1980's & 1990's

Some of the equipment I have owned, used and abused in the past.

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In the late 1970's and early 1980's the transceiver as we know it today had gained a foothold in the amateur market but the use of separate receivers and transmitters was still quite common and that is how I started out in amateur radio. I don't have any photographs of the early transmitters but they were home brewed and used a pair of 807's or 6146's in the final stages - output was in the region of 70 to 100 watts (CW only - I could not face the complexity of SSB).

Eddystone 680X receiver.

When I was a young lad I lusted after an Eddystone receiver (any Eddystone receiver!!!).

Back in 1978 I purchased one of these from a colleague for my elder son who was heavily into short wave listening at the time. A year later we both passed the RAE and I made my first CW QSO with DJ9ET on 20 mtrs using the 680X and a decidedly ropey home brew transmitter. Being general coverage, tuning was very tricky despite the superb slow motion drive. However, that was as nothing compared to the Tx which could easily drift about 5kHz in the course of a 10 minute QSO. And don't tell me that newcomers to the hobby have a hard time of it!!

1981 - 1992

Collins 75A1 receiver. I used the Collins, donated to me by Jim Davies G2OA (SK), with a home brew Tx back in the early 80's. First marketed in 1947 it was a remarkable piece of engineering. No tuning capacitors, everything was permeability tuned. Each VFO unit was hermetically sealed and drifted very little (if at all), no doubt due to the fact that each component was selected on test. Tuning rate was high at 100 kHz per revolution of the tuning knob and the single crystal filter was an anachronism in the present day and age, but the CW tone was joy to listen to. I sold it nearly 30 years ago in a moment of madness. Of all the equipment that has passed through my hands over the years this disposal was by far my biggest regret.


1981 - 1988

Heathkit HW100.  This was my first "real" transceiver, all valves with a pair of 6146's in the PA giving 100 watts output (on a good day). It was originally purchased as "faulty on transmit" but the lack of volts to the PA tube screens was fixed in a matter of minutes. I carried out many modifications over the years and whilst I can't claim to have made a silk purse out of a sow's ear, it was quite a useful rig and gave me a lot of pleasure. Of course, it lacked nearly every facility considered essential in a modern rig. It's main deficiencies were the lack of a CW filter and RIT, but these were soon remedied even if the resulting front panel would not have gladdened Mr. Heath's heart. I worked in excess of 200 DXCC countries on CW during the 6 or 7 years it was my main rig. 


Uniden 2020 transceiver. The one shown in the photo is a Tempo badged unit but apart from that they were identical.

This was a superbly engineered piece of kit, with none of the short cuts that contemporary manufacturers took to keep the price down. As an example separate filters were used for USB and LSB rather than a single filter with switched carrier crystals. Preselector tuning used a 6 (yes, six) gang capacitor. VFO was analogue which meant that the receiver was very quiet and one could make use of the very sensitive front end (although this was prone to overloading with very strong adjacent signals if the gain was not reduced slightly).

Feb 1987 - Mar 1991

Yaesu FT902DM transceiver. A bit of a Rolls Royce in it's day (early to mid 80's). Finals and Driver were valves and the rig had pretty much all the bells & whistles that were considered desirable at the time. Mine had the FM board fitted which gave a few contacts on 10mtrs. Despite all the facilities and it's very capable performance I never really got to love this Tcvr and sold it after about four years use to finance the purchase of a new Icom IC735.  

Apr 1990 - Mar 1991

Yaesu FT747GX. I bought this transceiver with the intention of using it to operate /Mobile but that never materialised and it was sold after about 9 months. Very compact with an output of 100 watts (after I had the PA unit replaced under warranty) and a surprisingly good receiver section.

My main gripe was the tuning knob which was obviously some sort of stepping switch. This had a weird feel to it and I found it very disconcerting in use. Apart from that it performed very well.


Mar 1991 - Jan 2004

and 2013 - 2020

Icom 735. This rig has now been passed on to my son Duncan (M0KGK). Not a very large "box" but it pushes out 100 watts and in it's day was an excellent receiver. I don't think modern front ends are all that much improved, but that is not to say that the 735 can hold it's own against DSP equipped rigs. It can't. Nevertheless it fully met my requirements for a number of years and another example has been recently purchased for portable use. 

I bought this one new in 1991 with a 500Hz CW filter and it was my main station rig until 2003. General coverage receive and totally reliable. They are now available second-hand for about £250 proving that you don't need to spend megabucks to get a half decent rig.

A recent requirement for something portable to take travelling in our motorhome resulted in the purchase of another 735. This one was a tidy example fitted with the narrower 250Hz CW filter. Everything worked as it should and the sensitivity is as good as I remember the original.  Sold in 2020, the portable requirement is now met by the Elecraft K2.


1996 (and 2016)

Drake R4B/T4XB. The famous Drake B-line Twins. I bought this pair 1996 and both needed a little attention, particularly the accompanying transmitter PSU which was a lethal device. The R4B receiver covered the amateur bands only (no WARC) but extra crystals could be added to provide additional coverage. The T4XB transmitter used a pair of TV line output valves in the final stage and could push out about 120 watts on the lower bands but this dropped off to about 80 watts on 10 mtrs. Both units made extensive use of hollow state technology (valves/tubes), only a handful of semi-conductors were to be found under the covers. A set of interconnecting cables allowed transceive operation which could be controlled from either the Rx or Tx VFO. After a little bit of work the combination went on air and the results were very good. Shortly afterwards a house move resulted in a period of inactivity and the gear was sold on. Probably a mistake, with hindsight. **

The later R4C receiver is much sought after even today, having acquired an excellent reputation for it's signal handling qualities. However, this could only be achieved after considerable (and expensive) modification by users. Although the R4C was superior after modification, the R4B was considered to be a better receiver "out of the box" and required no after-market modification to provide excellent results.

**Twenty years later (April 2016) I was contacted by the person who had purchased the R4B/T4XB. He was down-sizing and asked if I would be interested in re-acquiring the radios - the answer was an immediate 'YES' and they are both now back in my possesion. It remains to be seen how much use they will get, but they are nice to look at!