Geochron 4K

The Collins 75A-4 below the Geochron 4K

Just as its starting to get chilly at night – I now have the glow of a tube rig and a TCL 4K TV with Geochron 4K connected to it. It is absolutely stunning. As much as I loved the Kilburg mechanical edition, there is no contest – the digital version is perfect because I don’t need to leave it on – and don’t have to readjust anything each time this unit boots up. It just opens up with everything set.

The Geochron for $399 and the TCL 4K TV for $279 is a super great deal – I’m so glad Geochron made this digital version of their venerable old mechanical clock.

75M Top Hatted Vertical

Simple 75M top hatted vertical

I’m selling my 60′ 80M vertical with home brewed matching and switch circuit – and low band receive system. They will all be gone this Saturday. My 160M vertical is gone – and will be used by three fellows who are chasing DXCC on 80 and 160M. I’m done with that for good.

However, I still want to check into a 75M net or two – just because some days 75 / 80M is the only game in town at the bottom of the cycle. I’ve even seen days where 40M doesn’t open much – or is dead quiet with little of no activity (except FT8, which I will never pursue).

I have a 41′ Spiderbeam Aluminum pushup mast that I have used as a vertical before – with an extension at the top for 160M. Now I can use it for 75/80 by just adding two 20 – 30′ top hat loading wires. I’m not trying to build a barn burner DX antenna – but something for local net work. This vertical is in the ON4UN Lowband DXing book – but with horizontal top loading wires. In my case – I will be lazy and use the two top wires as a sort of guy wire set. I might even use three wires. I will be able to easily tune the antenna just by trimming the hat wires using my antenna analyzer. Can’t get much simpler than that.

There will be no base loading as I have now – no switching, nada. Since I will use the IC-7300 with its internal tuner – I should easily be able to tune this vertical for the 80M CW band and use its internal tuner for the 75M net frequencies. Its actually kind of amazing how much simpler your station can be when you only stick to 100 watts or less. Its a lot less of a hassle and the engineering is so simple.

The Aging DXer Population

Kure, K7C – Cordell Expeditions last activated it in 2005

The DX Community is not getting any younger – I was with Bob, KK6EK, when he announced to a small circle of friends that he was retiring from DXpeditioning. I was also with him when he decided to sell his Cordell Explorer – an old Salmon Fishing boat that he ran on the SF Bay and where he worked with the Berkeley School District to give kids a great lesson on marine biology out on the SF Bay.

WA2QHN at age 14 or so in 1975 with a fancy sweater and shirt. No tie or pipe like the older fuddy duddies for me!

Lately I have taken part in a strange ritual of sorts. Several hams who are 15 – 20 or 25 years older than me are looking for homes for their old equipment. Some are beautifully restored – some need restoration.

My new (old) Collins 75A-4, beautifully restored by Howard Mills, W3HM

These fellows are in the age range of my “elmers” from back in Newton, NJ, so I am reminded of those early years often lately. This is a phenomenon that I did not anticipate at all. The 75A-4 is one rig I will not sell – until I am too old to use it. I have secretly pined for such a rig since you see me in that picture above. Howard Mills, W3HM I hear no longer does restoration work – and he was the Collins expert.

Geochron Kilburg Edition Mechanical World Map Clock

I was recently “indirectly bequeathed” Chuck Patterson’s old Geochron clock – but I have found that while it also fits nicely in my nostalgia jag – it wasn’t practical. You need to be able to keep it on 24 x 7 – or you have to reset it every time you turn it on. It uses two compact flourescent bulbs – and I don’t like leaving anything on in the shack – so it got to be a pain. Because I now can’t live without a Geochron – I will be receiving the Geochron 4K – and yesterday mounted a new TCL 43″ 4K TV in the shack. I’ll blog about it soon.

Alberto Frattini J-36 bug

I ordered an Alberto Frattini bug because I heard that he also will be retiring from making them in the not too distant future. Like the Howard Mills restored 75A-4, Bob – KK6EK (a DXpedition leader and legend), I will be getting a work of art key by a practitioner who will be retiring.

The last Baby Boom “wave” is my generation – I am at the end of that generation, and I do expect that after my generation, the numbers will dwindle in ham radio, and especially DX-ing. But I had not thought about these “specialty skills” that have been available by hams for decades and their retirement – that snuck up on me as a big surprise.


The Great Appalachian Valley

The Delaware Water Gap – on the NJ – PA Border – part of the Kittatinny  Range

The Great Appalachian Valley

I feel lucky to have grown up in a small Appalachian town – but to have had our media from New York City. This meant we had local small town influence, but we weren’t  bumpkins or hicks. I went to college in the middle of Pennsylvania – and Lock Haven was the same size as Newton – only 7000 or population at the time – and Lock Haven was saved from being a total hick town because it was a college town – with many coming from the Philadelphia suburbs (more than any other large city area).

One thing that I do feel is that anyone who grew up along this Great Valley has at least this in common. The mountains along this corridor might pale in comparison to the Rockies in Colorado, but they were still quite beautiful.

I always remember where I grew up in the Fall – when I know the colors are quite beautiful.

V51B on the Collins 75A-4

High Angle 40M Long Path to V51B on the West Coast

There are several great things going on this morning – coffee, Collins 75A-4 and a great Long Path opening to Namibia. Andre is S9 on both the phased vertical array and the UrbanBeam. There is more deep QSB on the UrbanBeam, but I am sure that the angle has to be high for the UrbanBeam – at only 34 or so feet to hear this distance on 40M – which is more than 15,000 miles!

The magic of radio, and now I can confirm that this venerable old rig can hear long distance DX as well as a modern rig – certainly well enough to enable working that kind of DX. The nice thing is hearing this path open – since it has been not so great since the end of last Winter / Spring.

This path is usually open during the Fall and Winter and part of Spring, and it is what saved me during the long bottom of Cycle 23. If you chase DXCC and don’t want the DX Doldrums at the long and nasty bottom of this Cycle – I highly recommend that you invest in the best 40M antenna you can put up. You will need either a pair of phased verticals or a “shorty 40” yagi up at least 50′ – higher is much better.

ICOM IC-7300

ICOM IC-7300

I was seriously considering the Elecraft KX2 when I noticed that this rig is now on sale for $975 after mail in rebate. This has to be the best value going in Ham Radio. In fact, the IC-7610 that I sold pays for this rig plus the Collins 75A-4, which is pretty amazing, actually.

I have a friend who has both the IC-7610 and the IC-7300, and he said for casual everyday use – the 7300 is more than enough radio. He also agrees with me that the IC-7610 is more like the K3 as far as capabilities go and that the 7300 is just too good of a deal over the KX2 or KX3 (because I only ever use the rig at home and don’t activate SOTA peaks or other operating from a battery or portable).

I would say that the 7610 and the K3 are “DXCC Stations” and the 7300 is a good general purpose ham radio – certainly good enough for DXCC, but where someone who gets to 300 would want the 7610 at that point – especially if they were to try for DXCC on the low bands – just because of the extra antenna port, second receiver and RX antenna input. These are exactly the features I no longer need – and will never need again.

I nixed the solar power charged station, but I do have the most excellent Norcal40A for times when I might bring a small battery operated rig on vacation – like the next time we rent a house in Bend or somewhere else.

I will still go to my neighbors house to work Bouvet and Glorioso – because I simply can’t afford to miss them as I missed FT5GA – 10 years (ago almost to the day). I never heard them once – and band conditions are as bad as they were back then.

Morse Code

I am very pleasantly surprised – my intuition is leading me down a new path that I really wondered might not have “legs” like DXCC did all those years. Its a nostalgia trip – but with a real twist – its keeping history alive moving full speed into the future.

Begali CW Machine Software – my spacing needs a little help!

I started playing with the Begali CW Machine – developed by Ulrich Steinberg, N2DE, and am just starting to really enjoy it. Its connected to my laptop – and I’m using it to simply monitor my sending and seeing how and where I can improve.

Begali CW Machine   

Right away I can see that my spacing suffers – and I am sure from all the years sending nothing but sending DX_CALL de KY6R 599 TU . . .

Alberto Frattini J-36 Bug

My paddles are my favorite – the N3ZN paddles – and I have ordered the Frattini bug. I can’t wait to get it, but for now am using this beauty:

N3ZN Paddles

I read a great biography on Samuel F. B. Morse, and so all of this combines to add to my fun. Its a rich tapestry of the art and science of communication.