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Re: [TenTec] "will SDR be here tomorrow."

To: tentec@contesting.com
Subject: Re: [TenTec] "will SDR be here tomorrow."
From: "Dr. Gerald N. Johnson" <geraldj@storm.weather.net>
Reply-to: geraldj@storm.weather.net,Discussion of Ten-Tec Equipment <tentec@contesting.com>
Date: Fri, 14 Jul 2006 12:57:36 -0500
List-post: <mailto:tentec@contesting.com>
On Thu, 2006-07-13 at 21:18 -0700, Duane - N9DG wrote:
> --- CATFISHTWO@aol.com wrote:
> > and my biggest question, is that, " will SDR be here
> > tomorrow."   There is 
> > not much "company,"  and are they going to be here in 5
> > years? you  have 500 
> > computer geeks playing with this like they used to do with
> > the Mac, and  when 
> > they get bored, who will update the radio, Ten Tec will be
> > here tomorrow ,  will 
> > SDR or will it be like your old tandy 1000 sitting out in
> > the  garage..  My opinion, 
> Actually I'd be wondering which ones of the existing big 4
> will still be here 5 to 10 years from now. I really do get
> the sense that there is another major "changing of the guard"
> for radio manufacturers beginning to occur; much like we saw
> from 1970 to 1985 or so. In that 15-year time frame the
> brands that had been around for decades all but disappeared.
> Hallicrafters, Hammarlund, Johnson, WRL were all gone by
> 1975. Heath, Drake, Swan, and Collins gone by 1985. You do
> have to ask yourself why? After all they did all make
> attempts at transitioning to solid state designs but yet all
> seemed to stall shortly thereafter. In that same time period
> Ten Tec, Icom, Yaesu, and Kenwood all rose in prominence. And
> Atlas came and went. 

Actually, E. F. Johnson and Collins are still in business, just not in
the ham business. Heath, too, but only in the manual's business. The
last Hallicrafters was brought out under new conglomerate ownership and
had a fundamental problem of trying to use commercial plated through
technology on military weight copper boards and with the ground traces
on the top side, solder didn't wick through the holes and solder well to
the traces on top. Most of those radios were intermittent or worse. I
had a good one, and as far as I know its still running. The KWM-380 has
its loyal following still. It just cost twice that of a Kenwood though
it has half the features. It did meet Art Collin's goal of being priced
so only the rich could afford it. Lot of the misses from Collins came
from Art, not the engineering staff. It didn't take the long time
between the S-line and the KWM-380 because the engineers weren't working
on it. It took that long because Art wanted the sky or nothing and the
practical (widely salable) radios didn't get beyond drawings.

And then the Yen was cheap compared to the dollar and wage rates low in
Japan so that imports cost less than domestic production. Early Japanese
solid state equipment wasn't all that great either but it sold on price.
Swan stuff just wasn't great anytime and technology passed it by. WRL
was almost up to middle ham home brew quality at its best. Hallicrafters
and Hammarlund never achieved adequate stability for SSB in their
affordable radios. Sure they could copy but if you dropped your pencil,
you had to retune the signal.

Other than in these Tentec environs, Tentec is less well known because
they don't sell through distributors (and have to cut their own throat
to keep prices competitively) and so they don't gain from the extra
advertising and price competition of those distributors/retailers.
> Did the current big 4 rise only because they were better able
> to implement solid state? Or did it have more to do with
> making radios that better matched the increasingly "appliance
> operator" mold of hamming. I think it was both with the JA
> companies having the edge on making radios with the
> touchy-feely controls and blinky lights that became all the
> rage in consumer electronics like stereos and TV's at that
> same time frame.

There is a detectable trend of going to lots of buttons and lights, one
Yaesu VHF/UHF multimode has 96 on the front panel, the Yaesu FT-1000 has
more. So many most users can't learn how to use them effectively.
> I also think that the "old guard" manufacturers of the 60's
> ultimately went out of business because they tried to satisfy
> a customer base that *insisted* that they keep building
> radios that work, function, and be built (i.e. tubes) like
> they always used to be, which they did. And I think it could
> be argued that doing that was a major part of why they went
> out of business. The customers all *said* that they wanted
> radios like that but when their friends all started buying
> these new fangled solid state radios from Ten Tec, Icom,
> Yaesu, and Kenwood the Hallicrafters, Hammarlund etal. sales
> fell through the floor and then they couldn't field anything
> truly competitive quickly enough to save themselves. Sound
> familiar?

The old designs mostly didn't perform as well for stability and receiver
dynamic range. And some were rotten at splattering transmitter intermod
products even with tubes (Especially those with sweep tubes), though
today we seem to accept transmitter intermod that is far worse than the
best of the tube radios (Collins S-line) just because its as good as
ordinary solid state can do.
> What I see today is these big 4 all making stabs at SDR but
> constraining themselves to mostly emulating existing designs
> (could this be today's equivalent of the 50-60's era
> manufacturers trying to transition to solid state; my hunch
> is yes it is). It would also be roughly the equivalent of
> back in the 70's if the JA companies and Ten Tec had all
> built radios that looked, worked, and felt just like the big
> boat anchors they supplanted. I don't think any of them would
> have gotten very far if they had done so. Bottom line is that
> they didn't and they have all lived 30 or so years because of
> it. 

Most radios from overseas, whether handheld or HF do everything are
computers with some RF parts attached. Hence the rampant growth of
marginally useful features that require keeping the operator's manual
handy to make use of them or recover from a button slip.

The main feature of the SDR is that by software changes or option
selections, the whole capability of the radio can be changed and at far
less cost than realizing real high quality filters and mixers. As the
costs of fast wide bus width D/A chips comes down the RF parts of the
radios will shrink to antenna matching to maybe an RF stage and that A/D
for receiver and a D/A with a bit of filtering and power stages for
transmitting. And with enough computer power have ten times the features
(simultaneous reception, more modes, virtually an infinite selection in
effective bandwidths) than the fanciest radio today and the cost will be
dependent on the CPU speeds (multiple processors should be a design
fundamental), memory and A/D cost. Using a multiple conversion down to
15 KHz just to do some SDR is no more futuristic than using 15 KHz
toroid filters for SSB as was proposed in a QST article about 1955.
Using multiple mixers really limits receiver dynamic range compared with
using a single conversion with the selectivity right after that mixer
which is the fundamental TenTec scheme in most radios from the beginning
through the Omni VI. And complicated with the conversion to LF in the
Orion and other computer based radios. Computer radio should have
simpler RF, not more complex RF to both work better and to compensate
for the computer cost.
> When I see $10K radios with Ethernet ports that can do
> nothing more than firmware upgrades, or a $9-13K radio that
> needs to be sent to the factory for any firmware upgrade at
> all I know that those companies simply "don't get it". I see
> them making the same fundamental mistake about how to adopt
> and apply new technology that Hammarlund, Hallicrafters,
> Drake, Collins etc. made years ago. History does indeed
> repeat.

And those that don't study history are bound to repeat it.
> Interesting times in ham radio are on the way for sure. And
> to sum it all up, - some words from Mr. Bob Dylan:
> "Because something is happening here
> But you don't know what it is
> Do you, Mister Jones?"
> (from: Ballad of a Thin Man):
> Duane
> N9DG
> _
73, Jerry, K0CQ,
All content copyright Dr. Gerald N. Johnson, electrical engineer

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