Tag: radio

Hamarama © 2022

Carpe Diem

That title won’t mean much to most of my friends, colleagues, or folks who stumble across this post.

It will, however, mean much to those who know what it is.

The cliff note version is straightforward. Amateur radio operators have been around since Tesla and Marconi discovered ways to transmit and receive noise. They didn’t call them that in those days, but I would argue they were two of the first. If you think about it, they were doing what we do today.

No FCC or regulatory board was selling them permission to transmit a signal. No Japanese or Chinese companies were marketing expensive radios or other products, gadgets, etc. There was only raw determination, a pioneering spirit, and scientific discovery.

When I got into the hobby, I built my first transmitter out of TV parts. That might sound impressive, and it was for a ten-year-old, but I built it from a schematic created by an engineer.

We stand on the shoulders of giants.

Many of those giants, in my world, were the attendees at an event called Hamarama. A convention of folks organized by caring individuals for those like-minded is impressive.

Unlike most conventions for different hobbies, ham radio conventions and activities have ‘non-pecuniary’ as the cornerstone of their existence. Their motive is not for profit.

Most have a servant’s heart.

When there is bad weather, and your TV personality reflects his brilliance by what the ‘storm chasers or spotters’ are seeing, those people are genuine heroes. They are ham radio folks performing volunteer service that is risky and costly. They do this to keep you safe. And still, the FCC charges them for the right to have a license to use that same radio. Something is very wrong with our system of government.

Think about that as you try to relate your hobby to this one.

Contrast this hobby with the hobby of writing as an example. I can speak to this as I am a writer and author and out to change how writers think of themselves.

Conventions for writers are ridiculously expensive. Maybe someone can tell me or justify why someone should spend $500 on a ticket to hear these authors. They do public speaking to promote their brand.

I know many of the authors that would speak at this event. The draw for the writers is simple, access to an agent. Whoopie.

I realize that the description is vague, but the conventions for radio operators have the same programs, speakers, and alike that assist those who want to learn more about their craft. A ticket to Hamarama in Ardmore, Oklahoma, is $8, $10 at the door. That money goes back to the convention center rented for the event.

The speakers at writer’s events do it for notoriety, and they have pecuniary interests. They want to sell their books.

I have slogged through the trenches of both hobbies. Being an autodidact, striving for perfection is my way of life.

Marconi, Tesla, and Mark Twain were autodidacts. You could add Bill Gates to the list.

During my last trip to Ardmore, I realized that many of those people I looked forward to seeing were no longer with us.

Time is precious and fleeting. Don’t let it slip away from you.

Carpe Diem


Is it wise to purchase the latest greatest technology?

Is it wise to purchase the latest greatest technology?

When considering an investment in technology, the first thing to know is that you buy the Sizzle, Not the Steak.

What does that mean?

If you drive past a steak house, you will undoubtedly smell mesquite smoke or some other aroma to stir the juices accompanying that reward center of your brain. A wise entrepreneur will attempt to use all the senses as bait. The sizzle is the bait. Regarding steak, the payoff is delivering it to you exactly as you expect.

Theatres use popcorn. The fragrance will trigger memories. Possibly you are at the mall to look for clothes but, the scent, along with signs and lines of patrons, will trigger a diversion in many who are not on a tight schedule. The sizzle is reliving the memory even if the movie and company are different.  The first time you enjoy a movie with popcorn and friends is precious and becomes part of who you are.

Technology is loaded with promise. Unfortunately, it is also packed with inexpensive microcomputers and software with a finite lifetime.

Case in point and the reason for this article.

I collect and restore vintage radios. As long as the case is in good shape, I will consider the rest of the process of laying out cash for something that has little practical value in this world today. Why does only the case matter?

The components in that radio are still available.

My original entry into this hobby was Amateur Radio. The sizzle for me is to restore a radio and have it functional. The memory of when that radio was new transports me to an earlier time.  Many purchase things on eBay for the same reason.  The sizzle is that connection to a time when you sat on Grandma’s lap as she read to you. Perhaps it was that first easy bake oven or set of Legos.

With me, it was listening to a baseball game with my grandfather. The old floor model Zenith with that prominent speaker transported him and me to the game.  This event was a magical time and a fond memory.

Without beleaguering the point, my first expensive transceiver (A Swan 350D) still works. Yes, I have had to replace parts along the way but, I can still get them. That radio was the first hybrid to incorporate tubes, transistors, and some digital technology.

From HeathKit to Collins, even today, if you buy one at a swap meet, the odds are great; you will be able to find what you need to get it back on the air.

While technology marches on and offers us more whistles and bells, conversely, it takes longevity away.

In my closet is a costly modern radio. Built-in the 1990’s, this radio performed well, until one day it didn’t.  Not only was the radio a solid performer, but it also looked nice. Some would argue that the FT 990 was one of the best radio’s Yaesu ever built.

Once I narrowed it down, I knew what I needed; there was a catch.  The manufacturer no longer has the parts. Purchasing parts on eBay and other online sources is a crapshoot, as I found out.

Some people buy radios like mine, cannibalize them, much like the junkyards of old did with cars, and sell it one piece at a time. The part I ordered was butchered in the process and was worthless when it got to me.

As radio enthusiasts, I say all that to say this: we might need to shift our mindset, including how we spend our money.

In the 80’s I began the process of learning about computers. As an engineer, I saw the transition in progress.  Electronic devices were becoming something one used and trashed when they malfunctioned. Televisions are a perfect example

When asked about a contract on that new TV, ‘just in case,’ my response was ‘hell no.”  Firstly, it is wasted money, and secondly, when the thing dies, it will be time for something newer.

In the early days of home computers, a device with less power than your smartwatch costs a bundle.  Five hundred dollars for sixteen meg of ram was the going price. That ram was soon outdated, as was the entire computer.

Even back in the day, we should have realized we had purchased the sizzle. What could we do with that PC then? Word processors were indeed a novelty, as were spreadsheets.

Today, we have redesigned the radio to resemble a radio of old, but that ends with its appearance.

Menus instead of knobs and displays instead of an S meter which can be daunting to the older ham. There are also multiple ways to integrate your radio with your computer.  All of this ‘sizzle’ depends upon how long there are parts available, and your level of interest.

When you purchase a used radio, that mindset shift needs to include it’s age.

Much like an old car, it can only go so many miles. The radio is only viable as long as the replacement parts are available. The clock starts ticking the day it leaves the factory.

My Yaesu FT 990 is worthless as a radio; what about the other vendors?  My Kenwood TS 520S, along with the 830 S, still works perfectly. They are both much older than the FT 990. What if I purchased a used, but newer Kenwood of the same age as the FT 990? I suspect that parts for it might also be an issue.

My Alinco DX 70 went silent one day.  Alinco no longer carries that little speaker it uses.  My point is not to bash the vendors. If you are like me and enjoy the soft glow of a dial light along with watching an S-meter lazily sway with the QSB, consider only buying a new radio, not used.

Either stick with the vintage equipment you know you can get parts for or spend the dollars on a radio with warranty and longevity.

Research part availability before you invest your money and time in a new old radio.

The Chinese have sent a message to the world via products like the Baofeng.

I realize that many speak poorly of that radio but, I have several expensive handhelds that the replacement battery will cost more than a new radio with a battery.

Perhaps the cost of this radio is about what we should be paying for software-defined products with little longevity.

My name-brand handheld radios perform no better than the thirty-dollar version. Again, the only difference that I can see is the interface to program the radio.

If the Chinese radio stops working, I am not going to worry about finding parts. If my radio’s that cost a small fortune falter, I will invest the time and energy to repair them. Either the name brand manufacturers need to acquire the mindset that Hams value the radio as more than just a commodity, or the off-brand manufacturers can continue to design and sell radio’s that we can all agree are disposable once they die. 

The message is clear. If you want to sell a handheld or other product for hundreds of dollars more than the Chinese counterpart, the vendor’s mindset also needs to change.

We keep our radios and value them not as a commodity but as something we could pass on to our kids. Stocking replacement parts for expensive radios would benefit the community, and it would be a selling point.

While radios are not the only technology to suffer the fate of progress, we also see how the automobile industry is suffering because of the lack of computer chips.

If I were Ford, I would offer a ‘back to basics’ automobile. You would genuinely need to sell it and have people interested, but in truth, I would love to have a (new old car) with three on the tree, roll-up windows, and an AM radio with half a dozen presets. We don’t need chips to run the damned thing; we need a spark, gas, compression and air mixed and timed with points that need adjusting every so often.

Can you tell me what the sizzle might be? 


Watch Out For Crap Like This.

Watch Out For Crap Like This.

From the early 70’s I was tinkering with electronics.  While my peers were playing ball or getting their hearts broken, I was getting shocked and talking to people all over the world.

Peering through the back of a radio or perhaps the TV, one would see all these glowing amber lights.  Soon after my fascination with the front of the radiant dial on the old floor model radio piqued, I wanted to know how it worked.

Garage sales and discarded appliances became a source of amusement for me.  Boxes of small parts from different devices soon lived in the closet, under my bed, and soon I had to pare down the collection.  A borrowed receiver, some junk box parts, and a crystal as were the rules back then, I was on the air as a newly minted Novice Amateur Radio Operator.  The glowing 6AQ5 tube was the final for a whopping 7 watts unmodulated Carrier wave controlled by the steady fist of what they used to call ‘brass pounders.’

Today, 47 years after the date, I still remember Morse code, but I must confess I have not pounded a key in eons.

Tubes gave way to transistors, which soon turned into integrated circuits. Now we have software-defined radio that minimalizes the power usage and, of course, exaggerates the complications if you need to troubleshoot it.

Time marches on. 

A man once stipulated that we stand on the shoulders of giants, and the same is true of the law of accelerated return of advancement regarding technology.

Most teenagers today have more technology in their back pocket or on their wrist than we used to send a man to the moon.  What they do with it remains to be seen but, the possibility of great things is within their grasp.

Licensing for the Amateur Radio Service is nothing like it was.  One could argue that nobody builds anything anymore, so it does not need to be as difficult as it was back in 1973.

I still tinker, albeit minimally and mostly with antenna design and theory.  All that said to get to the point of this blog.

When I purchased this switch box online, I knew what to expect.  Never in a million years would I push any wattage through this thing.

When I wiggled the wires a number of them came lose of their own accord, cold solder joints.
Here is the inside of the box. Wow.

In my office resides a desk, with several different apparatuses on it.  From state of the art to antique, I still listen to and ‘mess’ with them on occasion.  You see I always appreciate the glow from the dial light of old shortwave radios.  I wanted a way to control the RF from my antenna to the different devices without messing with cables.

The name of this device is miss-leading, and I am confident if put to the test, they would call it a ‘name’ and say they never meant it to handle 1000 watts. With the wording CB in the advertisement, they could argue the illegality of using more than 12 watts PEP ergo ‘what were you doing with this thing?’

A smart person could take them to task, in that this thing would perform miserably at 27mhz.

Whoever designed it had a handle on DC but not AC.  The integrity of the 50 ohms impedance is violated, making this a horrible device even for switching between receivers.  Again I knew what to expect when I spent the $20.  Why then did I buy it?


Real coaxial switches have the same essential components, they are just well thought out.   If you look at the contact on the switch, you can tell that any kind of wattage would burn the connections and or arc over to the next.  In its original construction, I would not even use it for low wattage use.

Below you can see how I modified it with coax and common grounds.  One last modification is to add a ground lug to it, so I can ground the box to earth ground.


Enjoy your hobbies, and be very wary of crap from the Far East.  While it is all made there, ‘for the most part,’ some companies have a reputation at stake, while some just want to sell cheap junk.

In its original form, it was just that, junk.




Don’t throw it away just yet!

Don’t throw it away just yet!


Batteries are a troublesome thing and can be a real source of irritation.  Batteries used in devices like this keyboard, for instance, can be in there a long time before they need to be replaced.  The Current draw is small so the battery could last years.

My mouse was recently acting squirrely so I decided to change the batteries.  When I opened the battery cover the familiar white crystals of “leaked battery” were everywhere.  Managing to clean the contacts I decided to change those in my keyboard as well.  Also leaked everywhere but not near as easy to clean.  Removing about 25 screws to separate the keyboard I was indeed able to clean the contacts and remove the crystals which had formed.

The batteries had a shelf life until 2023.  They were indeed still working.  I had another device that I had used at Christmas last year and put up with the batteries in it.  Retrieving it from the closet I took pictures for you.  Also still had power in them which was amazing but defective.


Duracell has been my go to battery for decades.  Occasionally I get the other brand and it is a good thing that I did.

Another apparatus that I depend on is a lightening defector by Acurite.

As a radio enthusiast and a bit of an outdoor nut, I want to know if there is weather around.  Here in Texas, we get some rather nasty cloud to ground lightning.

The backlight in the detector was dim so I decided to replace the batteries before the last storm.

Installing the new batteries the apparatus did not work.


Taking a closer look at the batteries it became apparent that the new version of Duracell AAA batteries has a smaller tit on the positive end.  This means that it may very well not make contact with the battery contacts.


If you look carefully you can see that there is a gap of a few thousandths of an inch between the end of the battery and the terminal.  This is a common type of connector in radio’s and other battery operated things.

If your device fails to work after replacing the batteries, check this!

If you happen to know anyone at Duracell you might forward this to them.

Houston you have a problem!

Save the landfills and your hard earned money, check the batteries and the connections.


Kits and other fun stuff from eBay

Kits and other fun stuff from eBay


I admit it; I am a gadget freak!  Ever since I was a little guy and I heard an announcers voice come out of a radio, I was hooked.

radio parts

There was indeed something magical about listening to a baseball game on the radio.  We had this Zenith floor standing Radio with that magic green eye in the dial.  Lights from the dial illumined the room as often you would find yourself transfixed on their voice and their description of the action on the field.

Those days are gone.

We have ample flat screen TV’s in super ultra 4 K extra high definition! Whatever all that means.  Much like having a stereo that faithfully reproduces a square wave frequency from 20 to 20 KHz when the human hearing is good up to 12khz or 14Khz tops, one has to wonder.  How many colors can my eye slash brain actually discern?


Satellite Radio offers some nostalgia for those of you who like Johnny Dollar or the Shadow knows.  There are many more stations that one can listen to on road trips.  The art of producing such a radio broadcast is probably all but lost today.

What you can hear on the radio itself, pales in comparison to what the radio used to provide.

AM radio is basically talk radio or news all day.

FM radio, of course, is everything from soup to nuts.

Portable radios of not too long ago, 70 years or so, were tube based.  Two batteries were required, and of course, the longevity of the batteries was not that great.

The TR-1 was the first radio that was a joint effort between two companies.



Other companies jumped on the bandwagon with the advent of the transistor.  Now you could build a portable radio and power it with inexpensive batteries.  This device would fit into a shirt pocket or purse comfortably.

I have purchased two kits from eBay sources that are radio’s that mimic those of today.

One was a straight AM radio with a similar design to those of 60 years ago.  There were no directions included with them that a non-Chinese writing, reading person, could make much sense of.

Building the device using the knowledge that I have, I was able to get it working satisfactorily.  The AM FM radio kit that I bought was also lite on instructions and some parts.

Thankfully the parts missing were easily obtained from my supplies of parts.

This radio contained SMT (surface mount technology) which is always somewhat fun to “weld” as they say in their instructions.  I don’t guess that there is a word for solder in Chinese.

I am always thrilled when I first power up a kit, and it works from the get-go.  No smoke or other short circuits. Noise with modulation did indeed emanate from the speaker.  Soon enough there was a ball game being broadcast which, caused me to pause for a moment.


After everything seemed to work as it should, I finished the assembly installing it into the case provided.

The difference between this radio and one of the 70’s was that there are three integrated circuits inside this radio.

  • One of them is the AM radio.
  • Another is the FM Radio
  • The third is the amplifier

Now give that some thought for a second.  The significant parts of the radio were all on chips.  The SMT chip is the FM radio.  The eight-pin DIP is actually a stereo amplifier chip.  The third which had I not looked carefully at resembles a transistor complete in a TO 92 case.  Three legs only.  That is the AM radio which is actually a several transistor AM radio.

All of the rest of the components are supporting components that they could not build inside the chips.

A handful of capacitors and a few resistors, switches and one variable capacitor.

The FM radio oddly enough does not track linearly as it should.  At either end of the band the stations come in, but in the middle, there are “birdies” and dead space.  This might very well be a design flaw in the circuitry.  You can get all of the stations, but they are not where the pointer says they should be.  After adjusting the trim cap on the variable capacitor, I was able to get stations to come in but again not where they belong.

The AM radio is another disappointment.  Yes, it works, and I can get the stations to come in where they should however…. The strong stations swamp the weaker stations.  I have two strong stations close to my house, so they indeed swamp the receiver.  If you ever had a crystal radio, this is much like that only it has a speaker and power.

Some quick research on the AM chip, I learned that this is a flaw of the chip.  One person has designed a circuit to lower the voltage to the semiconductor alone.  This modification supposedly allows the AGC to act correctly inside the chip enabling the radio to have more selectivity.

I have ordered some of the AM chips.  I plan to “play” with that design myself to see if indeed there is a way to build a radio with that chip that is satisfactory.


As a Ham Radio Enthusiast, when I see a complete dual band handheld radio with a flashlight and FM broadcast radio built in for under $50 dollars, one has to wonder how the major brands will compete with this.


In short the Chinese have multiple “kits” that are on eBay.  I firmly believe that many of these kits were sub-assemblies for larger apparatuses that were discontinued.  The market for DIY folks like myself is rife with such things as most of us don’t need instructions.  If on the other hand, you are one of those “step one, step two, folks these kits may not be for you.

The lack of instructions requires that you bring to the table a wealth of experience.  Knowing how to “weld,” solder is mandatory.  Having some idea of what you are building so you can take precautions with static electricity and of course high voltages is also a good idea.

One of the “kits” on the way is a device modeled after the Tesla coil.  There are high voltages present.  If this turns out to be worth it, I will blog about it.

tesla plasma

If it works as expected audio from some device should modulate the plasma.

Why, why not?  It might modulate the gases inside CFL tubes or neon lights too!

Hope you enjoy the blogs and of course take advantage of your tinkering time.



Are we cooking ourselves? Here is some food for thought.

Are we cooking ourselves? Here is some food for thought.


As a technology minded person, I often wondered about those who design cordless devices.  In particular, I am addressing phones.  I assume some government agency somewhere spent millions of your tax dollars to come up with what someone thinks are safe levels of radiation.

Maybe these people know more than the rest of us, or maybe they don’t.

Case in point.

The standard cordless phone in 2017 most probably transmits to the base either at 900 MHz or 2.4 GHz.  While your phone may advertise the higher frequency of 5.4 GHz that is most probably from the base to the phone.

Split frequency designs like this are prudent as it takes more power to transmit higher frequencies.

Now, these cell phones that we all carry around transmit either in the 850 MHz range or 1.8 ~1.9 GHz range.

MHz (Mega Hertz) stands for millions of cycles per second,  GHz is (Giga Hertz) or billions of cycles per second.  So every second depending upon the frequency, the RF (radio frequency) cycles millions or billions of time.  IE 2.4 GHz is 2 billion, four hundred million, cycles per second.

Frequency should not be confused or conflated with power.

Power for our conversation today is watts.  How much power or how many watts of RF (radio frequency) are we talking about?

Cell phones transmit up to 1.7 watts of power.

Cordless phones transmit as much and possibly more than a cell phone.  The interesting aspect of this is there is this DECT (Digital Enhanced Cordless Telecommunications) technology that has been around for a little while now.  They sell it as a plus but European studies have shown this might be more hazardous to your health than its predecessor.

The base of this technology is transmitting full power all the time whether your phone is in use or not. If the base is next to your bed or on your desk you are constantly bombarded with 5.4 GHz or at the least 2.4 GHz of radiated power in the form of RF.

Move it away from your body.

Why am I writing about this?

Ever since the first cell phones came out I wondered what they were doing and why.  These phones are always talking to the cell towers announcing their availability and telling them where they are while checking in.  The phone was and is smart enough to adjust its power level depending upon what is needed to communicate with the tower effectively.  The reasons are many but the main idea is to “talk” with one cell tower at a time.

My phone, even today will often time be warm in my pocket, or just sitting on the desk.

While we really have no idea what a smartphone is doing all the time, you can bet if it is warm, it is transmitting something.


I built this little device with a few diodes.  I will not belabor the technical aspects of this device other than to say it does not have any batteries.  These devices are passive in that the only way that they are energized would be by outside energy fields or EM (electromagnetic) forces.

I got the idea from the crystal radio of my youth.  Yes, I built one and housed it inside a pen casing.  With a single diode and a coil and very little know how I had a radio that would pick up local radio stations and never needed a battery.

Since my original device that I designed and built years ago, I found this version on the internet for a few dollars.

Setting this thing on top of my phone it soon became obvious that the cell phone is transmitting constantly.

  • Is it looking for data?
  • Is the phone talking to the tower?
  • Is the phone talking to my Wi-Fi network?

The answer is yes.  We really have no idea if the phone is doing anything else in the (tin foil hat category).

Now with 1.7 watts of RF at 2GHz, give or take, right next to your ear hole, one has to wonder if that is healthy.

Out of curiosity, I moved my device around the phone to discover that the most of the radiation or highest amounts come out of the phone right by the earpiece.  Why?

Knowing RF and the possible link to brain tumors, lymphoma and other nasty things why would the engineers put the transmitting antenna where it would be closest to your head?

This is the iPhone 6S.


My curiosity got the best of me so I checked my cordless phones.


The light powered strictly by RF from the phone is very bright, right on the ear hole and down by the mouthpiece, the light, or power output is nonexistent.


Imagine that your phone has enough RF power to illuminate an LED to full intensity and that energy is being pumped into your head right through your ear hole and of course next to your skull.

Tell me; why in the hell would you not put the antenna at the base of the phone where it would be furthest away from the body/brain?  The energy required to light the led dissipates with distance.  Logic would dictate that the less energy radiated close to your brain would be a good thing.

The pictures speak for themselves but now you know what you are looking at.

What can we do?

First off, we should ask the government for our money back that they paid for these studies.  One would think that if they can come up with SAR (specific absorption rate) and what is safe that just maybe they might have said, “you know, you phone makers should place the transmitter/antenna away from their brains.”

It is kind of like that commercial where the bank is being robbed and the guard says, “Oh I am not a guard, just a monitor… you are being robbed.”  What good is the FCC if they cannot think outside the box? The government, which they are part of, is to protect its citizens from faulty designs, much like the Corvair of the 60’s.  Where is Ralph Nader these days?

It is amazing to me that they did scientific studies to figure out how much tissue would cook or be damaged by rf.  Then they came up with the acronym SAR and finally did nothing more about it.  “Look for a phone with a low SAR rating.”  Are there labels, using this phone can cause brain cancer?”

What is so germane about 2.4 GHz and why am I sounding a little stressed about this?

That box in your kitchen that burns popcorn so nicely happens to work in that same frequency range.

Since there are millions of microwave ovens out there the FCC put broadband Wi-Fi, cordless phones, and many other unlicensed transmitters that the public uses in that same frequency range as the microwave oven.   Part of your license on each piece of equipment reads something to the effect that this device must accept and deal with  RFI or radiofrequency interference.

How does the microwave oven work and what does that have to do with my phone?

Microwave energy excites the molecules in stuff causing them to move faster.  Much like rubbing your hands together you get friction which causes heat.  That is how a microwave heats your lean cuisine dinner or left-overs from Sunday Brunch.  Yes it uses more power but I ask you, would you stick your head in your microwave to see how long it takes to fry your brains?  Consider the cell phone or cordless phone like a microwave crock pot, it might take longer but eventually, something is bound to be heated up.

Just for you people who think that I am a tin foil hat kind of person think of this one. 

How many of our urchins you call grade schoolers now have the very latest iPhone sticking out of the back pocket.  A trip to any mall will answer this question.  Even if it is a hand me down generation 5, it puts out all sorts of power right next to that thinner more malleable skull and younger more tender, still forming brain tissue.

Then there is this whole blood brain barrier thing that doctors talk about.  Does it really seem like a wise idea to put that kind of power that close to those newly formed brain cells?  They are future tax payers you know. Wink wink…

Possibly one of them will say, “someone should really put the transmitter in the base of this thing away from my brain.” Will it take a child to figure this out?  Maybe a riot on the Berkly campus to get the attention of corporate america who might tend to overlook such things.

I know, I am gettin my tin foil out… 

With telecommunications being a multi-trillion dollar industry it is no wonder that this is overlooked.  Much like the back scatter x-ray porn scanners at the airport which virtually strip search you, there is a greater good.  Bombarding our bodies with ionizing radiation is not harmful as long as the government says that it is ok. (sarcasm)

Calling attention to it might cost Nokia or Apple or Panasonic a few dollars.  What is the big deal about a few brain tumors, “can you hear me now?”

Since industry will probably not respond, how can you protect yourself?

Blue Tooth technology also uses RF in the same 2.4 GHz range but the power is very low.  A class one transmitter uses about 1mw or Millie Watt.  There is a newer headset that wraps around your neck with the earpiece extending from them.  That would put the blue tooth transceiver around your neck away from your brain.

Try to always use a headset or speakerphone, and if they still have them, a corded phone.

Use e-mail or text and by all means try talking to people face to face.  I know that is a radical concept but, I don’t think you are in danger of getting exposed to radiation that way.

About the device…

While the original crystal radio of my day used a 1N34 germanium diode this device uses nine 1SS86 diodes one tied to the other with an LED as one of the diodes.  The legs are purposefully left long like that as they act as the antenna to capture any energy that might be present.

If you are creative you could make it look like a bug with a tail and a head that glowed.  Just a thought.

I am not claiming to be an expert on any of this.  Just a person who thinks common sense is in limited supply.  These days we too readily accept that which is, without asking why.  Ask Why!




Am Radio kit from China

Am Radio kit from China

Cheap Chinese Radio Kit

As a radio enthusiast from way, back I thought that it might be fun to build a radio from a kit.

A quick search of eBay turned up a simple six transistor kit for less than $10.

I was interested in a kit that was as close to the radio’s we had in the 1960’s which would leave out anything with integrated circuits.

Ordering the kit it was about 3 weeks  before it arrived and another 2 months before I opened it.


radio parts.jpg
Radio kit from China
Not wild about the color of the case nor the front plate, but this is a kit, not a work of art; right?

notice the 2 transistor places marked v4

The board looks pretty straight forward.

Problem 1… the instruction are all in Mandarin.

T2, T3 and T4 Are not interchangeable.


Parts list for AM Radio
Those character by the purple blotch are the designations of which are which.

On another part of the document is a chart for the resisitor color code.  Since I know what it is I can work it backwards and figure out what the colors should be.


There you go…the primer as it were. BBROYGBVGW 
Now working this backward…The IF cans were identified.


T5 is the audio output transformer and it too has a key.  Notice the white dot on the board and the slightly raised up bump on the housing of the transformer.

The rest of this was simply to populate the board correctly and see if you guessed right.


board before final parts installation.
I noticed on the circuit board that there were traces that were not completed for some reason.  If I could read Mandarin I am guessing that possibly those are stages at which you could do tests before completing the entire circuit.


Notice the C and the D… There is also an A and a B which are not completed either.


Over to the left of the board you can see two of the incomplete circuit paths.

This is why the kit is so inexpensive.
If you look carefully at the parts layout you will notice that V4 and V5 should really be V5 and V 6 as there are two V4’s wich in our nomenclature would be Q4,5 and 6.

So not only are the instructions worthless to those who cannot interpret Mandarine the printing is flawed.


Schematic showing amplifier. 
My review and guess of this “kit” is that someone bought a bunch of them because they were dirt cheap as the printing was flawed.

The kit does not use a detector diode which causes it to lack sensitivity.  My guess is that they are using the driver Transistor as part of the detector as well.

Since these are silicon transistors and not germanium that too hinders the performance as a detector.

Once built you must insert a 455Khz signal with the variable capacitor open and tune the black If can for maximum sound output.

Using a non-metallic tuning tool you can then tune for your radio stations.  The two adjustments on the back of the variable cap work in conjunction with the oscillator and the last IF can to set the stations on the dial accordingly.

Even though this kit was cheap, unless you have some pretty good radio savvy, I would take a pass.

As an FYI the speaker is very tinny sounding.

I took a short video of it working but, the video type is not compliant with WordPress.  Sorry about that.


(c) All rights Reserved 2016








GreCom PSR 700

GreCom PSR 700

Tacky radio


Well, one would think that I was about to write a commentary on some DJ, or perhaps some radio personality that was messy, or ill fit for their job but, that is not the case.

This is actually a technical article regarding the GRECOM PSR 700.

This radio is actually a very nice, easy to use scanner, for the person who wants to listen immediately without punching in all of those dozens of frequencies.

The data base comes on a small SD card that you simply install in the radio under the batteries and it is then menu driven with familiar controls as it mimics the old iPod in many respects.

I picked up the radio the other day as I have not used it in over a year.  With Trumps visit coming up and all of the protesters I thought that listening in might prove interesting.

When I picked up the radio it literally stuck to my hand.  This thing was made in China and I am guessing that like their famous capacitor flub up they too did not do something right with the chemical makeup of the case on the radio.  The plastic actually started to break down and reacted with the atmosphere “I am guessing.”

If you run your fingernail along the back of the plastic the “sticky” actually comes off and adheres to your fingernail much like the glue on those nasty little labels that you find on so many things that you buy now days.

Going on the web looking for a solution there was not one.  There are others that have reported this but, Grecom is out of business.   I am guessing that the refund or warrantee of all of the radios that this affected was too much for them and they abandoned those customers.

I took the battery cover off and simply tried to wash it.  Dish soap and a brush just made a sticky mess of both the brush and my hands.

Even if it worked you could not run the radio under water so some other form of “fix” was going to have to be discovered.

Goo Gone to the rescue.

Using Goo Gone and that little plastic tool that you use to take laptops of smartphones apart worked nicely.

Simply get a little goo gone on your finger and rub it on to the area that you want to clean.

After it sits for a few minutes use the tool much like a scraper and small deliberate strokes and you will see the sticky crap come off and pile up at the end of the stroke.

If you feel comfortable dismantling the radio first that might be your best bet as any mistake will have this stuff inside your radio.

I carefully did this too all of the surfaces removing as much as the sticky stuff as possible.  I then got a cloth rag and with some force rubbed and buffed the rest as best I could.

I finished the process with “Windex,” and a paper towel. Dampen the paper towel with Windex, never spray it on to the radio.  Small deliberate forceful strokes, removed the rest of the nastiness that was nothing more than flypaper on my radio.  Cosmetically the radio is not as pristine as it once was, and the lettering that was under the sticky mess disappeared as well.

The radio is still usable, and does not stick too anything any longer.

If you are thinking about buying one of these online think twice as you may be buying a sticky mess.

This is not for the faint of heart and I am disappointed that I spent that kind of money and have a radio that clearly is not as pristine as it was when I bought it.

If you have one of these here is the page for downloads and if you want third party out of warranty service..  I contacted them several days ago and no response so, your mileage may very…



108556-03 108556-04 GooGone-4oz


© All Rights Reserved 2015

Vintage Radio’s

Vintage Radio’s

  • How about a post that has nothing political in it?
  • How about a post that is instructional and interesting?
  • Think I can do it?

Me personally, sometimes I feel like someone is going to have to develop a twelve step program to break the addiction of collecting and repairing these things.  Truth be known some of these are highly collectable and some are well, just not.

I am guessing that if one saves them long enough the radios that are not collectable today will be at some point in the future.

To that end, I collect those that are “collectible” today as well as radio’s that are unique or sought after for some reason ie the Owl Radio from Clash of the Titans.

Owl Radio from the 60's

More often than not I will purchase a collection of radio’s from different sources.  I might purchase the entire collection because one of the radio’s in that collection is collectable or I might get them because I need parts that I know they will render.

Radio from lot

The bottom line is the case must be intact.  It must look good with no cracks etc.  If it is busted all to hell it turns into a parts piece and devalued substantially.

Today I worked on a radio that was marketed to the US although it is typically marketed to the Russians.

Repaired, aligned and cleaned up….

Someone had worked on it sometime in the past as the slugs were all out of place.  I guess it is terribly irresistible to resist  putting a screwdriver in the transformers and trimmer caps, as I get more radio’s that have been tweaked, by someone with a screwdriver, instead of the proper alignment tool.


Having said that this radio defies common logic, in that the wire colors that we come to expect over here in the states is backwards.  Red which normally denotes positive, was the negative lead and of course that made the black wire positive.


When I first apply power to one of these radios I do so with a variable supply.  Turning the radio on first, then slowly increasing the voltage from 0 to whatever the voltage should be whether it be 3,6 or 9 volts or somewhere in between.  The trick is to have a power supply with an amp meter.

Most transistor radios draw very little current.  If you start to raise the voltage and the current starts to jump and maybe hold at 10 milliamps or so, check your polarity.

Bottom line is that after I figured out that the power leads are opposite of what one might expect the next thing needed was an alignment.

In most radio’s like this you start with injecting a signal at 455khz.  After tuning the proper transformer and trimmer cap for this, than I move on to tweaking the rest of them for maximum sensitivity at 1600, 55 and finally around 800khz.

The process takes less than a five minutes and when finished the radio is as good as new.

Most of these vintage electronics need new caps “electrolytic capacitors.”  Caps made in the day were expensive so the manufacturers used the minimums that they could get by with.   Tracing and/or injecting a signal one can usually tell which if any caps are bad, and within moments, have the audio back to where it should be.

Radio needing new caps.
Radio needing new caps.

Some of the newer capacitors on the market are NP or non-polarized!  Too often I pull out and old cap to find I did not remember which direction to install the new one as I need to keep the negative and positive leg in the correct holes.  With NP caps simply install them and move on.

I suggest that you take pictures before taking too much apart as without a print if a wire pops off, you can have a devil of a time figuring out where it went.

Six transistor radio’s are the most common and really all you need to pull in strong station and actually differentiate between the different stations without too much overlap.

Eight Transistor Radios have much better sensitivity and are able to differentiate strong stations from weak ones thus, you can have much better selectivity.  My favorite radio to actually keep batteries in are the 8 transistor variety.

Some manufacturer’s in the day found that they could use the PN junction as a diode but yet claim that they had 10, 12 or even 16 transistors!  The unknowing public equated that to the “jewels in a watch.”  The more the better and so they had a gimmick until some government agency clamped down on them.  If the transistor is being used as a diode it cannot be counted as a transistor.

Ross to name just one of the brands was one of the manufacturers that became famous for this tactic.

Shortly after Bell labs came out with the transistor Raytheon and a company named Idea came out with the first transistor radio.  It was know as the Regency TR-1.



These are highly collectible even today.  Around $100 might get you one that the case is basically in tact.

This is a nice looking example of the TR-1

Before this portable radio’s were tube based and used two different batteries to play them.  One of the I believe was a high voltage battery known as the “B” battery, and one drove the filaments and I think it was 1.5 volts.



I have a few of these but, with no availability of the B battery, I think that other than something to sit on a shelf; it is a waste of time and energy to collect.  Your mileage may vary…

If I get enough interest I might post more radio stuff in the future as I work on many of these and it is a hobby.

See, no political rhetoric on this post, I can do it!  🙂

-Best and 73

© All Rights Reserved

eBay and Honesty

eBay and Honesty

By the title you can guess where I am going with this post.


I am a big boy and smart enough to know when a deal is too good to be true… Having said that some folks are just over the top dishonest.

I collect and with some luck restore, vintage electronics.  I don’t do it for money; I do it because it gives me pleasure.  I enjoy repairing something that someone else could not for one reason or another and… Sometimes I simply enjoy the challenge.

Small hand held radios
This is NOT the lot that I am writing about…

Small transistor radios from the 50’s and 60’s are a specialty of mine in that when I was a kid I thought that it was magic.  How someone in one place could have their voice come out over a speaker in a small battery powered device well, was magic.

Thinking back on those days I wonder what I would have thought about smart phones?!


Selling and buying on eBay has its challenges and I think its opportunities for people to be a little better.  With the feedback scenario it somewhat forces us to play nice; and that is a good thing.


While we should not need such a thing to play nice, that is simply the way of man. I wish it were different.

I often will purchase a “lot” of radio’s or a lot of some electronic thing that maybe I am looking for one or more of a certain kind in the lot and then sell the rest or repair them and sell them or what have you.

One such purchase was a purchase of a handful of RCA Radio’s from the 60’s.

When they arrived I opened the box and noticed straight away that they all rattled which meant that they had been taken apart.  “That was not noted in the description.”

Upon taking the backs off not only had they been taken apart but they had obviously been in some sort of flood situation as they were covered on the inside with mud. “Also not noted.”

To further the “insult” some of them had parts missing from them, also not noted.

I paid a fair price for these as if they were simply “not tested.”

When someone says something like, “I don’t know how to test this.” Translated, “I did everything that I know how to do and this thing does not work!”   I get that and I understand that people do this but… to sell something that has been taken apart, things removed from and oh by the way, had been under water!  Folks, that is wrong on so many levels.  This type of activity gives eBay itself a black eye and I think messes with the whole concept of eBay in that it is a self-policing community.

This blog is about one of those radios and how I managed to bring it back to life in-spite of the fact that it was pretty much ready for the re-cycle bin.


Taking the back off of the radio it pretty much just came apart looking as you see it.

The mud and rust are all one needs to conclude that this was under water and most probably in a flood situation as this is also the way the rest of them appeared.


Normally when water gets on electronics there is an acidic effect that actually eats the traces and I did not see that here.


Removing the circuit board and cleaning both controls with contact cleaner as well as washing the board I could then dry it and apply power to see what needed to be replaced if anything.

IMG_2231One small capacitor by the volume control was the only part that needed replacing.  The rest was simply cleaning the mud out of the controls and doing a simple alignment.


Miraculously, the speaker just needed the dust blown out of it and while it is certainly not perfect it plays about as loud and with the fidelity that a radio of this age will have.

IMG_2230 Here is the radio after cleaning and repairing with a new battery shield installed.

IMG_2232 Radio after repair and cleaning.  

People ask me when I am looking, what am I looking for in old electronics….

First and foremost, the case must be in tact. 

The more damaged the case, the less of a collectible it is.  The problem with transistor radio’s is that they are portable!  Portable means that they get dropped, knocked about etc.

One of the radio’s I purchased was a Walkie talkie which I paid top dollar for.  When I got it I found that it too had been under water but the board was green with corrosion and since it was surface mount technology with corrosion it was trash.

Folks, I will ding you if you knowingly sell crap.  I have not had too many that I have dinged but, I expect some modicum of honesty.  I sell as well as I am overly honest about what I sell as I would rather not get top dollar and have a satisfied customer than someone like me who feels the need to blog about it!

If it has been under water, tell the folks, it has been under water or under the chicken coop or what have you.  the simple truth is that not everything that you own is worth anything on eBay or Craig’s list or the local junk shop.  Somethings just need to be thrown away!

Had the fellow with the handful of radio’s been honest about them I might still have bid on them as the cases looked ok but at least I would have known that I was buying plastic cases that had been under water and, had parts missing!

Many people will not take returns on electronics and do you know why?  People will buy them, take whatever parts off of them they were looking for and then return them as not working!  So, they have screwed it up for everyone as I will certainly not take returns on electronics!

This is where it works really well if you take the time to “ding” a dishonest seller or buyer. If they do not make it right, than you know what to do.

If you have some old electronics that you would like to sell, drop me a line.  I have purchased radios from all over the globe and while I am not trying for a number that would have me move out of the house to store them, I am interested in finding some that I don’t currently have.  It does not have to work, it just needs to look good and have all of the parts.


(c) All Rights Reserved 2015