygate (1590197)
      The RTLSDR is nice, but has VERY poor dynamic range. (8 bit I/Q samples), and no Tx capability. I am however having lots of fun with one, since i can't fork the $1400 for an USRP.
  • by icebike (68054) * on Friday July 06, 2012 @04:55PM (#40569225)

    The game changer here would be in the Cell Phone industry which can substitute a single radio chip to do all the protocols, wifi, cellular, bluetooth, as well as mix and match them at will. New air protocols could be invented over night without waiting for expensive chip developments. Its a cost reduction path as well as a device longevity path.

    Although it sounds wonderful when your cell phone is stuck on CDMA or your Bluetooth lacks all the latest capabilities, there are still problems of having an infinite number of antennas available (yes, we already have software defined antennas) in a small place.

    There will still have to be frequency restrictions imposed in the hardware itself because the FCC can't afford to allow Joe Random Programmer bringing down jumbo jets. But within authorized bands the ability to use new methods without waiting for the next chip means that we can build a replacement for entire infrastructures much more quickly, while maintaining existing technology for as long as we need it.

    Somewhere in this world there are still 029 card punches in use. I suspect we will keep some of our current stuff long after it should be scrapped.

    • by ceoyoyo (59147) on Friday July 06, 2012 @05:04PM (#40569347)

      I don't think it's going to do much for cell phones. Software defined radio basically shifts the processing from hardware to software. That requires power. For a cell phone, which must operate on a set protocol, there are only drawbacks. Yes, you could upgrade the protocol, but cell protocols don't change very fast and it's unlikely you'd want to run a general purpose cell tower on SDR because of the processing requirements.

      What SDR is going to do is revolutionize the unlicensed bands.

      • by Baloroth (2370816)

        In theory, though, an SDR cell phone could transition from 3G to 4G-LTE to true 4G with nothing but a software update. That is an extremely cool idea. Tt'd also allow fancy things like using it as a true walkie-talkie or CB radio, and 100% world-wide compatibility. I agree it is unlikely to happen anytime soon, but TFA compares the current SDR systems to the Apple I: it's going to take a very long time before the technology sees it's full usage.

        • by icebike (68054) *

          Actually I think it will happen VERY soon. Within a year or two.

          Why? Because there are so many different radio standards in Cellular use already, in so many different Frequency Blocks, and so many different protocols.
          Handset manufacturers would love to have one radio package to install and be done.
          Who ever comes out with one of these that can be switched to handle any cellular network worldwide with just an API call wins. Its game over for all the discrete chip makers.

          Plus if you can strip out the WIFI,

        • by ceoyoyo (59147)

          In reality, though, a phone that was able to do that would have to have a processor big enough to handle the extra overhead from decoding 4G, would burn through it's batteries in no time, and would be more expensive. And you wouldn't be able to do CB because you wouldn't have an appropriate antenna, although you probably could turn it into an FRS walkie talkie. There are already multi-frequency CDMA/GSM world phones chips. To support CDMA and GSM you need to have the identity module hardware for both any

        • In theory, though, an SDR cell phone could transition from 3G to 4G-LTE to true 4G with nothing but a software update.

          Please forgive my ignorance on this topic, but wouldn't processing power on-board the device still be a limiting factor? Is it possible that to leap from 3g to 4g that you'd have to get something with a much faster processor? Or is this the sort of thing where the processors are already fast and cheap enough?

        • by AmiMoJo (196126)

          Phones already use SDR. It is built into the radio ICs which contain both the analogue radio hardware and a programmable DSP. Android phone updates often include firmware updates for these DSPs, and many phones can be swapped between W-CDMA/GSM and whatever it is the US uses just by changing the radio software.

      • Software defined radio basically shifts the processing from hardware to software.

        So what you're saying is that we need hardware accelerated software defined radios?

    • by ewanm89 (1052822)
      No, they won't, they lock the chips to specific protocols for a reason, wifi and bluetooth chips are already on the same band and could be combined with very little work, but all the work the vendors do to lock the chips to one specific protocol it's insane. Unfortunately the FCC/Ofcom/ITU regs pretty much say they have to, this is why all wifi cards have some binary blob somewhere (firmware upload to device, firmware already on device...) to stop you accessing all the frequencies the hardware is capable of
    • by sir-gold (949031)

      I'm sure there are boatloads of wifi/BT/2g/3g/4g patents standing in the way of this.

      The recent ITU lawsuits have shown that it's nearly impossible to build even a single-purpose wifi chip without stepping on SOMEONE'S patents, let alone a multi-protocol chip

      • by jiriw (444695)

        However ... if you could just use a generic hardware broadcasting device and do all the patent-laden de/encoding in software... You'd have a blast in those large regions of the world where software patents don't hold much sway (Europe, for example... 'though lobbyists try to change that quite vigorously).
        And when the U.S. finally learns 'idea' patents only hamper innovation, there won't be a problem at all. It'll be 'just' software ;)

  • so? old hat. (Score:5, Informative)

    by swschrad (312009) on Friday July 06, 2012 @05:01PM (#40569301) Homepage Journal

    hams have had SDR for a decade more or less. and software-controlled radio back a little longer. and I seem to remember a win95 radio card that slid into an AT slot back in the mid or late 90s...

    • by AmiMoJo (196126)

      SDR isn't software controlled, it uses software to define the radio protocol in use. Could be as simple as AM or FM modulation, FSK, Manchester or some really complex frequency hopping madness. The point is that a single highly flexible receiver is connected to a DSP that can then replace any number of specialist radios.

      Mobile phones already use it. A DSP can process various network protocols like GSM, CDMA and LTE which in the past would have had dedicated decoding/encoding circuitry for each.

    • Yes, there are many HAMs around working on custom SDRs. HPSDR [] is one I have some exposure to. It handles RX/TX and comes with open schematics. There are some HAMs doing some really cool [] stuff with it.

    • I seem to remember a win95 radio card that slid into an AT slot back in the mid or late 90s...

      WinRadio is still very much alive.

      WinRadio builds SDR sets for marine, advanced hobbyist, and professional applications. Expect to pay $900-$1000 at entry level.

      The WiNRADiO WR-G39DDCi 'EXCELSIOR' is a high-performance HF/VHF/UHF/SHF software-defined receiver with a frequency range from 9 kHz to 3500 MHz, with two independent channels of 4 MHz wide instantaneous bandwidth available for recording and further digital processing, plus a 16 MHz wide real-time spectrum analyzer.

      WinRadio []

  • Interesting time to talk about Software Defined Radios.

    NASA's SCaN Testbed with 3 Software Defined Radios is launching onboard the Japanese HTV-3 Unmanned cargo vehicle in 15 days. (July 21st)

    It's an experimental payload that will be bolted to the exterior of the International Space Station and perform communications experiments with the 3 SDR's contained in the payload. []

  • by Worchaa (774320) on Friday July 06, 2012 @05:03PM (#40569323)
    FTFA: "It could record FM radio and digital television signals, read RFID chips, track ship locations, or do radio astronomy. In principle it could perform all of these functions simultaneously."

    Nice try, but no. At least not in a practical sense and certainly not as a mobile rig.

    Software Defined Radios are sweet but still dependent on a Physically Defined Antenna. I can see loads of wonderful uses for a broadband, frequency-agile SDR. Actually, I use them often as a Ham radio operator and they are extremely cool. However, there's still the problem of the pesky antenna. You can fudge quite a bit on a receiving antenna, not so much with a transmitting antenna (or a single transceiver antenna), and the engineers out there are very talented and clever at coming up with better designs... but it always tends to come down to the antenna.

    My point is that advances in SDR tech is fantastic, but they're not-- nor do I ever see them becoming-- a magic box. What I think they WILL do is streamline production. One super SDR can be dropped into a number of application-specific boxes.

    • by osu-neko (2604)

      You can fudge quite a bit on a receiving antenna, not so much with a transmitting antenna...

      None of the uses in the quote you objected to require a transmitting antenna.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Worchaa (774320)

        You can fudge quite a bit on a receiving antenna, not so much with a transmitting antenna...

        None of the uses in the quote you objected to require a transmitting antenna.

        True. That's a good point. However, consider the enormous range of those services:

        RFID: 120 KHz - 10 GHz (Generally below 2.4 GHz, with LF and UHF tags being common)
        FM Broadcast: 88 MHz - 108 MHz
        DTV: 55 MHz - 700 MHz (Three bands, ~55-85, ~175-210, ~470-700)
        Radio Astronomy: 13 MHz - 0.8 THz or something equally nuts way up there (The VLA receives below 50 GHz)

        That's way outside the scope of getting an antenna to fudge on receive. We're talking wavelengths from ~1.5 MILES to under half a millimet

        • by Muad'Dave (255648)

          There are better ways to accomplish what you want - you can switch quickly between dedicated receive antennas to obtain samples across all those bands effectively* simultaneously. Frequency agile receivers do that all the time.

          *We're talking discrete sampling here, so as long as you can switch antennas (PIN diodes) as fast or faster than the (possibly under-) sample rate and the settling time of the receiver when the frequency is changed, the receiver will have no idea there's more than 1 antenna. As the En

  • by zjbs14 (549864)
    The DoD should have kicked in a few bucks to this project instead of wasting billions on, and then cancelling, JTRS [] (Joint Tactical Radio System).
    • I don't think you understand the purpose of programs like the JTRS. The weren't supposed to actually make anything that was functional. The program was designed to make the contractor a shit load of money off the US Government.

  • by TwineLogic (1679802) on Friday July 06, 2012 @05:03PM (#40569331)
    It would be good to change the laws and federal regulations in the United States so that using SDRs would become legal. The current situation is an attempt to enforce "privacy through obscurity" by outlawing radios which could possibly intercept cell phone, pager, or radiotelephone communications (47 USC 302). It is also an attempt to enforce "copyright through obscurity" by requiring that FCC-approved devices respect copyright bits (47 USC 605). All of these problems would be better solved with cryptography. Remember the Clipper chip? That would have been a better path to choose than the current situation.

    A few of the relevant obstructions in the form FCC regulations and laws are: 47 USC 2.501, 47 USC 302, 47 USC 605, 47 CFR 2.944, 47 CFR 15.3 (dd).

    47 CFR 2.944:
    Software defined radios.
    (a) Manufacturers must take steps to ensure that only software that has been approved with a software defined radio can be loaded into the radio. The software must not allow the user to operate the transmitter with operating frequencies, output power, modulation types or other radio frequency parameters outside those that were approved. Manufacturers may use means including, but not limited to the use of a private network that allows only authenticated users to download software, electronic signatures in software or coding in hardware that is decoded by software to verify that new software can be legally loaded into a device to meet these requirements and must describe the methods in their application for equipment authorization.
    (b) Any radio in which the software is designed or expected to be modified by a party other than the manufacturer and would affect the operating parameters of frequency range, modulation type or maximum output power (either radiated or conducted), or the circumstances under which the transmitter operates in accordance with Commission rules, must comply with the requirements in paragraph (a) of this section and must be certified as a software defined radio.
    (c) Applications for certification of software defined radios must include a high level operational description or flow diagram of the software that controls the radio frequency operating parameters.
    [70 FR 23039, May 4, 2005]

    The penalty for a violation is forfeiture, a fine of up to $10,000, and up to one year in federal prison. See 47 USC sec. 501 This applies to person who purchase the radios as well as persons who sell them. See 47 USC sec. 500 et. seq.
    Various internet sources assert that SDRs are "test equipment" and excluded under 47 CFR 15.3 (dd), which reads:

    (dd) Test equipment is defined as equipment that is intended primarily for purposes of performing measurements or scientific investigations. Such equipment includes, but is not limited to, field strength meters, spectrum analyzers, and modulation monitors.

    I find it difficult to believe the FCC would classify the various SDRs as test equipment, but we will probably find out soon enough. [] []

    Before you downvote me because you don't like the laws; consider this: I posted this information because we must change these laws rather than suffer them.

    • by tlhIngan (30335) <slashdot@wor f . n et> on Friday July 06, 2012 @05:27PM (#40569633)

      There is basically no regulation on SDRs.

      Receivers - well, you have normal receive rules, though the cellphone one is pretty much invalid these days as no one uses AMPS anymore.

      Transmitters - the rule basically says if you have a software transmitter, that software better only allow transmission on the licensed bands.

      There aren't any special rules other than "don't transmit where you're not licensed to". The rule for software options is basically ensuring that the user cannot misprogram their transmitter and operate out of band and interfere with other licensed services.

      It's the same as an old style transmitter - care should be taken so users cannot readily change the operating frequency and power so they create interference.

      And yes, the fines are like that because they apply to unlicensed transmitters as well - if you're transmitting on a band you're not supposed to, you, the user can find your equipment confiscated and fined.

      The law is perfectly adequate - manufacturers need to ensure their SDR cannot be used out of the licensed bands (and power envelopes). It's an "SDR" rule because in an old style transmitter, the output stages normally dictate that you can't transmit out of band anyhow without retuning. But since an SDR can be free to transmit on any band without limitation, the software must ensure it's within the license and the user can't trivially modify it to be out of spec.

      SDRs are everywhere - the modern cellphone, wifi radio, bluetooth, etc., they're all SDRs internally. These normally have very specific front ends and filters so even if you could set them out of band, they are out of tune and don't transmit squat.

      It's a fair rule and prevents frequency anarchy (and frequencies are set aside for various uses).

      • by nurb432 (527695)

        It's a fair rule and prevents frequency anarchy (and frequencies are set aside for various uses).

        Not all will agree.

    • by timeOday (582209)
      The laws you quoted appear to restrict transmitting, not receiving. As written it seems to me you could distribute "approved" software that would allow anybody to receive anything.

      So, has anybody been prosecuted for receiving signals, or distributing equipment to receive a signal? (Short of circumventing encryption?)

    • There has never really been ANY law against owning or building ANY radio receiver that could pick up ANY part of the spectrum. Scanners have been sold that blocked out Cell phone frequencies, but people have hacked these to re-enable the reception. Today, the point is moot as Cellphones have gone digital and the scanners were all analog receivers. It was ALWAYS illegal to make public any conversations you heard on ANY "public service" radio band, this includes CB, mobile phone, cell phone, etc. (The ama

      • Again, you have not read the laws I cited a few of. Receivers which can tune to AMPS are illegal. Receivers must not cause interference, and the definition of interference includes the ability to receiver cell phone signals. See 47 CFR 302A (d):

        (d) Cellular telecommunications receivers (1) Within 180 days after October 28, 1992, the Commission shall prescribe and make effective regulations denying equipment authorization (under part 15 of title 47, Code of Federal Regulations, or any other part of that title) for any scanning receiver that is capable of— (A) receiving transmissions in the frequencies allocated to the domestic cellular radio telecommunications service, (B) readily being altered by the user to receive transmissions in such frequencies, or (C) being equipped with decoders that convert digital cellular transmissions to analog voice audio. (2) Beginning 1 year after the effective date of the regulations adopted pursuant to paragraph (1), no receiver having the capabilities described in subparagraph (A), (B), or (C) of paragraph (1), as such capabilities are defined in such regulations, shall be manufactured in the United States or imported for use in the United States.

        A key definition is "scanning receiver":

        (v) Scanning receiver. For the purpose of this part, this is a receiver that automatically switches among two or more frequencies in the range of 30 to 960 MHz and that is capable of stopping at and receiving a radio signal detected on a frequency. Receivers designed solely for the reception of the broadcast signals under part 73 of this chapter, for the reception of NOAA broadcast weather band signals, or for operation as part of a licensed service are not included in this definition.

        I submit to you the legal theory that an SDR receiver is a scanning receiver. I could be wrong, but it would depend on the mood of a judge.

        • by jrincayc (22260)

          Um, I agree that the regulation prohibits selling a receiver that can receive AMPS cellular service, but the laws you cite as I read them don't prohibit building or owning a receiver that can receive AMPS.

          • What, do you want me to <quote> the entire Title 47 of US Code? Anyway, I'll save you the trouble of finding this:

            (b) No person shall manufacture, import, sell, offer for sale, or ship devices or home electronic equipment and systems, or use devices, which fail to comply with regulations promulgated pursuant to this section.
            SEC. 501. [47 U.S.C. 501] GENERAL PENALTY.
            Any person who willfully and knowingly does or causes or suffers to be done any act, matter, or thing, in this Act prohibited or declared to be unlawful, or who willfully and knowingly omits or fails to do any act, matter, or thing in this Act required to be done, or willfully and knowingly causes or suffers such omission or failure, shall upon conviction thereof, be punished for such offense, for which no penalty (other than a forfeiture) is provided in this Act, by a fine of not more than $10,000 or by imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year, or both; except that any person, having been once convicted of an offense punishable under this section, who is subsequently convicted of violating any provision of this Act punishable under this section, shall be punished by a fine of not more than $10,000 or by imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years, or both.

            Again, to reiterate, the ability to receive cell phone signals, pager signals, or copyright-bit-set ASTC is elsewhere defined as "interference." I dunno if I already posted a reference to that, but I assure you, it's in there.

            Also, be aware that home-built equipment are excluded, provided they are never marketed, and you build no more than five of them. Kits, however, are not excluded

    • In order for the test equipment to apply they must be "marketed exclusively as test equipment" title 47 vol 1 15.121(c). However from the website [] it states "Phi can capture over the air waves, so with the right app, you can watch cable for free." Therefore, Per Vices is marketing the Phi to areas besides test equipment users, so it is illegal.

      • Test equipment is defined in 47 CFR 15.3 (dd). However, your reference to 47 CFR 15.121(c) is helpful -- it indicates that "scanning receiver" laws may be surmountable. The SDR regulations seem to still apply. I realize the intention may have been to cover transmitters, but the regulation covers all Software Defined "Radios."

        By the way, "Title 47" doesn't disambiguate 47 CFR (regulations, written by the FCC) from 47 USC (laws, written by Congress).
  • by narcc (412956) on Friday July 06, 2012 @05:11PM (#40569429) Journal

    Er, the Apple I didn't really revolutionize anything. (The Apple II was easily the more influential Apple computer, but even then that was mostly due to VisiCalc.)

    Why not "the MITS Altair of broadcast", ars? You know, a computer that had a real influence on the personal computing revolution.

    If they just wanted something really early, why not "the Kenbak-1 of broadcast" or "the H8 of broadcast"?

    Before everyone accuses me of worshiping at the alter of a dead cult-leader like Roberts, here's what I'm thinking: They picked the Apple I to attract clicks from readers who would otherwise have no interest in software defined radio.

    • by msauve (701917)
      Actually, the Apple I was quite competitive. For $245, you could have a KIM-1, with a calculator keypad and 6 7-segment LEDs, and a slow cassette interface for I/O (you could also connect a TTY and there were programmable TTL ports), and a pretty basic monitor (CLI monitor, not video monitor). It had a bit over 1K of memory, all other expansion was off board. And you had to provide regulated power supplies.

      The Apple I, for $667, got you 40x24 NTSC output, easy connection to an ASCII keyboard, on-board volt
      • by narcc (412956)


        I was talking about the computer's influence on the personal computing revolution, not how competitive it was in the market.

        • by msauve (701917)
          ...and yet you pointed to the Altair, which really had little influence. Yes, it was first, but left no lasting legacy (S-100 was pretty much dead by the time the IBM PC came out). It's not as if microcomputers wouldn't exist if the Altair hadn't appeared. And where is Altair (or IMSAI, or Polymorphic Systems, or North Star, or Morrow, or Cromemco, etc. now? Clearly, the plain fact that Apple is the largest tech company in the world makes its first product one of lasting importance.

          The Apple I was much clo
          • by narcc (412956)

            ...and yet you pointed to the Altair, which really had little influence.

            What? It's the single most influential computer of the time! It was the 8800 on the cover of Popular Electronics that inspired Bill Gates and the old Traf-O-Data crew to create a BASIC for the machine and later found Micro-soft corporation. It sparked an entire industry of peripherals and countless companies like CroMemCo to say nothing of clone machines like the IMSAI 8800. It even set the first de facto personal computer industry standard: the S-100 Bus!

            Even the famous Homebrew Computer Club was foun

          • by narcc (412956)

            Forgot to mention this bit.

            The Apple I was much closer to a modern all-in-one system,

            Not really. Not even close. Aside from the fact that it was less complete than other offerings at the time, even purchased assembled (assuming any of the 200 were sold that way) There were already products on the market that were MUCH closer to a modern system like the AIM-65 that had, at purchase, an integrated display, keyboard, power-supply, etc. The Apple I was a bag of parts and a circuit board. It didn't even have a case option.

            The Apple II is very likely the machine th

            • by msauve (701917)
              No, the a2 is not the machine I'm thinking of. The AIM had a 1 line alpha-numeric "display." It did not include a case, although they would sell you one. It did not have a power supply, although they would sell you the 4 voltage regulated one it required along with an expensive metal case. The Apple I had integrated 40x24 video. The Apple I was not "a bag of parts," it came fully assembled, other than keyboard, TV/monitor, and a couple of transformers. The Altair/IMSAI/Poly/etc. needed an expensive add-on
              • by narcc (412956)

                You're confusing "assembled" with "influential". That doesn't even make sense.

                As for the ridiculous criticism of the AIM-65's display, remember that it was not uncommon in to the 1980's, at least on portable computers. Compared to the popular SIM and KIM units of the time, the AIM-65's display was top-notch. It was also FAR more "complete" a system (why this makes you think it's influential, I'll never know) than the Apple I.

                On the Apple I, you forget your history. About 200 were made and were not all so

                • by msauve (701917)
                  "As for it's influence, I can't find any."

                  Your problem, not mine. Ref: Kilobaud #2.
                  • by narcc (412956)

                    From a guy who thinks the Altair 8800 hardly had any influence, I'm not surprised that you've confused "Apple I" with "SOL-20".

  • The TRS-80, the SOL-20, and the PET 2001 [] were also officially introduced in 1976. (In fact, the SOL-20 dates to '75... as does the freaking Altair 8800.) I'm pretty sure the TRS-80 was more popular than the Apple I and hence had more direct impact. Ars, you sadden me this day for ignoring these other systems.
    • And the time machine was officially introduced in 2012, apparently, if your post is to believed.

      • Ugh. That's a bad header. Okay, so the TRS-80 and PET were a year later; I blame the weird formatting on that page. Still—the Altair was already out. That deserves way more respect than the Apple I.
        • I don't agree. The Altair was more Hermes than Prometheus. It brought the message down the mountain, but it didn't bring the fire.

          As delivered, the Altair was programmed with switches, not an ASCII keyboard. It had no video output capability. No sound, no graphics, not even a rudimentary text display unless you duct-taped it to a Teletype machine. Some of these shortcomings were later remedied with optional peripherals, but still, it was nothing like an Apple I, much less an Apple ][.

          The early Apple and

          • Prometheus the Apple 1 is not. There were only 200, after all; the TRS-80 Model I sold ten thousand units in its first month and a half of sales. The Apple ][, sure, but if you consider not shipping with a keyboard to be a critical threshold in a microcomputer's ability to support the masses, then surely the absence of a significant user base is more important than coming out first.
  • by SealBeater (143912) on Friday July 06, 2012 @05:45PM (#40569897) Homepage

    Hopefully this guy won't be mad at the shoutout.

    There is a lot of work being done to make GnuRadio in general more accessable

    GQRX []

    • There is a lot of work being done to make GnuRadio in general more accessable

      If they wanted to do that, they could start by shipping Windows binaries that would work with the Funcube and other dongles.

    • by thygate (1590197)
      there's also HDSDR (, and sdrsharp ( for windows.
    • by thygate (1590197)
      GnuRadio is not a front-end, it's a framework (mainly python and c) for processing signals (DSP) with lots of functions for filtering/demodulating/.. There is gnuradio-companion which allows you to design in a GUI where you place blocks and connect them.
  • by BlueStrat (756137) on Friday July 06, 2012 @08:07PM (#40571435)

    One thing to note that I haven't seen mentioned yet is that this goes a long way towards making secure & encrypted tactical radio communications much, much more do-able and affordable for private citizens. A capability that's up till now largely been restricted to LEAs and the military.

    This unit's flexibility make setting up frequency/band-hopping and encryption relatively easy. This capability in civilian hands is sure to be disliked by US TLAs and police.

    It makes me wonder whether the government will attempt to outlaw certain programs and/or regulate what software is "legal" to have loaded in such a device, and/or require device capabilities be hardware-crippled/restricted to be legally sold.

    After all, according to the government, it's right and proper that the government conceal it's communications and activities from the citizens, but citizens may certainly not be allowed to communicate securely without the government being able to monitor if they wish.

    "The liberties of a people never were, nor ever will be, secure, when the transactions of their rulers may be concealed from them." - Patrick Henry


  • I'm surprised no-one has mentioned the RTLSDR yet. A $15 DVB-T Tuner than can tune from ~70MHz to 1700MHz. Maximum bandwidth is about 2MHz. It has poor dynamic range (8 bit ADC), but for receiving strong signals it's awesome. There is a source block for gnuradio, and some nice tuners for windows (HDSDR, sdrsharp, ..). Lots of cool stuff to do. For instance I've successfully received MODE-S transponder replies from airplanes as far away as 200km with the stock antenna. Tuning to FM radio, portable mobile ra

"From there to here, from here to there, funny things are everywhere." -- Dr. Seuss