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My name is Jim and I first caught the radio bug when I got a Rocket Radio, a little crystal set built into a red and white plastic rocket ship. It tuned by position of a rod which slid in and out of the nosecone. I spent many wonderful hours listening to the "Joy Boys of Radio" show with Willard Scott and Ed Walker, their humerous patter and the great daily skit, "As the Worm Turns - brought to you by Stop No More". Later in the evening Felix Grant took over with his jazz program, "The Album Sound". Terrific radio entertainment that continued to the last days of that golden era.

Zenith Transoceanic

My interest in shortwave radio began when I discovered a Zenith Transoceanic radio in an upstairs storage closet. It had been presented to my Dad by his unit when he left Korea. I began punching different bands buttons and tuning around. Wow! I heard all kinds of really neat stuff - including ham radio operators. I was hooked! And the obsession has never let up.  SWL callsign: DL4PE1AC (1960s Popular Electronics SWL registry)

I got my Conditional Class license in late 1962 at age 14, while living in Germany. The CW part was easy, because, for months I'd been "bootlegging" CW QSOs using the station and callsign belonging to my friend, and fellow teenage ham, Bill. Finally, in early 1963, with US license in hand, I went to the Postampt in Stuttgart and was issued my DL4- callsign. For the next 18-months I was active on 40-meter CW from Stuttgart where my first setup was a 40-meter dipole, my Dad's Zenith Transoceanic (I tuned a transistor SW radio up/down 455 KHz to act as a BFO) and Johnson Challenger transmitter, on loan from Bill, DL4WS/K4ZVT, who lived across the street. Just up the street was yet another teenage ham, Jim WA6SCK/DL4HG (now K4RGR). These two guys were my ham radio mentors.

Within a few months I had my own rig, an Eico 723 and Hallicrafters SX-110. Upon returning to the states in 1964 the family moved from Maryland to Virginia at which time the FCC assigned me my current callsign. I've been an active SWL/Ham ever since. I upgraded to Extra class sometime in 1978. Over the years I've had a lot of different equipment in my shack - for me, getting to know new gear is half the fun.


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My current station includes:

Ten-Tec Corsair Model 560 HF transceiver
Ten-Tec Paragon Model 585 HF transceiver
LDG AT-100Pro auto antenna tuner
MFJ Dummy load
Homebrew electronic keyer
Astron RS-35A power supply
Vibrokeyer single-lever paddle
E.F. Johnson SPEED-X bug 
Hi-Mound HK-706 straight key

I operate CW mostly, low power, around 25 watts, often 5 watts and under. It's amazing how little power is necessary on CW. I've even worked 44 states using 0.8 watts or less. My favorite activities are QRP Fox Hunts (www.qrpfoxhunt.org), Straight Key Century Club events (www.skccgroup.com), shortwave listening, and the Sunrise Net where I serve as Net Control/Host on Friday mornings (www.qsl.net/srn).

_ . . . _


More about my current equipment lineup . . .


My "Cool Blue" Corsair:

Ten-Tec Model 560 Corsair  My favorite rig of all time is the Ten-Tec Corsair, an early 1980s rig, with 100 watt output CW-SSB, covering the HF amateur bands, 160-10m, including 30, 17, and 12m. It has an 8-pole, 2.4 KHz crystal filter in the 1st IF. In the 2nd IF are 2.4 KHz, 1.8 KHz, 500 Hz, and 250 Hz crystal filters, yielding 12-16 poles of filtering. Many mods, including; ALC mod to allow adjustment of transmit power down to 0.5 watts, mod to silence amp relay, replacement of the original LED display with backlit LCD display, and replacement of the original PTO with direct digital synthesizer. The Corsair's receiver is outstanding, very sharp and sensitive for CW and also nice-sounding on SSB. Superbly crafted and undeniably beautiful, the Corsair has got to be the coolest rig ever!



_ . . . _

Corsair Modifications

Most noticable among the modifications I've done to the Corsair are replacing the original display with the Almost All Digital Electronics (AADE) blue backlit LCD display and replacing the original PTO with the N4YG Direct Digital Synthesizer (DDS VFO).  This pair of mods yielded much-improved frequency stability, with A and B VFOs along with split operation, and increased readout resolution to nearest 10 Hz.


The left-hand picture below shows the digital encoder mounted under the old display enclosure, now occupied by the DDS board. The 3/16" tuning shaft from the PTO was cut to length to mate with the original tuning knob.  The mounting bracket for the encoder was fabricated from the covers off the old PTO box.  The encoder shaft goes to a 1/4" to 3/16" shaft-reducer and through the front panel to the original VFO skirt and knob. 
The right-hand picture above shows the DDS board to the rear of the old display enclosure and the LCD display assembly mounted vertically right behind the front panel. The height of the display unit required that I move the status LED driver board from the front panel to the side of the enclosure. Below is the DDS/display enclosure with its cover installed.
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My Ten-Tec Paragon:


My Ten-Tec Model 585 Paragon, recently acquired, is a general coverage transceiver made sometime around 1989, and covers 100 KHz to 30 mHz, AM, CW, FM and SSB.  It runs up to 100 watts output on amateur bands in that range.  The first IF, at 75 MHz is similar to that used in Ten-Tec's RX-340.  For the second and third IF, the Paragon has the same exact setup as the Corsair with the addition of a 6 KHz crystal filter in the 6 MHz IF for AM and FM (FM is an option).  I've done the QRP modification and Amp relay disable as I did in the Corsair. As an amateur band transceiver, it's no slouch; but I use this rig primarily for shortwave listening.  

A lot of the distortion on shortwaves, usually attributed to ionospheric phase distortion, is actually caused by too-fast AGC action in the receiver. In these situations the agc decays and attacks repeatedly under moderate to severe fading conditions. This is appropriate for CW and SSB operation, but not so good for shortwave listening. To remedy this in the Paragon I changed C46 and C45 on IF-AF board from 10 to 47uf (slow AGC) and 1 to 10uf (fast AGC), respectively, increasing the AGC hang time for smoother AGC action. This virtually eliminates distortion from AGC re-attack during moderate to fast fading - much more listenable IMHO.  

I especially enjoy listening international shortwave broadcasters that broadcast music, like All India Radio, Voice of Greece, Radio Romania International, Radio Habana Cuba, Radio Austria, especially Radio Australia's Saturday Night Country.  And then at night it's great to tune in AM 740 from Toronto and WSM, Nashville.    Throughout most of the day I can find ABC (Radio Australia), All India Radio, VOA, or BBC transmissions in English to keep up-to-date on the latest international developements - a longtime interest of mine.  It's also fun listening to HF air traffic control operations, including US Air Force Reach Command.  

I plan to post some YouTube videos of this great SWL rig in action.

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In March 2010 my wife Pam, KA4EWG, and I moved to our retirement home just outside Grottoes, VA. We're in a no-antenna community; even so, I threw up a "stealth" 80 meter doublet (later replaced with a 80-10 meter G5RV dipole) in the trees at the edge of the woods behind our house. The antenna is very difficult to spot, even up close. I used black-jacketed #18 stranded wire and painted the end and center insulators with OD camouflage paint. The 60-foot run of coax is buried from the tree to the back of the house.

For shortwave listening I have a 51-foot end-fed wire from the peak of the roof to that really thick tree in the background just left of center.  It works fine.  Pam built that wall from rocks collected in, and dug out of, the yard. She stacked 50 per day over two summers. It's now 90 ft long and comprised of over 11,500 rocks. She also cleared out all the undergrowth under the trees.

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Pam and I were active hams from the Virginia suburbs of Washington, DC, from 1970 to 2001 and now live in the Shenandoah Valley with our Shetland Sheepdog, Shadow, and Sheltie-Corgi mix, Ginger.  We adpted Shadow and Ginger from Northern Virginia Sheltie Rescue, see http://www.nvsr.org.  That's all of us in the picture below taken on Ginger's adoption day (photo by Martha Heisel).  



_ . . . _


Over the almost 55 years I've been a radio enthusiast, I've owned quite a variety of rigs.  My fondest memories are of the Johnson Navigator/SP600 setup I had as a high-schooler.  I have also logged many thousands of hours of shortwave listening using several outstanding receivers, notably the Hammarlund SP-600 and HQ-120 and the Collins 51S1 and 51J4.  Below is a fairly complete list of the rigs I've owned. 


Early 2000's station - very retro !                     Mid-90-s boatanchor collection -  a hassle to keep em all working.

73, Jim


1962445 Last modified: 2015-05-13 20:59:36, 27283 bytes

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