Monday, August 18, 2014

My love affair with the Icom Bookcase V/UHF Rigs

A llittle over 30 years ago, while stationed at RAF Mildenhall, UK, I discovered the ICOM IC-202S 2M SSB/CW QRP rig. This being England (oops...sorry....the "UK") I found a very large group of British hams that loved to work 2M simplex on both the FM portion of the 2M band (remember their band allocation was from 144 to 146MHz, a full 2 MHz short of what we enjoy in the States) and the low "DX" end of the 2M band.

With my trusty IC-202S and an 11 element Yagi up about 6 ft off my roof, I was able to work all over the UK and into mainland Europe. I was thrilled about using only 3 watts of RF to work some rather exotic grid squares during my time in the UK. I had no linear amp for 2M so I did this all with the IC-202 running barefoot with 2W of CW and 3W PEP SSB.

Upon returning to the states I was a bit disappointed to find that hardly anyone worked simplex on FM. The SSB portions of 2M were exceedingly sparse pickings except for contests. All in all it was a very big let down from my heyday in England. Too bad, as the my fond memories of operating in the UK left me wanting.

The IC-202S featured 3W PEP output on SSB and about 2W output on CW and was initially set up to cover 144.0 to 144.4 MHz in two 200 kHz portions of the band. This rig was a VXO controlled radio and therefore had no phase noise, so prominent in the early synthesized radios of the time.

My little 202S also had a XTAL in place for the LEO satellite portion of 2M. It also boasted both USB and LSB (the original models 202 and 202E, the "European" version of the rig) had only USB. The LSB enabled the user to work via the LEO birds that had non-linear transpondsers (ie: 432 MHz uplink USB and 145 MHz LSB downlink).

All in all these tiny radios (they weren't really a handi-talkie) served the VHF/UHF community very well over the four or five years that they were offered by ICOM.They were quite popular in the UK and mainland Europe, also very popular in Japan. However, they didn't catch on well in the US. I really don't know why,as they certainly offered a great bunch of fun in a small package and were priced right for the majority of us hams living on tight budgets.

Over the years I have had the entire collection of the ICOM bookcase rigs: IC-202 (2M), IC-502 (6M), IC-402 (70cms) and the IC-215 2M FM radio. All except the model 215 were SSB/CW radios and had a massive output of about 3W PEP.

A little over two years ago I became the owner of the entire set of bookcase rigs thanks to a friend of mine's generosity. Unfortunately, about 18 months ago we had fallen on hard times and I sold off the entire set to get some funds to bail us out financially. One thing about these rigs: they hold their resale value very well.

Last week I cam across an e-bay auction by Russ, N5WS, who had the entire set (except for the model 215) and managed to pick up the IC-502 for 6M along with a IC_20L 2M 10W linear amp for the IC-202S. I had managed to find a 202S locally and I traded for it, so now I had the two SSB rigs I needed for my portable/rover project. Additionally, I found an IC-215 2M FM rig buried in a box from our move 6 years ago from PA to GA. Now all I need to find is the 402 for 70cms. These rigs are quite rare and I have only seen three of them in over 50 years in the hobby!

So here I am sitting with the 2M, 6M SSB.CW rigs and the 2M FM rig  trying to visualize some form of cabinet/portable container that would allow me to pack all these rigs together, along with their linear amps, power supplies, mics,antenna switching and SWR monitoring. This is where Paul Kelly, W4KLY comes in. Paul is a very talented and adroit word worker and I have seen some of his creations which I can personally attest are just out of this world!!. Paul and I will be working on some form of container to house these three radios  so I can hit the road or hilltop and have some fun playing ham radio on the high bands.

Stay tuned. This is about to get interesting.

Anyone interested in checking out these ICOM bookcase rigs just Google "ICOM IC-202S" and stand back!! There is also a Yahoo group that caters to these little fun rigs. Log onto Yahoo Groups and look for "Icomportablerigs".

Till next time: Have fun, fly some rockets, and dig out the old V/UHF gear that is gathering dust in the attic or closet, and get on the air!

vy 73

Rich K7SZ

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Catch Up

Well, it's been a while since my last posting. Things have been going at breakneck speed around the Bent Dipole Ranch. To wit:

1. In February Peppermint Patti and I flew out to Hill AFB, UT to take part in our granduaghter, Kielan's, wedding. It was a "Steam Punk" theme....Luckily I don't have any problem with being the center of attention in times like this. It just goes with the territory! We had a grand time. Patti and I were dressed as "adventurers": she the female version of Indiana Jones, and me....well, lets just say I was a cross between the Great White Hunter of the African veld and the commander of a troop of HM's Bengal Lancers, circa 1850!

It was wonderful to see Kielan again. Unfortunately the trip was a short one and we flew back to Atlanta in a few days, leaving the cold, barren mountain peaks of Utah behind us. To be truthful, the scenic landscape of the area around Hill AFB was right out of National Geographic Magazine.

Having procured a 13 year old Chevy 1500 pickup in January, Patti and I decided to drive out to Lackland AFB, near San Antonio, TX to participate in Kielan's graduation from USAF basic training in late April. We put about 3600 miles on the old/new truck during this trip. We drove from the Atlanta area to New Orleans, LA to stay overnight with our daughter, Maja, who lives in the French Quarter. From there we drove to Lackland AFB for Kielan's graduation ceremonies. After spending a few days in Texas, including an all-day trip to San Antonio and their beautiful river walk, we drove back to Atlanta. Most of the return trip was in driving rain as there was a huge weather front that was moving with us! Never so glad to be back home as when we pulled in the driveway from this trip.

 Kielan was the first of the fifth generation of my family to become a member of the USAF. Uncle Don Stewart was a flyer in WWI, his son (my cousin), Malcolm Stewart, was a pilot in WWII and Korea and retired as a Major in the mid 1960s. I enlisted in 1967 and served 20 years and met and married Peppermint Patti in England, where she was serving as a chapel manager at RAF Lakenheath. Our daughter, Gwen, married Kyle Stanfield, who served two enlistments in the USAF as a crypto maintenance troop. Kielan, Gwen and Kyle's daughter, enlisted in the USAF in 2014 and is currently in training at Keesler AFB, MS (near Buloxi, MS). Upon completion of her technical training she will be going to Misawa Japan on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido as her first duty station. Having spent over 6 years in Japan myself, I can hardly wait to cllimb on a USAF transport and "hop" to Misawa!!

Our trip back from Lackland AFB included a two day lay over with Maja in New Orleans. We went to the National WWII museum, which is something EVERY person in America should do. The exhibits were phenomenal to put it bluntly. We had several great meals in the French Quarter. NOLA is the only place I have ever found that will give you a "to-go" cup for your drink or beer!!! Go figure!!

On the home front, Pat and I have started thinking seriously about her retirement and what we intend upon doing in about 2 years. Plans include selling our current home, buying a large RV and do some traveling to include being "camp hosts" at various national parks for a few years. It's sad to think of leaving this place, especially since we just spent almost $10K on upgrading to a new HVAC system, installing new efficient replacement windows, and new flooring. Oh, yeah, lets not forget the tower and some great antennas!!

We had two of our grand sons with us this summer. Casey James, our son, Jamie's boy, was here for a couple of weeks. KC, Gwen's son (and Kielan's brother) was here for a couple of days. Unfortunately he was not here long enough to participate in the July Southern Area Rocketry (SoAR) groups launch date. However, Casey James was present and he and "Pop-Pop" had a great day launching rockets at a sod farm north of Atlanta.

SoAR is our local rocketry club and they have at least one launch date per month (weather permitting) and sometimes more. I had procured some ready-built rockets (Estes) and some motors which is what Casey and I launched that Saturday. I also had a scale model of an Army Honest John rocket which I had built over a year ago. First flight was great. The HJ went up about 800 feet and returned after the parachute deployed. HOWEVER, the second flight was a little less perfect and a whole lot more dramatic! The HJ left the launch pad as planned, going vertically like a bat outta Hell! After engine burnout the deployment charge fired to deploy the chute for a return to Earth. Unfortunately, the rocket motor was not secured well in the aft end of the rocket and when the deployment charge fired off it blew the motor out of the back end of the rocket and failed to pop off the nose cone and subsequently deploy the recovery chute! My Honest John became a "lawn dart" and buried itself, cone first, into the sod about 1.5 inches! I was bummed! The HJ now sits on my bookshelf, retired from flight, complete with the dirt still on the nose cone!

Well, it's getting late and I need all the beauty sleep I can have. Therefore, I will close this posting with the promise to not be so late with future posts on the blog.

Oh, one last thought: I am currently contemplating outfitting a rocket (one of the LDRS type) with an altimeter (yes, they make them for  model rockets), a small processor and a VHF transmitter and marry the hobbies of ham radio and model rocketry for some tests. Oh, yeah....LDRS stands for Large Dangerous Rocket Ships, which are capable of reaching altitudes in excess of 20,000 feet (that is close to 4 miles for you mathematically challenged out there)!  When you get into the really big rockets (LDRS types) most of them have an electronics  bay incorporated into the rocket body that houses the altimeter....this is used to fire off a pyrotechnic charge to deploy the recovery chute. If you are interested in LDRS, check out the Discovery Channel's programming....they filmed the LDRS launches in 2003, which they occasionally air as a filler for air time. They probably have it on a DVD for sale at the Discovery Channel site. Check it out.

'Till next time, get on the air, launch some rockets, take some pix and have a ball.

Vy 73,
Rich K7SZ


Sunday, June 15, 2014

Father's Day & the Summer 2014 VHF Contest

It's been a while since my last posting. At the end of May Ryan Wheeler, K4HQV and one of his tower crew came by and finished my tower installation. At long last (about 10 L-O-N-G months) I finally had the tower completed and the antennas mounted. It's really nothing special: a Cushcraft A3S at about 65 ft, a 13 element long-boom Cushcraft Yagi for 2meters above the A3, and at the very tip-top.....a Diamond dual band (2M/70CMS) vertical. Nice little antenna farm, if I do say so myself.

This weekend was Father's Day. Today I tried my new antennas out on the June VHF contest. Totaled a massive 28 Qs and 390 points! Certainly not anything to brag about but it was fun. On Saturday my next door, Darrel, helped me relocate my only 6M antenna, a Cushcraft Ringo Ranger, from the original mounting place on the lower side of my roof to the vacated Glen Martin roof tower on the peak. We clamped the Ringo onto a 10 ft R-S mast and stuck it into the roof tower thrust bearing and secured it into the Alliance HD-73 rotator. This is a temporary installation. Sometime in the fall I will be taking it down, sending the rotator off to be rebuilt, and eventually re-install it on the roof tower to spin a 5 element 6M Yagi (of my own design). I will top this installation off with the 6M Ringo making it a single band "stack".

I love old gear: specifically some of the late 1970s through the mid 1980s transistorized equipment. Several months ago I purchased a Kenwood TS-700A (2M Multi-mode transceiver) on e-bay. At the Atlanta Hamfest a week ago I purchased it's 6M brother, a Kenwood TS-600.  While there are certainly better, newer, more flexible, digital equipment on the market, I find these older, analog rigs a lot of fun and quite the challenge. Both the Kenwoods ran very well. Although the 6M rig needs some TLC on the bandswitch/controls. As with everything electronic, moisture and "mung" accumulate inside the rigs on the switch contacts necessitating a liberal application of DeOxit, which is the next major shack undertaking. 

The "new" 2M station consists of the TS-700A (about 9-10 watts of RF) driving an old Lunar 85 watt 2M amp with a 15dB receive preamp inside to boost the RSLs on the weak stations.  The amp is of thbe same vintage as the radio and they play together very well. Employing this Luna amp gives me a bit more RF not to mention flexibility.

The "new" 6M station consists of the TS-600 running barefoot at between 8-10 watts of RF output. The receiver on the  TS-600 seems to be very sensitive, but a good pre-amp probably would not be a bad idea, as long as the gain can be controlled so as not to destroy the receiver performance by over driving the rig's RF front end. I will be looking for a 6M amp with or without a receiver preamp. To be technically adroit and focus on sound station engineering practices, I should actually add any receiver pre-amplification at the "head end" meaning at the antenna feed point. Mast mounted pre-amps are not cheap and the engineering that goes into their proper application makes this a major K7SZ upgrade project for the future. Although I have used the MFJ mast mounted pre-amps several years ago, I will probably go with the pre-amps manufactured by Advanced Receiver Research due to their better overall design. Of course, with mast mounted pre-amps comes the always-fun-to-design transmit/receive sequencing which can become a real pain in the tail. 

All in all, it has been a great Father's Day. Peppermint Patti (KB3MCT) and my daughter Gwen (ex: KB4UNT) went together to give me a great present: a years membership to the brand new gun club and indoor range that just opened up about 4 miles from the Bent Dipole Ranch! Thanks, girls!!

That is about it for now.  I have a lot to blog about in the near future, including my grand daughter, Kielan, who just went on active duty with the USAF!

Here is hoping that some of you readers wander onto the VHF bands (no, not on the repeater sub-band) so I can QSO you. Till then, Vy 73

Rich K7SZ 

Monday, April 7, 2014

The Tower Project that Just Won't Die!

Well, here it is, the first part of April and the 60 ft tower project with the HF Yagi, the 2M long-boom Yagi and the 2M/70cms vertical omni is still bogged down in logistics. My main tower guy and climber, Bill Wilson, KJ4EX, is thankfully recovering nicely from his heart attack around Christmas time last year. I have been in contact with a person who owns a commercial tower company in Winder, GA and he has surveyed the situation and thinks it will take him and his crew about 4-5 hours to complete the installation, run the coax, mount the antennas, rotator, etc. and run the guys....cost: $around 400-500 Buck-a-roonies!! That's a whole bunch more cash than K7SZ has available on short notice. Ryan, the tower company owner, said he would be available in April and May so maybe, if I can find the cash, the installation will be completed.

Originally I had decided to include an HF Yagi, a 6M Yagi and the V/UHF Omni on the mast that would protrude about 12 feet above the 61 ft tower top section. This would give me a total installation height of about 73 feet above the dirt. Not bad, considering. Sure, I would have liked to have a 90 or 100 ft installation, but I cannot complain, especially in light of the cost of the project todate.

Bill, KJ4EX, had constructed the 6M Yagi but was having all sorts of difficulties getting it to tune properly before installing it on the tower. Since I have a 6M Cushcraft Ringo on a separate mast on the roof, I decided to leave that 6M Yagi off the tower installation and substitute a long-boom Yagi for 2M in it's place. After scrounging around the area I came up with a KLM 14 element Yagi from the 1970s, which I picked up at a reasonable cost. In inspecting it, I noticed that the antenna had a log-periodic feed system and one of the element clamps had broken, which would take some work with some high grade epoxy putty to put right before it could go up in the air.

In addition to the KLM, I also found a local ham who had a Cushcraft 13 element long-boom Yagi that I picked up at a great price which was fully functional. All I had to do was assemble the boom (again) and bolt it together, which I did. I enlarged the through-boom screws from #8 to #10 size to give it added strength. I have to put this antenna on a test stand and insure that it is tuned for the lower portion of the 2M band (144-145MHz) for terrestrial weak signal work, but that shouldn't take all that long to accomplish. I was able to obtain copies of the Cushcraft manual so I am good to go.

As far as things I have to accomplish before Ryan and his crew arrive some time in May (or June, or July, or.......): wire up the rotator and control box, (I have already tested them out together, I just need to get the long cabling set up and labeled), obtain some low-loss coax/hardline and connectors for the two V/UHF antennas, get the coax and connectors on the cable for the HF Yagi, set the screw-in guy anchors for the tower, and fabricate a piece of angle iron to act as an anchor for the center feed point of the 40M EDZ that will be side mounted from the 55 ft level of the tower.

Stay tuned....I might have this installation completed before Christmas 2014 yet!!!

Vy 73

Rich K7SZ

Power Mites of Old!!!I'

I saw an ad for my first Ten-Tec Power Mite transceiver when I was stationed in the Azores in the early 1970s. The price was attractive but other things took priority. Thankfully, Jake Ritzen, CT2AZ, loaned me one of his Power Mites and I had my first experience with direct conversion receivers. I was suitably underwhelmed.

In 1973 I procured a Heathkit HW-7 QRP rig and built it according to the manual. It, too, had a direct conversion receiver. Again I was suitably underwhelmed! It seemed that any time the base MARS station came on the air (irrespective of the band) I was unable to use the HW-7....something I also experienced with the PM-2 from Jake.

Over the years I have had several of the PM series....the PM-3A being my favorite. It covered only 40 and 20 M but had break-in keying, which was nice. No having to switch from TX to RX on the front panel, as with the previous models. Power output on the 3A was around 2.5 watts (5W input power).

Some how I ended up with a PM-2B while I was in Japan (KA2AA) in the late 1970s and that rig followed me to England (RAF Mildenhall), my next duty station. We were relegated to quartering off base, in our case, the town of Bury St. Edmunds, the place where the English Barons met at the Abby of Bury St. Edmunds and vowed to force King James (you, know.....Robin Hood and all that) to sign the Magna Carta (circa 1214).

Our house was positioned in a housing estate located on the end of a huge soccer field next to a school. Surrounding the field was a very large chain link fence. Lacking a suitable aerial at the time, I affixed a piece of wire from the fence into my bedroom and hooked it up to the PM-2B via a AC-5 antenna tuner. My first contact was Colin Turner, G3VTT, a member of the G-QRP Club. That started a 35 year love affair with the G-QRP-C. I met many fine QRPers during that time period and on the occasion of my 37th birthday, my wife, Patricia (KB3MCT) conspired with George Dobbs, G3RJV, head honcho of the G-QRP-C and his wife, Jo, to put on a surprise party for me at the Dobbs' home near Birmingham. With about 25-30 QRPers in attendance we had a grand time and I even was introduced to that old Scottish tradition, the Haggis! (Hint: If you get past the smell you got it made!!)

On a recent trip to Norm Schlar's, WA4ZXV, to pick up an antenna analyzer, I was presented with Norm's ailing PM-2, in hopes of getting it back into running condition. Unfortunately, I had off-loaded all the T-T literature I had amassed on the PM series of rigs dating back to the mid-70s, so troubleshooting this little QRP rig is proving to be somewhat problematic.

So, I am now on a quest to obtain a schematic of the PM-2 (I have one on the PM-3A but that is an entirely different radio) so I can get this old gal back on the air for Norm. Therefore, if anyone who reads this posting might happen to have a copy of that schematic and possibly the entire 9 page manual, I would be very grateful if you would contact me directly (

Looking over the PM-2 I am amazed that anyone was able to make a QSO with these simple rigs. The receiver is just this side of "horrible", and the power output is around 1W going flat out with a tail wind! All that being said, those were the things that made life using QRP "interesting".

Vy 73

Rich K7SZ

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

More on Go-Bags and EmComm

I do a lot of reading, mainlly about emergency communications, disaster preparedness, etc. Having been a deployable member of the Gwinnett County ARES group for about 5 years, I have noticed a few things that give me pause to reflect on my own EmComm preparedness.

Something interesting surfaced while doing an inventory of the majority of the ARES group's volunteers. I find that most of the members do not have a "real" Go-Bag. Looking through the various member's bags I find lots of radio related stuff, connectors, power cords, antennas, coaxial cables, headsets, speaker-mics, etc. Very few, if any, have food items, water, shelter options,etc. Having the necessary radio gear and associated cabling, mics, etc, is fine BUT you NEED to have the other major areas of a 72 hour "survival Go-Bag" covered in order to be really autonomous. This means you need to take a critical look at your radio gear, pare it down to bare essentials, and add items designed to make you independent for a minimum of 72 hours.

As discussed in an earlier post your emphasis must include (in order of importance), water, security, shelter and food items if you are to be truly able to survive in a disaster scenario for the minimum 72 hours. This doesn't mean that you need to scrap your entire Go-Bag and get a huge backpack. It does mean that you have to take a serious look at your present bag with an eye toward autonomy and not just comm gear.

For several years my go-to radio set was the Yaesu FT-817. True it had only a 5 watt output on HF through 70cms, but with the addition of a very small Mirage dual band V/UHF amplifier I now had a station capable of 30+ watts! The antenna that I settled on was a Diamond dual band base station antenna and 35 ft of RG-58 coaxial cable. The DC power source was a trade off. Originally I had a 7.5 A/hr gel-cell but I later changed that to a 20 A/hr battery. It was a lot bigger and much heavier, but it gave me more power budget to play with while deployed. Of course, you could opt for one of the new Lithium-ion batteries with their special charger. This would drastically reduce the size and weight of your power supply. However, many of these exotic batteries are extremely expensive. The choice is yours. I also had an Arrow V/UHF beam that could be placed on a fiber glass collapsible mast set that was carried in it's own bag. That way I could have either an omni directional vertical antenna or a directional beam, depending upon the need. I had also experimented with RG-174 mini-coax....this stuff is great for video lines and short runs on HF, but for serious V/UHF work it has too much loss at the higher frequencies.

As of a couple of years ago, I have dispensed with the FT-817 (no real need for HF EmComm in this area at this time) and went to a Yaesu FT-90 dual band HT with 5 W output. It is much smaller than the 817, and provides me with the necessary RF coverage I need. Power budget is now governed by the size and type of batteries I use with the FT-90. I  no longer need to drag a heavy gel-cell which is a real blessing.

Some ARES folks take a notebook computer or I-pad type tablet. I have a General Dynamics Go-Book (their answer to the ruggedized  Panasonic Tough Book computers) laptop for those times I need to go digital (FL-Digi, etc). I rely on a 300 watt inverter to furnish 120V AC from a 12 V DC source to power the laptop. I find the GD Go-Book, although heavy, to be a great laptop and I am not afraid of taking it into the bush.

As you can see my Go-Bag is not just one bag. It is a collection of several bags, each one dedicated to a specific task for EmComm. My radio gear fits into the top section of a small backpack. The GD Go-Book fits into it's own carrying bag with strap, and my food, water, shelter, security items fit into another portion of the backpack. Finally, the 40 ft collapsible mast with guy ropes, fits into it's own carry bag.

Obviously it is advantageous to make up an inventory of your entire Go-Bag to insure that what ever goes on deployment comes back from deployment. My inventory list is on my computer hard drive (HDD) and I can add/subtract/change it quickly and print out an updated listing of my gear. All my gear is labeled with my call sign for ID purposes. I also have TOPO USA installed on my Go-Book along with a small GPS receiver that I can plug in to get a real idea of the terrain and routes into and out of the affected area. This takes the place of a stack of maps, giving me more room of other items.

Well, that is about it for now. We have pretty well beaten this Go-Bag thing to death. If you have any ideas, send them along in comments and I will include them in an update sometime in the future. While you may agree or disagree with my individual plans and assessments that is fine. Each deployment will be different and circumstances will change, sometimes quite quickly in a disaster scenario. While it is impossible to cover everything, "all bases" if you will, the more flexible you are with your Go-Bag and your preps, the better off you will be to meet your EmComm obligations.

Vy 73

Rich K7SZ

Birmingham (AL) Hamfest 2014

This was the second year in a row that I attended the Birmingham (B'Ham) Ham Fest on March 1 & 2, 2014. Last year Pat and I, along with Ken Evans, W4DU, motored the three hours to B'Ham where we set up a QRP ARCI table where we waved the QRP flag and sold a bunch of my "stuff".

This year, Dave Kuechenmeister, N4KD, made the trek with me. We took my "new" (old) truck, a recently procured 2001 Chevy Silverado 1/4 ton pickup with a full cap and a full length pull-out bed tray. This time I managed to install an Icom 2100 H 2m FM rig so we had mobile VHF comms. 

Dave and I arrived in time for the B'Ham DX Club's dinner. The food was great but the companionship was even better. My good friend, Don Keith, N4KD, was there with his wife, Charlene. Dave Cisco, W4AXL, was sitting next to me during dinner. Dave is one heck of a DXer and lover of all radios that glow in the dark!

The hamfest was good. It is a two day affair, and is housed in the Zamora Shrine Temple just outside B'Ham. The flea market was always interesting. However, I was under orders from Peppermint Patti to off-load a bunch of my "stuff", which I did. Sort of....more on that later.

We got the last table available and were positioned directly across from the Alabama Historical Radio Society (AHRS) display. I met these folks last year and joined their club on the spot. Their reflector is full of good info and the membership is absolutely fabulous when it comes to helping out a fellow collector/restorer. I had brought along two boxes of Sam's Photofacts on CB radios....almost a complete set from #1 to #111. I had arranged to give these to the AHRS prior to the hamfest to add to their unbelievable library of technical books and information. In addition, I had packed up my father's old Arvin Silver Prince AM/SW console radio (sans console) for them to work on, and ultimately I will donate this radio to the AHRS collection. Dave (W4AXL) is fairly sure they can find a console that will fit the chassis.

At 12 noon on Saturday Dave and I attended an AHRS power point presentation given by Dave, W4AXL. This was an overview of the 100th anniversary of the ARRL combined with the history of the Birmingham ARC and AHRS., complete with a vintage radio program at the end. There were about 40-45 people in attendance and Dave's briefing was terrific.

After the AHRS presentation Dave took Dave K and myself to their "club house" in down town B'Ham. To say this place was astounding is an understatement. Literally hundreds of radios of all makes and models. Vintage televisions by National and Hallicrafters. There is also a complete AM radio station control console complete with cart tapes, 16 inch reel-to-reel tape decks, a Gates audio board, dual turn tables, etc. Right out of 1964!!!! That brought me back to KCLX (Colfax, WA) where I started as a Dee-Jay in August of 1964!!!

As I stated before the AHRS technical library is nothing short of fantastic. All copies of QST from 1915 to present in hard copy, only 4 or 5 magazines short of a full set of CQ Magazine from inception to present, along with all sorts of books, service manuals, service bulletins, etc. Amazing, truly amazing. 

The AHRS repair facility was also a treat to view. They do restorations for almost any antique radio or piece of amateur radio gear. They even wind their own voice coils and transformers! What a great place!

Back at the hamfest I proceeded to slowly off-load my stuff. I had purchased a Heathkit MT-1/RT-1 transmitter/receiver along with the power supply, speaker and cables from a local ham. This set was an AM/CW station from the 1960s. I had wanted to put an AM station on 80/40 meters just for grins. I tried this set out prior to plunking down my money. The radios sat for about a year while Pat and I discussed whether or not I would move my ham shack from the back of the house (with no air conditioning and/or heating) into the spare bedroom. When I went to fire this rig up about a year later, I noticed that the transmitter bandswitch was binding. It turned out that it was something I could not fix without major surgery so I packed it up with the rest of my stuff to take to B'Ham.

There I met a fellow ham who had a number of boatanchor receivers for sale. He seemed interested in my Heath twins, so we made a deal...sort of...We traded gear. His SX-122 Hallicrafters general coverage receiver for my Heath twins. For me it was an outstanding trade since I had been looking for a SX-122 for quite a few years. The styling on the 122 is the same as the SX-117/HT-44 receiver/transmitter by Hallicrafters, which is the station I used in college. The SX-122s would turn up on e-bay once in a while, but the auction prices were in the high $200s, sometimes climbing to over $300, which was way out of my price range.

While at the AHRS club house I was presented with an Eico RF generator and B&K 3 inch oscilloscope, both of which I sorely needed. These two items were surplus to requirements at the club, so with a donation to the club I ended up with two very handy pieces of test gear for my workbench. My sincere thanks to the AHRS folks for those two items.

Dave and I drove back on Sunday, after packing what was left of my stuff into the Chevy. One-way mileage was just under 200 miles and I used slightly under 10 gallons of gas in the truck so the mileage is great compared to our Jeep Commander with the 5.7L Hemi!!!!

After dropping Dave off at his place, I continued on home where I hooked the SX-122 to an antenna and fired it up. Everything worked as it should and the calibration was spot-on all the way across each of the four AM/SW bands. I verified this by using a calibrated signal generator coupled to a digital freq counter which was plugged into the receiver's antenna socket. This SX-122 was in excellent cosmetic shape with only a small blemish on the front panel. The chassis was clean above and below. In short, I got a great deal on the #1 item on my "Equipment to be Acquired List". It's great to enter the shack, catch the smell of warm vacuum tube electronics and listen to the SW bands while I work at getting the place straightened up and on the air. My new SX-122 sits atop the ops bench above my cherry Drake TR-4 station!

Next year I plan on another trip to B'Ham to attend their fest. It is a great venue and the people involved were extremely friendly and full of southern hospitality. My only regret about this year's event was that we were unable to spend more time with Don, N4KC and his wife. However, Don and I have made plans to hook up at the Huntsville hamfest in August.

So if you want to have a great time at a ham radio flea market/hamfest give the Birmingham hamfest a try. Hope to see you next year.

Vy 73

Rich K7SZ