Monday, August 18, 2014

My love affair with the Icom Bookcase V/UHF Rigs

A little 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 inverting 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