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I love my old radio, but........ (Photos Added!)

Frank Drake (KL7IPV) on August 29, 2001
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I love my old one, but I want a new one...........

I have a nasty habit of wanting to buy better radios as they come out. I LOVE NEW STUFF! As new radios appear, I just naturally gravitate to them. It is like a disease. I used to be called a "Techno junkie". My first new radio was in 1965, a Heathkit DX-60B. It was great fun and I loved the idea of building my own. As time moved on and radios became more complex, I decided then to buy them rather build them and use my "talents" on antenna building. It has been a good practice over the years, as I have had fun making antennas and mating them to the new and better radios. Radios like the TR-4C, TS-440S, Swan 100MXA, Ten-Tec Omni-D, Ten-Tec Delta II, IC-706, etc. And that doesn't include the numerous two meter radios I have had, hand held and desk top types. But I have always sold one when I got another. I never wanted to be "radio poor" and could not justify having two radios to accomplish the same thing. I truly did enjoy upgrading though.

Now I have a dilemma. There is a great new radio out. It is a great new portable. It is a great new .... well, I think you get the picture. Another radio is being produced that has me lathering up again. But there is one problem. I really like the one I have. I mean, I love my radio! It is an Icom IC-706 Mark II. It is my second IC-706. It does it all and does it well. It is small and easy to use. It is not complicated to get it to do things other radios cannot do. It is a "keeper" and I am torn.

The new radio has a lot of things going for it: it is small, light, low power ( QRP ) and looks good. The ads are great. The new radio is even better in person. I want it, but it has some limitations. I have never been a QRPer. Although I have never run over 100 watts output, I wasn't sure about running and being limited to just 5 watts. I have been on PSK31 for the past two years. Since the introduction of the new radio, I have been on PSK31 running 5 watts out to see what it was like and find it works well on that mode but I find it limiting on SSB . So now what? I am still not comfortable with a permanent limit of 5 watts. I racked my brain and -VOILA!! I had it. Why not have the best of both worlds, a portable and full power radio? I had the radio, now how do I make it portable?

I found the solution by doing the following: I went to the local home improvement store and looked for strips of aluminum that were two inches by one-eighth inch by three feet long. I cut the aluminum into two pieces each an eleven and three quarters in length. It took just drilling holes in the aluminum at the places used for a mobile mount and holes for adjusting the VOX and things on the side of the radio.

 I added a screw eye on one end of each piece of aluminum that would be on the top end of the radio ( the dial end ) on which I hooked a computer case carrying strap. The "top" end of the aluminum extends one and an eighth of an inch beyond the front of the radio so the screw eye misses hitting the tuning knob. I have used acorn nuts to protect my fingers from sharp edges as I tune the radio. The "bottom" end extends enough that it allows me to stand the radio vertically if I use a 90 degree coax fittings on the connections and bend the power plug cable over. I cut a hole into the aluminum on the side nearest the coax inputs to allow me to use the 90 degree fittings and carry the radio also. Its not perfect but it does the job.

I also added a short length of RG-58U coax to a BNC connector on the side of the radio. I remove the home antenna and connect the new portable antenna when I am ready to travel. A short rubber duck from Pryme antennas does the job just fine. I have even found the rubber duck works well in the house so I don't need to change back every time I return from a "travel". So I just place a 90 degree BNC at the rubber duck to keep it vertical when the radio is used horizontally. The opening also allows me to place the 90 degree fitting on the HF/6 meter coax input if I decide to use the new Maldol AH series antenna ( that works on HF. 

I already have all my radio power cables on power pole connectors for the ability to interchange all my power needs whether from a power supply or battery. The power shown in the pictures is a 12VDC 7.5AH gel cell battery purchased from All Electronics Corp. ( ) and then placed into a camera bag bought at a local camera store. I used sticky sided hook and loop for the microphone to hang on the side of the radio which allows me to use the microphone at home hanging from the side and while traveling while hanging down along the aluminum. It isn't as light as the new one but it does have the capability of 100 watts out. I use it as QRP when on battery and full power SSB at home. Now I have the best of both worlds and get to keep the radio that has served me so well.

Total cost even when I taking the new BNC rubber duck into account? About $30!! I traded my lust for a new radio for $30 to keep the old faithful. A very good trade if you ask me. After 35 years of doing ham radio, I still love doing things that make radio fun and save me money. I think I've done it again. Pictures are available to be e-mailed if anyone wishes to see them.

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I love my old radio, but........  
Anonymous post on August 29, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
A ham experimenting??? Perish the thought!
I love my old radio, but........  
by WB2WIK on August 29, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
Nice article, Frank.

But the FT-817 fits in my coat pocket, without tearing the seams...doubt you can do that with the IC706/gel cell combination!

73 & keep up the good work!

Steve WB2WIK/6
I love my old radio, but........  
by JAMES_BENEDICT_EX_N8FVJ on August 29, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
Used to have the same 'bug' for about 10 years, but lately have settled upon a Ten Tec Omni V- just does everything right for me- clean crystal clear audio! I must have owned 25 different HF radios. If I want another radio, I'll keep the Ten Tec. As for 2m, I have been off the band for 6 years, just bought an Icom IC-2100H- I'll keep that also. Now for the other news, just bought a Johnson Viking I and a National NC-140. The problems with the seller on eBay was so horrific, I do not want the receiver. I had to hire a mediator to get the ham to perform. No more eBay! One more old radio deal and I am finished.
RE: I love my old radio, but........  
by KL7IPV on August 29, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
Thanks, Steve. The FT-817 wouldn't help me...I don't wear coats here in Las Vegas. I hardly wore one in Alaska. It must be the blood in me is colder than most. I liked the 817 very much but just didn't like the idea of being limited to 5 watts all the time. This seems to give me the almost best of both worlds. Also for any one wanting the pics, I will be sending them to a lot at once since they take a while to upload. But I WILL send them.
RE: I love my old radio, but........  
by WB2WIK on August 30, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
Hi Frank, I don't wear coats here in Los Angeles, either. It was just an example. Actually, I don't even own an FT-817, although I've used a few and they are very cute.

I would not have an 817 as my "only" rig, but it would be a fun thing to take camping, on holiday, use in hotel rooms, etc. And running 5W with small antennas is certainly good for building operating skills!

Working the ARRL DX Phone contest this past March (six months ago), a contest where the DX gives their power output level as part of their exchange, revealed an awful lot of people using 817's. Every time I heard a "3" or a "4" or a "5" in the DX exchange, I'd take a second to ask the other station what he was using, and in about all cases, it was an FT-817. These were people in the U.K., France, Poland, Italy, Hungary...just all over. And I heard them all!

One guy with a newish Brit call responded to my CQ on 10m SSB, one of many in a little pileup calling me, and tagged on the comment, "5 Watts from the Garden..." I ignored everyone else and answered him. He was using an FT-817 in his back yard, with a whip antenna, on what was apparently a pretty nice day in England (for March). Cool.

73 & maybe we'll bump into each other in Vegas...I get there several times a year for conventions (like everyone else)!

Steve WB2WIK/6
RE: I love my old radio, but........  
Anonymous post on August 30, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
Hey Frank,

I understand your desire to use one rig for both purposes - high power and portable. But the IC-706, in my view, makes a much worse portable than the FT-817 makes as a base.

This is mainly because the '706 draws eight times the current on receive as the '817 does! That's whether it's squelched, full audio, audio turned down, etc. And the '706 is huge! Put it into a backpack with other stuff and it's a huge part of the setup.

Look, you said you have fun building antennas. Well, it's time to break out of that mold. Get the FT-817, and build an amplifier for it. You leave the amplifier in your car or at home. Use the amp only when you need it. With the '706, you're forced to carry the amp with you all over the place.

Buy the bits of the Communications Concepts EB63 amplifier - maybe $100 to $150 with the outboard filters. That'll get you 140 watts from 12V when you need it.

I actually find building a solid state several hundred watt amplifier easier than building an antenna!

One trouble, though with either the '706 or the '817. They both have complex, confusing menu structures. I'm not criticizing - the fact that they do so much means they have to bury everything in menus because the front panels don't have room for all the knobs needed to simplify things!

So, try something new and build an amp and make someone else a happy owner of that '706.

RE: I love my old radio, but........  
by KL7IPV on August 30, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
"Make someone else a happy owner of that 706"! Heck, it already has a happy owner. I thought about building an amp but that means selling one radio, buying another, and then buying an amp to do what the 706 already does. Just how would I convince the XYL that was making any sense? Besides that, the 706 receiver covers more than the 718 and I didn't want to give any up. The 706 with the face turned off lasts about 3 hours on the 7.5 AHR battery with intermittent transmit use. That seems okay to me. It is heavier than the little 817 but I am used to the way it switches bands and all that stuff. This way I won't have to relearn how to operate it. It now does more then I had planned for it and I am a happy op again (actually I was anyway). Thank you for the suggestion though. I had really given it serious thought.
RE: I love my old radio, but........  
Anonymous post on September 4, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
OK, then, so the point behind your article was as a construction article, rather than actually musings about whether or not to get rid of the radio. "I love my old radio but...." suggests that you've decided to take the plunge.

Sometimes I hate understanding the English language, 'cuz amateur writers so often don't, so they write misleading titles.

Glad you're happy with the 706. Ain't no way I'd be satisfied with only three hours of operating with a rig/battery combo that's bigger than a half gallon of milk. That combo would take up half the space in the backpack that I put two days' worth of supplies in!

You haven't said what it is you plan to do now that you can carry it around. Do you plan to hoist this behemoth when you climb mountains? Is this your night-long entertainment on 40 meters when the crickets are keeping you awake at night in the woods? Or did you just want man-pack portability to say you'd done it.

Reminds me of my first "handheld" radio. I had an old IC-22S and had glommed onto a gel-cell pack. I fabricated a leather holster for the whole thing. I may have looked pretty stupid at the next hamfest, but the IC-22S had a helical-resonator front end, so I survived the intermod better than the Tempo S1 handhelds that were just coming out. Nonetheless, the whole affair was so unwieldy that I finally traded it for a real handheld. Same range of operation, far more battery life, and 20dB more convenient.

Trying to turn a mobile into a handheld may score points in re-usability, but there's a reason for the hot sales of the FT-817
RE: I love my old radio, but........  
by KL7IPV on September 7, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
For anonymous.. the title is a partial of the total: " I love my radio, but I want a new one". I didn't want to buy the FT-817 because I didn't want to be restricted to 5 watts and also lose some receive capability. I also did not want to give up my IC-706. It is a little cumbersome but as a portable is suits my needs. It also did not cost me over $700 to get that capability as well. I know it is not for everyone but it may give some others an idea of what may be done on their own radios and save some $$$ at the same time. It did allow me to use some ingenuity to accomplish the portability and share that with others. Part of the fun of ham radio is tinkering, sharing and learning. Again, I think this instance exibits that.
RE: I love my old radio, but........  
by KL7IPV on September 7, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
for the picky ones reading these, I see that I goofed on "exhibits". Sorry.
RE: I love my old radio, but........  
by KM5OT on September 14, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
Everyone has an opinion, including me. Here's my 2 cents....
I'm having a lot of fun with my 817, using my wire dipoles, my Small Cushcraft A3S (short 10/15/20m verticle), and experiments with my mobile antennas with counterpoises (hamsticks and Hustlers) and have been surprised by how well it works with all of them.

When we go to the low end of the Solor Cycle, we'll both be happy that we kept our IC706mkII.

I have to agree with keeping the IC706 for the power, but I agree with those who want truly portable operations the IC706 is heavy and hungry when it comes to batteries. The XYL and I are taking a week long Vacation in Northern Arkansas via Motorcycle, and I'll barely have room for the FT817 and 1 small GellCell, I'll tell her it's my new shaving kit, If I'm lucky she'll believe that until the end of the 2nd day!
I know I couldn't get away with that with the 706!!!!
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