The Old Shacks

Equipment use in this station - From left to right, bottom to top.

  • AEA contest keyer
  • D-104 microphone, my favorite microphone type, though I also like boom mics on headsets.
  • Transceiver is a TS-930S, then a brand new rig. It remains one of my favorite transceivers. Purchased used today, they represent a real bargain.
  • Jackson Brothers Iambic Paddle
  • Keypad for two meter rig
  • At the far right is a shortwave portable radio for general listening.
  • Second level
  • R-4C with noise blanker and CW filter. Otherwise, it is stock.
  • T-4XC transmitter. This was generally never used as the R-4C receiver was set up to dual-receive with the TS-930. The transceiver plus external receiver was vary convenient for monitoring list takers, or two different DX stations who might be working call areas.
  • Next comes the ICOM 2 meter FM/SSB rig.
  • The Dentron 3 KW tuner is at the far right on the second level
  • Third level
  • Heath SB-620 Scanalyzer.
  • Heath SB-610 monitor scope.
  • Dentron DTR-2000 amplifier with an 8877 in the final. I'm a bit partial to that tube and currently run a AL-1500 which uses the same type tube
  • Out of the picture
  • RCA 1 KW amplifier with a PL-172 final.
  • Reel-to-reel tape recorder to make sure it was my call being address in the middle of a mess of QRM.
  • Bird 43 wattmeter
This is my shack, and me, back in 1981 or early 1982. I was seriously into DX at the time. As you can see, all of the equipment is ergonomically placed at just the right angle and distance for minimum effort and stress. All shadows are reduced to a minimum and all surfaces painted white. This is to reduce eye strain after hours of operation. Much study went into this setup. For example, the tilt angle of the transceiver is close to the natural angle of the left wrist when at rest. Some compromise had to be made due to the readout visibility of the TS-930's display. Immediately to the right of the transceiver is the keyer paddle and the keyer is to the left of the transceiver. This permits punching up keyer memories with the left hand while entering new data with the paddle in my right hand.

You will notice that the Drake C-line is exactly at eye-level. More importantly, the knobs are at the correct height to permit adjusting the VFO's with a simple sweep of the arm without lifting the elbow off the table. Again, the receiver is tuned with the left hand so that the right hand is free for writing. The same goes for the TS-930. Just under the T-4XC is a MFJ dual-time 24 hour clock.

The monitor scope is between the linear and tuner. The second scope, the one on the left is a Heath Scanalyzer set up for use with the C-line. These units were mounted high, but within easy viewing range. The controls are seldom adjusted, so it is not necessary to have them within easy reach.

At the top right is the linear amplifier. It would have been more convenient to locate it one level lower, but it would have been difficult to remove the heat efficiently. Below the linear is the transmatch and a 2 meter rig. Keyboard entry pad is just below the 2 meter rig. The 2 meter rig is placed on its side due to space limitations. These were pre-packet days and local 2 meter DX nets were very important, and they were also a lot of fun. A dozen or so friends on a DX net could be very helpful in finding new stations, and helping dig out those really weak signal reports.

Not shown in this picture is the "big amp." It's a shipboard unit made by RCA and runs a PL-172 in the final. I don't recall the model number, but this is a first-class piece of gear with vacuum variables, gear driven roller inductors and a special, monster-sized, 2000 pf loading capacitor. The amp will tune continuously all the way 160 - 10 meters and everything in-between. 1 KW key down was no challenge of this amp. Its only disadvantage was its size, weight, and blower noise. It has long ago been retired.

All in all, this was a very effective station. It was fun, comfortable and easy to use. Coupled to the three element Quad antenna at 65 feet, I had little trouble working the DX on 20, 15, and 10 meters. The original SuperLoop took care of 80 and 40 meters.

15 Years Later

After building a new room for the ham shack, I didn't have time to get everything organized right away. This is how the shack looked in late 1995 and the early part of 1996. Some of the basic pieces are in place and this was a completely operating set-up for several months. It did a fine job for me after I solved all the grounding problem. The RF feedback problems that plagued this station lead to the development of the T-4G Line Isolator. The new Line Isolator and single point grounding completely eliminated my RF feedback problems. This station isn't pretty or well organized, but it did the job for several months.

Let me briefly describe the equipment I chose for this station. You can't see it in this picture, but there is all sorts of nostalgia gear stacked in piles just out of sight on the left side of the photograph.

Now, for what you can see. First, at the front of the photograph, sitting on a chair, is a R390A. This is not the Chuck Rippel restored unit you see in my current station. The top is off the radio because I love to see the gears, cams and racks work as I tune the radio. The audio output is stock and sounds rich and full when feeding an efficient Hi-Fi speaker through a Radio Shack 70-volt line transformer. You just adjust the taps for the best match between the 600 ohm receiver output and the speaker's 8 ohm impedance. SSB signals are full-bodied (if, indeed, they are transmitted that way), but careful adjustment of the RF gain control is required. I have since made a terrific SSB converter that is a very elegant solution to the SSB problem. I'll have complete details on the this WEB site soon.

At the far left, sitting on a scope stand, is a military RF-301 HF transceiver. The name on the unit says "RF Communications," but I have been told that Harris would be an equally appropriate name plate. This rig is completely channelized in 1 KHz increments and covers 80 - 20 meters. The 1 KHz knob can be pulled outward and the tuning becomes variable over a narrow range with calibrations in 100 Hz increments. This particular unit is accurate to within about 200 Hz and it is a fine radio for working nets. Just dial up the frequency, digit-by-digit, and you are on frequency. Key the mic and three 6146's go to work. It's a nice, old rig early solid state transceiver. I say that it's early because all of the transistors are PNP units, and there are lots of them. No IC's here!

Above the RF-301 is its matching antenna tuner.

Immediately to the right is an SX-101A, a nice receiver with good audio and a pretty face but is lacking in stability, readout accuracy, and selectivity. However, based on the fact that it was typical of receivers made back in late fifties, it compares favorably with most of its contemporaries. The 75A-4 being a notable exception. It's not even close to a 75A-4 in any category.

On top of the SX-101A is a Drake 2-B and 2-BQ speaker/Q-multiplier. This receiver, combined with its Q-multiplier is really effective except under the most demanding conditions. The only major shortcoming is the selectivity. This is just so much you can do with four tuned circuits at 50 KHz, but that was the inexpensive way to make selectivity in the 50's and early sixties. It's too bad the engineers couldn't justify an additional 4 tuned circuits. An 8-pole L-C filter at 50 KHz could have been quite effective. Still, with passband tuning, and the notch supplied by the 2-BQ, you can sort things out pretty well. On CW, combining the 500 cycle bandwidth, passband tuning and adjustable Q-multiplier, the Drake 2-B is at its best. It still does an outstanding job as a CW receiver.

(continued from the previous column.)

The speaker on top of the Drake 2-B matches the RME-6900 seen in my present station

Next comes the Collins 30L-1 linear, followed by a 516F-2 power supply. On top of the power supply is a 312B-5, external PTO, wattmeter, and phone patch for the KWM-2A.

Next comes my KWM-2A, cooled with a 4" muffin fan sitting over the 6146 finals. I don't what it is about the KWM-2 which makes them so much fun, but there is an undeniable charm to these rigs. One thing is for sure, they have "hot" receivers, tight selectivity provided by a good 2.1 KHz bandwidth mechanical filter, and excellent frequency readout. This Collins setup is the inexpensive entry into the fantastic world of Collins gear. A KWM-2, matching power supply and a 30L-1 linear can generally be found for under a kilobuck. You won't often find the 312-B5 for less than about $400 dollars. So, I didn't include that in the formula. Besides, unless you must have the matching external PTO, it makes more sense to add a 75S-(any model) receiver. This setup gives you dual-receive plus other advantages over the 312B-5. Early S-line receivers can be had for as little as $250. I have also seen compete early S-lines with the 30L-1 linear for under $1000. Watch for bargains at the hamfests. You can't imagine what you are missing until you actually put a properly working Collins rig on the air. It's a joy to simply sit back and listen to these rigs.

Now, we've arrived at the more up-to-date gear. Though it is hard to see, and it looks like a rectangular black blob, the transceiver next to the KWM-2A is a FT-1000MP with dual filters for 2.4 KHz, 2.0 KHz, and 500 Hz. The dual 2.0 KHz filters, combined with judicious use of the dual passband tuning and the DSP features are pure QRM killers. A Heil Pro-set with an HC-5 cartridge sits in front of the transceiver. The AEA keyer is on top of the FT-1000MP and the paddle along the right side of the transceiver.

At the far left is an AL-1500 amplifier and sitting on top of that is a Dentron 3 KW transmatch.

This station served me very well while I was designing a planning the eventual layout of the five operating positions which would be installed in the summer of 1996.

The antenna used with this station is a SuperLoop 80. With the sunspots at the bottom of the cycle this antenna proved itself to be an excellent choice on 80, 40, and even 20 meters. I have a very competitive signal on 20 meters during contests and when chasing DX. It fact, the SuperLoop 80 works so effectively, that I have not replace my Quad after an ice-storm brought it down several years ago.

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Jim's shack at the beach