This page last updated on
Friday, February 22, 2013 09:15:18 PM
this page is the history
of the SETI Net along with the
first antenna, and
software. It also contains some of the
images collected during this first search.
If you would like to see some pictures of the
built by a single person (that I know of)
History - The search began in
about 1982 when I was browsing through a book store in my home town, Del Mar
California, and I came across the small volume shown below. This thin volume
contained a collection of papers from
Carl Sagan's first SETI thoughts
a conference held in Soviet Armenia during 1971and was edited
by Carl Sagan. The books titled is "Communication with Extraterrestrial
Intelligence (CETI)". Notice that it is "Communications with ET" not
"Search for ET" as we now now call it.
The book was interesting reading and held papers by people who's
names didn't have much meaning for me at the time. People like Philip
Morrison and G. Cocconi, Frank Drake, Freeman Dyson, and Marvin Minsky.
These were the same people who later became the focal point of my creation of
the software and hardware for the first search. Drake went over his now
famous "Drake's equation" and it was the first time that I had seen the water
hole curve plotted out. Other subjects were the possibility of extra solar
planetary systems, the evolution of civilizations and various techniques of
contact with ET.
Someplace in the book I read that "it is expected that advances
in computer technology would increase the possibility of detection".
Remember that in 1971 there were only a few large scale computers and not
even a hint of computers for the average person. It dawned on me
as I was reading this book, more than 10 years after it was written, that the
age of personal computers was just about to happen and that I had one myself.
didn't have a name but it filled up a good part of my home office and was
about as capable as those university machines in use when the conference was
Not only did I have a computer but I had an understanding of
electronics and microwave systems from my job as an engineer at the local
aerospace company. The thought passed by "I may be the only one around
that could actually build a machine to search for ET". I was right -
at that time I was the only one that could put it all together.
Things have changed a lot since then. Now there are many
amateur search systems and several professional ones - but that's how it
After I had completed building my first computer I started
buying and building my second. Zeke
named after a computer like the one that Jerry Pournelle of Byte Magazine used
and was always writing about. It was a Cromemco Z-80 machine with a large
Z on the front. At that time this machine was hot stuff. It ran at a
blazing 8 MHz and sported a monster 20 Meg hard drive. These things were
anything but cheap by the way. The twin 8 inch floppy drives cost nearly
$2,000 and the hard drive was $1,500 by itself. The computer was about
$5,000 and it came as a kit - you had to build it your self. A 32 K byte
RAM card cost about $500 dollars which was a bare board and a bag of parts.
When I finished Zeke I had about $10,000 into it. It needed a job to do.
I put Zeke to work on the SETI project.
Antenna - I bought a 12
foot TVRO antenna and a Az/El positioner for it. The
rotor was the only one that I could find that could manage the 12' dish for and
steer in Az and El. Just the thing to follow a point in the sky while
looking for ET. I bought a Low Noise Amplifier from Down
East electronics, and a friend of mine that I met at a Society of Amateur Radio
SARA) Jeff Lichtman
had a friend who volunteered to build a feed horn for me. The whole thing
was sort of impressive against the sky.
Software - Turbo Pascal was used for the code
that connected the antenna to my Yaesu ham receiver by way of a down
converter and phase lock loop oscillator. I also wrote code that produced
a 'waterfall' display of what the receiver was able to detect. This was a
time before Windows so I had to learn how to build drop down menus and
manage screen images. It was very challenging task.
The thumbnail images that you see here are from photographs of Zeke's screen
(click for larger picture).
The data itself is lost.
Images - Some of the first pictures were of the
5 MHz band rather than the 1.42 GHz water hole that I was planning for. I
did that because I knew what to expect at 5 MHz.
yellow band at the right side is the carrier of WWV which is centered at 5 MHz.
As you can see the receiver says that WWV was drifting down band over the 6
hours it took to collect this much data. I know that WWV didn't drift down
- what was happening was the my receiver was drifting up. I think that
what was happening was that the Local Oscillator (the LO) of the Yaesu FT-757was
drifting up band.
of the first water hole pictures shows some very light lines drifting down band
during the collection period and
First Water Hole Screen
several carriers that remained on full time. I think that all the
signals were probable noise from the local system clocks and oscillators etc.
This was not a very quite system.
Further development of the SETI system was stopped while I concentrated on
raising a family and paying the bills. In 1999 I retired and was able to
put more effort on the new system called SETI Net.