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Ten years ago, over a hot 4th of July weekend, a few of us “alpha geeks” were hanging out on Rob Flickenger‘s porch in Sebastopol, CA testing out homebrew microwave antennas when we stumbled upon the fact that you could squeeze about 12db out of an empty Pringles can and some miscellaneous hardware. At the time, antennas of similar gain would set you back about $150. With our design, you could build two for about $10 (one for each end).

Adam Flaherty

I make cool stuff and write about other people making cool stuff on makezine.com. If you have something you think I should see, send me a tip.


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  1. Anonymous says:

    We didn’t use Pringles cans, but built similar antennas back in the 80′s to intercept Home Box Office at 2155 Mhz. Kits for receivers and antennas were so popular the “wireless cable” operator had vans equipped with spectrum analyzers roaming the city to detect the local oscillators of the receivers and sent scary letters and bills to houses which emitted the telltale frequency. I lived in a big apartment building so they never caught me.

    1. Yep, that would be MMDS over coffee can. 

    2. William says:

      I wish I was old enough to have lived in the 80′s that sounds like a great decade to be a maker

      1. Anonymous says:

        Naw, the 80′s was okay in some ways and Hideous in others, Lots and lots of hideous stuff, especially the music, just plain awful!

        1. No, The tech was lousy, mono colour tv, apple II, 8-bit home computers, The cool kids at school had LCD watches that did 100 different things provided they could manipulate the tiny buttons… but the music was awesome, music died around 1995… all downhill from there and hasn’t ever recovered.

  2. Timothy Gray says:

    Over 12 years ago I was helping friends build helical wound antennas out of PVC and 14 gauge wire  as well as re-using Primestar antennas and soup cans to do the same thing for a community WiFi project.

    Too bad, silly anti-american laws were passed to make wifi sharing illegal in most states and other laws making community WiFi illegal in order to protect corperate profits.

    1. There are silly anti-american laws that make sharing wifi illegal? Do tell…

      1. Chris Boyde says:

        yes their are in Minnesota it is illegal.

      2. Chris Boyde says:

        yes their are in Minnesota it is illegal.

    2. Bob Smith says:

      Wait… what?
      There are no laws against sharing.
      If you refer to sharing as “The business next to me wont let me on their wifi!”
      Well, then yeah, that’s a network you’re not allowed to be on.

      But if I wanted to spend millions to set up a wifi network in any state, any city, USA, and put millions of people online for free? Yeah, not a single law against that. I can put as many people on my wifi network which I own, in any state, that I want.

      Take off the tin hat, dude.

      1. I fully agree with you, but oddly enough, in the very same town (Sebastopol, CA) we had a bit of a brouhaha regarding one form of community wireless network… http://corp.sonic.net/ceo/2008/03/23/sebastopol-voids-wi-fi-contract/

        Little did they know, they were already soaking in it… http://nocat.net/

        The sad truth of it is that these people have a legitimate health issue–the cause of which may not be what they fear, but fear itself. Have pity on these people and help them turn their tinfoil beanies into waveguides ;)

      2. I fully agree with you, but oddly enough, in the very same town (Sebastopol, CA) we had a bit of a brouhaha regarding one form of community wireless network… http://corp.sonic.net/ceo/2008/03/23/sebastopol-voids-wi-fi-contract/

        Little did they know, they were already soaking in it… http://nocat.net/

        The sad truth of it is that these people have a legitimate health issue–the cause of which may not be what they fear, but fear itself. Have pity on these people and help them turn their tinfoil beanies into waveguides ;)

  3. Wow, it’s already been 10 years. I remember when the articles started rolling out. Including this nigh impossible one: 
    http://www.pbs.org/cringely/pulpit/2002/pulpit_20020207_000721.html

    1. Yeah, he lived just a few miles from us and we called him out on this… http://www.oreillynet.com/etel/blog/2002/02/the_essence_of_community_wirel.html

      Complete BS, if you ask me.

  4. Kristoffer svensson says:

    only ten year? remembering a dude in my town who did pringles antennas in the later part of the nineties, anyway I got the impression that he got the idea from someone else, so probably a pringles antenna is probably around 15 years old.

  5. Kristoffer svensson says:

    only ten year? remembering a dude in my town who did pringles antennas in the later part of the nineties, anyway I got the impression that he got the idea from someone else, so probably a pringles antenna is probably around 15 years old.

    1. I’ve seen other antenna designs that use a Pringles can. Heck, the antenna we were trying to make used one. Chances are, if your friend used the can as a waveguide only, he probably got a poor signal. Perhaps he used the can for a helical wound? I’m pretty sure this particular iteration was unique at the time.

      1. Kristoffer svensson says:

        To be honest I do not know what design he used, had no real interest in wi-fi at that time.

    2. I’ve seen other antenna designs that use a Pringles can. Heck, the antenna we were trying to make used one. Chances are, if your friend used the can as a waveguide only, he probably got a poor signal. Perhaps he used the can for a helical wound? I’m pretty sure this particular iteration was unique at the time.

  6. Capt.tagon says:

    Yep, been being done for a long time now, just a different iteration. In the day, it was known as a Cantenna (originally a Heathkit dummy load) which in various transforms, used a 2 lb or 3 lb coffee can. Various can sizes can be used, the idea being to get it resonant at the intended frequency so the 1/4 wave probe positioned inside can pick up the signal. Check out the ARRL Antenna Handbook and various other Amateur Radio sources on improvised waveguides and microwave antennas.

  7. Capt.tagon says:

    Yep, been being done for a long time now, just a different iteration. In the day, it was known as a Cantenna (originally a Heathkit dummy load) which in various transforms, used a 2 lb or 3 lb coffee can. Various can sizes can be used, the idea being to get it resonant at the intended frequency so the 1/4 wave probe positioned inside can pick up the signal. Check out the ARRL Antenna Handbook and various other Amateur Radio sources on improvised waveguides and microwave antennas.

  8. Anonymous says:

    I remember proudly wearing my brand new pager in the 80′s. Then they came out with an alpha-numeric display! That was hi-tech stuff then. Cell phones were simply too expensive for the average person to afford. Our technology is amazing! We just seem to take it all for granted.

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