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ZN414 in TO92 package ZN414-TRF-RADIO-IC.gif
ZN414 in TO92 package

The ZN414 was a low cost, single-chip AM radio integrated circuit. Launched in 1972, the part was designed and supplied by Ferranti, but was also available from GEC-Plessey. The ZN414 was popular amongst hobbyists as a fully working AM radio could be made with just a few external components, a crystal earpiece and a 1.5 V cell.

Integrated circuit electronic circuit manufactured by lithography; set of electronic circuits on one small flat piece (or "chip") of semiconductor material, normally silicon

An integrated circuit or monolithic integrated circuit is a set of electronic circuits on one small flat piece of semiconductor material that is normally silicon. The integration of large numbers of tiny transistors into a small chip results in circuits that are orders of magnitude smaller, cheaper, and faster than those constructed of discrete electronic components. The IC's mass production capability, reliability and building-block approach to circuit design has ensured the rapid adoption of standardized ICs in place of designs using discrete transistors. ICs are now used in virtually all electronic equipment and have revolutionized the world of electronics. Computers, mobile phones, and other digital home appliances are now inextricable parts of the structure of modern societies, made possible by the small size and low cost of ICs.

Ferranti British electrical engineering company

Ferranti or Ferranti International plc was a UK electrical engineering and equipment firm that operated for over a century from 1885 until it went bankrupt in 1993. The company was once a constituent of the FTSE 100 Index.

Amplitude modulation in amplitude modulation, the amplitude (signal strength) of the carrier wave is varied in proportion to the waveform being transmitted

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.


The original ZN414 chip from Ferranti was supplied in a 3-pin, metal TO-18 'transistor' package whereas the GEC part and later Ferranti ones (ZN414Z) used the plastic TO-92 encapsulation. Later variants, the ZN415 and ZN416, came in 8-pin DIL packages and included a built-in amplifier that could drive headphones and small speakers directly.

In electronics, TO-18 is a designation for a style of transistor metal case. The case is more expensive than the similarly sized plastic TO-92 package. The name is from JEDEC, signifying Transistor Outline Package, Case Style 18.


The TO-92 is a widely used style of semiconductor package mainly used for transistors. The case is often made of epoxy or plastic, and offers compact size at a very low cost.

The radio circuit inside the ZN414 was based on a design known as Tuned Radio Frequency (TRF). The TRF design is much simpler than the popular, but more complex, superheterodyne radio circuit often used in modern AM receivers. It was principally the use of the TRF circuit that allowed almost a whole radio to be fitted into one small, three pin package.

Tuned radio frequency receiver

A tuned radio frequency receiver is a type of radio receiver that is composed of one or more tuned radio frequency (RF) amplifier stages followed by a detector (demodulator) circuit to extract the audio signal and usually an audio frequency amplifier. This type of receiver was popular in the 1920s. Early examples could be tedious to operate because when tuning in a station each stage had to be individually adjusted to the station's frequency, but later models had ganged tuning, the tuning mechanisms of all stages being linked together, and operated by just one control knob. By the mid 1930s, it was replaced by the superheterodyne receiver patented by Edwin Armstrong.

ZN414 in basic functional circuit Zn414-basic-circuit.png
ZN414 in basic functional circuit

The manufacturing process for the ZN414 chip used a relatively new (for the time) technique known as Collector Diffusion Isolation (CDI). CDI was invented by engineers at Bell Telephone Laboratories and subsequently developed into a commercial process by Ferranti in the UK. [1]

Bell Labs research and scientific development company

Nokia Bell Labs is an industrial research and scientific development company owned by Finnish company Nokia. Its headquarters are located in Murray Hill, New Jersey. Other laboratories are located around the world. Bell Labs has its origins in the complex past of the Bell System.

The original ZN41x family have not been manufactured for some time, but modern equivalents to the original 3-pin ZN414 are available, with part codes of MK484, TA7642 (different connections) and (mainly in India, the Far East & Australasia) YS414 and LMF501T. Note that on the YS414 part, pins 1 (output) and 3 (ground/earth) are transposed. Currently (2017) only the TA7642 is manufactured and is used in some AM/FM radios that use the 70 kHz IF single chip VHF-FM IC.


The MK484 AM radio IC is a fully functional AM radio detector on a chip. It is constructed in a TO-92 case, resembling a small transistor. It replaces the similar ZN414 AM radio IC from the 1970s. The MK484 is favored by many hobbyists. It is advantageous in that it performs well with minimal discrete components, and can run from a single 1.5-volt cell.

ZN414 pinouts ZN414 Pinout.png
ZN414 pinouts


The upper limit of operation is about 3  MHz, so it's not suitable for a shortwave radio. However it can be used as an IF amp. The high input impedance means a valve (tube) radio IFT (IF transformer) is much more suitable than a ceramic filter or transistor IFT. Many designs using an SA612 as local oscillator / mixer and the ZN414 / TA7642 have been published on the Internet. AGC is applied by the resistor from the output to the "earthy" end of the input coil. Basic gain is set by the load resistor. The current consumption is so low that a 1.2 V red LED (not the 2.2 V high efficiency types) can be used as a shunt regulator from 3 V batteries or a 5 V supply.

Shortwave radio radio frequencies in the range of 1.6-30 megahertz (ITU region 1) or 1.7-30 megahertz (ITU region 2)

Shortwave radio is radio transmission using shortwave radio frequencies. There is no official definition of the band, but the range always includes all of the high frequency band (HF), and generally extends from 1.7–30 MHz (176.3–10.0 m); from the high end of the medium frequency band (MF) just above the mediumwave AM broadcast band, to the end of the HF band.

Ceramic resonator

A ceramic resonator is an electronic component consisting of a piece of a piezoelectric ceramic material with two or more metal electrodes attached. When connected in an electronic oscillator circuit, resonant mechanical vibrations in the device generate an oscillating signal of a specific frequency. Like the similar quartz crystal, they are used in oscillators for purposes such as generating the clock signal used to control timing in computers and other digital logic devices.

Transistor semiconductor device used to amplify and switch electronic signals and electrical power

A transistor is a semiconductor device used to amplify or switch electronic signals and electrical power. It is composed of semiconductor material usually with at least three terminals for connection to an external circuit. A voltage or current applied to one pair of the transistor's terminals controls the current through another pair of terminals. Because the controlled (output) power can be higher than the controlling (input) power, a transistor can amplify a signal. Today, some transistors are packaged individually, but many more are found embedded in integrated circuits.


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Intel 8080 8-bit microprocessor

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Comparator device that compares two voltages or currents

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Transistor–transistor logic class of digital circuits built from bipolar junction transistors (BJTs) and resistors; transistors perform both the logic function (e.g., AND) and the amplifying function

Transistor–transistor logic (TTL) is a logic family built from bipolar junction transistors. Its name signifies that transistors perform both the logic function and the amplifying function ; it is the same naming convention used in resistor–transistor logic (RTL) and diode–transistor logic (DTL).

An EPROM, or erasable programmable read-only memory, is a type of memory chip that retains its data when its power supply is switched off. Computer memory that can retrieve stored data after a power supply has been turned off and back on is called non-volatile. It is an array of floating-gate transistors individually programmed by an electronic device that supplies higher voltages than those normally used in digital circuits. Once programmed, an EPROM can be erased by exposing it to strong ultraviolet light source. EPROMs are easily recognizable by the transparent fused quartz window in the top of the package, through which the silicon chip is visible, and which permits exposure to ultraviolet light during erasing.

AVR microcontrollers family of microcontrollers

AVR is a family of microcontrollers developed since 1996 by Atmel, acquired by Microchip Technology in 2016. These are modified Harvard architecture 8-bit RISC single-chip microcontrollers. AVR was one of the first microcontroller families to use on-chip flash memory for program storage, as opposed to one-time programmable ROM, EPROM, or EEPROM used by other microcontrollers at the time.

Inverter (logic gate) logic gate implementing negation

In digital logic, an inverter or NOT gate is a logic gate which implements logical negation. The truth table is shown on the right.

In electronics, a linear regulator is a system used to maintain a steady voltage. The resistance of the regulator varies in accordance with the load resulting in a constant output voltage. The regulating device is made to act like a variable resistor, continuously adjusting a voltage divider network to maintain a constant output voltage and continually dissipating the difference between the input and regulated voltages as waste heat. By contrast, a switching regulator uses an active device that switches on and off to maintain an average value of output. Because the regulated voltage of a linear regulator must always be lower than input voltage, efficiency is limited and the input voltage must be high enough to always allow the active device to drop some voltage.

Surface-mount technology method for producing electronic circuits

Surface-mount technology (SMT) is a method for producing electronic circuits in which the components are mounted or placed directly onto the surface of printed circuit boards (PCBs). An electronic device so made is called a surface-mount device (SMD). In industry, it has largely replaced the through-hole technology construction method of fitting components with wire leads into holes in the circuit board. Both technologies can be used on the same board, with the through-hole technology used for components not suitable for surface mounting such as large transformers and heat-sinked power semiconductors.

555 timer IC

The 555 timer IC is an integrated circuit (chip) used in a variety of timer, pulse generation, and oscillator applications. The 555 can be used to provide time delays, as an oscillator, and as a flip-flop element. Derivatives provide two (556) or four (558) timing circuits in one package.

RS-485, also known as TIA-485(-A), EIA-485, is a standard defining the electrical characteristics of drivers and receivers for use in serial communications systems. Electrical signaling is balanced, and multipoint systems are supported. The standard is jointly published by the Telecommunications Industry Association and Electronic Industries Alliance (TIA/EIA). Digital communications networks implementing the standard can be used effectively over long distances and in electrically noisy environments. Multiple receivers may be connected to such a network in a linear, multidrop bus. These characteristics make RS-485 useful in industrial control systems and similar applications.

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An open collector is a common type of output found on many integrated circuits (IC), which behaves like a switch that is either connected to ground or disconnected.

LM317 adjustable linear voltage regulator

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Test probe

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The AY-3-8500 "Ball & Paddle" integrated circuit was the first in a series of ICs from General Instrument designed for the consumer video game market. These chips were designed to output video to an RF modulator, which would then display the game on a domestic television set. The AY-3-8500 contained six selectable games — tennis, soccer, squash, practice, and two rifle shooting games. The AY-3-8500 was the 625-line PAL version and the AY-3-8500-1 was the 525-line NTSC version. It was introduced in 1976, Coleco becoming the first customer having been introduced to the IC development by Ralph H. Baer. A minimum number of external components were needed to build a complete system.


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The RCA CDP1861 was an integrated circuit Video Display Controller, released by the Radio Corporation of America (RCA) in the mid-1970s as a support chip for the RCA 1802 microprocessor. The chip cost in 1977 amounted to less than US$20.