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Low cost RF for simple data link and remote control

Wireless for the bench top. Control instruments, collect data, and turn that LED on and off by remote control!

Wireless data links don't have to be difficult to build or adjust They can be built quickly using inexpensive and readily available parts.

The receiver is a transistor, a diode, and a dual op amp.

You can probably build a working receiver from bits and pieces

laying around on your workbench.

Notice: This section describes an experimental low power, low bandwidth data signaling system that was initially made to operate at 55 MHz (television channel 2 in the U.S.). Before operating a radio transmitter, find out what kind of transmitter operation, if any, is permitted in your locality. Radio transmitter operation is a serious legal matter. This design can be readily adapted to different frequencies and lower power levels. If you choose to build and operate the transmitter described here, you do so at your own risk. I'm only publishing this as an example of what can be done, and to show how easy it is to build a simple but functional receiver.


This is a simple, low cost RF data link that can send data reliably over a distance of one to two meters, enough for bench top or desktop use. The data protocol supported by the encoder and decoder provides 16 device addresses, three message types, and a toggle bit. Pulse frequency modulation is employed to make the receiver design less demanding and to reduce the susceptibility to noise. The encoder and decoder are based on Atmel microcontrollers, though the protocol can be easily implemented on most micro controllers. The transmitter is an oscillator that is biased on and off by the encoder chip. The receiver is a tuned radio frequency (TRF) detector without preamp followed by an 40 db AF amplifier that drives a comparator, which provides pulses suitable for driving the digital input pin on the decoder. Most of the gain is provided by the op amp, where gain is easy and cheap, and the RF section is minimized and simplified.

The only things that really need any tweaking to get the demonstration circuits to work is one hand wound inductor in the transmitter and one hand wound inductor in the receiver. The trick is to get the transmitter and the receiver on the same frequency. Having them "almost" on the same frequency will result in poor performance - very short range and unreliable decoding. Use a small wooden or plastic tool to deform the coils. Expect to spend some time at it, and don't be disappointed if you have to scrap a coil or two before you feel you have it right (more on this in the receiver section). Make and adjust the transmitter first. This way, you know what frequency you are using. Adjust the receiver for peak sensitivity to the transmitter.

A pulse frequency modulated pulse train is used to amplitude modulate an RF carrier (in on-off fashion) and

detected and made digital in a simple receiver and this pulse train is decoded by a micro controller.

The assembly code for the encoder and decoder were written with the AT90S1200 and ATtiny12 in mind in that they make minimal use of the return stack. The code was initially tested on AT90S2313's. 

Click on the links below for the particulars.



Data format

Also see the tune-up section in RS-232 to 100 MHz Desktop Channel Adapter on this site for some additional tips on adjusting the receiver.

ATtiny 12 warning

f you are using an ATtiny12, be careful not to disable the reset input, disable the SPI interface, or select a wacky clock mode or the chip may become unprogrammable with an in-system programmer (ISP). If you can use a part with fewer security features, like the AT90S1200 or AT90S2313, you will be safer. If you want to us the ATtiny12 you will probably need something that can restore these fuses using the high voltage serial programming algorithim, such as this ATtiny12 fuse restorer.

If you want to run your ATtiny12 on an STK-500, here are some step-by-step instructions I wrote for one of the users of this site. He was kind enough to provide feedback resulting in a fully debugged procedure. CLICK HERE.



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and noncommercial use only. This material (including object files) is copyrighted
by Richard Cappels and may not be republished or used directly for commercial
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 Contents ©2002 Richard Cappels All Rights Reserved. http://projects.cappels.org/