Sunday, March 10, 2013

The Drake Collective QSOs the Heathkit Void

Within the deepest part of the Nethersphere exists the Heathkit Void. That place where all unused, unwanted, old Heathkit gear goes to moulder and die.  It is a place of desolation, utterly devoid of hope. For those Heathkits that find there way there the future is uncertain for sure. To say it's bleak is an understatement.

FLASHBACK to the early 1970s. I had a really sweet pair of Heath Twins: HX-20 & HR-20 transmitter/receiver pair that was originally envisioned as a mobile SSB/CW station just prior to the switch to transceivers. In the Azores (Lajes Field) in 1970, it was a major undertaking to obtain a reciprocal Ham Radio license from the Portuguese government in Lisbon (at that time the Azores was a Portuguese colony which finally obtained it's  independence form Portugal in 1976). After one filed the necessary paperwork with the GPO, the "wait was on". It took about 6 months for the paperwork to wander its way through the Portuguese bureaucracy in Lisbon and find its way back to Terceira Island in the Azores.

Once the paperwork was in hand at the local GPO (Angra City) they would send out a staffer with a VOM to check out your station installation and put the official stamp on the license paperwork. One fine day an old dude...I mean a REALLY OLD dude arrived at my place on 98 Cruz, Praia de Vitoria, Terceira Island, the Azores. The meter he was clutching was even older than he was!!!

In order to get through this inspection your rig had to be modified to read both final amplifier plate and grid current, plate and grid voltage, in addition to RF output and a few other parameters. I had borrowed (and later purchased) an old Collins KWM-1 transceiver (BOY, do I wish I still had that radio!) which was modified by one of the other local hams to meet these requirements. This was done solely to get me through the inspection.

OLD DUDE did his "thing" and signed off my paperwork. In about 3 weeks I had the Azorian call: CT2BH! On the air, everywhere at last!!

I needed a good SSB rig. A buddy at the Andrews AFB Tech Control had a spare set of radios: enter the HX-20/HR-20 Heath Twins. They were boxed and put aboard a C-130 headed east toward Lajes and arrived in about 4 days. I got a call from Base Ops to come down and retrieve a Twins!

I put them on the air almost immediately and found that they worked very well for what I wanted to do. I never used them on CW (that I remember) but in about 8-9 months I had DXCC worked. Due to a breakdown in communications with my QSL manager, I never received the requisite 100 QSLs to submit for the award. In reality, at the end of my tour (August 73) I had almost 200 countries worked, which I feel spoke quite well for the Heath Twins.

Unfortunately, I was unable to send the Twins to my duty station in the 3rd Mobile Comm Gp, Tinker AFB, Oklahoma. I did not qualify for "professional books and equipment" under USAF regulations, so the rigs got sold to another CT2 that had just received his license.

FLASHFORWARD to March 10th 2013. A posting by Tom Koch, W4UOC, who was handling an estate liquidation for a local SK, got my immediate attention. Listed was a set of Heath Twins: HX-20/HR-20 plus the HP-20 PSU. One phone call later and the deal was sealed. Good friend Dale Parfitt, W4OP, did a stupendous restoration on a pair of these and you can see them at: Dale does phenomenal work! His solid state version of the Drake classic 2B receiver is pictured on the cover of my latest QRP book for the ARRL (4th edition).

So what does all this have to do with the Heathkit Void and the Nethersphere ? The Drakes in my shack, that's what. The 2B and the TWO's their fault! Seriously, they have tentacles everywhere, even deep within the Nethersphere! There is no doubt....they "reached out" to the Void and I got hooked, again. Not that I'm complaining. 

Tomorrow I take posession of the Twins. I can hardly wait. 

Vy 73

Rich K7SZ

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