Wednesday, July 31, 2019



Here we are in 2019. But first, let's look at what I wrote 10 years ago -


In 2001, I wrote about this unique T.I. CB, and wondered if anyone had ever seen or owned one. I never got a reply from someone who did. But the saga continues:

TEXAS INSTRUMENTS, the Calculator/IC manufacturer was supposed to introduce a new CB in the late 70's (1977/78), model number SM-172/mobile SM-173/Base. This was a unique radio: Remote mount with all the controls in the mike-head. 

"Hey" you exclaim, "There's nothing unique about that". This is true my friends, but this is the only one I know of that was AM AND SSB! The other interesting feature was the "Auto-Tune" clarifier. 

TI said that it would auto tune your SSB signals for you and maybe that's why I don't recall seeing more than just a picture of one (How in the world would is determine which SSB signal you wanted clarified?). 

If you remember those first handheld TI calculators with the little red LED display then you recognise the "look" of this am-ssb-in-the-mike rig. If anyone actually OWNS one, send me an e-mail with some photo's and your comments!


Every day, information is easier than ever to find on the Internet, and especially so in GOOGLE Books. I was doing a search (unrelated to TI) on Citizens Band Radio when I happened across a treasure trove of Popular Mechanics magazines, on GOOGLE BOOKS, that went back beyond the birth of CB.

So now I was curious to see if their coverage of the "new" 40 channel radios had any further mention of the TI CB and hit pay dirt! While this was not an in-depth article on the TI radio, it did offer further details:

First of all - does anyone else think this guy looks like a young Donald Trump? No? Okay. Moving on...

After the 23 channel radio blood bath (which forbid selling non-40 channel radios after January 1977), "review" articles appeared in many CB magazines extolling the virtues of the new rigs.

In November 1977, Popular Mechanics had a several page article detailing the new SSB sets on the market, as well as transceivers that would soon come out.

One such rig was the Texas Instrument SM-172/173 series of computer aided transceivers.

The mobile unit was to sell for around $300, with the base station only $100 more. For either rig, the handheld microphone was the heart of operations. Featuring a LED channel display you could change channels easily as well as select your mode of operation (AM-LSB-USB). The complete features on the microphone were:
  • Channel selector
  • Mode selector
  • Volume up/down
  • Clarifier
  • Keypad with direct channel input
  • Clear channel scan
  • SWR Check
  • Selective call

The selective call idea was nothing new to CB radio however TI's approach was. It would only work between two different TI transceivers with each radio having its own unique digital identifier so only another identifier loaded in memory could break squelch

The SM series also offered automatic frequency clarification. When the microphone was keyed it would send out a very brief two-tone signal which would be used by another SM series radio to get exactly on frequency - negating the use of a clarifier when two of these transceivers communicated.

While innovative to the max, it's easy to see how this CB would have failed. Their closed system architecture, while futuristic, was predicated with the knowledge that it could only work between one TI CB and another.

Could this be why the TI system never saw the light of day, and was quickly killed off by Texas Instruments itself? 

Unless any new info comes my way we will have to assume the answer is "YES", or, another update in 2029?



Friday, July 19, 2019



Thursday, July 18, 2019


JULY 14-18

I have a good variety of  YouTube subjects for your edification. While some weeks go by without much of anything to view, others (like this one) have TMI. Let's begin...

VIDEO NO. 1 is a very good, and very technical lesson on "How Antennas Work"

IN VIDEO NO.2 W6LG talks about how best to set your microphone gain.

VIDEO NO.3 is a documentary on the making of "Diamonds Are Forever"

VIDEO NO.4 takes you on a tour of KB3RHR's vintage AM shack

IN VIDEO NO. 5 W6LG is back again, this time comparing antennas for your Baofeng HT




One image from that update includes this rig - Midland 76-900 UK FM Version.



Tuesday, July 16, 2019



IF you have, then click on this LINK.


Monday, July 15, 2019



11m is alive and well in the US and Canada but what about England? Well, as previously reported, "Fred-In-The-Shed" and the group he talks with on 27.305 USB is fairly active in the South Eastern part of the UK.

But there's more...

While checking out several of my bookmarked UK SDR sites yesterday I happened to notice some waterfall activity just below the Triple Nickel. It was Sunday morning around 9:30 a.m. (CST) and a local UK group was in the middle of their afternoon Net near Derby (because I was listening to an SDR site based in Derby and their signals were fairly strong I figured they were close by).

So where was I?  On 27.515 USB

I was listening to the East Midlands SSB DX Group which was running their usual Sunday afternoon Net (UK Time). At least a half dozen operators were in attendance, as well as a "guest" check-in from a YL named Emma

She was using her boyfriends setup but seemed pretty well acquainted with the lingo, and after the Net ended she QSY'd a few kc's "UP" to initiate a QSO with another station. Shortly after that, the SDR waterfall lit up with activity from France, and then much later - Italy.

While this isn't an exact recording of the Italian traffic I heard, this YouTube post is pretty darn close!

It's good to know that many frequencies aren't as empty as they seem- you just have to listen for awhile...


Sunday, July 14, 2019



Get your "ears" on! 

The Milford Amateur Radio Club will operate N1A (Neil #1 Armstrong) in celebration of the First Man on the Moon

Club members will operate between July 14th through July 28th as availability permits on various bands and modes. 

There will also be a local field operation from East Fork State Park at the Indian Mound Shelter on the July 20th anniversary.

Operating on the following SSB frequencies:

  • 28.350
  • 14.260
  • 7.240
  • 3.840





Thursday, July 11, 2019


Stateside you may or may not have heard of ML&S (Martin Lynch and Sons), however in the UK it's a different story. Recently, Martin did a quick review of RM Italy's BLA-600 solid-state amplifier. Very cool, but expensive.

If you're dying for some 11m DX and have about 5 hours to kill, take a listen to Skipgates post from 6/19/2019.

Jim, W6LG, talks about using Ferrite beads, common mode chokes, and correcting RFI in the shack.

If you're old enough to remember the TV show "Space 1999"  content publisher Shout Factory is releasing the entire series on Blu-Ray July 16th. But, why wait? They have episode 1 online now. (which I've followed since they began) has a new episode (54) of their Ham College series.

Finally, the latest episode from the No Net Net folks, where they talk to
KB3WUM, who has a shack. At work. 200' in the air.


- - . . . / . . . - -




Monday, July 08, 2019



While 11m is dead in SE Texas, the Atlantic coastal states up thru Canada continue to have decent activity thanks to weather systems that continue to move West-to-East across the Nation. This is the biggest downside on having a QTH so far South in Texas because it's rare to get a frontal system that will pass thru after the end of May. Until the Sun starts spitting out Sunspots, both 10 & 11 meters will be in the doldrums. 

In listening to one of my favorite SDR websites I found lots of activity from 26.5 - 29Mhz. Previously I've mentioned the "Super Bowl" channel (ch.7 AM) and the enormous watts scattered into the ether by those "big" stations, but moving up the dial I found ch.28 to be just as annoying.


While listening on 27.385 LSB I heard one of the operators talking about getting splatter from ch.28 (27.285) AM, which was 100 kHz below 38. A quick look at the waterfall was all it took to see why - whoever this guy was he was spreading toxic rf as low as ch.20 and as high as ch.38 - not one of 11m better moments.


While the McKinley has been around for over a 2 1/2 years, and has received generally favorable reviews, it was surprising to find that New Zealand's "Yeticom" was just now getting a hold of it. Apparently they received it last month (June) and are just now in the review stage. Quite possibly the auto-SWR meter function is the "most liked" feature of the radio. It takes all of the guess work out of the equation.

MikesRadioRepair does a complete review on his YouTube channel (SEE BELOW).

Also - CB Magazine has a written review as well as the YouTube video below.



As I just mentioned SSB and AM in a previous paragraph, here is a 2017 Podcast by the ARRL "The Doctor Is In" discussing both modes courtesy QRZnow.

Also, looking into my archives I found my Oreo cookie diagram (right) which shows the Oreo being one CB channel (lower, middle, upper) AND, if used on AM your 5 watt RF output would more-or-less be spread across the entire cookie 😢. 

On the other hand, by choosing either LSB or USB you can concentrate your 5 watt output on just one wafer of the Oreo.😁

While on the subject of "The Doctor Is In", if you are trying to figure out what type of coaxial cable is best for you, check out the July 4th episode available through APPLE, GOOGLE, or follow this link to QRZnow.

  'Nuff For Monday,


Sunday, July 07, 2019


Whether you run QRP in the field, or 100 watts, radio operators around the world have come up with their own homebrew "Field" paks. Fortunately, the sharing nature of Ham radio allows the less inventive of us to copy their plans and even make modest modifications. That's what Hams do.

But what if you're not the hands on type of person and still want to go off grid? There are several companies that will help you out (for a price).

First, if you are trying to assemble your own pak you may have already picked up a rig that runs portable like the Yaesu Ft-818, or it's older brother the 817. If you have tried using this it's internal battery pack I guess you've found out that it doesn't take much time to run the battery down. An external battery certainly helps, and there are so many different types available it's sometimes difficult to figure out what you should get.

You can start with Facebook and join the FT-817 / 818 group and begin asking questions from other members of the group. I asked about decent batteries to buy and had several members recommend the TalentCell Rechargeable 12V 6000mAh/5V 12000mAh DC Output Lithium Ion Battery, available from Amazon.

In the field, your radio equipment should be well protected and several companies are here to do just that. Possibly the best / least expensive protection comes from Portable Zero.

FT-817 / 818
The rails protect all sides of your radio and looks cool too! It's just not for the FT-817 though. They offer rails for the 857-897-891 and even the FT-991.


Portable Zero offers setups for ICOM too(Check out their website for the models they cover). Once the money fairy visits me, I'll try these out myself but I've heard good things about them. Chameleon antenna, makers of quality EMCOMM antennas has a set of rails for the FT-817. They are heavy duty, and cost almost twice that of what you can buy from Portable Zero.

The biggest downside I have with these are that they don't widen out at the front of the rig. Personally, I need a little extra room to use the front panel controls and tuning knob on my 817. Secondly, while the openings on the rails allow access to your speaker and microphone jacks, I think I would prefer a wider gap, like the ones from Portable Zero. I will compare the two one day (once I pony up for the P.Zero rails). The Chameleon rails are available thru DX Engineering. Once again, let me point you to the EXCELLENT YouTube channel run by Julian - OH8STN to get a good idea on what to buy for the field.

What if you have money to burn and want and turnkey solution? Try looking into Hardened Power Systems. If you want something that will fit into an ammo can you will be happy.


This setup allows you to fit your FT-857 or 891 into a ready-to-go field kit. Just add the radio and ammo can and your set to go! Don't look for a review from me on this one - my wallet doesn't hold that much ($695 w/Free shipping in US). They offer Commander kits for the ICOM 7100 and 7200 as well.



Saturday, July 06, 2019


(Leading down the path to an MLA)

Living in an apartment or a house with NAZI-Like HOA's can be frustrating to the modern Ham, in fact, the apartment we lived at 10 years ago was so much easier to rig up an antenna system compared to where we are now.

I have tried indoor dipoles, no-ground ham sticks, and even the MP1 "Super" Antenna with nary a success during the course of several years. My sanity has been preserved by either ignoring HF altogether, selling off my equipment, or using indoor wires near a window for listening purposes only.

For several reasons it became clear to me that this year it would be time to put-up or shutdown, with the latter not truly being an option. "But what could I do successfully" I asked myself, especially with our current Sunspot cycle in the doldrums'?

The hunt for a solution had begun!

[disclaimer - I am definitely NOT an expert in antennas. Anything you read here should be double-checked via web sources. I'm throwing out information that I've picked up from reading, surfing, and watching videos, so I may err unintentionally, 'Nuff Said]

One likely candidate presented itself in the form of an end fed half-wave wire (EFHW). These antennas are basically a wire, precut to a certain length, attached to an UnUn as opposed to a Balun, fed with at least 22 feet of coaxial feedline plugged into a antenna tuner by the transceiver.

Image result for end fed antenna

There is plenty of information about the specific lengths you can choose to get easy-to-tune low SWR, but for my purposes that length was going to be 33.3ft. The UnUn (Unbalanced-to-Unbalanced) would typically be either a 4:1 or 9:1 ratio, with 9:1 being the current favorite for builders of their EFHW antennas.

The >22ft. length of coaxial feedline would actually be acting as a counterpoise, negating the absolute need for an Earth ground. Just GOOGLE UnUn and/or EFHW antennas and you'll find a butt load of information. Do the same on YouTube and then be prepared to spend hours upon hours watching different operators testing a variety of homemade or OEM designs.

Figure A shows the basic, simple idea behind the EFHW antenna. You take a 1/2 wave length of wire (in my case - 33.3') connected to the "Impedance Transformer" i.e. - a 9:1 UnUn, which has 22 ft. or more of coaxial feedline, running to your rig and external antenna tuner.

On EBAY, you'll find a variety of "Mystery" boxes similar to the one in FIGURE B.

There are several exterior connections. These are:

1. An SO-239 (bottom)

2. Connection for the length of wire

3. And, a connection for your ground / counterpoise

Assembled UnUn's are usually priced from around $40 to as high as $100. So what is the secret Mojo inside?

By looking at FIGURE C, you can see that it's nothing more than a circular ferrite core with groupings of 3 wires wrapped on 4 turns around and through the ferrite core.

Ferrite cores are something you've seen before, and can be found in many different electronic designs -

Computer power supplies / motherboards, etc.

With one difference: The particular material used to make up a ferrite core is specifically matched for RF / HF situations.

One wire connects to the center pin of the SO239, another to the SO239 ground, yet another to where your half-wave wire will attach, and finally to the lug where a ground / counterpoise will be attached, should you use one (that's the tricky part - not using a ground-counterpoise).

A diagram of what you see in Figure C is viewed on Figure D.

There is no magic.

As well, typical results will vary from "GREAT" to "Argh" I wasted my money

I had issues using one inside on the 2nd floor without the counterpoise. Outdoors, running QRP with my FT-817ND I had good results, and better results when I utilized a counterpoise. I bought the least expensive UnUn with antenna wire off Ebay for about $39. I was lazy and did not feel like scrounging around for one part or the other so I picked the least expensive-yet-well-regarded setup and suggest that, in lieu of building one, do the same thing. During November-March I might be tempted to use one at the local park, but the SE Texas heat is not my friend. 

For some excellent information on end fed antennas you could google or simply check out AA5TB's website!

Is the end fed good for an indoor antenna? I can only speak for myself and in my situation - No.  My antenna wire was 33' however, if you had the space, a longer wire with a counterpoise might be doable. But, that's a lot of wire strung around your QTH.


When it comes to antennas, as a rule, there is NO magic. As a rule. The closest thing to "Magic" is the Magnetic Loop Antenna, or, MLA. Most of the commercial MLA's under $500 with the exception of the MFJ model,are built for QRP communications, usually under 25 watts. These QRP MLA's are very portable and break down into a small canvas carrying bag very easily. They are great for taking your station off-the-grid.

Most MLA's can be used horizontal or vertical and all of them have common traits like: 
  1. Being very narrow-banded, requiring constant tuning if you change your operating frequecy more that 15Khz.
  2. VERY directional when used as a vertical.
  3. Quiet. Because of the narrow bandwidth the MLA will let you minimize electrical noise as well as helping with adjacent channel rejection.
In PART 2 of my article (Aug-Sept) I will go into more detail about MLA's and the benefits or drawbacks of using one.

And now... A look at the weather: