Howard

Back when I was a poor college student, my roommate and I went into a local DC liquor store to do some competitive price checking. While we didn’t find the prices to be all that good, I was shocked to find something else: radios. One of the guys who ran the store, a ham by the name of Howard, fixed up and sold old radios out of the back, so the shelves were full of wine, liquor, and shortwave sets. I quickly became friends with Howard, and ended up buying a couple of radios from him before I graduated, including an old Delmonico and a Hallicrafters S-77.

Fast forward to the spring of 93, when I am now a poor college grad working at a shitty job in Baltimore. I didn’t have a lot of money, but I couldn’t resist making the trip down to DC to see Howard and his radios. What I found there on that Saturday was the most amazing radio I’d ever seen: a Hallicrafters SX-73. The mother of an Ex would describe it later as a ‘big, ugly box’ (and believe me, this woman knew all about being big and ugly), but it was beyond beautiful to my eyes. I didn’t know much about it, but I knew it would be going home with me if I could afford it. When Howard told me he wanted $75 for it, we made the deal and I started the process of lugging it back home. I got some funny looks on the train that day, but I didn’t care. I was a very happy man.

My SX-73 in my basement apartment. The HQ-140XA was also acquired from Howard as well.
My SX-73 in my basement apartment. The HQ-140XA was also acquired from Howard as well.

Of course, that radio became my go to receiver, and I made a lot of catches with that beast, including my first pirate on 7415 (WKIK). One thing I didn’t expect though was the reaction I got from people when I told them I had an SX-73 at home. Dealers at hamfests or on the phone would fall all over themselves trying to get me to sell or trade it to them. I never took them up on their offer, but it made me start to wonder just what I had here. This was in the days before the internet (yes, there was a time when the internet didn’t exist), so I just kept politely declining their offers, and I kept listening to the bands on my “Big Hal”.

It wasn’t until a few years later that I found out the back story to this radio, and why everyone was so interested in it. After making a post to a news group about the rig, a man replied and filled me in. It turns out these radios were only made between 1952 and 1954, and cost a whopping $975 bucks new. Needless to say they didn’t make a lot of them, and were considered to be the second most rare of all the Hallicrafters. He ad vised me that, if I were to sell it, I could probably walk out of the deal with about $750.

Wow, that’s a lot of money for a broke 25 year old. That could buy a lot of computer parts, ore even a new radio. But the more I thought about it, the more I came to realize that Howard knew very well that radio was worth a lot more than $75. Rather than getting full value for it though, he was willing to practically give it away to a kid who loved radio, and who would put it to good use. Yeah, I could sell it and make a handsome profit, but it just didn’t feel right. Now I know that this is what Elmers do, they hook up those just getting into the hobby, and give them a way in.

Today, that liquor store is a Domino’s pizza place, and I’ve long since lost touch with Howard, but I still have that old SX-73, and she still works. She doesn’t get used much anymore, but it’s still one of my prized possessions.

So here’s to you, Howard. Thanks for giving the 23 year old me a break.

Recovering from Dayton

A couple of the goodies that "followed me home" from Dayton. So I’ve been home from Dayton for a few days now, and i am only now starting to feel like I’m returning to normal. I guess three days of long drives, eating like crap, hiking through the tailgate multiple times, and sleeping on a couch will take its toll on you.

Of course, I would do it all again tomorrow if I had the chance. It was great to hang out with some old friends, not to mention talk a lot of radio with all kinds of like minded people. All in all, I’d say this was  a great experience, one I’m looking forward to doing again in the future.

As you can see, I didn’t leave Dayton empty handed. (Hey, who does?) The good folks over at  Universal Radio had the Perseus SDR deeply discounted for the show, so I decided to take the plunge and see if it lives up to its rep. I’ve had more than one DXer tell me it’s the best receiver they’ve ever used. I will be letting you know what I think over the next few weeks.

On a completely different side of things is this beautiful Hallicrafters SX-62a. I’ve seen these radios on eBay for about $300, and they looked like they’d been drug behind a truck. This one is clean and seems to work, and it only set me back $175. It’s probably not much of a DX machine, but it will be an awful lot of fun. I can’t wait to hear Radio Nacional da Amazonia played through those tubes!

Besides these finds and a few books, I also ordered a couple of receive only antennas that will be arriving at the home listening post here in a few weeks. The first one is a Pixel Technologies RF-PRO1B magnetic loop, which should be a nice addition to my existing long wire.

The second one is worthy of its own write up, as it is new to the market from Array Solutions. They have taken the foundation laid by the K9AY Loop and come up with what they’re calling the ‘Shared Apex Loop Array’. Not exactly the catchiest of names, but it could be a beast of a receive antenna. It’s four loops can be steered to one of eight directions, as well as omni and bi-directional as well. It also fits into a circle with an 18′ radius, meaning it will fit in a pretty modest back yard. I have been in lust with the K9AY for about 15 years now, so it didn’t take much arm twisting to get me to pick up their latest and greatest. Expect a full write up about this antenna after it arrives sometime early this summer.

So there you have it, my trip to Dayton in a nutshell. If you’ve never made the trip, you really owe it to yourself to make the effort. Your bank book may never be the same, but your radio room will thank you.