Archive for March 9th, 2010

9
Mar

I Remember…The Ham Radio Stuff

   Posted by: John    in I Remember...

One of the things that Dad and I were into was the ham radio gear.  Dad accumulated a marvelous collection of some good stuff and lot more junk.  I remember a number of radios we had and used.  Some of them were troublesome and others were good solid workhorses.

Like this Drake 2-NT transmitter.  These were easy to use and nearly idiotproof.

 It’s only good for Morse code.  And you had to have crystals to use or have  a Variable Frequency Oscillator (VFO).  I did not have a VFO.  When I first got my ham license in 1978, I had exactly 3 crystals.  But at some point Dad came up with a VFO and that was very useful.

We had a Drake 2-C receiver that I used with this.  Again, dang near bulletproof.  They were a good set.

I remember I had these in my bedroom at one point.  I also remember having this massive Hallicrafters receiver that I could listen to the foreign radio stations on the shortwave band. 

I think originally Dad’s “shack” was the little alcove in the south bedroom upstairs.  I think there are still holes in the ceiling where Dad ran cables out of the house.  At some point the other upstairs bedroom became the radio/office/library.  We had lots of room for stuff in there, and boy did we  have stuff in there.  There was a huge desk that we could put all kinds of stuff on, shelves on the wall above it for stuff, another alcove for stuff, a large walk-in closet for stuff.  We had more radio and electronics stuff than the old ham radio store downtown.

We had this Yaesu FT-dx560 behemoth (I know the picture says 400, but the 560 was nearly identical).  I kind of melted the final power tubes in it once when I was using the teletype.  They were not cheap to replace.

The problem is that when transmitting teletype, there are no voice fluctuations nor are there any drops like in morse code.  Just solidly on until you are done transmitting and the tubes get a break.  So, they overheated and melted some of the insides.

We had this Yaesu FT-707 radio.  It was able to run on 12 volts so it was considered a mobile unit.

We had a Kenwood TS-820, but I never really used that radio a whole lot.  There was something wrong with some part of it and I don’t remember what ever happened to it.

Dad built a huge antenna tuner with some massive capacitors and a rolling coil that was about the size of a spaghetti sauce can.  I think it had a couple of antenna switches built into it as well.  And we had this massive antenna rotor that was up on the barn.  The problem was the rotor was from a radar installation and was designed to be moving all the time and it did not have a brake.  The wind would push the antenna and eventually it broke the gears.  But the control box was another huge metal box in the room.

Lots of homemade stuff for Radioteletype (RTTY).  Ah yes, the RTTY stuff.  Like this Model 19 teletype unit.  Huge ancient mechanical thing.   We had a couple of these hanging around, right down to the heavy steel desks.

Then we also had a model 28 unit.  A lot more streamlined and used a letter block for printing instead of old style arm hammers.  Still heavy and bulky though.

The box that demodulated the signal and created the tones was a homemade thing, but the audio tone generator board was a kit.

Dad built a high power RF amplifier so we would not have to push the transmitters so hard.  We needed to have a 240 volt power outlet upstairs but we didn’t.  The final tube in the amp was one that had been used in a commercial radio station and it was capable of over 30,000 watts output, considerably more than a ham operator is allowed.  The power transformer was one of those units that normally sits on a power pole to change the line voltage into 240 volts  before running into the house.  It was hooked up backwards (yes you can do that!) and controlled by a variable transformer (another heavy lump of equipment) that had a big steering wheel like handle on it.  It was real easy to get 5 or 6 thousand volts into that tube if you wanted.  The cool thing was if you wanted to get 500 watts out, you only needed about 40 or 50 watts in, so the transmitter was just loafing.

I found that the transmitter was easier to tune while pushing more than 40 watts.  So I would let it run about 200 watts (the Yaesu 560 radio was capable of about 400 watts out to the antenna), tune it up, then reduce the power output.  Then I would tune the big amp to about 500 watts and be good to go.  One time I forgot to turn down the transmitter power.  I had about 200 watts going into that amplifier.  There must have been 4000 watts heading out to the antenna.  The wattmeter needle hit the stop peg so hard it bent a little and I had to fix it.  The lights got real dim but for some reason it did not blow the fuse.  I could see any bird flying within 50 feet of the antenna getting a little cooked.

We had 2 meter radios as well.  At the time, 220 and 440 MHz were not real common.  But the 144 MHz 2 meter band was.  We had this old Icom 22A 2 meter radio.  Used crystals.  I remember we had 146.94, 146.82, 146.79, 146.52, 146.88,146.79 and a few other frequencies.  We used it for quite a while.

The problem was being bound to a few channels, and this radio only had 22 it could use.  And if you wanted to change them you had to buy crystal sets (2 per channel) and open the case, put them in, etc.  At some point Dad purchased a KDK 2015R and we used that for years.  I still have the KDK but I am not sure if it works or not. 

When I upgraded my license from Novice to Technician, I was able to use the 2 meter band.  One of the nice things about 2 meters and up is the ability to have handheld radios.  Dad had purchased an Icom 2-AT handheld radio.  He found another one for me.  I still have both of these indestructible radios and they still work.

There was a lot more stuff, but these are the ones that I remember using the most.  Good times…