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Reviews Categories | Keyers & CW Keyboards | Hallicrafters T.O. Keyer Help

Reviews Summary for Hallicrafters T.O. Keyer
Hallicrafters T.O. Keyer Reviews: 5 Average rating: 5.0/5 MSRP: $TO Keyer
Description: Hollow state keyer. Has two speed ranges (slower and faster), adjustable weighting, adjustable volume. First commercial digital keyer to be widely marketed.
Product is in production.
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K5UJ Rating: 5/5 May 2, 2015 03:37 Send this review to a friend
FB fully automatic key  Time owned: more than 12 months
Hallicrafters HA-1 "TO Keyer"

My favorite keyer is the TO keyer and a vibrokey single lever paddle. I must be some kind of troglodyte to prefer it. Realizing everyone here has given it a 5, there are nevertheless some hams who prefer other ways of sending CW. Here's my theory as to why the TO Keyer is not a favorite with some ops:

1. The operator is used to Iambic keying and paddles or may want to contest and push buttons.

2. The operator does not run a rig that has a cathode keyed line.

3. The operator never worked for a long time with a bug or his TO Keyer is not functioning properly but it is not immediately apparent.

Let me explain that last part. When I got my HA-1 from a hamfest, I tried it out and had difficulty with it and put it away thinking it
just wasn't right for me. Then several years later I learned that when the TO Keyer was new, Vibroplex came out with a special version
of the Vibrokeyer single lever paddle, having a gray base and black finger pieces. This is mentioned in the review below mine. I found an old one on eBay that was beat up and bought
it. I had to completely disassemble it and replace a few parts, clean all of the chrome and contacts, put on new rubber feet and a few other
fixes but eventually it was good as new albeit having a used appearance. I got out the TO Keyer and gave it a spin. That was
when I discovered the problem was never me; it was the TO Keyer.

Over the next 2 or 3 months I had it on the bench trying to figure out what was wrong. Vacuum tube logic was new to me. One thing it did was start off with a dit instead of a dah when sending the letter M or O; these became W and J. To make a long story short I wound up recapping the whole thing, and trying a number of other fixes, making
incremental progress. Eventually I noticed a 1 ohm resistance between the tube sockets and chassis and re-strapped all the tube sockets to
ground--the riveted sockets had built up resistance. That plus 0.1 mfd caps across the paddle lugs to ground finally cleaned up the

I also discovered that the keyer functioning suffers when run on a buck transformer or variable autotransformer getting the supply v. down to 115 v. This is one vintage item I run right into the wall outlet at 122 v. to work right.

As I am used to a bug, the TO Keyer and Vibrokeyer paddle is like having a fully automatic bug. If you are a bug operator and you have a properly functioning TO Keyer and the proper Vibrokeyer paddle, you will fall right into it and love it. If you are used to other keys and/or keyers, you may not care for it.

When I was a new ham I would see TO Keyers in operation at hamfests. They had been around for 10 years at that point and hams were going to solid state keys and selling their TOs. To me, there was something about automatic sending with a vacuum tube circuit that was very cool. I finally got mine around 15 years ago.

For some reason at the top of the page it says this product is still in production. Not true; you have to buy one second hand but there are plenty of them out there.
W5CGH Rating: 5/5 Feb 10, 2011 08:48 Send this review to a friend
GREAT KEYER (In it's day!!)  Time owned: more than 12 months
Before I write another word, let make it clear that my above Summary comments and rating are for this keyer in it's prime in the early 1960's.

The TO keyer was the first of it's kind, an electronic keyer that precisely generated dots and dashs digitally based on a single timebase. W9TO never published his keyer, but he did patent it, with rights assigned to Hallicrafters. W9TO did give out schematics to his keyer for years to anyone who asked for one, and a ham store in Houston even sold a printed circuit board to build the keyer.

By todays standards, the keyer is pretty bad, but when it first came out, it was superb. The biggest problem with the design is that due to the fact that it does not have either a dot or dash memory on the input, it's real easy for the operator to get ahead of the keyer and either send an extra character or have one locked out and not sent at all. It's kind of like learning to type fast on an old mechanical "green keyed" teletype machine, you have to learn to type (and send code) at the speed of the machine, and no faster.

I used my first Hallicrafters TO Keyer as a novice in 1970 at K9NBH, the club station at Great Lakes Naval Station in Illinois. As a key collector, I've owned Vibroplex Vibrokeyer single lever paddles before, and finally bought an HA-1 a few years ago.

Oh, yeah, don't EVEN try squeeze keying with a TO Keyer as no one had even heard of that back when W9TO designed his keyer. Using an iambic paddle and losing both levers at the same time in either order will just send a long string of dashes as long as you hold the paddles closed.

In closing, if you want a vintage keyer to use with a vintage station, the Hallicrafters HA-1 TO Keyer along with a Vibroplex Vibrokeyer paddle is a perfect choice and you'll have great fun with it.

Oh yeah, one other thing, when the HA-1 first came on the market, Vibroplex offered the Vibrokeyer for a while with the base painted to match the Hallicrafters gray color of the HA-1 cabinet.


Brad, W5CGH
K9TCG Rating: 5/5 Mar 26, 2009 10:18 Send this review to a friend
An excellent keyer  Time owned: more than 12 months
I obtained my T.O.Keyer around 1961. I've used it almost constantly over the years. I even had it shipped to Okinawa when I was at the Army Mars station KR6USA. And the best part of this review? I've never had a problem with this keyer. It has all it's original parts and tubes! It still works great.
N4KC Rating: 5/5 Aug 27, 2007 19:37 Send this review to a friend
Di-di-dah-dit Dah-di-di-dit  Time owned: more than 12 months
Though it lacks practically all the features of today's keyers, it still deserves a "5" for what it did in its day. I've had mine for 30 years, though I'll admit it's been on the shelf for the last 15. That is simply because I need the memories and other features of the modern keyer, but somehow, I can't bear to part with it. I did one mod: added a pot to vary the sidetone frequency. As the previous reviewer noted, this would make a nice addition to any vintage station, and it works very well, too.

Maybe that's why I'm hanging onto go with that HT-37 I'm going to acquire someday.
KB2FCV Rating: 5/5 Aug 27, 2007 09:50 Send this review to a friend
Reliable vintage keyer  Time owned: more than 12 months
I've owned my T.O. Keyer for 15 years and it's a great little keyer! I reccommend one of these for anyone who uses antique equipment because it can do cathode keying. This keyer also works just fine on modern equipment for those of you who would like to run something vintage but still prefer to use modern rigs. The only thing I have had to replace were two electrolytics, otherwise the keyer has performed flawlessly over the years. The speed and weight adjustments operate nicely to suit the person using it. These usually can be had in nice condition for under $100 dollars and work great with any set of paddles. Some of the coolest 'visuals' are the OA2 tubes in the back with the one that 'blinks' and the neon bulb that flickers as well as you send. Ever notice that the neon bulb flickers 3 times with a dash and once with a dot?

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