AHA! New Tech - with OLD HAMS! A PROBLEM! (LONG!)

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From: Michael Pupeza (mpupeza@csolve.net)
Date: Sat Nov 28 1998 - 22:10:03 EST


Hello there QRPers!
Technology has changed - and we 'older' hams have a BIG gap to try to span.
I am 56 years old, have been licenced since 1960, but still 'play' with
electronics, computers, radio, etc.! BUT it IS GETTING AWAY from me!

My first Ham experiences were with 'hollow state' devices (Vacuum Tubes)
with point to point wiring, from post war (WW2) equipment. I then used
Heathkit (p to p) kits - DX-20, etc., and learned how to solder. That is a
skill - a VERY IMPORTANT SKILL - that I improved on - and am good at, to
this day!

Later came 'some' printed circuit wiring with 'tubes', but I was already
doing 'breadboarding' of transistors and 'solid state' devices. This was
now the late 60's, when BOTH methods were used in commercial equipment.
Examples are Pye Radios, GE VHF equipment, Motorola, etc, where 'Hybrids'
were the common state.

In the 70's - a REVOLUTION! Not only were we dealing with 'chips',
containing multitudes of 'Texas Instruments' 'solid state' devices, but
they were Printed Circuit Boards, Multi-layer PC Boards, wire-wrap
(Remember those?), but the complexity and size of the boards were
astounding! AND becoming throwaways if in trouble! We used Tektronic Scopes
- they were the 'ONLY'!
MINI-COMPUTERS! With programming! WOW! If you wanted it do do something
else - it could be re-programmed, or discarded! Somebody had to pay,
however! Basically, MOST Ham equipment was ALL tubes till the early 70's!

It wasn't till mid-late 70's that ALL Solid State Ham Radios became
available! Atlas 210-215 comes to mind, as does Yaesu FT-301 and FT-7, and
Ten-Tec 505 series in 72! We could still easily fix them, since the boards
were able to be 'unplugged' or bypassed for ease of maintenance. It was all
simple 'off-the-shelf' parts, so 'most' of the failing parts were available
from major suppliers. And they were 'conventional' wireable parts! Many had
become 'special order' items, though.

Then came the early 'microprocessor' and 'Digitally Synthesized' radios,
IC-701 and others. The PC boards were hard wired together, and were NOT
easily repaired. Components, including the Microprocessor, were stamped
with 'House' numbers, so that, even if it was a conventional part, you
could not obtain it unless you had a cross-reference (unlikely) or ordered
it from the manufacturer ($$$$$)! And troubleshooting was a PIG, since,
with the software, it was not possible to check MANY things.

This present 'Generation' of Ham Gear is now built with combination of plug
together with cables, or sockets, or other, totally replaceable, units.
Most, if not all components on most boards, excluding the RF Components,
are house numbered (ICs only), Surface Mount Devices. Only a few older
components are through hole mounting conventional parts.
In other words, to fix it, you try replacing EACH board!
Gone seems to be the day when you can follow the schematic, with a meter,
to solve the problem.
I bought a $500 RCA Video CamCorder for $5 at Orlando Flea Market because
it is TOTALLY Dead. I spent many hours, as did the seller, to find where
there is a 'simple' break in the power! You see, without the Microprocessor
working, this machine will do NOTHING!
In the old days, a radio could squack, squeal, light up, transmit, not
receive, not transmit but receive, etc., but RARELY do NOTHING! That's how
we fixed them!

Nowadays, no 'Brain Stem' action - is DEAD! I can't use this CamCorder even
as a a surveillance camera - it is 2.6 lbs of DEAD! I'm sure the lens is
good, the motors work fine, the viewer is great, the Zoom is nice, BUT!
NADA! A doorstop!

Our new radios are becoming like that!
Us QRPers are making a bit of a statement - We don't like it, and we won't
stand for it!
Kudos for the K2, and other kits - I have built the Norcal Cascade, the
KC-2, the Buzznot, the LDG QRP tuner, and a few other minor items within
the last few years, and I do believe that we should support those companies
that we can build/maintain the equipment!

I also have bought, and support, the SGC SG-2020, which is definitely not a
kit - nor does it seem to be easily maintainable! It is my 'State of the
Art' alternative to my Cascade.

So, while I have expounded on my views, I am also a prisoner of my 'Wants'!

Aren't we all!

72, 73 - - 11th out of 18 in 1B2-Bat Field Day - It was SSB only! A GUD score!

Mike.....>

Michael Pupeza VE3EQP
283 Peek-a-Boo Trail RR# 2
Penetanguishene, Ont.
Canada L9M 1R2

mpupeza@csolve.net
(705) 549-3220


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