Building a Reputation   July 31st, 2013

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Today was another build day for Elecraft. There are not many days go by without the need to do some building. Steve in the Service Department is the real expert and can build the basic radios pretty quickly. I still keep my hand in and can rattle a KX3 off in about two hours. Of course if you don’t have to read the instruction book, that makes things a bit quicker. There are also a few short cuts we use, some of which now have formed updates in the building instructions.

In an ideal world we would have equipment ready built but in many cases, a customer has some special requirements and so any ready built radio would need to be opened up again. So we tend to part build, but leave the final stages until we know the customer’s exact needs.

With the KX3 it is somewhat easier as all the extras are very simple plug in modules that can be fitted in minutes. However, there is always the alignment and calibration which is a procedure we need to go through, and where possible we like to give the equipment a soak test before we deliver to the customer.

Today we built two KX3s and a K3 with lots of extras. There seems to be no slowing down of demand and I know that many customers are now very happy that not only can they buy within the UK, they can also get spares and extras off the shelf. It’s a great range of equipment and for anybody calling in, we have a complete operational K-line here at Hockley. Peter G3OJV.

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Are You Listening?   July 30th, 2013

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During the past 40 years we have done a lot of business with Japan and I have personally visited Tokyo a couple of times. Ham radio owes an awful lot to the country ever since the famous FT-101 was designed and produced. Not quite in the same class as the RAF Spitfire, but nevertheless still used and sort by enthusiasts.

Over the past twenty or so years I have had a number of meetings with Japanese companies and in recent times there has been a tendency for Japanese Companies to send over engineers on a fact finding trip. Now I presume that one of the reasons is to find out what designs and features are sort after by hams.In other words, what should be the next product they need to design for the market. That all seems very sensible. But I have learnt to expect a total rebuff of any ideas put forward. Almost without exception, the Japanese seem reluctant to take on board what the world would like to see. Let me give you some examples.

What about an update for the FT-817? “This is not planned.”
What about adding an ATU to the FT-817? “There is no demand.”
What about an upgrade for the TS-2000? “Why would we need to do that?”
What about adding 4m to the TS-2000? “There is no demand.”
Can we have an updated FT-847? “No.”
Can we have a range of transverters. “You need to speak with accessory manufacturer.”

Now is it me or are these guys just plain stupid? Why would you travel 7,000 miles on a fact finding trip full of negatives and rebuffs? I have no idea why they bother. But what is clear is that they go their own sweet way, much to the frustration of many in the trade. There is nothing wrong with what they produce, but there is everything wrong with their ability to understand what they should produce but don’t! Peter G3OJV

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4m Here we Come!   July 29th, 2013

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During our changes that we made recently to the antenna system was the installation of a very compact dual band 6m and 4m Yagi made by InnobAntennas and designed by G0KSC. This is an interesting design because it is very compact, with a boom little more than a meter long, It offers operation on two of our most interesting bands, both of which offer sporadic E possibilities on a predictable basis.

It is also very timely because we now have a demo model of the new Icom IC-7100 transceiver. I have not had time to operate this radio properly yet, but it does seem very lively and could well become a serious competitor for those who want all band performance up to 70cms. And with 4m operation expanding rapidly in Europe, this is really the only option available.

It was a pleasant surprise to learn that the final retail price is far lower than everybody expected. At one time the price had been rumored to be approaching £1,800 and the feeling within the trade is that Icom, for whatever reason, were forced to rethink the price. This will certainly kill off the sale of the IC-7000 unless Icom are planning to reduce this price as well.

For those wanting to purchase the IC-7100, we are now taking orders and expect to fulfill all those orders towards the end of August. Oh and by the way, the photo at the top is not the 3 element per band, nut the 4 elmeant per band. I have not yet got a photo of the smaller one. Peter G3OJV

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OPEN DAY 2013   July 29th, 2013

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On Saturday night we had thunder and lightning together with some tremendous rain showers, which did not bode well for the eve of our 40th anniversary Open Day. But yesterday the sun shone from dawn and hotted up as time progressed. In fact, with the gentle breeze blowing, we could not have wished for a better day.

At the front of the shop we had the food stall together with the bargain marquee and both were kept busy throughout the day. The three main suppliers were there. Icom were showing and demonstrating their new IC-7100 transceiver and the beacons via our new 4m Yagi were coming in at good strength. On the Yaesu stand we had the first UK public showing of the new FT-1200 which I first saw in Dayton earlier this year. On the Kenwood stand there was the new TS-990S which has enjoyed great success. We also had the complete Elecraft station on display that was running full legal power. For the first time, we were able to supply all of these exhibits their own working antenna. This was greatly appreciated by the visitors who took full advantage of being able to sit down and operate the stations. Outside we had Justin G0KSC, from InnovAntennas with a display of his antennas.

Our raffle was the biggest yet with over £600 being raised for Great Ormond Street Hospital. The odds against the person who won the first prize, a TS-480, of winning the second prize, must be quite small, but this is exactly what happened. The winner kindly asked for the second prize draw to be made again. The day finished up with an auction, after which it was time to pack up and clear up.

Looking back, the event was certainly a great success, helped by the weather. This is the first time that we have had our Open Day in July. In previous years it has been held earlier in the year in May. The reason for the change was because our traditional May date was beginning to clash with contests and so we will probably stick with this new date for next year.

Forty years in business is a great record and there are not too many companies that can celebrate this. The only problem I had on the day was that the internet connection went down and so this post is a day late. Ah well, that is life! Peter G3OJV

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Job Done@   July 27th, 2013

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Well we completed the antenna work, just in time. The weather forecast was not good but in fact we finished the task without drop of rain, Thehe sun shone once again with the temperature climbing to the mid twenties. A last minute idea from Justin G0KSC, was to add a dual band 4m and 6m Yagi. This we duly did and that completes our new antenna system. It covers all bands from 80m to 70cm including 4m. Possibly unique at any UK dealership. There were a few snags like the unexpected high VSWR on the 70cms Yagi. After a bit of head scratching we found the reason. We had not connected the coax run to the antenna! Yes it happens to us as well. We installed mast head preamps on both 2m and 70cms because of the extended coax runs. At present we are using a an Icom IC-7100 which has a built in 12v DC feed up the coax and makes installation of masthead amps very simple.

Turning the system on showed that everything was finally working well and the pre-amplifiers certainly paid off. Beacons were coming in at good strength, adn the ones on 4m were new for me. I have to confess that the last time I operated on 4m was probably in the 1960s on AM. The 4m beacon in Hertfordshire was coming through very well and was stronger than the one on 50MHz. I am not sure why this should be. It now remains to connect some rigs up to the coax runs. I guess the choice will change quite regularly now. I might even pop down to the shop and try a bit of 4m when there is an activity night. Listen out for G0PEP

We got through quite a few metres of coax cable. It was very hot work and I had not realized what a great take off we have from the roof of our building. There is rising ground from us to the west, but other than that there is little in the way and so we expect some good results from the new system, particularly on VHF and UHF. As you can see from the picture above, Justin G0KSC, got the best view at the top of the tower. He told me how great the view was. I decided to believe him and stay in the somewhat more safe place on top of the roof.

OPEN DAY
Tomorrow (Sunday) is our Open Day. I look forward to seeing you there.

Peter G3OJV.

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Team Effort   July 26th, 2013

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And here is the team that manned the G100RSGB station from our premises over the previous two days. From left to right: Andy G0IBN, Dave G4AJY, Eugene G4PTP, Steve G4ZUL, Jonathan G0DVJ and seated Gwyn G4FKH. All members of The Essex CW Group. For further information, check out http://www.essexcw.org.uk.

And now it is time to get ready for our Open Day. We have added some extra antennas and there is still more work to be done on the roof to finish the job off. We decided that on Wednesday and Thursday just passed, it would not be a good idea to clamber about the roof as there was too much danger from RF coming from G100RSGB. Now that operation is over, it gives us a chance to complete the job.

The extra antennas will give us more space to demonstrate radios. This is always a problem when it comes to antennas. There is no easy way to safely connect a whole lot of radios to a large number of transceivers. However, by increasing the number of antennas, we partly solve the problem.

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At the end of the day yesterday we reached just over 1000 contacts under the call of G100RSGB. This station was run on our premises by the Essex CW Group who, as you might have guessed, operated entirely on CW. This was a magnificent effort and their activity is continuing today at a somewhat more leisurely pace.

It was an education to see the operation in progress and the integration of PC and Elecraft K3s. With the quick fire contacts with the aid of contest software, the need to use the key was minimal. There is no way that this number of QSOs could be maintained using SSB. Contest CW is certainly a lot more advanced than the old days, and very much more efficient and quicker. It would be impossible to achieve this kind of QSO speed with a pencil and paper!

All credit must go to the two Elecraft K3s that worked faultlessly for 24 hours as did the KPA500 linear. And of course I doubt that if the two stations were using other equipment, they would be able to operate so close together without any input filtering.

At the present time we are running at 1400 stations worked in total. There had been some activity on 10m and 15m, but as i write this we are back on 14MHz and 18MHz. hTa’s 3MHz apart and no interference!

Well done to all who helped put this station on and the antenna work.

Peter G3OJV 2.30pm

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G100RSGB-LF

We are nearing the magic figure of 1000 stations worked in one day under the RSGB call of G100RSGB. This may not be a record under this call, but it must be very close. Both Elecraft rigs are running well and the operators have been refreshed after a snack.

Current activity is on 14MHz and 10MHz.

Peter G3OJV 8.30pm

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G100RSGB Essex CW Group   July 24th, 2013

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One of the things we were doing yesterday was to set up two operating positions for G100RSGB station that is operating today and tomorrow. I have no experience of operating two stations close together and to some extent there seems to be no guarantee that interference will or will not be caused for a given antenna spacing. The two antenna systems that we are using is our 3 element tri-band beam and a Carolina Windom. The beam is on the top of our building and I decided that I would try and move the Windom antenna as far away as possible from the Yagi and at the same time position it end on. The separation between Yagi and the end of the Windom, is around 20m. Not a lot, particularly when one of the operating positions is using a linear amplifier.

Both transceivers are K3s and have a reputation for being the best choice for multi-station operation. Their transmit phase noise is the lowest in the industry and this means that they are better than anything else for close in operation. Today, once operation gets going, we will have a better idea of how well this plan works. I carried out some initial tests yesterday and was very encouraged with the results. Band to band, their seemed to be no problems that I could detect. It was just an initial test with spot frequency transmit and a quick tune across the bands. But what was even more encouraging was that with 400 watts on 20m at the SSB end, I was able to operate Cw at the bottom of he band. This seemed too good to be true. I had planned to have a couple of quarter wave stubs to hand, just in case. This would seem not to be necessary.

So it looks as if operating on different bands is going to work without the need or any additional filtering.

LATEST NEWS (2pm)
Both stations are working fine along side one another. Operation is 100% CW. The current score is over 500 stations worked. Bands so far used are 40m 30m 20m 17m and 15m. I will feport later on progress.

Peter G3OJV,

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Yesterday was Antenna Day   July 23rd, 2013

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Above – Myself G3OJV on our roof.

Yesterday was antenna day and we managed to get the 80ft mobile tower in place on what proved to be the hottest day for 8 years! It was warm work as we were on the roof of the building for a good part of the day and kept going by glasses of iced Coke. This was compounded by me having to take an hour off and change out of shorts and into a more subdued form of clothing to play drums in a band for a very large funeral. Then it was back to shorts and on the roof again.

Plans never go quite as expected and whilst the mobile tower was the easy part, there were quite a few snags on the roof and we also had to run three extra lengths of feeder cable and then drill holes into the thick walls. I should add that this is not just about our Open Day, it is also about expanding our demonstration facilities.

We will end up with a three band beam, a 3 element 6m beam, 2 x 6 element LFAs for 2m, a 15 element 7c0ms LFA, three band 20-10m Despole, and 80-10m Windom. Possibly the best antenna system at any UK trade premises.

Today we are putting the finishing touches to the systems ready for the Essex CW Group;s operation tomorrow and Thursday. The only real problem now is thunder. lightening and rain. (The Scottish play!) Peter G3OJV

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