May 25, 2024

This Week in Amateur Radio

North America's Premiere Amateur Radio News Magazine

Hackaday

via HACKADAY: Unintentional Emissions

First, it was the WiFi router: my ancient WRT54G that had given me nearly two decades service. Something finally gave out in the 2.4 GHz circuitry, and it would WiFi no more. Before my tears could dry, our thermometer went on the fritz. It’s one of those outdoor jobbies that transmits the temperature to an indoor receiver. After that, the remote for our office lights stopped working, but it was long overdue for a battery change.

Meanwhile, my wife had ordered a new outdoor thermometer, and it too was having trouble keeping a link. Quality control these days! Then, my DIY coffee roaster fired up once without any provocation. This thing has worked quasi-reliably for ten years, and I know the hardware and firmware as if I had built them myself – there was no way one of my own tremendously sophisticated creations would be faulty. (That’s a joke, folks.) And then the last straw: the batteries in the office light remote tested good.

We definitely had a poltergeist, a radio poltergeist. And the root cause would turn out to be one of those old chestnuts from the early days of CMOS ICs – never leave an input floating that should have a defined logic level. Let me explain.