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Issue 14: Collecting the Classics

Discussion in 'Trials and Errors - Ham Life with an Amateur' started by W7DGJ, Mar 13, 2023.

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  1. KW4H

    KW4H QRZ Lifetime Member #572 Platinum Subscriber Life Member QRZ Page

    Excellent posting, well said. And without stealing your thunder, I'd like to offer some amplifying thoughts. My first career (now retired) was a government communications officer. I spent decades of my earlier life swimming in an ocean of high-dollar HF communications equipment, with giant fields of antennas that I could pick from at will. The receivers I used were so costly I couldn't even consider the idea of owning one. However, as you aptly pointed out, it's really all about the application. Those receivers and giant antenna fields were specifically purposed for secure radioteletype, and they had all the features that helped make that mode as reliable and stable as possible. Diversity reception included. After work, I'd go home and fire up my HW-101 and run phone patches and operate CW. Worked beautifully, there were no lack of signals, and the quality and stability were perfectly fine for that application. My point is that a Collins 651S-1 receiver (which cost up to $40,000 new) would have done zero for me. The HW-101 did a fine job of ensuring that the signals I wanted to hear were above the noise level. So it does, indeed, really come down to application. As an aside, there is one other consideration about tube-based equipment that may be of value to some: purportedly, they are less susceptible to an EMP. Should an EMP happen of sufficient magnitude, a whole lot of hams are going to go from an operating radio to scrap metal pretty darn fast.

    73 - Steve, KW4H
    Last edited: Mar 18, 2023
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  2. KW4H

    KW4H QRZ Lifetime Member #572 Platinum Subscriber Life Member QRZ Page

    You're not missing anything. The R4-C wasn't a great performer right out of the gate. Drake cut a bunch of corners to keep the receiver to its price point, and the end result was horrid performance due to compromises involving the filters and no noise blanker. The only way to make an R4-C perform (to my knowledge, anyway) is to modify -- add filters and other things. The end result is apparently quite satisfying. That being said, I've heard that most Drake owners prefer the B model to the C. A stock R4-C is bug-awful.

    73 - Steve, KW4H
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  3. K1APJ

    K1APJ Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    I don't collect classics anymore, but I run a few vintage stations purely for the sport of it. I make no apologies for anything!
    N4FZ, KW4H and W7DGJ like this.
  4. W7DGJ

    W7DGJ Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    Thanks Tom. A great series of posts. There's been a lot of great hi-fi gear produced in Binghamton NY for many years now. I'm so glad it's still with us. I second your comment that you'd like a radio with modern performance (in my case, IC-7610 style) but with a classic look and ergonomics. Dave
  5. KD9CNV

    KD9CNV Ham Member QRZ Page

    Thank you for your excellent article. This was the first time reading your column because the topic had special interest for me. I have been in electronics all my life but not in RF. I only became an amateur operator in 2014 so I had no nostalgia going on with respect to ham radio equipment. I do have an admiration for industrial design and quality workmanship. It “speaks” to me and excites my senses. It could be a car, a camera, a musical instrument, a watch, all active interests of mine. When it was time to look for a radio, I wanted something with an interesting history, something that I could learn from, something I could work on with hands, eyes, and tools with which I am familiar. Transistors were well established by the time of my formal education in electronics but tube equipment surrounded me in broadcast radios, Television, and stereo equipment and, like many others, I liked the glow, the aroma, the need to be patient and let it “warm up.”. I chose a Collins KWM-2 transceiver as my first radio for these reasons and as my enjoyment in using it increased, I added other Collins equipment, most recently a 22 tube 75A-4 receiver, my enjoyment has only increased. WIth no digital readouts and no waterfall, this equipment taught me how to LISTEN; to tune to the correct frequency, to find weak stations, to learn the band organization, etc. And best of all, I have repaired it myself with the excellent documentation and knowledge base available.

    I also purchased an ICOM 7300 to see what I may have been missing. I have to say it is one fantastic collection of features in a very small box for a comparatively very small price. I enjoy using it, I enjoy packing it in my carry-on when visiting family along with a rolled up dipole and power supply. But having taught many years in the SMT industry, I know I will never be repairing it.

    Thanks again for the excellent topic and thought provoking article.

    Regards and 73,

    Mike, KD9CNV
    N4FZ, K0TWA, W7DGJ and 1 other person like this.
  6. KD8ZM

    KD8ZM Ham Member QRZ Page

    To each his own, I say. I do suspect that 80% of boat anchors’ appeal is reminiscing and not performance, otherwise there would be more young people into them, like vinyl records / LPs. But what difference does it make why someone likes certain ham activities, if they do?
    If someone likes digital modes exclusively, then FB to that, too.
    We need to promote the ham activities we like, without denigrating the activities we don’t enjoy.
    N4FZ, KB1MCV, W7DGJ and 1 other person like this.
  7. W7DGJ

    W7DGJ Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    Mike, your comment made my day. Thank you sir. I totally agree with you, that there CAN be newcomers to the sub-hobby of collecting boat anchors. An appreciation of design, ergonomics, and the sound/feel of classic equipment . . . these things do not have to be relegated to the "old timer" crowd (my generation). I love my IC-7300 - yes, a great radio for the money, but as you say, neither one of us is going to be opening it up to do a renovation. Perhaps in 20 years we'll keep old IC-7300's around for board replacement purposes and so on, but I don't think they'll hit the same buttons as classic gear like your Collins. Dave
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  8. W7DGJ

    W7DGJ Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    Hi Brady, good comment, thanks. I agree with you about appreciating each of the ham sub-hobbies. There is a thread going on an announcement by QSO Today about a seminar that I'm giving with my friend Marty KB4MG. One post said something very negative about a person who was elected to a ham club leadership role, indicating that they hired the wrong guy because "He's 82 years old, he's working ham radio with only a dipole and does mainly CW. Someone with such a limited experience should not be in leadership" or something like that. Well, I think that experience is perfectly valid. Besides the ageist comment, to denigrate someone because he or she does CW with a dipole . . . that's just SO wrong. Each of these ham radio activities can stand on its own as a hobby, but they also combine to become the single best activity in the world (in my opinion). Boat anchors are an important part of the culture of sub-hobbies in radio. Dave, W7DGJ
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  9. K4KYV

    K4KYV Premium Subscriber Volunteer Moderator QRZ Page

    Some folks come back with an argument that goes like this, whenever they hear other hams engaged in discussions about older technology such as vacuum tubes, AM phone, Morse code CW, analogue modes, etc: "I don't see how teaching people about 50-year old gear is advancing the hobby much. Sure, anything you learn is valuable, but tube-rigs are becoming less and less relevant. We should be looking forward, not holding on to nostalgia."

    I recall a similar conversation back when the Tall Ships from all round the world sailed into New York and Boston Harbor. Most of the public probably thought those ships were custom built for the event, or else museum pieces or expensive yachts that belonged to wealthy hobbyists who sailed them for pleasure. But fact is, the majority of those ships with wind sails are training vessels used to teach each new generation of young sailors the mastery of the sea. Many are government-owned and a stint aboard is a required course for cadets in the Navy in many countries. In Denmark the two biggest steamship companies hire exclusively from those who have trained aboard the full-rigged ship Danmark. The Russians use these ships to train young men going into fishing industries. All the cadets at the United States Coast Guard Academy must take part in the offshore sail-training programs of the three-masted bark Eagle, which lead the tall-ships parade, "learning ancient skills".

    "What use is it for sailors in a nuclear age to learn to square the yards on a full-rigged ship or unfurl the sails on a three-masted staysail schooner when they are destined to spend their careers on the grey-hulled ships of the Navy or the commercial vessels of the Merchant Marine?
    – ''It's the Outward Bound concept,'' said the director of tall-ship coordination for Operation Sail 1986, Leon A. Schertler. ''You get to learn the forces of nature. You get the storms. You learn companionship. You mix together. You get to see the world. And you don't quit.'' "

    Of the 22 lead ships in the Parade of Sail, all but three were training ships of one form or another. Proponents of sail-training contend that, anachronistic as it may seem, providing midshipmen, Coast Guard cadets, and maritime academy students with intensive training on sailboats offers unparalleled opportunities for teaching seamanship, ship-handling, navigation, and leadership skills—at a depth that they’re unlikely to get on board steam-powered and nuclear-power warships.

    A similar argument could be made for students as they begin learning the art of radio, to acquire an understanding of the fundamentals of vacuum tube and perhaps even spark technology, as well as analogue communication techniques such as Morse telegraphy and AM phone, which would provide them a more solid background for further understanding solid state and digital technology, and better prepare students for to-day's nano-technology. One of the complaints you see over and over again in professional broadcast journals is a dearth of new generation radio engineers who understand the fundamentals of antennas and RF, lamenting the fact that technical training is largely limited to the IT and digital aspects of the profession.

    Working with 50-year old gear down to the component level provides a kind of hands-on experience that is impossible with integrated modules consisting of tiny blocks of composition material encapsulating complex circuitry with nothing tangibly visible other than a large number of microscopic connector pins coming out the periphery. One doesn't learn a great deal of technology from unpacking an appliance from a box, plugging it in, connecting an antenna, and hitting the transmit switch.
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  10. W7DGJ

    W7DGJ Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    Thanks Don. Your classic station looks outrageous. Good comments and one that certainly adds to the archive of this article and the emphasis on boat anchors and the "why" of this hobby, Dave W7DGJ
  11. KD8ZM

    KD8ZM Ham Member QRZ Page

    I agree. I am relatively new to being an active ham (5 or 6 years) but I operate 100% CW just because I like the simplicity of the mode. Personally I seem to witness more older folks running down digital modes than I hear younger people running down CW, but either is unnecessary and not helpful in making ham radio an attractive hobby. People should pursue whatever interests them and not view it as some sort of competition between factions, in my opinion.
    Thanks for the reply and 73!
    Brady KD8ZM
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  12. NI5L

    NI5L Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Great article, Dave. I can attest to just about everything you and John said. I have pictures of my old tube gear from several years ago on my QRZ page.

    I still have a fully functional Drake TR7 station and an old Heathkit SB-100 that works great. I love 'em but the FTdx-5000 is my go to radio.

    73 and good DX

  13. W7DGJ

    W7DGJ Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    Thanks Warren, for your nice comment, and for adding to the group of comments here that talk about how important our historical radios are to the hobby, Dave
  14. N2PTB

    N2PTB XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    Hi Dave, another awesome article, you are so right our hobby has many niches and because of this I believe it has survived. Diversity causes interest and attraction with all the different directions you can take, there sure is something that can keep you busy and having fun. When I lived in NJ I had a neighbor that was an old salt in Ham Radio and I had the privilege to call my friend, his name was Tom Scally (K2ESE) every time he went to a Ham Fest, he came home with something that to me was junk, but Tom was really good at taking it apart down to the ribbits and making it new. He had four or five 500 sqft storage units all over the city and every six months or so he would set up one of these boat anchors complete with whatever came from factory AMP, SPEAKER ETC. What amazed me was how he repaired them from the bottom up just for the love of it and then it would go into storage until it was its turn to shine in his shack. Don't get me wrong it wasn't my cup of tea, but I had the chance to work some real vintage radios and amps because of Tom. He kept in touch with me after I moved to Tennessee and he moved to Delaware Sadly he is a silent Key, but I will always remember going to his attic shack in NJ and there would be some OLD boat anchor looking like it just arrived from the factory...
    W7DGJ likes this.
  15. W7DGJ

    W7DGJ Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    Those must be great memories, Angel. That sounds like what might have been the world's largest collection of boat anchors, with all those radios in storage! I wonder what happened to Tom's radios when he passed on. I hope they're still out there, getting daily use in shacks around the country, Dave

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