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Back in 1979 or 1980, I had the opportunity
to own the “Scariest Ham Transmitter In My
Radio Life.” (Echo Fade) LIFE… LIFe… LIfe…
It was a Heathkit Sceneca (Sp?) If you have seen
this beast, you should be scared. It was a big
green and silver vacuum tube monster. It was
supposed to transmit AM and CW (morse code)
on the ham radio six meter band (50 – 54 MHz)
or the two meter band (144 – 148 MHz.) It was
VFO controlled. Plate input was around 100 watts (?)
It lived in my friend Bill’s closet for years and years.
He fed it small scraps of bread, potato chip crumbs,
and an occasional fly (during the summer time.)
One day, I expressed an interest in trying to transmit
a 2 meter uplink signal to the ham radio satellite
Oscar 7. I needed a transmitter. (For some reason,
every memory from there on is fuzzy.) I don’t know how,
but this beast ended up on my ham radio desk.
I had to test it. I was young and really stupid. Not having
a load to terminate it’s 50 ohm output, I put a 2 meter
rubber duck antenna (which had a PL-259 plug on it)
into the SO-239 socket on the back on the transmitter.
Then tune up. Look at the meter. Turn this knob, that
knob, look at the meter. Look. Tune. Look. Tune.
Look look tune.
Burning smell. Big burning smell.
I pulled the ham station master switch. Yup. I wasn’t
totally dumb. I had a master switch. Now the power
was off everywhere.
I turned the transmitter around and looked at the 2
meter rubber duck antenna. The plastic was melted
and dripping onto the operating desk. There was a
big drip of plastic that was about to fall off of the
rubber duck but didn’t.
This is how we learn (hopefully) about what RF energy can
Fast forward ahead. I procured an 11 element 2 meter beam
antenna. Now I had a load that would at least be
able to handle that kind of power.
On the front of the transmitter was a big multimeter. It read
plate milliamps, grid current and plate VOLTAGE. This was
new. I had never seen a transmitter ever, where you could
read PLATE VOLTAGE. COOL!
So here we go again. Kind of like having an early Atlas Rocket
on the pad, filled and bulging with fuel and liquid hydrogen.
On internal power, ready to go.
Here we go! Press the transmit button.
Tune. Tune. Tune. Tune. Gee, I think I’ll look at
the plate voltage. Hmmm. Why does it go from about
800 volts down to 650 volts when I transmit?
That seems weird. Hmmmmmm.
Tune tune tune. the plate voltage is getting more
erratic. “I don’t like this.” I said in my head.
Tune tune tu-
I was in a daze.
Through the daze, I heard my father yell down the stairs, “Are you alright??”
Through my dry mouth and throat, I managed to shout. “I’m OK!!!!”
And the Green Silver Beast went into the closet. My closet!
And I wasn’t around much anymore. Life had really picked
My little brother was left with the task of feeding the monster
potato chips, loaves of bread, and lots of flies. It was
Some time after that, I finished college, moved out. Got an
apartment, a job, and spent too much time trying to understand what
the opposite sex was trying to tell me.
So much time, in fact, that I forgot about the Green and Silver
Beast in the closet.
The years passed.
One particular day in 1983, my Dad was outside doing yard work. The neighborhood
trash truck came down the street.
The garbage man saw the 2 meter 11 element beam that was STILL on
the roof of my dad’s house.
The conversation went something like this.
Trash Man: “Hey, is that a CB antenna?”
My Dad: “I don’t know, but my son’s got some old radio equipment
he doesn’t want.”
A few minutes went by. Then it happened.
My Dad gave the trash man the Green and Silver Monster out of the
In parting, the trash man said, “I’m sure I can probably use this
as a linear amp for the out of CB band,” i.e., 26 to 27 MHz, or so.
“Yup, thanks mister. This will be a great afterburner for my CB
out of band rig!”
Then the garbage truck went off into the distance, stopping briefly
every once in a while, until it was out of sight.
And as for the trash man:
May God have mercy on his soul.
Bruce, Dog Radio Studio 2