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All sorts of interesting stuff about Ham Radio and old gear from Steve G3ZPS, near London in the UK

About Steve - G3ZPS

Steve with a rented Caterham 7Steve with Martin D28

First licensed in 1970 at age 16, I am one of the youngest UK hams to hold an original 'G3' call sign. These pages include information on my lifetime in this hobby and my retirement passion for restoring valve ham radio equipment (or tubes if you prefer). I first became aware of Ham radio in around 1968 when I built a Heathkit AM radio as part of a school project, one night I slid the coil along the ferrite rod and heard a chap talking - it turned out to be a Ham just up the road on 160m AM - Brian G2WI. I was quickly hooked and with a like minded school friend started knocking up simple valve receivers and transmitters (naughty!)

Like so many young Radio Amateurs of my generation in the UK we were drawn to 160m as the equipment was cheap and easy to build and antennas quite simple. Over a four year period I graduated to working quite a lot of CW DX on the band and was fascinated by the propagation.

Old shack pics below taken in the early 1970's - wish I had kept the KW2000A (Just bought another one in 2016). Still own the Gibson Les Paul guitar now 43 years old.

Pic below from 1976 has some interesting stuff - my home made SSTV monitor with a long persistence CRT. Yaesu FRDX400 was not very good and was sold soon after. ICOM 2m FM rig and quite a bit of home made kit and stuff built as part of my UK Gov Engineering Apprenticeship.

Above 2016 Studio 'B' Workshop

This is the classic 160m QSL card from the late and great Stew Perry W1BB,  it was thrill to work him on 160m CW in 1973. I was up early in the mornings in the winter, hunched over the AR88 with the crystal filter wound in to hear the weak US stations at the bottom of the band

I moved to VHF in the 70’s and became interested in Tropo scatter and ducting on 2 and 70cms, this coincided with a spell working in an RF design and engineering role and laid the foundations for later professional work. I was an apprentice with the UK Ministry of  Defence (MoD) from 1970 -74 and then spent a further 10 years working as an RF design engineer for the MoD

Moves to a new job working on the design and engineering of very large VHF and UHF radio systems for the Metropolitan Police Service meant a declining interest in the hobby and I sold off almost everything in 1982.

20 years later I was pretty sure I would never come back to the hobby, but its never quite out of the blood and I came back on in 2002. I am one of the youngest original G3's at 62 years old in 2016 (barring any re-issues). The G3 calls were all issued a few months after mine and then the UK moved on to G4 prefixes. Off course some G3 calls  have been re-issued to family members.

I have spent  a lot of my working life in the communications business and published a number of professional papers on improvements to radio systems for use in the UK Police Service. I was amongst the first to bring detailed traffic flow modelling and propagation prediction to the design of radio systems for Police communications in London.  One of the high points of my career was working on the Met Police technology requirements for the London 2012 Games from 2006 right through to the event, getting to the Paralympic opening ceremony was the icing on the cake

I am Fellow of the prestigious IET (Institute of Engineering and Technology) and have retired from full time employment. I have my own company - Steve Shorey Associates Ltd, for technology consulting and project management - which keeps me going ..Oh yeah and I also play the guitar quite a lot!!

ALL CHANGE IN  HAM RADIO COMMUNICATIONS TECHNOLOGY

I have been a ham through a period of tremendous change in both communications technology and ham radio - I started out in the age of military surplus equipment and valve technology through to the Internet, Software Defined Radios and Smartphones (aren't they UHF digital transceivers?).

Oddly in the 21st Century some smaller companies have been quicker to adopt the latest SDR technology than the big 3 Japanese guys. Eleccraft, Flexradio and FDM have been much quicker to market than Icom, Yaesu and Kenwood - Icom finally embraced SDR direct sampling HF technology with their IC7300 (launched spring 2016). This radio looks like a global success story but it cant be connected to a PC in proper SDR fashion - and the ADC in the Icom  is actually quite an old chipset click here for more info.  As of Sept 2016 every other UK station on 40 or 80m appears to be using a 7300, sometimes whole nets are using them. As predicted Icom will release a IC7651 to market in 2017, Yaesu and Kenwood still have no competitor..and a lot of FT991 and FT1200s are popping up on ebay

Elecraft in particular have gone from strength to strength as an innovative US manufacturer and placed themselves in the market place claiming the very best HF receiver performance - but at a price. The newly released Elecraft KX2 (May 2016) is an amazing 10W HF transceiver not much bigger than a large handheld - In contrast Yaesu have not released a product to replace the popular FT817 in 15 years - odd considering their rate of innovation in the past - perhaps they have realised they will gradually lose market share in portable and QRP HF radios..or maybe a stunning Yaesu SDR portable is just round the corner.

THE FUTURE OF HF RADIO

Until there is widespread adoption of digital voice on the HF bands I can't see any modes going away, there are now some fantastic digital modes - some working well below the noise level, WSPR and JT65 to name but two. For many hams the level of performance in HF rigs is probably at a level that few will fully utilize - especially the receivers in the latest up market rigs. Even so many mid price rigs have misleading published performance figures. Read this - Rob Sherwood from 2013

There are however a number of areas that either will change or should improve ;

Price - In real terms compared to the 70's the hobby is great value, but I expect SDR technology and low cost manufacturing to lower the cost of great performing HF gear - the IC7300 is a case in point, its a steal

Receiver performance - 'Close in' dynamic range is one of a handful of receive parameters that define a great receiver from an adequate one, things are improving but some modern radios are no better than my 36 year old FT902. This is the table every single radio ham should look at, it pretty much tells you all you need to know about HF Receiver performance..SHERWOOD ENGINEERING , The old FT901/2 is above a lot of later radios (and some very new ones as well). The IC7300 at number 13 is amazing, just look at price of the radios above it . I cannot understand why so many sellers think the 80's and 90' solid state radios are worth so much, the 'close in' receiver performance for most is poor - and they are not that collectable..for the money the 7300 can't be beat

Synthesizer /phase noise - This demon is getting sorted in modern rigs, but some are still very poor on transmit - generating low level  noise a long way from the TX frequency. Again the IC7300 claims a big improvement over earlier low cost Icom rigs. The current exemplars appear to be the Icom IC7851 and the Elecraft K3s. The K3s includes a new synthesizer design that even allows DXpeditions and contesters to operate mixed modes with different stations on the same band in close physical proximity. Quite a few modern transceivers would be too noisy to allow this.

Transmit distortion - For SSB, TX IMD performance has not really improved from the 1960's..granted most rigs are poorly used (a shame in itself) - but many TX output stages are adequate at best and some downright dreadful (Yaesu ALC design is particularly poor) ..this is not an insoluble technical problem with proper output stage and ALC design - and perhaps in the future using SDR technology and pre-distortion software...but in a pile up I guess everyone will turn up the wick and shout at the top of their voice just the same !. As an update in November 2016, Apache Labs brought out their 8000 model, which does indeed offer a software feedback mechanism that reduces the 3rd order IMD products on transmit to a staggering -70dB.  However putting a linear on the end will probably take this back to the levels of most other radios. Love to hear one on the air barefoot

 

73 from Steve Shorey G3ZPS