If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It!

The Hickok 533A Tube Tester – a really nice, versatile and easy to use tube tester

I have the KWS-1 Power Supply apart – and have cleaned up the dust on the tubes and anywhere else I saw some – it wasn’t bad at all considering the rig is about 5 years older than me!

I posted an ask on the Collins Collectors Association regarding re-capping the Power Supply and changing a few other parts. My favorite response is “If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it”. Others had a long list of mods and other things to do.

I’m really glad that I got a range of answers because it validates an idea I had – which i to just test the tubes, and also order all of the parts that I need to replace. There are a few other things I might do – like change the bearings in the blower. But my idea is to just test the tubes and then use it as it is to power the KWS-1 when it comes back – to get a sort of “baseline”.

If the rig does work after it comes back – I will at least get a few QSO’s in. Then, at some time in the future, I will do the “restore”. I’m going to approach it this way because my National SW-3 has all of the original parts in it – and it works like a champ. All I did was swap the “Velvet Vernier” with another one that I had, and swap the bottom plate out. I also had to work on adding a “field coil” (audio transformer) to a Radio Shack “Minimus” speaker that works really well with the receiver – and which is an odd circuit when you compare it to today’s rigs – in fact I wondered why I got a shock from the headphone jacks, but I have read there is high voltage there – which was really a surprise. I also had to find a suitable power supply and wire that up – depending on which version of the SW-3 that you have – the power supply can be very different. I did find a great deal on a “Doghouse” power supply. I took it apart – and guess what I found? A chewed up acorn inside – apparently, a mouse lived inside this power supply. I cleaned that up and was so happy when it lit the tubes and light on the SW-3. It then took a while to figure out that audio circuit – and I did stumble on the right wiring. I did read the schematic and also read the original September 1931 QST Article written by James Millen. That is perhaps the best explanation of the design considerations for a receiver that I have ever read. In fact, I have a superb book on circuit design:

This superb book covers the design of the Norcal40A

The only problem with this book – it describes the 40A design using math that is beyond me. This book was used in a physics course at Cal-tech down in Pasadena / LA area. However, even though I don’t understand all of the math – I am glad that I did read a good chunk of the book – so I can understand how complex electronics can be.

But the Millen article – and with tube circuits especially – I could understand how a receiver works and how they are designed in a way that no modern book or circuit could do this. This is so amazing – that 1931 technology is certainly still very relevant today.

SO – getting back to doing restoration work. I will always keep a stock of parts and tubes on hand to fix these old rigs if an when they fail. My Collins 75A-4 was restored by Howard Mills, and the KWS-1 RF deck will be back from the silk screen-er this week – so I expect to get the RF Deck back in March. And I will simply test the tubes, but have all of the parts on hand to eventually do that small restore work.

But I really want to try it out as it was originally built before taking the soldering iron out. I was told that the previous owner used it right up until last June or July, when he went SK – so I’m hoping to get some rag chew and net contacts on 40M before I even consider changing anything.

Back to the KWS-1

Collins KWS-1 Power Supply

OK – its time to get back to it. The last 6 weeks have been a real hell for me – but I have turned that corner, and am starting to get my “mojo” back. Time for some fun – my KWS-1 will no doubt be here in just weeks – certainly by my 60th birthday, and I have to get crackin and re-cap this bugger, change one diode, and test the tubes.

Yikes! Its half way through February. The first 6 weeks have seemed like a “lost weekend” . . .

March 1959 QST

I think I was born to be a DXer – March 1959, at the height of the biggest recorded sunspot cycle, and this issue of QST – reporting on the ARRL DX Contest. Its a conspiracy I tell ya . . .

One thing I noticed in this issue is that the Gold Dust Twins were already left in the dust, and the new Collins kid on the block were the 75S-1 receiver and the 32S-1 transmitter. These looked like the forerunner to the most famous Collins rigs – like the KWM-2

New York City had many radio stores, and there was Radio Row. William Carlos Williams was the head of pediatrics in the hospital I was born in – in Passaic, NJ. Jack Kerouac shares my birthday – and was born the year my Father was born. Serendipity?

It was a good year for sure!


“Where do we go next?”: Reinventing Yourself

New York Street Scene, 1980’s

I’ve tried quite a few different things in my life. While I have been in technology – be it ham radio and electronics as a kid – or my 38 year career, I’ve also had a sideline in making attempts at making believe I’m an artist.

Switching Yard, San Francisco, 1980’s


1980’s painting – acrylic on masonite

I’ve made believe that I was Henri-Cartier-Bresson and a street photographer, a painter, an assemblage artist and a rock n’ roll star. Some work was pretty good, and some was just wishful thinking, but that’s the point – wishful thinking – exploring experiences just for the fun of it.

Since about New Years I have been looking for a new role at work. Stop me if you have heard this before – but I was an Oracle DBA for 22 years, and for the last 14 years I’ve been mostly a BI / Data Warehouse data architect / data engineer. In 2005 I woke up and just knew I couldn’t be a DBA anymore. Well, sometime late last year I felt the same thing about being a BI / Data Warehouse flunkie. Its been especially hard this time around, but I decided to start interviewing for jobs that require the skills I have, but where the job is NOT doing some of the things I grew very tired of. Luckily, three possibilities popped up – Application Security (AppSec), Data Governance via the Explorer Data Dictionary and product that I designed last year, and Technical Writing. I expect that I will know which one of these rises to the top next week.

Part of this was designed to be a break – a new “reinventing” of myself – not unlike trying to be a photographer, musician, painter, etc. The other part is plotting the last chapter of my career that I expect will be the next “n” years here in the SF Bay Area, but also – my “semi retirement” years in (hopefully) Bend, Oregon – or one of at least 3 or 4 other Oregon towns that we love. In fact, all three of these new work genre’s of where my career can go make for excellent positions for me – right where I am at in my career and beyond. That is pretty much the best thing about this latest “burn out” – a new “epiphany” emerged, and now I feel like I’m on the sunny side of what was a bit “dark” when I first knew I was so burned out. There is now a pretty clear and exciting path forward.

Its funny – while I did not go to Heard Island with the VK0EK team, I did in fact live vicariously through that team by helping as I did – it was the experience that I wanted – which was right for me. I have no regrets – I like being a bit “different”. Going to Heard Island was the “obvious” choice as far as awesome / maximum / over the top life experience is concerned – but for me it was supporting the projectthat really excited me the most. I was Bill Graham – the big promoter! I was an “impresario” For me, re-invention is a way to keep life really interesting and engaging, and it also makes me feel I have and am living a fulfilling and grateful life.

“Where do we go next?” is the mantra of the explorer,

Broadcast Radio – Its Origins and Importance

Thanks to Mike – KJ4Z – this one has to be shared. Really excellent historical video.


Yoda said “Do, or Do Not, There is No Try”

Bollocks – you may have to try a few times before you “do”. This is the story of my life. The track coach at Newton High in Newton, NJ was my 8th Grade Wrestling coach. The big problem at Newton High School? We didn’t have enough people for all of the sports teams. Our town was 7000 people – the largest town in one of the largest counties in the state in the 4th smallest state – NJ. You are talking “Big Fish in a Small Pond” territory here. So he asked me to join his track team. And I did.

Newton and Sussex County were downright poor if you compare that area to the SF Bay Area. The Appalachian Trail ran through the county, and our county was stunningly beautiful, I must say.

Here’s the rub – even though you’d think that it would be easy to stand out as a big fish in small pond – it is kind of the opposite. Why? Because we competed with much bigger and richer school districts in Northern NJ – the closer you got to NYC, the more money there was – and the larger the population (more and better competition). I always knew I had to work my butt off – just so we wouldn’t be considered “yokels”, “bumpkins” or “hillbilly’s”. I was motivated by not being seen as a joke – or be embarrassed. In Cross Country we even kicked ass – because the rest of the teams in NJ were located in the flats (Northern NJ is one large scraped out lake land and swamp area of land left behind by the glaciers – with granite and sandstone ridges and hills). Newton was up in the hills. Guess what – we were hillbilly – goats running in Newton – and we kicked lots of ass on our very hilly cross country course. I remember passing so many runners up the hills – it was great. I always placed too – so there is that. I was one of the shortest runners (longer legs usually means you have an advantage). I never placed first though.

Luckily, we were never seen in a negative light – because we had heart and tried so hard. We didn’t win everything, but we (barely) won enough to be respected. Maybe Yoda was right – we “did”. I guess he was saying is that if you don’t even try – you can’t do.

I wish I could find the picture of me pole vaulting. I only signed up because they were short team members – and yet I placed in every single regular meet we had – but did not place in counties. I pole vaulted, ran the 440 and the relay. That’s OK – I was the shortest pole vaulter in the county, and shortest hurdler. I practiced all winter by doing hand stands on a robe that hung from the gym when it was snowy out. I remember knocking down so many hurdles – a cool metaphor for life?

Lately I have had to reckon with yet again – a changing IT job market. I have had to re-invent myself so many times (technology changes every 2 years in a big way), only Madonna has reinvented herself more. BI has been replaced by Data Science – which is now being replaced by AI – and companies are freaking out. Its kind of funny, actually . . . Cat chasing its tail?

I’m so glad I grew up as a scrapper – its what has made me successful in a sea of competition and money here in the SF Bay Area. I have competed very, very well with people from ALL over the world and with pedigrees way more impressive than mine. I’ve never been first place, but I still place.

And that’s exactly how I like it – but I am just starting to look forward to getting off this treadmill . . .

My 1970’s Era BCB DX QSL Cards

With a wire wrapped around the ferrite bar antenna in my Heathkit SW-717 and out the window to a tree – I picked up WSM from Nashville when I lived in Newton, NJ. I loved this QSL Card – one of all time favorites.

This is someone’s QSL card just a few years before I received mine – but I think Des Moines was the farthest BCB DX station I heard back in Newton.

There were others, but these are the two I remember the most.