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


  1. I had a '502 for a while.. sure do miss it. (Seller's remorse..HI). 73/David/KE0AZ

  2. I know what you mean, David. The CQ VHF test is coming up at the end of this month and I am planning on using my IC-202S the matching 10W linear for my 2M station. I have the 502 working, sans dial lights, and a 6M vertical that will probably be my 6M station for the test. Should be fun. Maybe we'll work via E-skip that weekend.

    Vy 73 Rich K7SZ

  3. Rich

    I too had the whole set. It started with my first 2 meter being the 215 and then added the rest. I used to make ssb contacts on ,2m with a 4 element Yagi off the balcony in my apartment. the magic band yielded plenty of contacts with just the whip. Not much on 432 in those days. I sold them and went yaesu with their 290r and the 6m version because they had a digital readout but the icoms were better receivers. No wonder I love my 817. Its the same form factor as my early rigs. I have 2 of the 215s for nostalgia sake and they are a great radio with a triple tuned front end. John ve3ips

    1. Hi John
      Thanks for taking the time to write. As I sit here gazing at the top shelf of my ops bench, I wistfully look at the five (5) IC-X02 rigs all lined up in a row. I now have two of which is going to work as my local Packet rig. The other one is for wandering around hamfests slung over my shoulder to see how many hams know what it is!! I managed to find a non-working lights up but no receiver audio and no transmit power. Should be a simple fix if I can ever find the time to get it on the workbench!

      IC-502 and the IC-202 are hooked up to their respective antennas and are a ball to play with when the bands open up. Part of their attraction is nostalgia, of course, however, there is also a definite "cool" about using them on the bands. I love these little rigs!

      Vy 73
      Rich K7SZ

  4. Rich, I'd be very interested to see pix of the finished woodwork. I have loved these radios since I was young and around 2003 managed to get the full set. I wouldn't part with them for the world.

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