Issue #112
Scanned and OCR'ed by Grant Youngman, NQ5T

Industry Code Proposal Could Endanger AM

A plan is being formulated by amateur radio equipment manufacturers and magazine publishers to ease licensing requirements for access to HF spectrum. The Amateur Radio Industry Association is proposing to lower the General Class code speed requirement from 13 to 10 words per minute. Association members discussed the plan at a closed meeting during the Dayton Hamvention, and indications are that they plan to petition the FCC. Giving advice to the group is former FCC Special Services Division Chief Ray Kowalski, who also served as the FCC's attorney in court when Glenn Baxter brought suit over the AM power reduction. Kowalski told Association members the timing for such a move is excellent, given the current political climate in Washington regarding emerging technologies.

It is no secret that the hottest selling ham gear lately has been VHF and UHF equipment, reflecting the strong growth in codeless Technician class hams. But equipment manufacturers are frustrated by marginal profits from big ticket HF items. They suggest that current code requirements act as a barrier to hams who would otherwise populate the HF bands.

CQ Magazine publisher Dick Ross, K2MGA, is a member of an internal industry committee that recommended the 10 w.p.m. license requirement. Ross insisted they do not want to see this Initiative become a point of controversy. Evidently, the industry hopes to convince the amateur radio community to hop on the bandwagon without debating the issue.

"Slow code", the name given to the proposal, has reportedly gained far more support than criticism in "ham radio circles." According to WESTLINK REPORT, most of the packet radio postings have praised the industry group's leadership towards this goal. Some have responded that cutting the code requirement to 10 w.p.m. does not go far enough, suggesting five w.p.m. instead. Five w.p.m. code would allow some 60-70,000 "old" Technicians, licensed prior to Novice Enhancement in the mid 1980's to buy high frequency radios and immediately go on the air, since these hams have already passed the General theory test and a 5 w.p.m. code exam. Some argue that a 5 w.p.m. code requirement would stimulate the sagging ham radio industry, and even the nation's economy. One industry member has calculated that it could conceivably generate an instant $60-$100 million in sales of transceivers, antennas and associated equipment, open new ham equipment factories in the U.S., and create "thousands of Jobs".

Ten or Thirteen W.P.M., Does It Really Matter?

Why would the industry make such a big deal over a mere reduction of 3 words per minute? They hope that most hams will see this change as too insignificant to actively oppose. In reality, this would have a crucial impact on amateur radio as we know it. Code learners frequently experience a "plateau of learning" around 10 w.p.m. They quickly progress up to that speed and then stall out, seemingly unable to make further progress no matter how intensely they continue to practice. At this point many would-be Generals simply give up in frustration and resign themselves to being permanent Novices or Techs. Those who stick with the code, however, eventually break through the plateau, and progress once again becomes easy to speeds beyond 20 w.p.m.

Many beginners are puzzled by this learning phenomenon, but there is a simple explanation. Up to about 10 w.p.m., it is possible to memorise the Morse alphabet as a table of dots and dashes, and copy code by actually counting the dits and dahs in each Morse character as it is transmitted. Beyond about 10 w.p.m., this method becomes impossible, and further progress in code speed requires a completely different mode of learning. You have to become familiar with the sound of each character without consciously listening for dits and dahs, just as you read familiar words by instant recognition, without consciously thinking about the spelling.

Copying by sound pattern is the essence of telegraphy. Learning to copy code has been compared to learning to play a musical instrument or recognise spoken phrases of a foreign language. Persons who experience the plateau must completely re-learn the code as a table of sound patterns instead of dots and dashes before further progress can be made. It is simply a matter of persistent practice and not giving up as soon as the code becomes a significant challenge.

This was the theory behind the old CW-only Novice ticket. On-the-air experience is much more enjoyable than code practice sessions, and active Novices usually reached 13 w.p.m. before they even realised they were ready for the General code test. Novice Enhancement spoiled this by allowing limited phone privileges, and now the Novice ticket becomes a dead-end for many licensees. With the advent of no-code, few beginners are choosing the Novice route to enter ham radio. Have you noticed lately how empty the Novice CW bands are? The FCC and ARRL have expressed concern that the Novice Class license may be headed for extinction due to lack of interest.

If the FCC adopts the industry's proposal to reduce the code speed to 10 w.p.m., amateurs will no longer have to learn the art of telegraphy, but simply memorise the Morse alphabet and learn to translate dots and dashes to dits and dahs. This will essentially extend the no-code ticket to include the HF spectrum. We will be left with nothing more than a nominal code requirement, a mere formality to meet international treaty obligations that call for some kind of Morse Code test for amateur radio.

Old timers may recall that the code speed used to be 10 w.p.m. For the reasons explained above, the ARRL Board of Directors felt the code speed requirements were too slow. In May 1936, they voted to petition the FCC to raise the code test to 12 1/2 w.p.m. The Commission found [the rate] messy to calculate, so they rounded up to 13 w.p.m., effective June 2, 1936.

But What Does This Have To Do With AM?

Why should this proposal be of concern to AM'ers? After all, many AM operators have little interest in CW. Some downright detest the code. The bottom line is simple: IF THIS PROPOSAL PASSES, AM PRIVILEGES ON THE HF BANDS WILL BE IN GRAVE DANGER. In none of the reported discussion of the Slow Code proposal, has any mention been made of its expected impact on present users of the HF bands. The industry is interested in the potential thousands of new HF operators who would purchase store-bought rigs. This would be good for the business of equipment manufacturers, and presumably, magazine publishers. No-code privileges in the VHF, UHF, and sparsely populated microwave bands are one thing, but is it in the best interest of ham radio to further reduce the requirements for access to the congested HF bands? Should we allow ham radio to be "dumbed down" to intentionally create a vast influx of new HF operators for the sole purpose of selling rigs? If Slow-Code passes, how will those thousands of new appliance operators fit into our already overcrowded phone bands without disrupting present operations such as AM?

Novice Enhancement and other previous attempts to bring newcomers to amateur radio failed dismally, but since the no-code ticket has become a reality the growth of the Technician Class amateur has been phenomenal. It is quite possible that in the near future no-coders will make up the majority of U.S. amateurs. The response to no-code at VHF and above suggests that Slow-Code would create a population explosion on the HF bands. It does not take a genius to figure out that "bandwidth" and "spectrum space" will once again become popular buzzwords as the HF bands become further congested. If AM is not pushed off the bands by the QRM, there will undoubtedly be new pressure on the FCC to have it outlawed out of existence.

What Action Should the AM Community Take In Response?

At press time there has been no reaction to this proposal from the ARRL. Remember, the League supported AM in the power limit proceeding, because many AM'ers who were League members wrote to their Division Directors. We need to take the time once again, even before any petition is formally submitted to the FCC, to let them know in no uncertain terms our feelings on this issue. But AM'ers cannot act alone, without working with the greater amateur community. Once the amateur population as a whole becomes aware of this proposal and its likely impact, many SSB'ers as well as CW enthusiasts will be willing to work to defeat it.

Our immediate concern is to make the greater amateur community aware of the proposal and its significance. So far, the industry seems to be taking a low-key approach. Let's make this a high profile issue, on the order of the Incentive Licensing debate in the 1960's. Critics of this plan must be careful to maintain the image of a reasonable and responsible group of amateurs whose only interest is the preservation of our hobby. We cannot afford to be perceived as die-hard fanatics who wish to push ham radio into a state of divisiveness, pitting old timers against the "new breed" of amateurs. This happened in the late 60's with the AM versus SSB wars, and almost resulted in the death of AM. This time, it will be a grassroots struggle of amateur operators versus the big bucks of organised industry. Let's simply work to convince the ARRL, the FCC and the public that while it might result in a short-term boom for the equipment and publication industries, this proposal would not be in the best interests of amateur radio. Our most effective strategy will be to keep the issue high profile while making sure our facts are straight and our arguments well reasoned. The topic needs to be discussed and debated over the air, as well as at local radio club meetings and hamfests. AM P/X will publish further news as the information becomes available.

References: WESTLINK Report, May 20 and June 6, 1994; Worldradio, July 1994 page 4; QST, 1936, p.28 June, p.19 July, p. 22 August.


Dayton '94

The AM Forum at this year's Dayton Hamvention once again filled the meeting room to capacity. The presentation began with a slide show by Dale Gagnon, KW1I, featuring vintage radio museums and collections around the country. Then, a few minutes were devoted to the latest update an AM International. Dale informed the audience that the membership total was up to nearly 600. A panel discussion followed, moderated by Don Chester, K4KYV. Topics included ways to effectively handle rude SSB operators who try to disrupt AM QSO's; operating zero-beat with others in an AM QSO and problems with users of crystal controlled transmitters; whether or not it is desirable to limit ourselves to certain "AM window" frequencies; the sizes of AM roundtables and a suggestion to begin an additional AM QSO instead of breaking into an already large group; the prices of vintage gear and tubes; and helping newcomers get their multimode transceivers properly tuned up on AM rather than making rude remarks about the type of equipment they are using. At the end, the Forum had to break up to allow the next group to use the room, and discussions moved out to the corridors, since the weather was too lousy to go outside to the fleamarket.

While the AM forum went over well, it is the huge outdoor fleamarket that mostly attracts AM'ers and vintage radio enthusiasts to Dayton. This year the fleamarket never really unfolded due to heavy rains that persisted throughout the weekend. People were heard grumbling that they had traveled hundreds of miles several years in a row to attend a rained out fleamarket, and they don't intend to come back next year. As usual, local residents said the weather for the fleamarket would have been great the previous weekend. A few years ago the hamfest date was moved one week later, and the event has been plagued by rain nearly every year since.


Editor, AM P/X:

In the last issue, I noticed the ad in the Exchange section by a foreign commercial operation for power tubes and premium audio tubes.

First the Japanese, and then other Asians and some American dealers who value only money have stripped the nation of audio power tubes for the Japanese high end audio market. A few months ago you could buy 211/VT4C tubes from any dealer new for $40. Just before that time, some monkey in Tokyo came on the market with audio amps which use a single 211 in class A. This bandit puts a few dollars worth of silver in the wire in the output transformer and the wire in the set and makes some silver teflon coupling caps. For one channel of this doubtless good sounding piece of junk he gets over three grand,

Exporters immediately stripped the nation of these until-then still plentiful tubes. Now there are none for American users. WE300B, 6550, 2A3, 6A3, 6B4G, 50, 45, 10, 211, 845, and now the more rare small transmitting triodes are being heavily pursued by these people. I sell stuff at the TRW ham swap meet here in the LA area. I will not sell tubes of any kind to obviously commercial types from Asia or the U.S.A. These scum are even combing the vintage radio swap meets for tubes.

From a practical standpoint it is already too late. Price and availability of usable tubes for transmitters of vintage manufacture or style have already become an insurmountable obstacle for most guys. A few audio types are being manufactured in Russia, Europe and Asia, but considering price and power they might as well have the only store on Mars.

Even so, as a matter of principle, you should not run this kind of stuff in the AM/PX.

Harry Wells, AA6PP

Editor, AM P/X:

Re: your issue # 111 about the AM Forum at Dayton; "The Forum will commence with . . . followed by pictures of a few radio museums and private collections, including Leo Myerson's Omaha museum."

Well, I think these characters with their so-called museums do a tremendous disservice to the AM fraternity! If Leo really wanted to make a positive contribution to the AM community, he would release this equipment to those who would use it on the air! The best way to promote AM is to operate it, rather than have fine gear gather dust for the sake of a "museum"!

Even though the AM P/X was merely reporting on the AM Forum, it also seemed to glorify this contemptuous and counterproductive practice. I think museums are OK for spark rigs, but our beloved AM is still a viable communications medium, and certainly doesn't deserve to be relegated to the museum "trash heap."

I classify those "museum artists" along with so-called AM'ers who chronically operate SSB in the AM window (like those lids who are constantly on 3875 kcs every night) and scalpers at swapfests. I think AM would be a lot better off without these three evils!!

As far as the Dayton Hamvention itself... when they made that clown at the FCC (who screwed all AM'ers) "ham of the year," that's when I made up my mind that they wouldn't get one red cent out of me!

Rick Miczak, K8MLV/0

AM forever!


The AM Press/Exchange



Dick's effort will surely strike more than a few of us (grown accustomed to the AM lifestyle of narrow "windows" in the HF spectrum) as being rather unique: his rig covers the 6-meter band. Period.

Still, this probably comes as no surprise to those AM'ers who may have worked Dick since the late 50s, when then newly-licensed Technician K4DMB first hit the airwaves. He was hooked on 6 then, and the band still has an obvious hold on him, as witnessed by this very fine practical effort which, in Dick's words, is straightforward and designed around active devices which happened to be on hand.

This 9-tube, crystal-controlled arrangement terminates in an Eimac 4-65A, running at just under 200-watts input (160-ma., 1200-volts). Modulation is more than adequately handled by a pair of 6146s.

Dick's ingenuity is evident by his use of an old RCA "Carfone" chassis: this aged hardware was completely stripped clean, and given a new lease on life as the foundation for his exciter/driver (four of the original interstage transformer cans were also recycled to house the plate inductors for his oscillator/multiplier stages).

Similarly, with the help of a jeweler’s hacksaw, Dick modified a single stator capacitor (Fair Radio Sales part #P7761569-3) into a split stator 2x25 pfd. affair for the final amplifier tuning network. He reports great success with this frugal modification. The neutralizing capacitor is likewise "...designed for application": it consists simply of two copper tabs which are moved to achieve proper neutralization of the final stage. Success of this is borne by virtue of the fact that the 4-65A displays no tendency for oscillation whatsoever.

All in all, N4CBZ has built a functional, neat transmitter of moderate power level, that doubtlessly feels as much at home rag-chewing with the locals on groundwave, or working across the continent on 6-meter skywave...

Well done, Dick!

Click here to see a block diagram of Dick’s homebrew transmitter

Click here to see Dick Barry standing beside the rig described in the Homebrew Contest

Click here to see a Front View of the final amplifier

Click here to a rear view of the final amplifier, the top unit in the rack

Click here to see the modulator, low voltage and bias supplies



Homebrew Contest

Edward "Eddy" Peter Swynar,


3773 Concession Road 3,
R.R. #8,
Newcastle, Ontario L1B 1L9,

Any and all correspondence with regard to this contest shall be made with Contest Chairman VE3CUI.

In order to be eligible, all formal entries shall consist of the following: clear photographs (inside and outside views), a block diagram of your rig, a summary of your transmitter's specifications (e.g., power input, frequency coverage, etc.), and a brief description of your transmitter itself (e.g., what inspired its construction, its unusual features, etc.).



AMATEUR RADIO - The only public radio broadcasting in the world! All other is incorporated!!!

Dear Don:

Your article "Homebrew Contest" in issue #111 has reminded me that my contributions to you have been long overdue.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for keeping us posted on the political aspects of our fraternity, right and privilege. There is no sense in "homebrewing" etc. if governments rob us of that great right and privilege from God (freedom of speech via air). My 1859 Constitutional Law Dictionary (Bouvier) defines "air" thusly: "That fluid transparent substance which surrounds our globe. No property can be had in the air." Nothing in the world is more public than radio and if anyone speaks foully in public a jury has the power to subject the offender to slavery, involuntary servitude or death. (Art. XIII, U.S. Consti.)

Though my dad, W2GZJ had no eyes he built all of his radio equipment, receivers, transmitters, studio, tower etc. Though I never constructed the great variety of things that dad did I have decided to set the stage for the "Homebrew Contest" with a description of a 3-band mobile transceiver which I constructed in the early 1950s. I first used it in the 1933 Essex Eight and last used it in the 40-passenger-schoolbus motorhome. I eventually replaced it with the Gonset G76 transceiver because it ran more power and operated on the lower bands. I have no pictures of it, but will attempt to write and draw a description.

Click here to see a sketch of the Front Panel

It is a 6, 10 & 15 meter transmitter-receiver [and] converter in one aluminum unit 8 1/2 x 8 1/2 x 6 1/2 high. It weighs 14 1/2 lbs. The IF and audio sections of the receiver are provided by a 1938 RCA auto radio model 8M. The xmitter is crystal-VFO with a 2E26 RF amp. modulated with a 6N7. In the top left corner of the front panel is a meter with a small knob in place of one of the four mounting holes which when in rcv. it reads S units. While in xmt. it reads final plate ma. Pulling out the little knob the meter reads battery voltage, when in rcv. and it reads final grid ma. while in xmt. At the top center is a horiz. toggle switch - left is normal operation, right turns off the xmt. RF and also connects the modulator to a low imped. output for a hi-powered speaker under the hood (great fun during xmtr hunts). Further to the right on top are the grid and plate controls. In the top rt. corner are two toggle switches. I believe one is for tuning and the other turns on the receiver while transmitting. At the left center is the rcvr tuning knob. At the center is the lighted translucent dial drum which revolves when the bandswitch is turned (15 is green, 10 is black and 6M is clear). The pointer above the drum is for rcv and the pointer below the drum is for the VFO. To the right of that is the VFO knob which when slightly pressed in actuates the spot switch. At the bottom left corner is the push-to-talk mike jack. To the right of it is a toggle switch which is also push-to-talk. The rotary switch just above that switches from AM reception to SW reception. To the right of that in the center is the bandswitch. To the right of that is the rotary VFO-XTL switch.

The controls on the left side of the cabinet are a rotary switch (carbon mike, xtal mike and 500 cycle audio which is great for xmtr hunts, sirens etc.), a mike gain control, an S-meter control, a rcvr RF gain control which opens the rf cathode when turned all the way down (great for xmtr hunting) and another toggle switch, for which function I have forgotten. On the rear of the unit are two toggle switches which are locked. In one position the filaments are set for 12 volt operation and in the other they are set for 6 volt operation. On the under side are three xtl sockets - one for each band. I might have construction papers in the archives if they are not moth eaten.


A Simple Monitor Scope For AM

By George Cogswell W1UAX

When I built my "big rig" in 1960, I had to have a monitor scope to debug and monitor the audio level. Spare cash was almost nonexistent with a growing young family, but I was given a 2AP1 scope tube and socket by a friend. I had a 1950 ARRL Handbook which had an article in the measurements chapter for a 2AP1 monitor scope. I scrounged in my junkpile and found most of the parts I needed to put it together. At that time the filament and plate voltages were furnished externally from the driver power supply on the "big rig". Since this was a zero $ expense project, I built the monitor scope on two cutdown aluminum icecube trays, one serving as a chassis and the other a front panel.

Recently, with the acquisition of a linear amplifier to go with my 'little rig', I needed the monitor scope as a self-powered unit to setup the linear amplifier. After perusing the junkbox, I found a small Stancor power transformer that had a 250 volt secondary and a 6.3 volt filament winding @ 1 amp. The transformer just fit under the chassis, and I was able to obtain 650 volts dc using a full-wave doubler circuit - just right for the 2AP1. The 60 cycle horizontal sweep was taken from the junction of the two diodes in the voltage doubler through a voltage divider pot to ground. Now that I had a self-contained monitor scope, I looked around for a case to put the scope into, and in keeping with a zero-budget tradition, I found the whole unit fit snugly into a 128 fluid ounce Filippo Berio olive oil can.

For RF hookup to the transmitter, I put a few turns of insulated wire around a ferrite rod, and soldered a short length of coax to the ferrite coil. Next, the ferrite coil is well insulated with plastic tape to protect it from high voltages as an RF probe near the transmitter final tank coil. The RF probe coax goes to a terminal board behind the 2AP1 socket. For audio hookup, I put a voltage divider board in the transmitter and sample about 300 volts of peak audio through a coax cable to a BNC connector on the scope chassis.

Although this scope is very basic, it works very well in monitoring my transmitters, and has saved me many hours of time over the years in setting up new equipment.

Click here to see a schematic of the Monitor Scope

Click here to see a sketch of the front panel




WANTED: I am an electron tube buyer. Do you have unused and made in USA or Western Europe tubes ready for sale? Also looking for test equipment, Sprague Vitamin Q and Black Beauty capacitors, oil filled capacitors and mounting hardware, transformers for tube equipment. Send for list of tubes I am looking for. (Kowloon, Hong Kong.)

WANTED: Schematic for R19 receiver. Copy will suffice.

FOR SALE: From the estate of Don Scott, WA4UGR. 1988 Mazda Cab Plus LX B2200 truck with 5-speed stick shift. 63,000 miles, has had oil changed every 3,000 miles. All new belts and extra good tires. It is equipped with ham radio antennas and wiring, CB radio, topper for camping is permanently attached. Don bought it new in 1988. It is a two-tone blue. It has never been wrecked, but the back bumper is slightly dented. Would like another ham to own it. Asking $7,000.

FOR SALE: A.M. rigs; One Kilowatt Pr. 813's, 810 modulator 800 watts AM/ 1000 watts CW, Other smaller AM rigs, parts, tubes large and small, coils, HV/LV capacitors, modulation transformers large and small. CASH AND CARRY NO SHIP.

WANTED: Interstage step-up audio transformer with turns ratio 1:2 or 1:3 at 5K ohms primary impedance. It should handle 50 ma. DC and have center tapped secondary. Also looking for AM Press/Exchange back issue with audio mods for B&W 5100B transmitter.

FOR SALE/TRADE: SX28, SX25, Ranger I. WANTED: NC100X, HRO pre-war, HRO coils E, F, Skyriders, Silvers, Sargents, Bretings, RCA ACR-111.