i sent this cryptic msesige to my main reflector "glowbugs", and in
reutrn was answered by AC7AC, one of the K3 crew, who is also a
.................on the contest reflector there is a lot of talk about
radios are going, with the new K3, and also how computers will assist
operators more in "plug n play"
i feel so left out of modern technology. i quote from the article: "you
don't have to know how a piano works to play it" mike w7dra
Isn't that a normal consequence of a maturing technology?
The early adopters are those interested in the "nuts and bolts". For
it was how to make some RF and then detect it coming from another station
starting with the first experimenter who tried to emulate Marconi's
100 years ago and much like what's going on with the 500kHz group right
Many of use had to repeat experience as new Hams half a century ago when
cobbled together our first rigs from scavenged radio parts and tried to
figure out how to make them work.
Now a new Ham stops at the store, picks up a few boxes, plugs them in,
he/she's on the air with a signal we'd have died to have when we started.
I don't know if that makes them less of a "Ham" but it makes them a
"different" sort of Ham. We used to refer to them as "appliance
with just a bit of a sneer -- unless they had a Collins station that
make us drool just to touch! I guess they still are appliance operators,
they are no longer the minority. Now it's us "homebrewers" who are
because we (reportedly) have rigs that produce broader-than-necessary
signals and which can't land on a preset frequency within 5 Hz or who
actually need to open the covers and mess with the "tubes" from time to
Back in the 1950's there were occasional editorials asking if it should
legal for a Ham (like Art Collins or many others) to own or work for a
company making equipment to sell to Hams. The writers were trying to bend
the FCC rules barring the use of a Ham license for "pecuniary interest"
include making or selling equipment to Hams. The obvious goal was to
any "factory built" Amateur radio equipment. Kits, perhaps were okay, but
some felt that any "manufactured" equipment was contrary to the Amateur
rules and the Amateur spirit.
Those ideas failed, of course. One might argue that it was not just
that wasn't the "pecuniary interest" the FCC had in mind, but also
there was a huge business interest in making gear for Hams. Those
weren't willing to give up their opportunity to sell to Hams easily!
it all I think the real lasting reason the idea never caught on was that
Hams wanted what the more exotic technology offered - technology
to individuals alone because they lacked the skill or desire to implement
Today, the tables are turned. We today who build our own gear are having
justify our existence. Many Hams ask why don't we just require everyone
a type-accepted manufactured transmitter and avoid all the questions
whether one's signal meets rigorous technical standards? That's why I
constantly remind homebrewers that we must protect our *privilege* of
building our own gear, just as half a century ago companies carefully
protected the privilege of building equipment for Hams to buy.
Today Ham radio isn't much about learning to build a rig and antenna.
equally (perhaps more) about operating; winning contests, running up DX
scores, and the like.
I'm sitting here with an Elecraft K3 all in bits, writing the assembly
manual for the kit version. It's a great rig! I'm astonished at its
capabilities such as reading CW or RTTY right off of the front-panel
display, monitoring signals from almost DC through 6 meters, transmitting
FSK, FM, AM, SSB and CW across the HF spectrum through 6 meters and a
of other features, and to do that with performance specifications that
a few months ago required a $10K outlay to touch.
But it's also a rig, even in kit form, that doesn't require a soldering
to assemble. To stuff boards would require the ability to handle surface
mount parts too small for many to see, much less handle, and to align and
test those circuits would require exotic capabilities usually found only
high-end laboratories today.
So what do we get for giving up our soldering irons to "build" a K3? A
standard in performance, for one. An incredible range of capabilities in
little desk-top box that weighs only 8 pounds, for another. And, for
who want "plug 'n play" the K3 comes "factory assembled" too.
The K3 may be the "sexy new girl" on the Ham radio block and, like most
"sexy new girls", it represents a challenge too. It again raises the
question of why those of us who homebrew should continue to have that
That isn't something for the manufacturers of the Ham gear to address,
especially. Wayne Burick, N6KR, the principal designer of the K3 and the
other Elecraft rigs, is an avid homebrewer as are several members of his
design staff including this writer. Wayne actively promotes homebrewing,
reflected in Elecraft's support while encouraging Hams to modify and
their Elecraft rigs. The documentation plans include extensive tutorials
explain what is going on "under the hood" of their K3 for those who want
know why it works, not just how it works. But that's not something we can
expect from all manufacturers. Most of them are only interested in
It's up to us who love to build and tinker to keep homebrewing alive and
part of the Amateur Radio mainstream, on the air, in the press, on the
and in our club meetings.
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