by Michael Ossmann

HackRF is a new device for developing, testing, and experimenting with radio communication systems. It grants any computer programmer the ability to develop new ways to interact with radio waves.

Software Defined Radio (SDR) techniques have existed for many years, but the hardware required to implement those techniques has always been expensive. Thanks to continuing advances in processing power, it is now possible to design a platform that harnesses the capabilities of a general purpose computer to perform software radio functions with a hardware peripheral that any computer owner can afford. HackRF will be open source, portable, affordable, and will be capable of both transmitting and receiving radio signals.

Fifteen to twenty years ago, personal computer capabilities had advanced to the point that anyone with a PC could record, play, and edit audio waveforms. This enabled a revolution in the sound and music industries with advances such as hard disk recording and MP3 file sharing. Today’s computers are fast enough to process radio waveforms in similar ways, and the radio communications industry is going through the same sorts of changes. One critical advance has yet to take place, and that is the availability of low cost tools enabling any computer user to take part in the revolution.

There are relatively few people in the world with the knowledge and tools required to develop new radio communications hardware, but there are many millions of people who have the ability to program a computer. General purpose computers are widely deployed, and opportunities to learn how to program them are available to a huge number of people. HackRF gives all of those people the capability to explore the radio spectrum and develop creative new ways to communicate.

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