Hallicrafters TA-1 “TO Keyer” and a Surprise!

The keyer, as expected – in great condition, however, I will recap it and also test the tubes.

And, look what followed me home:

The surprise? A Central Electronics MM-2 “Multiphase RF Analyzer” – which is a 3″ CRT based oscilloscope. This model has the capability of monitoring both the KWS-1 transmitters waveforms as well as the 75A-4 received signals.

The gray Vobroplex Bug, this TO Keyer and this MM-2 were all sold in 1960-ish, so they are the same vintage and about 5 years “younger” than the Gold Dust Twins.

More classic gear from the Gold Dust Twins “era”, and more fun in the KY6R shack!

KY6R Mic and Key “Shootout”

The three microphones L-R are the Astatic D-104, probably the #1 mic that hams used with the KWS-1, the Shure 51B “Sonodyne” – used mostly by recording artists like Nat King Cole, Turner 99 – the oddball of the three, I don’t know what it was used for in its day.

The three keys L-R 1960 Vibroplex, 1943 Vibroplex and Begali Intrepid bug.

I am going to guess that the Sonodyne and 1943 Vibroplex will win the contest. The contest will be which mic sounds best on air with the KWS-1 and which bug feels the best keying the rig. In a little while I will pick up the Hallicrafters TA-1 “TO Keyer”, and so maybe an Iambic paddle will win over the bugs. Since keyers weren’t yet available commercially in 1955, the Gold Dust Twins operators who did use CW probably used a Vibroplex Bug.

Whatever I don’t end up using I will sell – all are very marketable – especially since I cleaned them up and restored what could be restored. I’m not a pack rat and like to have one good “representative” set of gear for its time period.


The Pursuit, the Journey, the Reward

Mushrooms. No particular reason why I used this photo except it looks cool.

My friend Tony, K4QE wrote a nice note to me regarding this blog, and it occurred to me that the Pursuit, the Journey and the Rewards are the best reasons to have a hobby. I like the word “Maker”, and I’m sure it comes from the German word Macher. My wife Kat makes beautiful things on her 1930’s Gilmore Look, so Maker fits any avocation or hobby that is “hands on”.

Most of my best ideas have happened when I have some time to reflect, to think a while without interruption. Sometimes that happens in the man cave (Ham Shack), sometimes on my bike, or sometimes just sitting in the living room furrowed down in my old green comfy chair with a cup of coffee.

With my ham radio hobby, I get to call the shots. I am the CEO and The Big Cheese. It’s the one time during the day where I can do whatever I want and (almost) whenever I want.

When I try something new, it unlocks new thoughts and ideas and gives me new perspectives. I always first learn that no matter how many times I think about something, I usually add to my knowledge base and many times see something I missed the first or second pass.

Learning something new every day is a great goal, and it is perhaps the biggest motivation for me at work and at play. I guess it really is a “journey of the mind”, because many times thinking about even just one topic, like let’s say a Vibroplex Bug and modern Iambic keys and keyers. This one thought unlocks a whole world that I can get lost in, like the history of Morse code, digital communication, various devices and inventions created along the way, the Victorian Internet, etc, etc.

Sometimes such rambling thoughts become a meditation of sorts.

They say the award / reward is the journey, and I do agree with that.

My next journey – the journey for today will be picking up and playing with a 1960’s Hallicrafters TA-1 “TO Keyer”. Yesterday’s journey was looking at the work Howard, W3HM did on my KWS-1, and continuing thoughts about a 40M Bobtail Curtain and whether or not I can really fit such an antenna on my property.

It’s another day, and another fun adventure!

Collins KWS-1 Serial Number 1572

Only 1600 Collins KWS-1 transmitters were built in 1955 or so, and just after these were produced, Collins went on to define modern rigs with the “75S” series transmitter and receiver pair – followed by the legendary KWM-2.

The fact that mine is #1572 is a real honor. Half of these were destroyed by the US Army after they had their need for them.

When I (totally unexpectedly) got into these restored rigs – I learned that Howard Mills, W3HM was the “legend” who has restored more rigs than anyone. I had read that he is getting older and maybe will only be doing these restorations for a little while longer. He has just finished my KWS-1 and I will get it back in a week or so. My 75A-4 was also restored by Howard, and I have purchased this receiver from a friend, Bruce, AH0U locally, and again by accident. I was inquiring about the National SW-3 receiver and Bruce told me about his Collins 75A-4 that he decided to sell. I wasn’t really looking for the KWS-1, but one “fell in my lap” at a great price. The restoration cost from Howard is very reasonable – so this has been a great experience.

So, this is a project to preserve a piece of radio history, and I’m having a blast sponsoring this. More to follow . . .


KWS-1 on its Way!

Its going to very exciting to get the KWS-1 on the air within a couple of weeks.

In fact, I have been MUCH more excited about this than any other aspect of Ham Radio in recent months and even years. I’ve restored the Power Supply and will turn it on for a half hour or hour to “burn it in” – but it did pass the “smoke test” a few weekends ago.

Blast from the Past

Rick – my best friend, and another “Old Soul”

Rick sent me this photo today, and its a true inspiration (for me to lose weight . . . ). We used to hang in San Francisco, and then later, when he and Katie moved to a cool “tree house” kind of house in Woodacre – on the way to where I used to kayak all the time in Pt. Reyes – (Hearts Desire Beach to be exact).

Rick and I used to go backpacking yearly – almost always in the Immigrant Wilderness area of the Sierras north of Yosemite. We had an out of body experience at Upper Relief Valley. It was Labor Day weekend – which up at 9000 feet above sea level is pretty much when the season changes from Summer to Fall, Well, we had some Fab Single Malt Scotch Whisky, and we dared each other to run to the top of Granite Dome – which was 1000′ almost straight up. We had to run up and back down before it got dark, or we were screwed.

We almost made it, (or at least we deemed our effort was worth celebrating) and partook in a special Glenlivet cask strength and smooth elixir.

Last summer, Kat and I rode our bikes to SF, then the Ferry to Larkspur, and then took the wonderful SMART train up to Santa Rosa. We met Rick and Katie for dinner:

Katie and Rick

The rainy season is almost over, and now I’m motivated to get on the bike on weekends and travel to cool Northern California places – like Petaluma – home of Lagunitas and Rick and Katie!

Next KY6R Antenna: 40M Bobtail Curtain!

After our rainy season (and we have had a pretty rainy winter due to El Nino), and when things dry out and the tick infestation goes away (they love the green wet grass – especially in April), I will try a full sized Bobtail Curtain. I played with the dimensions for 7.150 mhz, and came up with A being 35′ and B being 34′

Superb 5 dBi gain over a single vertical and more than 3 dBi better than my DX Engineering DV-40P in the broadside direction and 2 dBi better than the end fire – but I do give up 2 directions – NE and SW. I couldn’t think about this antenna before because my 160M lowband antennas used to be where the third element needs to go.

The orientations will end up being just slightly SE and NW, which will cover ZS and 3Y0/B perfectly.

The Collins 180S-1 should be perfect as a voltage feed L network – and it has all of the different combinations to get the input and output tuned just right.

I will move the correct vernier knob and the correct Collins emblem from my spare (modified) 180S-1, and use this original circuit.

This Bobtail will be my daily / go to antenna for the Collins Gold Dust Twins.

Still waiting for my KWS-1 – heh heh





The Waiting . . .

Waiting has been a theme in my life lately – Bouvet has been a 2 year wait – pushed out another 6 months. Then there was waiting at work late last year, and now waiting for my Collins KWS-1 to come back . . .

Waiting . . .

1943 Vibroplex Bug

This Bug has serial number 124407, which dates to 1943 – during a very busy WWII time

I wanted a good representative version of a Vibroplex Bug – just so I could use it with the Collins KWS-1 (if I ever get it back – hi hi). There is a great PDF available on the net that has the dates of all Vibroplex Bugs:


I did get the exact same model as what I had in 1973 – (The “Champion”) which dates from 1960, and with a gray base – but I don’t care for its looks as much as this older model with the black base – which is the “Original”. The Original has a shorting bar, which will be really useful for tuning up the KWS-1 or any other rig that I use it with.

The actual Hallicrafters TA-1 “TO Keyer” that I will pick up this week

It will be fun to play with the keys that I have with various keyers – solid state and tube based. Between this and the microphones I purchased, if I find that there is one “winner” in the mic and key department, I will cull the herd a bit.

Shure Sonodyne (center)

I’m going to bet on this black Vibroplex Bug and the Shure 51B “Sonodyne” microphone as winners – but I need on the air time with the KWS-1, so that won’t happen for a good month.


Hallicrafters 1959 Christmas Advertisement

Hallicrafters seems to be one of the first “mega” advertisers. They had quite a bit of gear – many models – and obviously had a big advertising budget. I had OT Elmers who thought Hammarlund made better gear, and everyone knew that Collins was the best of the best. However, Hallicrafters seemed to have gear at every price point and supported entry level up to full blown serious station builders.

My first transmitter was a Hallicrafters HT-40 and it was a great novice transmitter – I never had any problems with it, and my parents purchased it from an Elmer for $75, which was a pretty good sum back then. I think I got the receiver – the Heathkit SW-717 for Christmas, and the transmitter for my birthday a few months later.

I will have one piece of “Hallicrafters Gray” gear in my shack – the TA-1 “TO Keyer”, so that will be cool. I also have the exact same vintage Vibroplex Bug that I had back then in 1973.