Thursday, October 31, 2019


Well, we've zipped thru October, today is Halloween, and tonight my pumpkin head gets retired until next year! Let's close out the month with some appropriate YouTube Halloween viewing -








Thursday, October 24, 2019




I've mentioned the ABBREE "Tactical" antenna several times and have seen countless video's and text reviews about them, but the video below, by IZ2UUF, is one of the best (Short) review / test reports I've encountered. I use the 18" model, but most folks seem to go all in with the extreme 43" version, as in this video -

Next, if you're a fan of 3885 AM talk in the New England area but sometime miss out on the hearing the fun, check out W2PHL's YouTube channel which does a 24hr. live stream where you can catch any conversations you may have missed.


Last but not least, is "Ham Radio CQ's" video on the 9V BIOENNO BATTERY for QRP



Saturday, October 19, 2019



Every now and then I'll challenge Josh and Chris to come up with their favorite movies of  a specific genre, and seeing as it's October it was fitting to try and come up with a list of 20 favorite Horror movies. I decided to  make 1973 the oldest year in order to make it the selection easier. Why '73? because, with the exception of "Night of the Living Dead" horror movies weren't that horrific up to that point. You can argue that the change was because  of NOTLD, but it wasn't a huge mainstream release. Between 1968 and 1973 there were a few other drive-in movies that were horrific yet low budget, but in 1973 one widely released movie took ma & pa citizen by storm (and surprise) - "The Exorcist".

That Monday, after the first weekend showing, I was sitting at a desk during Homeroom period listening intently as several girls talked amongst themselves about the movie. As their chatter reached a fervored pitch I chuckled silently at their excitement and terror. Talk of the pea-soup colored vomit made for some unsettled stomachs that morning. So this is why I picked 1973 as the cut off date - yet it was still as hard as hell to cull the rest into twenty-something selections. It would have been way too hard to rank them so we decided not to give one movie a greater weight than another.

HERE WE GO (in no particular order).....

1.  Halloween (w/o it there may not have been a Freddy, or Friday the 13th as we know them)
2.  Nightmare On Elm St
3.  Alien (it took place in the future, and it was Sci-Fi, but at the core it was all Horror)
4.  Dawn Of The Dead (1979 version)
5.  Texas Chainsaw Massacre (original)
6.  Hellraiser
7.  The Host (2007)
8.  Suspiria (1977)
9.  The Omen
10. Evil Dead 2
11. Carrie
12. Let the Right One in (2008)
13. The Exorcist
14. The Thing (1982)
15. The Ring
16. Wolfen
17. The Fog (1980)
18. The Witch
19. Phantasm
20. The Shining

I'm pretty sure you'll disagree with some of the ones on my list, but then, everyone has their favorite horror movies for reasons only known to them. Whatever YOUR favorites are, take some time and binge watch them before Halloween has come and gone...





As I've mentioned a time or two, my chance at an outdoor antenna has been zilch, or maybe negative zilch. I tried a simple indoor dipole with terrible results, then last year I tried using the MP1 "Super" antenna indoors with no luck whatsoever, and ended up selling it at a local Hamfest this past Spring. 

Enter stage right - Chameleon's P-Loop 2.0 Magnetic Loop Antenna (MLA). 

Combining several specials (10% off first order and a 30% OFF sale from Chameleon) I was able to order this model for just a little over $250. I had toyed around with constructing my own MLA (and still do) but I knew that I'd probably keep putting off buying what I needed to build one and end up six months later with nothing. So I took the plunge.

So what was in the box that arrived? The coax that is used to form the loop, the capacitive ring that is velcro'd approximately at the mid way point of the coaxial loop, the "magic" sealed box where the capacitor lives, tripod, 15' of rg58 coax to connect the loop to a transceiver, and a nice canvas back to stuff everything into when being stored away.

I had viewed numerous YouTube videos detailing how to put together and use one, but when I pulled everything out from the shipping box I was still trepidacious about getting things just right. In one video I watched it was stressed that you should get the smaller loop exactly in the middle of the big one, and once that was done it was recommended to mark that spot with some tape so that when assembled it would always have that sweet spot. In another video it was mentioned that the tuning knob was so touchy that just by placing your hand on or near it the loop could de-tune. Other videos said that it was best used when at ground level, yet others suggested it would be better to have it well off the ground. I was ready, and then again I was not.

The instruction sheet was just "okay". Several sheets of regular weight paper that appeared to be printed off your typical home laser jet. There isn't a lot of detail that has to be written about setting one up, yet the MFJ-style instructions seemed a bit homemade.

Looking back, it's really stupid at how intent I was to get this right. I actually played-paused-played a YouTube video as I began assembly, but don't be alarmed, it's really "Easy Peasy". The main thing is to stay loose and don't get too stressed while putting your loop together.

I setup the tripod and extended it high enough so when the thicker coax was screwed into the SO-239 connectors on the tuning box it would form a half-assed circular loop. It was held in place whenever the smaller loop was attached via velcro (approximately midway to the thick coaxial loop I just formed). Now let me explain "Half assed". The coax is scrunched into the box for shipping so when it's pulled out, being stiff coax, it doesn't allow for perfect smoothing, so YES it's roughly the shape of a loop, but it looks like I put it together while hung over - which I wasn't.

Moving on....

Once set up and affixed to the tripod it was time to figure out MLA tuning. One end of the variable capacitor stops at the top of the 10 meter band while many-many (many) turns later it end-stops in 40 meters. I wanted to try 20 meters so a-tuning-I-did-go. Like you've heard and/or been told many times turn the capacitor, while listening for the loudest noise to come out of your receiver. Once your in the ball park you can tune it more slowly until the SWR is at it's lowest.

The way I did it (and currently still do it) was to have the 15' foot coax come into a 2 position switch box. One position sent the signal to my radio while the other one was connected to my Comet SWR display. I slowly tuned it down to under 1.5:1, switched over to my radio and BAM--->my FT-817's receiver came alive with actual activity on 14.300. This was the most I'd heard out of it since the last time I ran portable, and never inside the QTH.

Sitting in my "shack" on the second floor of the house I was actually able to get in on one of the morning nets that are running on 14.300. Let me stress that this was the first time I'd ever been able to hear a net, much less talk on one, from an indoor antenna and I was elated. Eventually I put the 817 back in storage and have used my TS-2000 ever since. The maximum supported wattage is 25 and I normally keep my rig set to 20 watts just to play it safe. I've checked in on various nets, and participated in several ARRL contests where I've discovered that if I hear them, they'll hear me as well. Many times I have given out a 5-7 signal report and received a 5-9 report back from the other station.

Let's get down to brass tacks about my take on this antenna -

  • PRICE - At $400 this is fairly expensive. At the price I bought it for the P-Loop was affordable 😁
  • You don't need to make a perfect circle. I.E. - feel free to half-ass it.
  • It has never made a difference on the precise location of the smaller loop. I eyeballed it when I set it up, but have moved it a little each way to see if there was a noticeable difference and there wasn't.
  • Once you get used to it, setting the loop up should take you all of a minute or two.
  • I never found that I could distort the tuning by merely touching the black tuning knob.
  • Tuning is really easy. If you have 29 mHz at one end and 7 at the other why tune slowly? If I'm on 10m and want to get to 20 I know it's roughly at the mid tuning point and take huge turns of the capacitor to get in the ball park quicker.
  • Location: I've tried this downstairs at garage level and then upstairs in the shack and have not found either location to be better or worse than the other.
  • Being vertical there should be quite a bit of directivity to the loop. Sometimes I've noticed it and have moved the loop's direction to get a better signal, while other times it doesn't seem to matter much. Perhaps this has to do with the type of propagation I'm getting. If anything is certain, I know that by turning the loop in one direction or the other allows me to tune out much of the electrical noise I pick up from our structure.
  • Bandwidth. Yes, the bandwidth gets wider as you tune upwards towards 10 meters but even on 7 meters I haven't found that having to re-tune is an issue. After a  month or two I discovered that it had become second nature.
  • 25 watts maximum SSB. Yes, that is quite a drop from 100 watts, but seriously, the loop has a butt load of electricity on it and because it's right there in the room with me I wouldn't be comfortable with it any higher.
  • Yep... It works fine on 11 meters too!

To wrap up: Before the loop I was strictly a listener indoors, only able to work stations while mobile or in the field. Now I'm able to sit in the shack and make contacts. I am no longer bound by the constraints of not being able to have an outdoor antenna.

One day, when I have some extra cash floating around I plan to make my own magnetic loop. Also, since using this one, I've been kinda chomping at the bit to see what using the F-Loop can do for me, via coax or the solid aluminum loop, but that would fall into the category marked "Luxury"

A magnetic loop is not the ultimate antenna, however, I'll leave you with these words: "The best antenna you have is the one you can actually use"..(Nuff Said)



Sunday, October 13, 2019



As you know, I just recently compared a Uniden 980 with the President McKinley, and the McKinley
won hands down in several categories, categories that mattered to me and most importantly - screen visibility in the vehicle during daylight hours. I pulled the 980 out from the car as soon as the comparisons were over. Even at night I found that the 980's screen was slightly difficult to view unless it was right there in front me. Viewing from either side angle was not favorable.

Enter the President Grant II "Premium" CB transceiver.  The Grant II came out about 6 years ago and was replaced with the Grant II "Premium" in 2015. Unless someone buys one for you overseas, or, you buy one yourself and have it shipped to the U.S. you won't be able to get one. In fact I believe that the Premium model has recently been discontinued in lieu of a President McKinley EU model (many more frequencies). A quick glance and you might think you were looking at a Uniden 980, but soon enough it's easy to pick either one by the bezel. The 980 has a shiny
chrome bezel that while looking sharp, the chrome area is a magnet for fingerprints and smudges and the Grant II doesn't. I prefer the mat finish of the Grant II Premium.

The Amber background is most pleasing to my eyes, but you also have the option to select GREEN. I guess I should have mentioned in the beginning the reason why this is called the "Premium". Well, the Premium version has a larger sized filter manufactured by Murata, and it's purpose to help your adjacent channel rejection fight off strong signals on channels other than the one you're talking on. Because I live in a RF "Dead Zone" as well as poor band conditions, I didn't really have an opportunity to see if there is any noticeable change in reception, and my noise level / reception was the same as either of the other two radios.

Comparing each radios footprint, the 980 and Grant II are identical, with the exception being the Grant II has a large heatsink. The transceiver itself is your typical 4watt/12watt SSB output so I'm not sure that it really needs one. As you would expect, the McKinley depth is much shorter than either of the other two.

With the McKinley's smaller footprint and front firing speaker it would be the easy choice when you're tight on space. All three models are very light weight compared to older rigs like a Cobra 148 or Uniden Grant.

The Grant II Premium is a fun rig to play around with but is it worth spending $300 or more for it? No. I wish the Premium model offered features similar to the McKinley like Auto-SWR, and NOAA reception. It would also had been nice if the design had been reworked with a front firing speaker too. The Premium is the only one to have FM, but that's not a mode I would every imagine using in the US anyway. Once the export mod is done you get a choice of bands similar to any export radio including the UK CB band.

All 3 transceivers had good transmit audio. I used my Turner Road King 70 on each model. They all had "okay" noise blanking ability, and I found the Hi-Cut feature (used in the Premium and McKinley) to be very useful fighting noise as well. To say that either of their noise blanker's worked as well as the classic 138GTL or original Uniden Grant would be a falsehood. While I'm wishing for other features, I wish that one day you could change the display from channel number to frequency ONLY via a menu function.

Once again, I'd prefer to have a McKinley in the car. It's backlit screen just edged out the Premium for readability in daylight hours. I would have preferred some Sunspot activity to see how each radio compared against the other but I'm afraid we're many months away from that happening. A detailed review of the Grant II can be found via CB Radio magazine as well as various YouTube channels.

If you've noticed, lately I've been posting some audio clips on this blog for your enjoyment (right-side). The most recent upload is another classic "Clark" clip about a High School science experiment gone horribly wrong in "the Lightning bolt from the butt "story. If you haven't noticed, well, now you know. I rotate these clips with others from time to time.



Thursday, October 10, 2019



Well, I missed the Fall Belton Hamfest last weekend for a variety of reasons that should not have been reasons in the first place (but they were). My regret was further amplified when the "Friz" emailed me to say that it was the largest turn out he had seen in many years (😰). My plan now is to get there next Spring.

On another note, and the main reason I started this entry, I was  perusing archival stories of the Wall Street Journal when I ran across an article from August 31, 1977 and the title read: "Texas Instruments Delays CB Radio Sales for several months".

Yes, this was all to do about their upcoming 40 channel SSB radios. "Citing production-cost concerns and a flooded market they (TI) will delay for several months its prevously announced entry into the citizens-band radio business".

Concerned about the 23 channel glut along with the switch to 40 channel radios they were now postponing their planned releases until 1978. Previously their Hi-Tech transceivers were supposed to hit in the Fall of '77. Not only were they wavering on the release date, Texas Instruments hadn't even filed for FCC approval!

A TI spokesman said that they were also planning to redesign their units so that they would better fit the market demand as well as pricing. When asked if the base/mobile radio pricing would change due to redesigns he said "We don't have any anticipation that we will change the prices UP or Down".

Clearly, they had mock ups and perhaps even pre-production models about around when they announced these transceivers, but after reading this article it seems to me that it never got any further than that due to apprehension of a tightening marketplace. (pictures from advertisements of these radios are in my previous posts about them)

Knowing what we know now about the CB manufacturer "Blood Bath" of 1977/8 TI was smart in making that decision however, I sure wish that they went thru with it so we could have one or both in our collection.

Unless some old TI guy contacts me to say that he has a pre-production model, this pretty much ends my posts about it.