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A continuous wave or continuous waveform (CW) is an electromagnetic wave of constant amplitude and frequency, typically a sine wave, that for mathematical analysis is considered to be of infinite duration. Continuous wave is also the name given to an early method of radio transmission, in which a sinusoidal carrier wave is switched on and off. Information is carried in the varying duration of the on and off periods of the signal, for example by Morse code in early radio. In early wireless telegraphy radio transmission, CW waves were also known as "undamped waves", to distinguish this method from damped wave signals produced by earlier spark gap type transmitters.
The amplitude of a periodic variable is a measure of its change over a single period. There are various definitions of amplitude, which are all functions of the magnitude of the difference between the variable's extreme values. In older texts the phase is sometimes called the amplitude.
Frequency is the number of occurrences of a repeating event per unit of time. It is also referred to as temporal frequency, which emphasizes the contrast to spatial frequency and angular frequency. The period is the duration of time of one cycle in a repeating event, so the period is the reciprocal of the frequency. For example: if a newborn baby's heart beats at a frequency of 120 times a minute, its period, T, — the time interval between beats—is half a second. Frequency is an important parameter used in science and engineering to specify the rate of oscillatory and vibratory phenomena, such as mechanical vibrations, audio signals (sound), radio waves, and light.
A sine wave or sinusoid is a mathematical curve that describes a smooth periodic oscillation. A sine wave is a continuous wave. It is named after the function sine, of which it is the graph. It occurs often in pure and applied mathematics, as well as physics, engineering, signal processing and many other fields. Its most basic form as a function of time (t) is:
Very early radio transmitters used a spark gap to produce radio-frequency oscillations in the transmitting antenna. The signals produced by these spark-gap transmitters consisted of strings of brief pulses of sinusoidal radio frequency oscillations which died out rapidly to zero, called damped waves. The disadvantage of damped waves was that their energy was spread over an extremely wide band of frequencies; they had wide bandwidth. As a result, they produced electromagnetic interference (RFI) that spread over the transmissions of stations at other frequencies.
A spark gap consists of an arrangement of two conducting electrodes separated by a gap usually filled with a gas such as air, designed to allow an electric spark to pass between the conductors. When the potential difference between the conductors exceeds the breakdown voltage of the gas within the gap, a spark forms, ionizing the gas and drastically reducing its electrical resistance. An electric current then flows until the path of ionized gas is broken or the current reduces below a minimum value called the "holding current". This usually happens when the voltage drops, but in some cases occurs when the heated gas rises, stretching out and then breaking the filament of ionized gas. Usually, the action of ionizing the gas is violent and disruptive, often leading to sound, light and heat.
A spark-gap transmitter is an obsolete type of radio transmitter which generates radio waves by means of an electric spark. Spark-gap transmitters were the first type of radio transmitter, and were the main type used during the wireless telegraphy or "spark" era, the first three decades of radio, from 1887 to the end of World War 1. German physicist Heinrich Hertz built the first experimental spark-gap transmitters in 1887, with which he discovered radio waves and studied their properties.
A damped wave is a wave whose amplitude of oscillation decreases with time, eventually going to zero, an exponentially decaying sinusoidal wave. This term also refers to an early method of radio transmission produced by the first radio transmitters, spark gap transmitters, which consisted of a series of damped radio waves. Information was carried on this signal by telegraphy, turning the transmitter on and off to send messages in Morse code. Damped waves were the first practical means of radio communication, used during the wireless telegraphy era which ended around 1920. In radio engineering it is now generally referred to as "Class B" emission. However, such transmissions have a wide bandwidth and generate electrical "noise" which interferes with other radio transmissions.
This motivated efforts to produce radio frequency oscillations that decayed more slowly; had less damping. There is an inverse relation between the rate of decay (the time constant) of a damped wave and its bandwidth; the longer the damped waves take to decay toward zero, the narrower the frequency band the radio signal occupies, so the less it interferes with other transmissions. As more transmitters began crowding the radio spectrum, reducing the frequency spacing between transmissions, government regulations began to limit the maximum damping or "decrement" a radio transmitter could have. Manufacturers produced spark transmitters which generated long "ringing" waves with minimal damping.
In physics and engineering, the time constant, usually denoted by the Greek letter τ (tau), is the parameter characterizing the response to a step input of a first-order, linear time-invariant (LTI) system. The time constant is the main characteristic unit of a first-order LTI system.
It was realized that the ideal radio wave for radiotelegraphic communication would be a sine wave with zero damping, a continuous wave. An unbroken continuous sine wave theoretically has no bandwidth; all its energy is concentrated at a single frequency, so it doesn't interfere with transmissions on other frequencies. Continuous waves could not be produced with an electric spark, but were achieved with the vacuum tube electronic oscillator, invented around 1913 by Edwin Armstrong and Alexander Meissner. After World War I, transmitters capable of producing continuous wave, the Alexanderson alternator and vacuum tube oscillators, became widely available.
In electronics, a vacuum tube, an electron tube, or valve or, colloquially, a tube, is a device that controls electric current flow in a high vacuum between electrodes to which an electric potential difference has been applied.
An electronic oscillator is an electronic circuit that produces a periodic, oscillating electronic signal, often a sine wave or a square wave. Oscillators convert direct current (DC) from a power supply to an alternating current (AC) signal. They are widely used in many electronic devices ranging from simplest clock generators to digital instruments and complex computers and peripherals etc. Common examples of signals generated by oscillators include signals broadcast by radio and television transmitters, clock signals that regulate computers and quartz clocks, and the sounds produced by electronic beepers and video games.
Alexander Meissner was an Austrian engineer and physicist. He was born in Vienna and died in Berlin.
Damped wave spark transmitters were replaced by continuous wave vacuum tube transmitters around 1920, and damped wave transmissions were finally outlawed in 1934.
In order to transmit information, the continuous wave must be turned off and on with a telegraph key to produce the different length pulses, "dots" and "dashes", that spell out text messages in Morse code, so a "continuous wave" radiotelegraphy signal consists of pulses of sine waves with a constant amplitude interspersed with gaps of no signal.
A telegraph key is a specialized electrical switch used by a trained operator to transmit text messages in telegraph systems, usually in Morse code. Keys are used in all forms of electrical telegraph systems, such as landline or "wire" electrical telegraphy, and "wireless", or radio telegraphy. An operator taps on the switch, connecting and disconnecting the electrical circuit, creating electrical pulses of two different lengths called "dots" and "dashes", to spell out text messages in code.
Morse code is a character encoding scheme used in telecommunication that encodes text characters as standardized sequences of two different signal durations called dots and dashes or dits and dahs. Morse code is named for Samuel F. B. Morse, an inventor of the telegraph.
In on-off carrier keying, if the carrier wave is turned on or off abruptly, communications theory can show that the bandwidth will be large; if the carrier turns on and off more gradually, the bandwidth will be smaller. The bandwidth of an on-off keyed signal is related to the data transmission rate as: where is the necessary bandwidth in hertz, is the keying rate in signal changes per second (baud rate), and is a constant related to the expected radio propagation conditions; K=1 is difficult for a human ear to decode, K=3 or K=5 is used when fading or multipath propagation is expected.
In information theory, the Shannon–Hartley theorem tells the maximum rate at which information can be transmitted over a communications channel of a specified bandwidth in the presence of noise. It is an application of the noisy-channel coding theorem to the archetypal case of a continuous-time analog communications channel subject to Gaussian noise. The theorem establishes Shannon's channel capacity for such a communication link, a bound on the maximum amount of error-free information per time unit that can be transmitted with a specified bandwidth in the presence of the noise interference, assuming that the signal power is bounded, and that the Gaussian noise process is characterized by a known power or power spectral density. The law is named after Claude Shannon and Ralph Hartley.
Bandwidth is the difference between the upper and lower frequencies in a continuous band of frequencies. It is typically measured in hertz, and depending on context, may specifically refer to passband bandwidth or baseband bandwidth. Passband bandwidth is the difference between the upper and lower cutoff frequencies of, for example, a band-pass filter, a communication channel, or a signal spectrum. Baseband bandwidth applies to a low-pass filter or baseband signal; the bandwidth is equal to its upper cutoff frequency.
In telecommunication and electronics, baud is a common measure of symbol rate, one of the components that determine the speed of communication over a data channel.
The spurious noise emitted by a transmitter which abruptly switches a carrier on and off is called key clicks. The noise occurs in the part of the signal bandwidth further above and below the carrier than required for normal, less abrupt switching. The solution to the problem for CW is to make the transition between on and off to be more gradual, making the edges of pulses soft, appearing more rounded, or to use other modulation methods (e.g. phase modulation). Certain types of power amplifiers used in transmission may aggravate the effect of key clicks.
Early radio transmitters could not be modulated to transmit speech, and so CW radio telegraphy was the only form of communication available. CW still remains a viable form of radio communication many years after voice transmission was perfected, because simple, robust transmitters can be used, and because its signals are the simplest of the forms of modulation able to penetrate interference. The low bandwidth of the code signal, due in part to low information transmission rate, allows very selective filters to be used in the receiver, which block out much of the radio noise that would otherwise reduce the intelligibility of the signal.
Continuous-wave radio was called radiotelegraphy because like the telegraph, it worked by means of a simple switch to transmit Morse code. However, instead of controlling the electricity in a cross-country wire, the switch controlled the power sent to a radio transmitter. This mode is still in common use by amateur radio operators.
In military communications and amateur radio the terms "CW" and "Morse code" are often used interchangeably, despite the distinctions between the two. Aside from radio signals, Morse code may be sent using direct current in wires, sound, or light, for example. For radio signals, a carrier wave is keyed on and off to represent the dots and dashes of the code elements. The carrier's amplitude and frequency remains constant during each code element. At the receiver, the received signal is mixed with a heterodyne signal from a BFO (beat frequency oscillator) to change the radio frequency impulses to sound. Almost all commercial traffic has now ceased operation using Morse, but it is still used by amateur radio operators. Non-directional beacons (NDB) and VHF omnidirectional radio range (VOR) used in air navigation use Morse to transmit their identifier.
Morse code is all but extinct outside the amateur service, so in non-amateur contexts the term CW usually refers to a continuous-wave radar system, as opposed to one transmitting short pulses. Some monostatic (single antenna) CW radars transmit and receive a single (nonswept) frequency, often using the transmitted signal as the local oscillator for the return; examples include police speed radars and microwave-type motion detectors and automatic door openers. This type of radar is effectively "blinded" by its own transmitted signal to stationary targets; they must move toward or away from the radar quickly enough to create a Doppler shift sufficient to allow the radar to isolate the outbound and return signal frequencies. This kind of CW radar can measure range rate but not range (distance).
Other CW radars linearly or pseudo-randomly "chirp" (frequency modulate) their transmitters rapidly enough to avoid self-interference with returns from objects beyond some minimum distance; this kind of radar can detect and range static targets. This approach is commonly used in radar altimeters, in meteorology and in oceanic and atmospheric research. The landing radar on the Apollo Lunar Module combined both CW radar types.
CW bistatic radars use physically separate transmit and receive antennas to lessen the self-interference problems inherent in monostatic CW radars.
In laser physics and engineering, "continuous wave" or "CW" refers to a laser that produces a continuous output beam, sometimes referred to as "free-running," as opposed to a q-switched, gain-switched or modelocked laser, which has a pulsed output beam.
The continuous wave semiconductor laser was invented by Japanese physicist Izuo Hayashi in 1970.[ citation needed ] It led directly to the light sources in fiber-optic communication, laser printers, barcode readers, and optical disc drives, commercialized by Japanese entrepreneurs, and opened up the field of optical communication, playing an important role in future communication networks. Optical communication in turn provided the hardware basis for internet technology, laying the foundations for the Digital Revolution and Information Age.
Amplitude modulation (AM) is a modulation technique used in electronic communication, most commonly for transmitting information via a radio carrier wave. In amplitude modulation, the amplitude of the carrier wave is varied in proportion to that of the message signal being transmitted. The message signal is, for example, a function of the sound to be reproduced by a loudspeaker, or the light intensity of pixels of a television screen. This technique contrasts with frequency modulation, in which the frequency of the carrier signal is varied, and phase modulation, in which its phase is varied.
In electronics and telecommunications, modulation is the process of varying one or more properties of a periodic waveform, called the carrier signal, with a modulating signal that typically contains information to be transmitted. Most radio systems in the 20th century used frequency modulation (FM) or amplitude modulation (AM) for radio broadcast.
Wireless telegraphy or radiotelegraphy is transmission of telegraph signals by radio waves; Before about 1910 when radio became dominant, the term wireless telegraphy was also used for various other experimental technologies for transmitting telegraph signals without wires, such as electromagnetic induction, and ground conduction telegraph systems.
Frequency-shift keying (FSK) is a frequency modulation scheme in which digital information is transmitted through discrete frequency changes of a carrier signal. The technology is used for communication systems such as telemetry, weather balloon radiosondes, caller ID, garage door openers, and low frequency radio transmission in the VLF and ELF bands. The simplest FSK is binary FSK (BFSK). BFSK uses a pair of discrete frequencies to transmit binary information. With this scheme, the "1" is called the mark frequency and the "0" is called the space frequency.
In electronics and telecommunications a transmitter or radio transmitter is an electronic device which produces radio waves with an antenna. The transmitter itself generates a radio frequency alternating current, which is applied to the antenna. When excited by this alternating current, the antenna radiates radio waves.
In telecommunications, a carrier wave, carrier signal, or just carrier, is a waveform that is modulated (modified) with an input signal for the purpose of conveying information. This carrier wave usually has a much higher frequency than the input signal does. The purpose of the carrier is usually either to transmit the information through space as an electromagnetic wave, or to allow several carriers at different frequencies to share a common physical transmission medium by frequency division multiplexing. The term originated in radio communication, where the carrier wave is the radio wave which carries the information (modulation) through the air from the transmitter to the receiver. The term is also used for an unmodulated emission in the absence of any modulating signal.
Very low frequency or VLF is the ITU designation for radio frequencies (RF) in the range of 3 to 30 kilohertz (kHz), corresponding to wavelengths from 100 to 10 kilometers, respectively. The band is also known as the myriameter band or myriameter wave as the wavelengths range from one to ten myriameters. Due to its limited bandwidth, audio (voice) transmission is highly impractical in this band, and therefore only low data rate coded signals are used. The VLF band is used for a few radio navigation services, government time radio stations and for secure military communication. Since VLF waves can penetrate at least 40 meters (120 ft) into saltwater, they are used for military communication with submarines.
Ultra-wideband is a radio technology that can use a very low energy level for short-range, high-bandwidth communications over a large portion of the radio spectrum. UWB has traditional applications in non-cooperative radar imaging. Most recent applications target sensor data collection, precision locating and tracking applications.
The International Telecommunication Union uses an internationally agreed system for classifying radio frequency signals. Each type of radio emission is classified according to its bandwidth, method of modulation, nature of the modulating signal, and type of information transmitted on the carrier signal. It is based on characteristics of the signal, not on the transmitter used.
In radio communications, a radio receiver, also known as a receiver, wireless or simply radio is an electronic device that receives radio waves and converts the information carried by them to a usable form. It is used with an antenna. The antenna intercepts radio waves and converts them to tiny alternating currents which are applied to the receiver, and the receiver extracts the desired information. The receiver uses electronic filters to separate the desired radio frequency signal from all the other signals picked up by the antenna, an electronic amplifier to increase the power of the signal for further processing, and finally recovers the desired information through demodulation.
In a radio receiver, a beat frequency oscillator or BFO is a dedicated oscillator used to create an audio frequency signal from Morse code radiotelegraphy (CW) transmissions to make them audible. The signal from the BFO is mixed with the received signal to create a heterodyne or beat frequency which is heard as a tone in the speaker. BFOs are also used to demodulate single-sideband (SSB) signals, making them intelligible, by essentially restoring the carrier that was suppressed at the transmitter. BFOs are sometimes included in communications receivers designed for short wave listeners; they are almost always found in communication receivers for amateur radio, which often receive CW and SSB signals.
An Alexanderson alternator is a rotating machine invented by Ernst Alexanderson in 1904 for the generation of high-frequency alternating current for use as a radio transmitter. It was one of the first devices capable of generating the continuous radio waves needed for transmission of amplitude modulation (sound) by radio. It was used from about 1910 in a few "superpower" longwave radiotelegraphy stations to transmit transoceanic message traffic by Morse code to similar stations all over the world.
On-off keying (OOK) denotes the simplest form of amplitude-shift keying (ASK) modulation that represents digital data at the presence or absence of a carrier wave. In its simplest form, the presence of a carrier for a specific duration represents a binary one, while its absence for the same duration represents a binary zero. Some more sophisticated schemes vary these durations to convey additional information. It is analogous to unipolar encoding line code.
The arc converter, sometimes called the arc transmitter, or Poulsen arc after Danish engineer Valdemar Poulsen who invented it in 1903, was a variety of spark transmitter used in early wireless telegraphy. The arc converter used an electric arc to convert direct current electricity into radio frequency alternating current. It was used as a radio transmitter from 1903 until the 1920s when it was replaced by vacuum tube transmitters. One of the first transmitters that could generate continuous sinusoidal waves, it was one of the first technologies used to transmit sound by radio. It is on the list of IEEE Milestones as a historic achievement in electrical engineering.
The autodyne circuit was an improvement to radio signal amplification using the De Forest Audion vacuum tube amplifier. By allowing the tube to oscillate at a frequency slightly different from the desired signal, the sensitivity over other receivers was greatly improved. The autodyne circuit was invented by Edwin Howard Armstrong of Columbia University, New York, NY. He inserted a tuned circuit in the output circuit of the Audion vacuum tube amplifier. By adjusting the tuning of this tuned circuit, Armstrong was able to dramatically increase the gain of the Audion amplifier. Further increase in tuning resulted in the Audion amplifier reaching self-oscillation.
A tikker, alternately spelled ticker, was a vibrating interrupter used in early wireless telegraphy radio receivers such as crystal radio receivers in order to receive continuous wave (CW) radiotelegraphy signals.
Radio is the technology of signaling and communicating using radio waves. Radio waves are electromagnetic waves of frequency between 30 hertz (Hz) and 300 gigahertz (GHz). They are generated by an electronic device called a transmitter connected to an antenna which radiates the waves, and received by a radio receiver connected to another antenna. Radio is very widely used in modern technology, in radio communication, radar, radio navigation, remote control, remote sensing and other applications. In radio communication, used in radio and television broadcasting, cell phones, two-way radios, wireless networking and satellite communication among numerous other uses, radio waves are used to carry information across space from a transmitter to a receiver, by modulating the radio signal in the transmitter. In radar, used to locate and track objects like aircraft, ships, spacecraft and missiles, a beam of radio waves emitted by a radar transmitter reflects off the target object, and the reflected waves reveal the object's location. In radio navigation systems such as GPS and VOR, a mobile receiver receives radio signals from navigational radio beacons whose position is known, and by precisely measuring the arrival time of the radio waves the receiver can calculate its position on Earth. In wireless radio remote control devices like drones, garage door openers, and keyless entry systems, radio signals transmitted from a controller device control the actions of a remote device.