Nov 15, 2011

2.4GHz Arduino Spectrum Analyzer - Overview

A while back, this work of Miguel Vallejo was featured on hackaday and other blogs. This was a Spectrum Analyzer for the ISM Band crammed into a repurposed Nokia 3410 cellphone. This intrigued me, I wanted to make one for myself.

The Journey is the Reward
I took this project on as a learning experience. I had never done anything this ambitious before, although I had soldered several kits from and had played with quite a few sketches on the arduino platform. Since electronics is a hobby for me, I choose what projects I'll undertake by at least three criteria, in descending order:
  1. how much I can learn from the effort?
  2. can the things I learn be extended to other projects?
  3. is the end product useful, novel or amusing in some way?
That last criteria, is the product useful, sometimes is not very important to me. I've often built things just to see that I can, or just to see what the gizmo does. For example, I love building computers. But when you're done, all you have is a computer ;-) !

What is important is the experience of building something, of facing challenges and answering them in a satisfying way. The main beginning goals of this project were to get some exposure to graphical LCDs and the wireless module, CYWM6935 from Cypress Semiconductor. A LOT of learning happened along the way and choices had to be made.

For the impatient, here's a video that shows the Spectrum Analyzer progressing from raw prototype to "Version 0.99 Beta", or close to "first engineering prototype". Video is about 2:07 in length:

Basic Parts Costs
Depending on how you choose to implement this project, your component and raw materials costs could be as little as about $30 USD, or over $50. That doesn't include additional tools like a breadboard or a microcontroller programmer, if you don't already have them.

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