An editorial from Feedback, the newsletter of the Georgian Bay Amateur Radio Club


Sometimes it pains me to listen to the Ontario Swap Shop.

Perhaps I have too long a memory. My first shortwave radio was a department-store 5-band radio that tuned from 4 to 10 MHz on a VERY approximate slide-rule dial. When I had saved enough money, I went to the local SWL's emporium -- Radio Shack -- and bought what I considered the deluxe receiver: a DX-150. It was much more sensitive, and had the all-important BFO, but it still tuned to the nearest megaHertz. I would slaver over the ads in the back of the Radio Amateur's Handbook, marvelling at the fantastic technology of a rig which could be tuned to any given KILOHertz! What precision! Surely forever beyond my reach, I thought...but if I could ever own such a fabulous rig, my dreams would be complete.

I eventually acquired such a radio, of course. It was a modest rig, though, compared to the splendid spread of Heathkit equipment at my university's amateur radio club. And listening to my newfound fellow hams ooh-ing and aah-ing over the photos of Drake and Collins in the latest QST made me realize that there was still a higher plateau, the ne plus ultra of radios, the ham rigs of the rich and famous.

Now, on occasional Monday afternoons, I read the Swap Shop on packet and see the glorious rigs of yore for sale. $400. $300. $225. $100! An SB-102 for $100! An NCX-500 for $75! Such fabulous rigs! I wish I could buy them all!

I can't, though. It's not the money so much as the space, and the knowledge that I already have more ham gear than I can use. I have one modern HF rig -- cold, efficient, and beautifully functional -- and two older HF rigs that keep me busy with maintenance. But when they're working, the older rigs are my choice. I became a ham when vacuum tubes were the norm, and there's something about a warm glow emanating from the depths of a rig that still says "ham radio" deep in my soul. It conjures up memories of nighttimes in front of my buddy's Drake 2-B receiver, illuminated only by the dial light and the orange glowing tubes. The dusty smell of a warm radio, and the flow of heat from its top, recall long winter nights in the shack, chasing the elusive DX.

Mine will be the last generation to have such memories. Modern rigs are all solid-state, and few new hams seek the Advanced license that is required to service transmitting gear. So the glut of older rigs will go unrepaired and unsold, and instead of enlivening the evenings of teenagers and aspiring hams, will end up in a landfill.

It's a pity.

- Brad VE3RHJ