Hallicrafters TA-1 “TO Keyer”

The Hallicrafters TA-1 “TO Keyer”

This tube based keyer was first sold in 1960 – which was about 5 years after the Gold Dust Twins were first released. I’ll have one next weekend – and it will be a lot of fun – especially because it has a monitor, and will be cool to hear a tube sound with CW.

I can use it with the KWS-1, although I expect that I will mostly use a Vibroplex or the Begali Intrepid bug.

Collins 180S-1 Antenna Tuner(s)

The unit on the left has a nice mod where the fellow added a directional coupler, meter, switches and an SO-239 connector to turn it more like a “normal” antenna tuner, but IMHO – its front face has the weirdest interface for an antenna tuner

Having the antenna connectors on the front is bizarre, EXCEPT for my use – which is to set this in a waterproof case – and use it remotely at the antenna. I could even use the URAT idea and attach three Stepper motors on the three controls – if I use it as a Pi tuner, or two controls if used as an L tuner.

Rudy, N6LF’s feedpoint diagram from https://rudys.typepad.com/ant/files/antenna_array_80160m.pdf

Rudy, N6LF has posted some great Bruce Array articles in QEX and other ARRL publications, and this one has a Voltage Feed (#3) – which is where I could use the antenna on more than one band. A voltage feed is also very convenient – location wise and also for the Collins 180S-1 antenna coupler – and where I’d use it in the L mode.

Next KY6R Antenna Phase

Elements 2, 4 and 6 will be aluminum verticals, and the other elements will be 14 gauge Flexweave wire. The center will be fed using coax, since its a 50 ohm feed – but with a 1:1 current choke at the feed. I do have a 70′ wide space in the back yard – because this antenna does not need radials (but my radial field will act as a great ground screen anyway – and it not covering the full width won’t matter).

I am sure I will have at least 3 dB broadside. This nails the ZS short and long path – which is my favorite casual DXing path.

Its a dipole pattern – actually a little more like an Extended Double Zepp – which is great for such a “low” 40M antenna.

30M also looks good – but the KWS-1 doesn’t have WARC bands. That’s OK – the IC-7300 barefoot will be fine on 30M.

If I use one of the Collins 180S-1 tuners out at the feed (or just away from the center feed using ladder line) I can tune the antenna on 80 – 6M. I would have to take down the 80M vertical and the existing DX Engineering DV-40-P 40M phased vertical array – so I will need to think about this.

Another option is a 30M side fed loop – which gives 4 dB gain on 30M and 2 dB on 40M

An end fed loop – using one of the Collins 180S-1 tuners is an option. I have always wanted to spend a lot more time on 30M – which ould be good for QRP, bur 40M will no doubt be king for SSB using the KWS-1. I modeled a loop that fits very nicely between the current 80M vertical and one of the phased 40M verticals – which is about a 46′ width.

Another option is a 30M Bruce Array – which can be used on 30M and 40M. Both bands ed up with 3 dB, and the only issue is the takeoff angle is a bit high on 40M – 45 degrees – not terrible, and an OK compromise for a reduced size antenna.

There are two reasons to do this – get my antennas father away from the house and eliminate interaction that I have between two many antennas that are too close together.

Simplicity and ease of maintenance add the icing on the cake. But I will think about this for a while – that’s for sure.


The KY6R “Mic and Key Club”

The Astatic D-104, 10-C and 10D – classics and used with the KWS-1

There are so many cool microphones, but I will cherry pick a couple decent one’s and also will pick a set of keys to use with the Collins KWS-1.

Astatic D-104, Shure “Sonodyne” 51B, Turner 99

I replaced the old dried out and cracked D-104 mic cartridge, but the other mics worked with no problems. They are all cleaned up and just waiting for the Collins KWS-1 to arrive.

I’ll take a picture and write a blog post soon with my polished 1943 (black base) and 1960 (grey base) Vibroplex bugs – next to the Begali Intrepid bug. Using a bug with the KWS-1 makes sense since they did not have electronic keyers and paddles yet. The Hallicrafters TO Keyer would hit the market in 1960 – right as the Gold Dust Twins were being left in the dust by the Collins KWM-2





KEF at the Starry Plough

KEF – at the Starry Plough – photo by Kat

We saw our Nieces band KEF at the Starry Plough in Berkeley and had a fantastic time. (Nisha is wearing red and playing a horn). KEF plays Balkan Folk music. It was such a great “Berkeley” experience, with lots of very friendly people dancing and having fun. In a word, it had Soul. They are a fabulous band and the dance floor was full, with people doing a traditional line dance – holding hands in a circle, the circle moving in and out and rotating after a few steps everyone took together. The people in the pub were also the stars and it was all ages and all were having fun with each other.

We don’t go out much anymore, because most experiences in the San Francisco Bay Area have fashioned themselves after what I call the “the fall of San Francisco”, which is when it went from having Soul to a much more sterile corporate mold. Tech took San Francisco over during the late 90’s Dot Con boom, and the city has only gotten worse in the Soul department. I’m glad I lived there from 1984 – 1994, which was the last decade I can remember artists and musicians being able to afford living there. It is sad and it’s something that is lost and will never come back. It’s too much of a good thing – San Francisco is just a place to go make money.

But, Berkeley, Oakland and Santa Cruz are three holdouts – and luckily, Berkeley and Oakland are just through the Caldecott Tunnel from Orinda.

Thank God for these last bastions of soulful places in the Bay Area. I swear I felt like I was in a time machine transported to before the onslaught of too much tech in the Bay Area.

The Reinvention of KY6R

1945 Vibroplex Bug

Now that I have decided to decommission my Ham Radio Station from “Struggling Alligator Masochistic DX Station” to “Just Have Fun Station”, I have a new “Mission Statement”:

  1. Only do it if it’s fun
  2. Whims are highly encouraged
  3. Learn something new daily
  4. Keep it simple
  5. Build or fix more than buy
  6. Use CW daily
  7. High power only with KWS-1
  8. Become a “Social DXer”
  9. Hang out in the backyard more

These all really ring true with me as far as what will keep my interest in Ham Radio. Just continuing struggling as a DXer got so old I didn’t know what to do.

Then the vintage radio bug bit and recharged my hobby batteries. Even “vintage QRP rigs!”

My “man cave” and hobby are very important to me. They offer a counter balance to work, which I love, because work life balance is important.

I do my chores around the house, and then retire into the Ham Shack. It’s my time to do whatever I want.

I might put up a 40M Bruce Array and compare it against the 40M phased vertical array and the SteppIR Ultrabeam and the 70′ 80M vertical. This is because without having to use radials (I don’t have the geography for a radial field of a 40M Bobtail Curtain), but with the Bruce, I could have one antenna for 80 local and 40M DX, which is what I want.

The big benefit would be two antennas instead of three.

It would be a compromise, but would be perfect if say I did set a goal of WAS QRP or WAS using the Gold Dust Twins. Maybe County Hunting?

So I could still chase paper if I wanted or just rag chew.

To be continued ….

KPIG by way of KFAT by way of WLIR

Who would have thought that a book about a revolutionary radio station from Gilroy California 600 pages long would be such a great read?

Ed, AG6CX would – thanks Ed!

My family moved to the SF Bay Area in 1979, and for the couple of years after I graduated from High School in 1977, I listened to two radio stations from the New York City area – WNEW from Manhattan, and WLIR from Garden City, Long Island. I remember listening to bands like Television – that you just couldn’t hear on many stations. But at night I would go to the North Shore Boat House to see Bluegrass bands. Yeah – it was punk and bluegrass – later R.E.M and Uncle Tupelo would become favorites as would Son Volt and all manner of “Americana” music – all of which were played on KPIG, and similar music on KFAT.

WA2QHN in Newton, NJ, about 1975 or 76

I remember it because I already had switched from being a middle school and young High Schooler into Ham Radio to an older High Schooler with a girlfriend and everything except Ham Radio on my mind. But I still had a Rohn 40′ self standing tower, and on top of it I had an 11 element 2 Meter yagi – that I flipped from being vertically polarized to being horizontally polarized. I did that to pick up these NYC based FM radio stations. I had been working at Lafayette Radio Electronics, and I had built my own big homebrew stereo speakers, and has a cool old tube Marantz receiver.

WNEW was the “mainstay” for me – WPLJ was my brothers station. Then I stumbled on WLIR, and that was it – I found radio Nirvana.

In 1976 or so – when I proclaimed to my fathers EE friend that I was going to become an EE – he said “No you are not – you are going into software”. He plopped this down on our kitchen table, and that was it – I was now getting into software. Yes – Ham Radio did lead to my career

Fast forward just a few years later, and there I was in Northern California – in the East Bay (and soon after San Francisco). Unbeknownst to me, the Program Director from WLIR would end up defining KFAT’s radio format. The author of this book would also end up in Marin. Another connection was KSAN – “The Jive 95”, and that was another revolutionary FM radio station – and I was lucky to also catch it in its final years when I moved here.

In the early 80’s I listened more to college FM stations – like KFJC and KALX an KUSF. But I know that I also listened to KFAT in passing – and I thought it was kind of “hippy redneck”, but I do know it was interesting nevertheless.

As the years have passed, I find that even college stations don’t do it for me anymore – and that KPIG is my preferred station. I listen to it either on my National SW-3 for that full on nostalgic AM radio experience:

Or I listen to it streaming on my computer – which was more than worth the $60 I paid for a years subscription.

OK – back to the book. The reason why a 600 page book about a radio station is such a great read is that the writer is a very good writer – his character development and enthusiasm, love and yes, empathy for his fellow KFAT staffers could be a great book of fiction, and the book reads like a novel more than a history book – but a history book it is.

When I also read about the direct connection to where I moved from and to – that has added an additional fun dimension to the story. I feel like I was a part of a GREAT time here in Northern California – and yes, even NYC – the late 70’s and early 80’s.

I was a DJ at my college’s closed circuit radio station, WLHS – Lock Haven State College. I was lucky to get a Campus job at the college Radio and TV station. In fact, I was the cameraman for young (almost all female) student teachers – video taping them as they prepared to become teachers. What a great way to meet people at college.

Switching Yard – circa 1984 – we played The Hotel Utah a lot in San Francisco

Yes, many great memories have been unlocked by this book – and I feel very lucky to have been a part of this era. In 1984 I answered an advertisement in the SF Chronicle – for an unknown company called Oracle and became their 127th employee – then my 3 year old IT career really took off – and I moved to San Francisco – where I lived for 10 years. Yet anther Northern California connection and memory that I cherish.

(I looked Gilbert Klein up and found he passed away a year ago, and that he started Rock N’ Bowl in the Haight, which was another popular hang out in the 80’s)

I was in the right place at the right time – and yes, my kids have heard all of the stories about my “glory days”. The 1990’s and the “Dot Con” changed San Francisco and Northern California in such a drastic way that all I can say is that I am so glad I was here before the Big Change happened – because it was truly the end of a great era – and I was a part of it.

3Y0I and “Social DXing”

We only pass this way but once – why not take the road less traveled?

I don’t know when it happened – but I know I was living in Newton, NJ, so it was in the first third of my life. I just realized I’ve been in the San Francisco Bay Area twice as long as I had lived on the east coast. But way back then, in those early days – I promised myself that would never live a life of regrets – that I would never say “I wish I would have . . . “. that every experience would be worthy . . .

Sometimes life goes better than planned, sometimes less, but it never goes exactly as planned . . .

The thing that has always kept me happy is when I am learning something new. For me – life is most exciting when that spark of something “new” and “fresh” is happening – and it is always that time when I am learning something new that is a challenge – when I want to conquer some challenge. I know I will prevail, but I think the harder it is initially, the better.

At work – learning a new technology, and especially a new programming language has always been most excellent. It parallels my Ham Radio hobby – I might learn a new technology and build or try some new piece of gear – or antennas – designing and building antennas is the ultimate fun because I get to go outside – and my back yard becomes a new world of wonder. Sometimes old is what is new!

Collin KWS-1 power supply – tubes and point to point wiring – BIG FUN!

Totally and completely to my surprise – late last year I got into olde tyme radio – “Hollow State” or tube radios. I chose two perfect examples, one from 1931 – the National SW-3 and its designer, James Millens seminal February 1931 QST article – the best explanation of how a receiver works and which rings relevant even today – after all these years – and with such old technology. The other, the Collins Gold Dust Twins are from about 1955, and they were a true watershed moment in ham radio – the revolutionary features really defined the modern era of ham radio equipment and advanced technological features. I feel like a time traveler when I “go back” in time and know what transpired from then until now.

The Red Hot 40 QRP Transceiver

On another shelf – waiting for me to play with – are two fantastic QRP rigs – the NorCal 40A and its successor, the Red Hot 40. These are 1990’s vintage – so they are olde tyme QRP radios. When I make a QSO with these – its an experience unto itself – quite unique. And its funny to think that the 90’s were “olde tyme” – but heck – these radios were unveiled as new when my younger son Trevor was born – and he is graduating from UC Santa Cruz soon. Tyme sure does fly!

New Old concept – a bug, but with a twist

Having just gone through quite a few months trying to get excited about DXing felt like work. However, I did do something that was a blast – I visited my neighbor, Oliver, W6NV and used his station preparing for one of my “last two” that I need – Bouvet and Glorioso. His station is so much better than mine – way up a hill – with tower and big antennas. The radio gear is the same as what I used to have, but I made one call to easily bust a massive pileup – and I was totally hooked. You see, I have struggled and toiled all these years at my present QTH to make it all the way to 2 shy from Top of Honor Roll, and now that has gotten so old and stale that its not new, its not challenging – its just no fun any more. HOWEVER, not only did I have fun at Oliver’s station – we had a great time just chatting about DXing, gear, old times on the air – so it was a fun social visit more than anything – two friends sharing a common pursuit and hobby. In fact, it was so much fun – I will commit my station to just having fun from now on – and will work the last two from a friends station. No more “Mr. DXCC Purist” for me.

So – onward – a new chapter at KY6R is upon me – and I don’t feel “shackled” to DXCC like I used to. I can just do whatever I want whenever I want to, and when Bouvet and Glorioso come on the air – I will make it more of a social event than just toiling by myself in my own shack. They no longer feel like something I feel obliged to do just to “finish up” – but something new and fresh. Its a huge relief actually – more than I would have expected.

That’s what I learned with 3Y0I . . . and I am sure they will try again – my guess is this coming Fall, but we shall see . . . I also expect that Glorioso will happen in the next few years too – and both will be a new experience for me: “social DXing” . . .

Back to the Future

I have returned my station back to its “pre – 3Y0I” glory. I’m glad the team avoided that nasty giant cyclone, and wish them luck in the future.

I’m very much looking forward to getting the Collins KWS-1 back now – I can devote all of my ham hobby time on my new love – “hollow state” and vintage ham gear.

Using vintage microphones and bugs with this baby will be a ton of fun. I will even get back into goofing around with the Collins 180S-1 tuners and some kind of array antenna out back.


3Y0I: Bouvet – The Hardest Entity to Activate

Last night I reminded the 3Y0I Pilot Team to check out Windy.com – when several were concerned that the MV Tuna had changed course abruptly. The minute everyone looked at Windy – it was obvious what was up. The system seems to have gotten even more organized and more treacherous – which isn’t a good thing at all. Its also absolutely huge in area. There is also that second storm – also no creampuff – but which pales in comparison to the big one. It almost looks like a vortex or cyclone – although the winds are about 70 mph (60 knots), which is considered just barely Gale Force Winds.

My biggest concern is that even if they were to get on the island – what happens if another big storm hits while they are on the island – and that that one lasts several days. When 3Y0E – Petrus was on Bouvet, I heard him and called him but he then had to abruptly shut down because he said his tent was being blown over. He high tailed it out of there soon after that.

The weather report does show a calming for a day or so – so it will be interesting what happens. I can only imagine that the team and crew of the ship – who have already been battered on their way there with high winds and waves will be making big decisions – and soon.

Here are the web sites to watch:


(go to the News section) and


I sure am thinking that Bouvet has to be the most difficult entity to activate.