Getting there

… is half the battle. Finally, I’m getting to near where I want to be with my Ham Radio studio.

I found a picture of my old operating desk. This is a very early shot of it. For most of the recent time, it’s been sitting turned 90 degrees from what is shown. I guess I wanted to unblock the window! The equipment changed, but mostly, that is the desk I tore apart a month ago.

But it also was piled high with stuff. Unfinished projects, papers I needed to save, magazines I wanted to keep, computer stuff, tools, and on and on. You get the mental picture, even if I don’t have one.

Now that I think about it, this photo might just be pre-computer. It’s hard to think of Ham Radio without computers anymore.

Here’s the mostly finished (nothing is ever completely finished…) operating position. Same room. In fact, the table surface is the same. Six feet of kitchen counter, which really makes a great desk surface. That’s about the only thing in the picture that was in the first one.

Oh, and the sheet of glass on it. It’s great for putting notes or reference items under where you can see them but still use the surface to write or sit things on. It’s actually the tempered glass out of an old TV set. Remember when they had a glass front and the picture tube sat behind it? If you ever have an old set like that and are throwing it away, let me know, I’d love another piece of that glass.

I still have some of those things. The gray Vibroplex bug and the black Bencher paddles I still have, but the ones on the new desk are chrome versions. I still have the Heathkit microphone, but it’s in really bad shape and I decided against using it. I still have the MFJ keyer. I mentioned it in a previous post. The digital clock, which was a kit from Radio Shack, is still around, but the electro-luminescent tubes that make the digits are so dim, it’s not very good anymore. I should find a good, more modern clock. Right now, I’m using a little MFJ clock.

Not that the time is so important. With three computers in front of me, all connected to the internet, the time is always on them and exactly right. The main thing I like a clock for is to check if I have some plan at a certain time.

So, what’s in the new picture?

Across the top of the shelves you’ll see two KRK Rokit-5 powered speakers. The blue box in the middle is a Stereo-Link USB-1200 hi-quality USB audio device. It’s plugged into the right hand computer. I have to have my music. These things are awesome and will kick any computer speakers butt.

Next, in the shelves, you’ll see two monitors. The left has a keyboard as well as a mouse and a trackpad, but I usually use the mouse and keyboard on the right computer by running a little piece of software called Synergy. At the right is a collection of Sweepstakes Sweep Mugs and Pennsylvania QSO Party mugs. Below them is some VHF-FM rigs. The Yaesu dual-band one in the middle is actually hooked up, but I don’t use it much. The other two are 2m only. The plan is to put one on packet and the other is for mobile use – to go in the car.

Let’s go back to the left and work across again. Right behind my shoulder, is a MFJ Versa-Tuner V. It’s old and beat up, but tunes up anything. It also has a dummy load in it, so I keep it around. Next, behind the laptop screen, is the Astron RS-35A power supply. It provides all the 12 VDC power for every radio here. I just added a West Mountain Radio RigRunner 4008 distribution box to it and all DC power is now using Power Pole connectors. In the middle, a Daiwa cross-needle SWR/wattmeter sits above the Rig Blaster and IF-232C interface. The RigBlaster right now is just for sending computer audio into the radio for contesting because the sound card’s line input in the computer is bad. Otherwise, it would also let me do digital modes like RTTY and PSK. I think a new motherboard and a rebuild of the computer is in the near future.

Of course, front and center is the Kenwood TS-850SAT HF transceiver, the Radio. Next to it is the matching speaker and then the rotor control for the HD-73 rotor I just got repaired.

On the table surface, you’ll see the Bencher keyer paddles, the Vibroplex bug (just for show, it’s not even hooked up at the moment) and a Alesis Multimix8 USB mixer with a small boom mike stand. The mike on it is an Audix OM-5, which is really a performance mike, but it seems to work okay on the air. I’ve received unsolicited reports of good audio with it.

The mixer will let me use more than one mike for comparisons, etc. It’s left over from my podcast equipment, as is the mike and stand. The headphones are too, they’re Sennheiser HD-280 Pros and are the most comfortable headphones I’ve ever had. I like them better than the Heil Boomset I have, but they don’t have the boom mike. Ah, but Sennheiser does make a version with a boom mike and I have a set, and it will plug in through the mixer. I haven’t tried it yet, and it’s not the Heil DX edge element, but I’ll have to try it. Unfortunately, while the 280 pros can be found for less than $100, the model with the boom mike is hard to find and ridiculously expensive.

And last, but not least, in the middle, is a cheap keyboard and a Logitech wireless mouse. They both go to the right side computer – the one used for logging and radio control – but as I said can work on the left hand computer using Synergy. The left side computer is for web surfing, and has my music collection. Believe it or not, I play the music on the left computer, but it comes out of the right computer and the KRK speakers, because I run a oddcast/icecast server to stream the audio!

The laptop doesn’t need to be there, but it always seems to end up here. I do all my email, web design, blogging and social media from the laptop.

Hidden behind the laptop, is my Elecraft K2, QRP (low-power) radio. It’s also hooked up to the computer for rig control and all I need to do to use it is throw an antenna switch. A keying interface lets the computer send the CW. In fact, other than a casual contact, I don’t even use the paddles anymore. It’s all sent by computer, but still all received by ear.

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