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Benton Harbor Lunchbox in!

My new "Sixer", the Heathkit HW-29a 6 meter transceiver


I have come to own a fantastic little piece of amateur radio history!  The nifty little “Benton Harbor Lunchbox”,  a Heathkit HW-29 “Sixer”.  It didn’t come with the microphone but hopefully I’ll be able to get one of those as well, if not I guess I can always try and wire something up myself from a different mic.

When I heard this rig was coming in I began to do a bit of reading on Heathkit and they really were an amazing company for the time, talk about DIY… they set a generation on the path to the “Knack” and probably launched more than one engineering degree.  The company has changed hands several times and hasn’t made kits since 92’s ( http://goo.gl/hxfbT ) but at their height Heathkit made kits for just about every conceivable kind of electronic gear not the least of which was for ham radio.

There has been speculation that Heathkit may again make kits for the amateur radio enthusiast,  I fired off an email to Heathkit’s current director of kits and I will update later if I get a response.

So… the great adventure begins with a new piece of gear, can I get onto six meters and make a contact?  Stay tuned for more to come.

Hello or CQ


I have the usual collection of amateur radio books to help me with learning the technical side of the hobby,  I recently purchased Danny Gregory and Paul Sahre’s delightful book ” Hello World/ A Life in Ham Radio”.  As someone with a graphic design background I was chuffed that the production and the layout of the book was so beautiful and interesting.  The book centers around the Ham Radio hobby of one Jerry Powell from Hackensack, NJ.  One of the authors stumbled across Mr. Powell’s QSL card collection at a flee market and bought the whole lot, they didn’t even know what they were but they looked interesting to them.

The book is written in a breezy style that fits the visual layout and introduces the readers to Ham Radio vocabulary and basic operation as well as an overview of all of Jerry’s QSL cards and the ham’s that he contacted.

The book is more poignant when you are aware that Jerry Powell has been deceased for quite awhile and when many of the call signs are searched (I did) the calls come up inactive which probably indicates silent keys.  Regardless, the book is really nice to have by my station as the styles and format of the QSL cards are so interesting.  Much of the charm of correspondence of this type is that it is not done so much anymore with email, SMS and software.

The authors have put together a nice archeology dig of a ham’s life and it is wonderful to behold for us newer hams to behold, we can fall in love with all of our digital modes or technology but it is undeniable that the older guys have something we don’t… memories of a simple time when the hobby was the only “wireless”.

So, anyone  out there still use QSL cards?  I’d love to design one of my own if only someone would still exchange with me!

W2DAB is now an Amateur Extra

Testing at ABC World Headquarters

I’m thrilled to announce that I tested and passed my Amateur Extra exam last Wednesday night at the BEARS testing session at ABC Headquarters here in NYC. The BEARS VE’s were all terrific guys and the session was pretty heavily subscribed, by my rough count and feeble memory there were 5 Tech tickets given out two Generals and two Extra licenses.

I really enjoyed the venue, entering the ABC Headquarters in Manhattan I felt like it was kind of cool to be going into a major broadcasting company on official radio business!

If you not an EE you can be kind of intimidated to be going for Extra with the math portions of the test. I studied all kinds of equations, some I had down and some are still a bit of a stretch for an “artist type” like myself. So I laid out my trusty old TI-82 which I dusted off and put in new batteries for, my sharpened pencils and prepared for a little figuring and calculating. Ha! not one question that needed a calculator, I didn’t know weather to be grateful or a little disappointed that I didn’t get to use my new found skills. But that is the nature of a test, you learn more by testing than by just reading or studying.

There has been a lot said about “no code extras” and I guess I will feel the brunt of some old crusty codgers but the group of experienced hams from the BEARS group were nothing but polite, professional and courteous… the embodiment of the Amateur’s Code.

The BEARS club also offered free membership, I am looking forward to getting involved with them and contributing to that great club. As I strolled out into the cool night air I fist pumped a little and also steeled my resolve to go on and master the code (morse) so that I could connect to what I consider the primary roots and history of this great hobby. 73

You got to know when to fold ’em

As Kenny Rogers sang “You’ve got to know when to hold ’em, when to fold them… ” etc. So when my good friend Lou / KB1UYS from Vermont made me an offer I couldn’t refuse I came into the possession of a working Ten-Tec Century 21. Now as I go forward I am enjoying the sweet sounds of the double direct conversion receiver!

I can now concentrate on my antenna, and my morse code practice.

Someday I can repay the kindness my fellow hams have shown me by paying it forward so to speak. But I am reminded of the great community I became a member of when I passed my first license exam.

Morse’s sweet code endures

Several years back I got my amateur radio license about the same time that I was applying to a top design school, NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program. At the time I really didn’t connect the hobby that much with my aspirations to create new interactive products and experiences for a living.

Since that time I’ve learned more about inventions and technology than I’ve ever known in my adult live and it is in no small part from my hobby AND my vocation.

I was therefore very interested in a thesis project by Joshua Clayton, a graduating ITP’er. “What hath God wrought” is an interesting look back at Morse’s invention, language as encoded in Morse Code and the mysticism of the times that telegraphy was established as a new communication medium.

You can read more of Joshua Clayton’s thoughts here:

Be sure to find a video of his thesis presentation of last week in the video archives section on the left sidebar.

I think it is nice that a technology that was invented 167 years ago still can inspire a new generation of inventors and interactive artists. Morse was a painting teacher at NYU many years ago and he still has a strong connection to New York City.


Well… I started working on the Ten Tec Century 21 again this week with the help of my new friend Lou/KB1UYS, I started with disconnecting the secondary leads that connect to the power supply board and measuring the voltage. With the unit plugged in and the power switch pulled out I wasn’t getting anything in the way of voltage.

Today with a few minutes to spend on working on this I went ahead and pulled the transformer out for replacement and I contacted Ten Tec for information on their parts supply, perhaps they can sell me a new transformer and I can put it in and my Ten Tec Century 21 will spring into life!

I am not looking back now that I have it out and feel fully committed to troubleshooting my rig until I get to the bottom of this. When I have fixed this and I will, I will truly own this rig and have the pride of learning about my rig in a more complete way.

Not so stealth antennas

I am walking to the grocery store in my upper east side neighborhood, which incidentally is in the Grid Square with the highest number of Hams in the U.S. and I look up and spot what looks like a Beam Antenna, a Vertical Antenna and maybe even a directional Yagi!

Now you might say this is not such a big deal, but in a section of Manhattan where Coop and Condo restrictions allow no antennas this is like spotting a rainbow! Now I’ve got to track down this Ham and ask him how he managed to talk his building into this. Did he use the Emergency Preparedness angle, did he bribe the super into telling residents that it is just a TV antenna?

Well, it’s good to know that someone has a good antenna farm to use! And here I thought I might be doing well to have a BuddiStick antenna on my balcony, and only while operating.

Generosity of the knack…

I haven’t been a ham all that long, but I am heartened by all of the good will in this hobby. I am writing about my efforts to rehabilitate a Ten-Tec Century 21 that I purchased through eBay that arrived dead.

Recently I was contacted by a operator from Vermont that has volunteered to help me get started again and help me learn about troubleshooting in a methodical and systematic way.

I am thankful for all the comments to this point and it is possible that my thick skull has made it difficult for me but now I am excited about starting again on my made in America Ten-Tec rig. Two always makes a journey much better.

When is a rig to dead to continue with…

So, I’ve had many suggestions from other hams on how to fix my Ten-Tec Century. Some of the repairs I did not feel completely up to such as disconnecting full sections of the boards to test.

After Curt’s kind email I checked the voltages currently and came up with the following:

From the photo with the component behind the transformer in the back of the rig I have the following: Collector; 3.28vdc, Base; 3.15vdc and Emitter; 2.5vdc.

C1 into the power supply board is only 3.3 vdc and I’m no longer getting anything from the xformer.

I must say I am not far from just junking the set… I am discouraged that it seems to be getting worse.

New Ham to the rescue

K8AI's excellent Photo of what my burned out area should look like.

I’ve gotten some help with my problems and am encouraged by Curt (K8AI)… Curt was kind enough to send me pics with annotated voltages on each section of the power supply that I am trouble shooting.  Trouble shooting may be a strong word for me though, it seems a bit more like poking around and praying.

In any event I may have more news into the mysteries of my Ten-Tec Century repair after I follow some of Curt’s suggestions.

I am putting Curt’s temporary site on my sidebar as well as he has some good information available and obviously some mad skills in the electronics area.

Cheers Curt!