The cost of new rigs including the IC-9700

20200226_163021In around 1977 when I had not been licenced long, I bought a Yaesu FT221R multimode 2 metre rig. It was very much state-of-the-art though I cannot remember if they used that expression back then. It was a cracking rig anyway of its day and as I still have it I really ought to get it going again.

The FT221R would have cost about £340 in 1977 (I have checked the adverts in an old Short Wave Magazine) although I might have paid a little more as I bought the external digital frequency display YC221 add-on.

Fairly recently I bought an Icom IC-9700. This is an all-mode three band transceiver covering 2 metres, 70 centimetres and 23 centimetres. Given that more than forty years have passed since the FT221R was manufactured the 9700 has a fantastic number of modern-day features, bells, whistles, digital modes including as they say a real-time spectrum scope and waterfall function. I really like the rig and have now got the machine going on 23.

As such rigs are sold in possibly only tens of thousands, not millions, during the period of manufacture, one cannot expect that the base price would be lowered to the degree that might be seen on a fine piece of kit like an android phone. Nevertheless, I have heard complaints on the air and off that the 9700 is expensive. Yes, it is a lot of money, around £1,800 including VAT here in the UK.

However, if one allows for inflation, the equivalent for the £340 for the FT221R in 1977 would be £2,100 today, and the 9700 does rather more than the FT221R could do.

So, are Icom really taking the proverbial by charging what they do? I see the 9700 might be had for $1,500 in the US. What do you think?

Tropo opening 28th to 30th December 2019

20200104_205110We had an interesting tropo event starting on 28th December and ending at my QTH on 30th. All QSOs were SSB. Conditions were very good to the East and North East, and good to the South and South West, but surprisingly from my QTH there was less propagation to the South East, so no HB9s etc. On 2 metres I used my newish IC9700 with 100 watts to my 7 element and on 70 cms my FT991 with 50 watts to a 13 element.

On 2 metres amongst others I worked on the 28th:

F5ICN    JN03    933km

F3EZJ     JN05

EA1MX  IN73   974km

F4CQA   JN17

F0FHU    JN06

On 29th:

SM7EQL   JO65  940km

OZ7UV      JO65

SM7NGR   JO65

DL2RZ        JO54

GU0UVH    IN89 not so far but I had never worked Alderney!

On 30th:

EB1AH    IN73 and he was running 5 watts to a 3-element antenna

On 70 cms amongst others and still all on SSB on 29th:

GJ8CEY   IN89  not so far but a new country and square on 70 coms

GU6EFB  IN89  new country 😊

DL1YAW  JO41

DJ8MS    JO54   793km

OZ9FW   JO65   883km

OZ1HDF   JO55   852km

OZ9GE      JO66   905km

OZ8ZS     JO55   851km

EI19RE    IO51  New country and square on 70 cms

Conditions were so good for a period that the OZs called me on the back of the beam as I was looking South West.

I know that others worked more DX than did I, but I enjoyed the event and am happy with the results.

Remembering Norman Fitch, G3FPK

Norman wrote the VHF column in Short Wave Magazine for many years and in 1989 took over from Ken Willis G8VR, the VHF column in RadCom, for which he wrote until 2010 when he became a Silent Key.

He was also on the RSGB’s VHF Committee for a number of years.

I first knew Norman in the late seventies when I was an avid VHF DX chaser. I used to talk to him quite often on 2 metres SSB and contributed information for use in his VHF column in Short Wave Magazine, which covered 4M to 23cm either over the air or in letters I used to send to him. This was of course prior to the advent of email.

Norman was a kind, helpful and knowledgeable enthusiast who taught me a lot about working DX on VHF, and he was a real gentleman as was evident on the couple of occasions I had the honour to meet him.

Norman is missed and remembered with great affection.

RSGB Convention 2019

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Bletchley Park – a taster

The weekend before last I attended the Convention held 11th to 13th October. It was my first, having been away from amateur radio for more than thirty years until my serious return in February 2018.

On Friday 11th I took the time during the day to visit Bletchley Park, which should perhaps be the subject for another post.

The Convention started with a welcome dinner, self-service, on the evening of 11th, sponsored by Martin Lynch. There was a choice but I had the “Indian”, which was fine.

The following morning the lectures began, and most I attended were in the VHF stream, starting with an interesting talk by Simon Watts, G3XXH, about Airborne Maritime Reconnaissance Radars for the RAF, 1946 to 2010. I slipped out for the HF propagation talk by Gwyn Williams, G4FKH before returning to VHF for the report on the IC9700 by Sam Jewell, G4DDK. I was most interested as I have just bought one. In the end I was not sure whether he thought the rig was a super DX machine for VHF. I will have to make up my own mind in due course.

After lunch on the Saturday I attended the talk by Chris Deacon, G4IFX on polarisation of 50 MHz signals via Sporadic E, the one by Marcus Walden G0IJZ about tropo ducts, and later the presentation by Richard Banester, G4CDN concerning 2m ionoscatter. Fascinating stuff.

In the evening there was a formal dinner which was good, but I did not stay for the after-dinner address as I was very tired.

After breakfast on Sunday, probably the best meal of the day, we heard from Noel Matthews, G8GTZ, about EME from the 32m dish at Goonhilly, which was very entertaining, and then from Chris Whitmarsh, G0FDZ about working 122 GHz and up. Something for the really clever guys! Neil Smith G4DBN then spoke about decoding with MGM (if I can hear it, why won’t it decode?) and after lunch he also spoke about getting started with MGM, substituting for M1BXF who was unwell. I hope he is better now.

That was the end of my Convention, which I enjoyed, and which was good value for money, I thought. In between the lectures I had time to visit the various stands. Martin Lynch as sponsors had a long bench, and Icom, Yaesu and Kenwood were also represented. There was a substantial RSGB bookstall where I bought my book on the IC9700 (very useful), and in another room various organisations were represented, such as RAIBC, CDXC, and the UK Microwave Group.

I am looking forward to next year. It was a very rainy weekend, but we did not have to brave the weather as all walkways between the buildings were covered. The accommodation was adequate although I did have a couple of issues with my room, but that is a minor complaint. All-in-all, time well spent.

2 metre tropo on 14th and 15th September

20190916_215503We had an interesting opening over the evening of 14th and the following morning. It started with a couple of very strong French stations in JN18. I then found the following all worked on SSB on 14th:

DL2GWZ/P   JN49

OE5XBL   JN68, 700m asl, 988 km

DF6MH/P  JN57 2400m asl, 902km

DJ6AG   JO51

On the morning of 15th when there was a contest in Central Europe:

OM3RM   JN88  1263 km!

OE3REC   JN77  1147 km

OK1DOL   JN69   906 km

F5LEN/P   JN38

OE/OK5SE/P   JN77  1137 km

OK1KKI   JN79   1059 km

Plus, some more local Continentals.

My return to 2 metres SSB after 30 years absence was only in February 2018, so OE, OK and OM are new countries on the band for me from this QTH. The Slovak Republic was a particular surprise, being so strong and my thinking he was Belgian until he gave his locator. It was early and I was still half asleep; at least that is my excuse.

The above was my first DX foray with my FT991 running 50 watts rather than the 25 watts from my old FT290R and small amplifier, but I am not mothballing the old radio and will keep it ready to go.

Single exam for Full UK licence?

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In the 2019 Report of the RSGB Examinations Standards Committee there is the following extract:

“4.3 Single exam for Full licence

The Examinations Group have prepared a draft syllabus, based on Syllabus 2019, for an exam that will provide direct entry to a Full licence, like the old RAE. This has now become possible due to the availability of online exams, which facilitates the construction of different types of exam from the questions in the bank. The ESC has agreed that the syllabus will be put out for consultation in the UK amateur radio community. This consultation will take place later in 2019. An important question, which is yet to be resolved in EG and ESC, concerns what form any practical examination might take, and we will look to the wider community for guidance on this.”

I was listening to a net the other day during which someone suggested that this approach might be “elitist”; in other words someone who gained a full licence in one go might be considered “superior” to those who had taken the current Foundation, Intermediate and Advanced exams to get a UK amateur radio licence.

I think it would suit some to take one exam and do not think anyone being successful by this method would be seen as elite. When I took the old RAE in 1975, I gained a Class B licence, which was for 144 MHz and up. I had not passed the Morse test and so my licence was restricted, but I was never treated as inferior by Class A amateurs. I did take the Morse test in 1981 to work more DX on VHF, but that was the only reason; not because of an inferiority complex.

In order to pass the RAE, I took a year’s weekly evening class at Southend College, commuting to Southend weekly on the train straight from my job in the City. The course was taught by Charlie, G8GUO. I wish I knew what happened to him, so if anyone knows, please put me in the picture. Did he give up radio, get a new callsign, even emigrate. I wonder? I was very grateful to him for getting me through the exam, of which I have a copy, and which I might have difficulty passing now! 😊

I do not think it matters how a new amateur gets a licence. I welcome the Foundation exam as a way of coaxing in new amateurs. We need the new blood and it is great how the clubs are organising courses which did not happen under the old system. However, if someone puts in the work to pass a RAE style exam in one go, who are we to criticise?

Late June tropo

IMG_1245Having missed out on all the Sporadic E on 2 metres save IK8EVE (JN71) on 1st June it was good to be treated to some decent tropo. Starting on the evening of 27th June, on 2 metres I worked with my 25 watts all on SSB:

DF2WF   JO30

DM8MM JO31

DF0WD  JO42

DJ6AG  JO51

DK5DQ  JO31

On 28th June in the evening on 2 metres:

SK7MW  JO65

SM7XWX  JO65

OZ6TY  JO55

OZ1BEF JO46

DL3TW  JO44

DL2RZ  JO54

On 29th June in the morning earlyish

DK3EE   JO41

SM7YES  JO67 and incredibly strong signal.

On 29th June, SK6VHF (JO57) on 144.404 MHz was audible until about midday but faded as pressure fell so that when we were down to 1012 millibars at 1700 I knew the event was over.

I did try my luck on 70 cms with my one watt, and worked on 28th June:

SM6CEN  JO67

OZ9FW   JO65

So, a little bit of fun finding and working a little way away. I seem to have some advantage with sea paths, being near to the Thames and Crouch estuaries, and reaching mainly stations near the coast in Scandinavia.