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Introduction to SDR (Software Defined Radio)

Intro to SDR


Anyone with a computer and $25 can play with SDR. You can listen to and watch radio signals: AM, FM, shortwave, public safety, airplanes, satellites, even phones. An example of cheap SDR is the USB dongle described in a recent article.

What is SDR radio? SDR stands for software defined radio. This means a radio whose functions and capabilities are defined by software rather than hardware. Here’s how that happened.

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RTL-SDR: Does it really work?

When I put the RTL-SDR at the top of my Christmas wish list last year, a few eyebrows were raised. Why would a guy who has played with some of the best radios available want a little trinket that looked like a USB flash drive and cost about the same? Surely that was a mistake. It wasn’t.

According to Wikipedia, a dongle is “a small piece of hardware that attaches to a computer, TV, or other electronic device in order to enable additional functions…” The RTL-SDR is a dongle that plugs into the USB port and enables your computer to be a software defined radio. You just need to add software (which can be free) and an antenna and voila – a complete reasonably high performance radio for under $20.


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