The death of the American ham radio industry

Discussion in 'Ham Radio Discussions' started by W4ZD, Jul 24, 2019.

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  1. W4ZD

    W4ZD Ham Member QRZ Page

    This is something I have pondered for years. For a time amateur radio was an exclusive American enterprise, companies such as Collins, Drake, Hallicrafters, Hammarlund, Heath, National, and the list goes on. Now, they're all gone. Now it's pretty much a Japanese enterprise: Icom, Kenwood, Yaesu, and the rest. There remain a few meager vestiges of it here, Elecraft comes to mind, but even the last major American manufacturer, Ten-Tec, is dust.

    I was always fond of Ten-Tec's Omni VI, owned several of them, always performed great. Now they're gone, to the dustbin of history. Why is that? Why is there no major manufacturer of ham radio gear left in America?

    Any thoughts?
    KC8YLT likes this.
  2. NL7W

    NL7W Ham Member QRZ Page


    TenTec is actually making HF radios at their factory once again. They are producing an updated version of the Omni VII, called the Omni VII+.
    Check out their website, :)

    They are also manufacturing commercial and government HF receivers, to include major assemblies of Alpha amplifiers at their Tennessee facility.

    TenTec is clawing its way back, albeit slowly. That's something...

    W5WN, KC8YLT and KA4DPO like this.
  3. KA0HCP

    KA0HCP XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    No. There have always been foreign manufacturers, e.g. Eddystone [British], Geloso [Italian], Marconi [variously Italian, British, Canadian] etc. I can dig up as many names selling radios in the US as you want going back to the beginning.

    Hugo Gernsback
    , one of the founders of amateur radio and home radio listening, made his start importing radio and electrical parts and devices in the 1910's and expanded into a radio publishing empire.

    p.s. He wrote and published the first modern US science fiction short story and the Hugo Award for SciFi writing is named after him.

    Last edited: Jul 24, 2019
    K9AXN, K0UO, KG5ZUR and 1 other person like this.
  4. K1VSK

    K1VSK Ham Member QRZ Page

    America has been exporting manufacturing for virtually everything for a prolonged period. Radios and specifically ham radios are a trivial fraction symptomatic of that much larger issue.

    If that troubles anyone, we should focus on the forest rather than some small tree.
    AG7CK, WD8ED, KE0JJG and 6 others like this.
  5. W4ZD

    W4ZD Ham Member QRZ Page

    Well, perhaps I should have phrased it "largely an American enterprise." You cannot deny the dominance of those companies, at least here in the states. :)

    And when it comes to sci-fi, no one was the equal of Robert Heinlein, in my estimation.
    K9AXN and KA0HCP like this.
  6. W4ZD

    W4ZD Ham Member QRZ Page

    This is good to know. I have followed their travails for the last several years, and figured they were toast. Time will tell, I guess. :)
    NL7W likes this.
  7. W4ZD

    W4ZD Ham Member QRZ Page

    The small tree is a component of that forest, yes? :rolleyes:
  8. KA0HCP

    KA0HCP XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    Well, you have already dismissed the several dozen "Small tree radio manufacturers" in the US who have been selling radios in ready made and kit form for decades.

    You can't have it both ways.

    *I think your original thesis is a dead end for discussion.
    KG5ZUR and KU4X like this.
  9. W4NNF

    W4NNF XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    But Flex and Elecraft have come along and are doing very well indeed. You never know; poor old Ten-Tec may even stage a comeback.

    Why did what happened in the 70s - 80s happen, though? The U.S. makers were making radios that mostly couldn't compete with the Japanese on features and/or price. Oh, there were valiant attempts. Like the TR7. But it was pricey. The rig that should have been the hit-it-out-of-the park American rig? The KWM380. It was everything and more than the best the Japanese were delivering. Unfortunately (Rockwell) Collins priced it where few hams could even dream of owning one.
    N3AWS and K0UO like this.
  10. KY5U

    KY5U Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    You're right and the corporate push by "Wall St." to show big profits so "investors" stock values would increase. Money does talk. Used to be these companies were owned by individuals happy with modest profits. I think for them it was also about building a company and making a quality product. Today with publicly traded companies it is about squeezing every last penny from a business.

    In the past Japanese gear was considered junk but that changed with amateurs wooed by lower prices. I am hoping Elecraft and Flex can keep after the higher end market. My next rig (if I can save the cash) will be to try something from Flex I think.
    N1FMV likes this.

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