Monday, February 29, 2016

Garage, Part 9,783......

Yeah, it sure seems like that's what chapter I'm on....

I went to Harbor Freight this morning and picked up some moving dollies so I can stack some of the heavier piles of boxes on them. This lets me wheel them around, in and out of the garage, while I get back into the darker recesses that haven't seen light of day in years.

Today was garbage day, so I started with empty trash bins, and I've already got the recycle bin about 1/3 full of cut up, flattened out cardboard boxes and other stuff. I was surprised how heavy the bins were when I wheeled them out to the curb last night, so I'm guessing I've thrown out several hundred pounds of "stuff" over the last three weeks that I've been cleaning.

I've got a big pile of stuff I'm taking to my radio club's annual "White Elephant" sale, another pile that's getting sold on eBay, and a third pile that's going on weridoslist craigslist.

And there's a fourth pile that will get dragged out to the curb tonight for the junkman that prowls the neighborhood.

But, I'm definitely making progress, albeit at a slower pace than I'd like.

At least the dog can walk into the side door, and out the big door, without getting trapped.

And I should have full access to my big rolling toolboxes tonight, meaning I can put away a ton of tools I have out of them, further cleaning up the mess.

Friday, February 26, 2016

A Perfect Day

Yeah, I know.....not a snowball's chance, but fun to envision.

1. President Donald Trump and Vice President Marco Rubio are sworn into office..
2. In a rare event on inauguration day, Congress convenes for an emergency meeting to repeal the illegal and unconstitutional Socialist health care farce known as Obamacare. 
The new Director of Health and Social Services Dr. Ben Carson announces that an independent group of healthcare management professionals is hired to handle healthcare services for poor and low income people. 
They are also assigned the duty of eliminating Medicare and Medicaid fraud. 
Government's costs for public healthcare are reduced by 90%.
Healthcare insurance premiums for working Americans are reduced by 50%. 
The move saves billions of taxpayer paid dollars. Healthcare service in the U.S improves 100%.
3. Newly appointed Department of Homeland Security Chief Ted Cruz announces the immediate deployment of troops to the U.S. Mexico border to control illegal immigration and the immediate deportation of illegals with criminal records or links to terrorist groups. 
New bio-encrypted Social Security IDs are required by every American citizen. Birthright is abolished. All immigration from countries that represent a threat to the safety of American citizens is terminated indefinitely. The move saves American taxpayers billions of dollars. Several prisons are closed.
4. Newly appointed Secretary of Business and Economic Development Carly Fiorina eliminates more than half of the Government agencies operating under the Obama administration saving taxpayers billions of dollars. 
Stocks rise 100%.
5. Newly appointed Director of Government Finance Rand Paul announces the abolition of the IRS and displays a copy of the new Federal Tax Return form.
It consists of one page. The instructions consist of two pages. 
The Federal Reserve is audited. The move saves American Taxpayers billions of dollars and increases tax revenue.
6. Hillary Clinton is in prison, where she belongs. Her cell is directly across from Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton who are serving time for "Hate Crimes". She bitches at them constantly from behind the bars of her cell in what some call cruel and unusual punishment.
7. Bernie Sanders is in the nuthouse, where he belongs. His room is directly across from Nancy Pelosi, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Chris Matthews and Al Franken. They meet for tea every day at 10 AM and discuss the success and benefits of Communism and Socialism throughout the world. They also wonder when the "Mothership" is going to pick them up and return them to their home planet.
8. Windows 12 is released. It is designed for humans, doesn't try to satisfy the needs of every person on the planet, doesn't require a degree in nuclear physics to operate and looks just like Windows 7 except it is easier to use.
9. Barack Obama flees the United States under cover of darkness and returns to his homeland of Kenya before his trial for treason begins. He deplanes on a remote jungle airstrip. It was reported that he was last seen wandering
through the jungle singing "Hakuna Matata" with a chimp named Commie.
10. Oscar Meyer announces the introduction of a new cholesterol and fat free pepperoni that tastes just like regular pepperoni.
11. Not to be outdone, Kraft Foods announces the introduction of several varieties of cholesterol and fat free cheeses that taste just like regular cheese.
12. A committee is not established to determine what is causing global cooling. Billions of taxpayer dollars are saved.
13. Dead people are no longer allowed to vote in Chicago, a huge blow for the Democrat Party in the State of Illinois.
And this my friends constitutes THE PERFECT DAY!

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

A Little 'Travelin' Music', Please.....

One of my favorite TV themes.

Since I'm on Garage Duty for the foreseeable future (well, plus "Iowa Duty"), I put together a bunch of music with an automotive theme that I can play in the garage while getting all grimy and dreaming of the time I'll be working on the car getting all grimy.

There's some backstory to this song. CBS was too cheap to pay continuing royalties to Bobby Troup for "Get Your Kicks On Route 66", so they commissioned Nelson Riddle to write a replacement. Most TV show theme songs are considered almost "throw away" songs, but Route 66 went on to become the first TV theme song to make Billboard magazine's "Top 30", and continues to this day to be a popular song, especially among those of us who are a "certain age".

Ahhhh....the carefree days of Tod and Buz, cruising the USA in their Chevrolet. Simpler, happier times........


Monday, February 22, 2016

I Sure Am Glad It Was Trash Day Today

Because I started this morning with two empty trash bins, one for "recyclable" stuff, and one for everything else.

The recycle bin is already about half full of cut-up, smashed flat cardboard boxes and misc packing material, and the regular trash bin is about one-quarter full.

I'm taking the advice of one of my friends over on the Celica Supra forum; drag it all out, sort it, and then rearrange it as you put it back in.

So far, I've found another Heathkit receiver (a GR-78) I bought and forgot about, a Commodore 1571 disk drive with cables, two Commodore power supplies, both new-in-box, all the cables I've made over the years to connect various radios I've owned and still own to both an AEA Commodore Packet Radio modem, and my Kantronics KPC-3+, and several more boxes containing all the leftover stuff that you never use, but they include in the box a new PC motherboard comes in.

At least I can now have the big door open, and walk from there to the front of the garage, so it's a big improvement.

My current SWAG is that I'm about 21% to where I need to be.

And I haven't gotten to the workbench area, and the shelving along the walls....

Gonna be a long, slow, slog........

Sunday, February 21, 2016

The Never Ending Garage Clean Up Continues.......

Man, I should have done this two years ago when I bought the car. Then you'd be reading my gripes about me actually working on the car vs getting the damn garage cleaned out.

Made a pretty big dent the last couple of days. At this point I'll take a SWAG and say I'm 20% to where I need to be.

I'm glad tomorrow is trash day, as I've completely filled (packed pretty tight, too) the "Recycle" bin with empty, flattened out cardboard boxes, and misc bits and pieces of "stuff" that are allowed in that bin, and the regular bin that gets everything else.

I finally got my two Dahlquist DQM-9 speakers out of there. They'll be going on the back porch for now until I get them listed on weirdoslist craigslist for sale.

If anybody "local" is interested in them, drop me a line and we'll talk. I got them from a very good friend who takes fanatical care of his equipment. He just had new foam edge surrounds (outer edge of the cones) installed by Dahlquist right before I bought them, and the cabinets look like new.

And I consolidated about 10~12 other boxes of small items (mostly computer stuff) into three boxes, meaning there's a lot less wasted space.

I still don't know what I'm going to do with all the PC bits and pieces I have; perhaps just sell them in "lots" on eBay. Stuff like that I won't list on weirdoslist craigslist because of previous bad experiences selling computer stuff there. Every single person who came to look at the stuff I had wanted to offer me me pennies on the dollar for brand-new parts and completely rebuilt and upgraded PC's.

I know what the "retail" value of the stuff is, and offering me $20 for something easily worth $200 is an insult. The $200 price I had on things was well under "retail", and even the flippers that came to look at it knew that, yet insisted on low-balling me to the extreme.

Oh, well....dinner time here, and then back out to the other end of the garage. At least I have free access to my two big rolling tool boxes now, and I can get to the shelving units behind them, and start going through all that stuff..........

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Minuteman III Launch Tonight From VAFB

From one of my groups.........

The following is a media advisory from Vandenberg AFB:

From: 30th Space Wing Public Affairs,


VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. - - An operational test launch of an Air Force Global Strike Command unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile is scheduled between 11:00 p.m. PST Saturday, Feb. 20 and 5:00 a.m. PST Sunday, Feb. 21, 2016, from north Vandenberg Air Force Base.

The purpose of the ICBM test launch program is to validate and verify the effectiveness, readiness and accuracy of the weapon system, according to Air Force Global Strike Command.

Col. J. Christopher Moss, 30th Space Wing commander, is the launch decision authority.

"This mission continues a long string of vital ICBM flight tests from
Vandenberg Air Force Base," said Moss. "The launch not only demonstrates the capability of the Minuteman III weapon system, but also the tremendous capabilities of Airmen who maintain and operate it. The men and women of the 30th Space Wing are proud to partner with the Air Force Global Strike Command team to conduct this important launch."

The launch team, under the direction of the 576th Flight Test Squadron,
includes aircrew members from the 625th Strategic Operations Squadron, Offutt AFB, Nebraska, and crew members and maintainers from the 91st Missile Wing, Minot AFB, North Dakota.

The 576th FLTS is responsible for installed tracking, telemetry and command destruct systems on the missile, which collect data and ensure safety requirements, are met.

If you're out here on the Left Coast, and have the time to sit and just watch for a few hours, these are spectacular to see.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Rainy Wednesday/Thursday and Garage Cleaning

We need the rain, and I like sleeping when it's raining.

Got around half an inch, and the temperature dropped 10 degrees or so.

Dried out today, but a bit chilly (for Kaliforniastan!), so wearing a jacket while I'm going through boxes of stuff in the garage that haven't seen the light of day in quite a while.

Man, I didn't know I had so much stuff for repairing PC's!

I've got 30+ cooling fans of various sizes used to replace faulty power supply, CPU, and case fans, 30 or more Intel PCI 10/100Base-T Ethernet cards (remember when motherboards did NOT come with built-in Ethernet?), half a dozen or so sound cards, and a wide selection of video cards, with interfaces running the gamut from PCI to AGP, to PCIe, four 500 Watt "AT" power supplies, and all of this stuff is brand new.

I even have a few brand new 5-1/4" floppy drives, along with a good sized stack of 3-1/2" floppy drives.

And BOXES of memory going back to pre SDRAM stuff like "EDO" memory.

Don't have too many processors, except ones that were in the few motherboards I have. Mostly AMD K6 processors, as I was really hot into the "Socket 7" and "Super Socket 7" stuff.

The "rarest" processor I have would be a K6-III+ with a rated clock speed of 550 MHz. Not too many of those were released, and I'm not sure how I got it.

I suppose if I hang on to this stuff the price will go up, but for now, it's just a huge collection of memories from early days of building, repairing, and modifying PC's.......

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

OK, Let's Try This Again...Battleship Iowa's 1980's Transmitters to be ON-THE-AIR Wednesday 17 Feb 16

Well....I'm pretty sure I've got everybody on the same page for this.

We'll either be on 20 Meters around 14.261 or 17 Meters around 18.161, +/- any QRM.

All the equipment is working, I'm going to be giving the guys in the Gray Radio Gang some training in "Good Amateur Operating Practice" (most of them don't have stations at home), and then we should get OTA shortly after lunch, around 1300 local time, until about 1600, or 2100 UTC to 0000 UTC.

If you hear us, please bear with us. We won't be using the NI6BB callsign, but we will announce that we're operating from the Battleship Iowa.

I'm taking my tablet, and if I can get the damn Blogger software to cooperate, I'll post here that we're on, and we'll also self spot ourselves on the DX clusters.

Keep your fingers crossed!

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Been Busy Tinkering on the Supra

"Supras In Vegas" is coming again this year, and I plan to have the car ready to go.

It's the 3rd week in September, which gives me about seven months to:

Replace the carpet, install the new stereo and speakers, and put the interior back together. I'll do a good cleaning of the floor under the old carpet, as I'm sure there's a ton of crud under the old carpet. While the front seats are out it will also give me access to the bracket that holds the levers for opening the rear hatch and gas filler door so I can bolt it back to the floor pan. It's currently adrift, and makes it a PITA to use.

Rebuild the front suspension with new KYB strut inserts, top strut mounts, springs that lower the car about 1", rebuilt power steering rack and pinion, new polyurethane bushings, and new rotors/calipers/wheel bearings. The new rotors are the drilled/slotted type, and are supposed to run cooler. One of the things Car and Driver noticed in their long-term test back in 1983 was that the rotors had a tendency to warp, so hopefully 30+ years of advances in rotor metallurgy and brake pad compounds will prevent that from occurring. I'm replacing the OEM rubber brake lines with stainless steel brake lines, and I'll flush and refill the brake system with "DOT 4" brake fluid. While I'm under the car I'll also replace the clutch slave cylinder, replace the OEM rubber clutch hydraulic line with a stainless one, and flush and refill the system with "DOT 4" fluid. The clutch master cylinder was replaced shortly before I bought the car, and the fluid is still "clear", so the master cylinder can stay for now.

Replace the cam drive belt and idler, and the water pump while the front is off the engine. Also replace all the coolant hoses and A/C, alternator drive belts. There's a hose that runs under the intake manifold/air plenum that needs to be replaced on a somewhat regular interval. It's called the "suicide hose", because if it blows, you've got about 60 seconds to shut the engine down before it overheats, usually blowing the head gasket in the process. If all it does is blow the head gasket you can consider yourself lucky. If you keep going, the head will warp, and replacement heads for this engine have been "unobtainium" for some years now.

Replace the rear shocks with new KYB shocks, replace the springs with new ones that lower the car about 3/4", and replace the upper and lower spring mounts (aka "the rubbers"). Also replace the rotors and calipers and OEM brake hoses with stainless steel ones.

And to help matters along, I just returned from Home Depot with some new light fixtures, and a box of bulbs.

I *had* a couple of cheep two-bulb, 48" lights hanging, but when the kids moved out, one of them mysteriously disappeared. I found another one in the garage, but it doesn't have an ON/OFF pull chain, so it will probably go in the scrap pile.

The new lights hanging off to the sides of the car are four-bulb 48" fixtures, and I bought a new 48" high-brightness LED fixture for hanging over the workbench.

The original two-bulb fixtures will be relocated to the rear (toward the big door) of the garage so I can get some light back there.

And of course, I'm back to cleaning the garage (again!) because of all the cruft my wife has "stored" in there.

How come MY stuff is always "junk that should be thrown away", but HER stuff is "Ohhh...we have to keep that!"??

AND finally, we're really going to try and get the Iowa's radio gear on-the-air this coming Wednesday.

I'll take my tablet and post from the ship if we mange to get everybody on the same page to do this.

For those that have asked, here's the original post from when I brought the Supra home:

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Iowa Transmitters NOT On-The-Air Today. Next Week for Sure!

WELL......I got down to the ship today, and the guys had veered off onto a different path.

They decided they wanted to work on the autocoupler for the port side 30 foot whip, rather than get the gear OTA today.

Oh, well....not wanting to herd cats, I stepped back and did some other things.......

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Battleship Iowa's "Original" 1980's Transmitters Possibly ON-THE-AIR This Coming Wednesday!'s been a long, slow, slog, but we're 90+% there.

We have two "Red Phones" mapped out through the "Coke Machine", the audio interface boxes, the transmit and receive switchboards, and the R-1051 receivers and the AN/URT-23A transmitters.

We've verified that we have correct receive audio through the receive path, and the transmit audio from the "Red Phones" also makes it down to the Transmitter Room, and drive the #3 transmitter to full (1000 Watts +) power into a dummy load.

For the receive antennas we're using the "Twin Whips" mounted up on the bridge, and for transmit, we'll be using the "Goal Post" or "Bull's Horns" antenna located just forward of the #2 stack. The "Goal Post" antenna is fed with (I think) 3-1/2" Heliax cable from the transmitter room, and some time ago I made up an adapter that connected the Andrew flange to a Type-N female so we could run coax into one of the large antenna couplers down in the transmit room.

I used my Comet CAA-500 Antenna Analyzer to verify that adjusting the controls on the coupler caused the impedance to vary, and the manner in which it varied it varied in "looked" just like we were tuning a random length antenna with a good old Johnson Matchbox.

The players are as follows:

A "Red Phone":

The Infamous "Coke Machine":

R-1051 Receiver:

Receive Antenna Couplers:

"Twin Whips" Receive Antennas:

AN/URT-23 Transmitter:

Transmit Antenna Coupler(s):

"Goal Post" Transmit Antenna:

I'm posting this early so those who are interested in trying work us will have plenty of time to get ready. We know we transmit better than we receive, even running 100 Watts from the Amateur Radio gear, so please be patient with us if we manage to make this happen.

Not all of us are "Contest Operators", so pile-ups will be dealt with "Loudest Heard First", and then we'll try to get to the weaker stations.

Look for us in the upper half of the General section of the 20 Meter phone band. *IF* we get the gear On-The-Air, it will be after 2000 UTC, and before 2359 UTC.

We'll be using an individual's callsign, not NI6BB, and we'll include "Battleship Iowa" in all our CQ's.

Hope to see you On The Air!

I'll have my tablet computer with me, so if this is a "GO!", I'll make a post here right before we go live OTA.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Out With The Old.......UPDATE

And in with the new.

Jeep radio, that is.

I finally received the "4-pin" data cable I needed to get the Maestro unit talking to my new Kenwood "head unit", and decided to take the plunge and do it today.

It's not 100% finished, but it's in the dash, all connected up, and everything works!

Had a nice chat with the rep from Sirius/XM, and we killed the OEM Sirius radio that came with the Jeep, activated the new one, went over the freebies that came with the new radio, and got everything squared away.

I still have to find the best place to stick down the microphone for the "hands free"  Bluetooth operation of my cellphone, figure out how to run the cable from the new Sirius/XM antenna into the car, and figure out how to best run the female USB cable that lets me plug in a USB stick and play music and videos on the head unit.

And Kenwood has newer firmware for the head unit, so I have to reflash it, and I still have to sign up with Garmin so I can keep the maps updated for the nav.

After that, I'll just snap the bezels back on the instrument pod where the GPS antenna is located, and the bezel that covers the radio.

Then I have to learn how to use the doggone thing, program my favorite satellite radio channels, FM radio channels, and the couple of AM channels I use.

I stick a few pix on here tomorrow.


 It took me until midnight last night but I finally got the receiver to accept the USB memory stick with the updated firmware.

The manuals are poorly written in regard to this, and assume you already know the menu structure of the radio.

They kept mentioning to "put the radio into standby", with no explanation of how to find the "standby" menu setting. The main menu button takes you to the "Top Menu", and there's three little bars at the top of the screen. In my experience this usually indicates there are a total of three pages to the menu. to get to the next pages? The radio has a touch screen, so I tried dragging the screen to the left. No luck, and this stumped me for a while. I finally figured out that to get off the first page of the menu you have to "flick" the screen to the left at just the right rate to get it on the next page.

There was the "Standby" button, and once I pressed that button, the "upgrade" button on the screen displaying the installed firmware version was no longer greyed out, and I was able to upgrade the firmware from the memory stick.

The next thing was getting updated maps into the navigation section of the radio. Garmin requires you to dump an XML file onto an SD memory card, insert it into a Windows or Mac PC, and then use their web application to read the card, and confirm you have a qualifying product. Then, after you pay your $69.95 for the new maps, it will download and install the new map files onto the SD card. I had the same issue with the nav section of the wouldn't dump the file onto the card unless the radio was in standby mode. About 2345 last night I had the XML file on the card, and was able to get the Garmin web app to accept it, and proceeded to install the "updated" maps on it, but I couldn't find out how to get the file loaded off the card and into the receiver.

This morning I was on the support section of the Garmin website, and finally found out that all you do is install the card in the slot, and it reads the new data from the card. I put the card in the slot, and upon hitting the "upgrade maps" from another obscure menu setting only accessible when in standby, I was rewarded with "Reading Updated Map Info" on the screen.

They don't tell you if it overwrites the existing data in the radio, or if it needs the card in all the time, so I just left it in the radio.

Since the map version was "2014.0", and the new map version is "2015.0", it looks like they don't upgrade the maps very often!

I stuck down the microphone for the hand-free cellphone function, and stuck the bezel back on that part of the dash. I still haven't figured out how I'm going to run the antenna lead-in cable for the new Sirius/XM tuner from the antenna into the car, and then into the under/behind dash area, but it looks like that will be a several hour job by itself, involving pulling a bunch of interior trim panels off, routing the cable, and then putting it all back together.

This radio definitely sounds better than the OEM Alpine radio it replaced, and I'm getting a bunch more satellite channels than I did before, as I upgraded my Sirius/XM subscription.

And the FM tuner not only has regular FM, but also "HD Radio", which lets the broadcasters either deliver higher-quality audio, or multiple channels, similar to what the new Digital TVs have. Where you only had "Channel 5" before, you now have sub-channels like 5.1, 5.2, etc.

Think I'm going to take the dog for a walk....I need to relax a bit, and "wind down" from this project!

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Running a Tube-Type Radio on "Car Batteries" - PART 1-

This was starting to get a bit looong, so I'm splitting it into two parts... 

I also made a few changes so "Part 2" shows up after "Part 1".

I was having a discussion with Harry over on his blog on the subject of shortwave listening, types of receivers, and other things.

I made my standard "If you're worried about EMP, take your little solid-state (transistorized, but more likely uProcessor controlled DSP radio these days) radio with the batteries out (because if you don't, you will forget they're in there, they will leak, and likely ruin the radio. Trust me, it WILL happen!), and seal it up in a steel ammo can, using adhesive-backed aluminum tape on all the seams. NOT aluminum colored duct tape, but real metal aluminum tape. You can get it at big box home improvement stores. This gives you a homemade Faraday Cage, and should protect the radio".

Have I tried this?

No, mostly due to the lack of a suitable EMP generator, but I consider it sound advice, knowing what I do about EMP.

I'd tell you more about why I know this stuff, but how that goes...

Yes, you could make a special box from "Mu Metal", but Mu metal is expensive, hard to work with, and generally difficult to buy in small quantities.

Then we started talking about types of receivers, and the subject turned to tube-type radios.

Tubes are inherently "hardened" to EMP because of their construction. They have large metal elements, separated by substantial spacing (compared to solid-state devices), and all the metal elements are encased in a vacuum envelope. Granted, the vacuum isn't "perfect", but the breakdown voltage (aka "Dielectric Strength") between two metal elements in a vacuum is is substantially higher than the breakdown voltage in air.

Wikipedia lists the breakdown voltage for air as 3e6 (3,000,000 Volts) per meter of spacing, and vacuum as 10e12 Volts per meter.

That's TEN TERRA Volts per meter, a staggering amount of voltage!

That's a thousand billion Volts.....

Speaking in term of "Volts/mil" (voltage per .001"), air breaks down and conducts at around 800 Volts per .001" of spacing (I always remember "1000Volts/mil") and breakdown in a vacuum is something like a MILLION times higher.

ANYWAY......before I ramble too far off the original topic, tubes should survive an EMP (especially if powered off), while conventional "wisdom" claims solid-state devices will be destroyed.

SO......In all of our favorite TEOTWAWKI/TSHTF novels, there always seems to be some "Old Guy" who just happens to be a Ham operator, always "lives on a hill top", has "big antennas", and he just happens to have some old tube-type radios laying around. Of course, they get pressed in to service powered up by "car batteries" scavenged from all the abandoned/broken/non-functional cars which just happen to be strewn around everywhere.

It makes for a great read, and shows how ingenuity can overcome adversity, but would it work?

Well, that's what I'll try and analyze here (whew! finally got back on topic), and give some recommendations for trying to do this.

The closest radio manual I had at hand is for my Heathkit SB-310, so that's what I'll go with. This radio is not "100% Hollow State", as it has three rectifier diodes in the power supply (B+ and bias rectifiers), two "small signal" diodes for the Automatic Noise Limiter ("ANL"), and two more small-signal diodes in the Automatic Gain Control ("AGC") circuits. Since this is an AC to DC conversion, the rectifier diodes will be bypassed, and you can use the receiver with the ANL and AGC diodes clipped out of their circuits if they get blown from an EMP-type event. It wouldn't be as "pleasant" to listen to with those two circuits disabled, but it will work just fine without them.

The principles involved with doing this to most any tube-type receiver would be the same, but some of the voltages will probably be different.

YMMV, don't try this at home, don't blame me if you get zapped or blow up your receiver, and yes, I am a professional at this stuff!

First, let's look at how the receiver is powered during "normal" operation.

Tube-type receivers use a power supply (transformer, rectifiers, filter capacitors, dropping resistors, and possibly a filter choke) to produce the required voltages from the 120 VAC power line.

There are (usually) three voltages required to make the receiver operate:

1. An "A" voltage, which is the filament voltage, either 6 Volts or 12 Volts. Some receivers may have a mix of both 6 and 12 Volt filament tubes in them. The filaments "don't  know/don't care" if they're being fed AC or DC. Some people claim that running the filaments from DC will give a "quieter" receiver, while others claim that running them from DC will shorten the filament life due to metal transfer off the filament to the other tube elements, similar to what happens during electroplating.
Way back when I was repairing/modifying electronic stuff for all my musician friends, I did a full make-over on a buddy's Fender Twin Reverb amp. I went completely gonzo on it, beefing up the power supply, regulating all the voltages, converting the filaments to a regulated DC supply, redoing all the grounds inside, and shielding the daylights out of it. *I* couldn't tell much difference, but *he* could, and I wound up doing a half-dozen or so for other people. AFAIK, there was NO difference in tube life.

2. A "B" voltage, commonly called "B+", which is the plate/Anode supply voltage, and generally the highest voltage in the radio. Sometimes there are multiple B+ voltages used at different points in the circuit, and these are generally derived from the highest voltage using dropping resistors. This voltage is always well filtered DC, and in some cases is regulated over a narrow range. This voltage is positive with respect to ground.

3. A "C" voltage, which is the bias voltage applied to the tube grids, and used to set the "operating point" of the tube. This voltage is negative with respect to ground.

In "Ye Dayes Of Olde", long before residential homes were wired for that new-fangled "AC" stuff, these voltages were all supplied by batteries, so running tube radios on batteries is nothing new.

An "A" battery powered the filaments, a "B" battery powered the plates, and a "C" battery provided the bias.

First, we have to deal with how to get the voltages we need from "car batteries", and discuss some things about "car batteries" that need discussing. Then we'll move on to modifying the wiring in the radio to use our new external voltage sources.

At this point some of you are probably scratching your head and wondering why all this talk about using ONLY "car batteries" to power the radio, and you'd be correct. The simplest thing to do is get a 12 Volt DC to 120 Volt AC inverter, and just run the radio that way. Most receivers don't draw a whole lot of power, so you don't need a big inverter. The SB-310, for example, only draws 50 Watts AC power, less than 1 Amp, so even a small El Cheep-O inverter like this $20 one from Harbor Freight would work. My Drake R-4B, a superb ham band only receiver, draws 60 Watts, still well under 1 amp of AC line current.

BUT, as all the stories go, we're stuck using "car batteries", so that's why I'm writing this (very long...) post.

You'll notice I keep putting "car batteries" in quotes. There's a reason for that.

"Car Batteries" fall into a couple of broad classifications. First, and most common, are what's called "SLI" rated batteries, for "Starting, Lighting, and Ignition" batteries. This type is designed to put out a huge blast of current (several hundred amps) for a short time to get the vehicle started, and then to be recharged by the alternator immediately. They do NOT like to have a constant, low drain applied to them, like the drain that a radio would cause. If used in this service, they will not produce their rated "Amp Hour" capacity, will go "dead" quickly, and will get to the point that they will no longer hold a charge, or even accept a charge. I've personally ruined several SLI batteries by using them as a back-up power source for my "12 Volt" Ham radios. Even though I kept them charged with a properly deigned "battery tender", and watched them carefully, they never lasted more than 12 months.

Expensive lesson, but well-learned.

The next common type is the "Deep Cycle" type. These batteries are designed uses that require a lower current draw for extended periods. Sometimes they're called "motive" batteries, and are used for wheel chairs, golf carts, trolling motors, and solar power storage. Every time I've replaced my car battery I've always replaced it with a deep cycle battery, as there's times I'll run my radio for extended periods without running the engine, and I want to make sure I have enough power left to start the car.

And within the battery types are some sub-classifications depending on the type of construction used.

"Flooded" types have the liquid electrolyte (aka Battery Acid) and removable caps to check the levels. Most of us grew up with this type, and are somewhat familiar with it. I always used distilled water to top off the level, although many sources say that any potable water is OK. Personally, with the cost of distilled water being so low, I could never see using tap water, especially in areas with hard water.

"Valve Regulated Lead Acid" (VRLA) batteries were first seen in the late 1960's, and were marketed as "Maintenance Free" batteries. They used a slightly different chemistry and construction/

"AGM" or Absorbed Glass Mat batteries are newer still, and have a different construction that keeps all the electrolyte in a fiberglass mesh.

And as of 2016 some cars are using Nickle Metal Hydride and Lithium Ion batteries for their power source.

So, with that said, be aware that using old fashioned, flooded construction SLI batteries would work, but the batteries probably won't last as long as you'd like.

Now as to "How Many Batteries Will We Need", we need to look at voltages, and we'll use my trusty SB-310 as our example.

The SB-310 "requires" 185 Volts for the B+, -85 Volts for the Bias, and 6 Volts for the filaments.

Nominal, fully charged voltage for a "12 Volt" automotive battery varies some with the type. We'll go with the current VRLA batteries as they're most common in newer cars.

Fully Charged = 12.66 Volts

50% Charged = 12.10 Volts

25% Charged = 11.95 Volts

  0% Charged = 11.70 Volts

We'll pick 12.5 Volts just to make the math a bit easier.

185 Volts/12.5volts-per-battery= 14.8 batteries.

Kinda of hard to have 8/10ths of a battery, so we'll say 15 batteries.

Fully charged, 15 batteries gives 189.9 Volts, a few volts higher than the nominal 185 Volts for the B+, but nothing to worry about. These radios were designed with 10% tolerance resistors, and most of the capacitors (except in critical tuned circuits) were about as "loose", and the AC line voltage was never exactly "117VAC", so plus or minus a few Volts on the B+ isn't going to matter.

Fully discharged, we'd have 175.5 Volts, enough to keep the receiver running, but pretty hard on the batteries.

For the -85 Volt Bias Supply, we have it easier. Since the Bias Supply is feeding the grids of the tubes (a very high impedance), the resulting current draw is extremely low, on the order of microamps. Rather than lugging another 7 car batteries to make the bias supply, it's much easier to use ten 9 Volt "Transistor Radio" batteries, or any other combination of standard dry cells that gives about 90 Volts.
Then we'd make a simple resistive voltage divider, and adjust the voltage for the 85 Volts (or other required voltage) we need. The bias voltage is a little more critical than the B+ voltage, because if the tubes aren't biased close to where they should be, the radio won't operate properly.

This radio has  6 Volt filament tubes exclusively, with a total draw of 3.3 Amps.

While there are ways to drill and tap into a 12 Volt battery at the 3rd cell and get 6 Volts from it, I've never done it, and only seen pictures of it. I'm going to assume that whoever is attempting to do this (the old "Ham on the Hill"!) has a pretty extensive "Junque Box", and would just make up a 2:1 resistive voltage divider, and use a single 12 Volt battery for the filaments.

So that gets us our required operating voltages. 15 car batteries in series for the B+, one more for the filaments, and a bunch of dry cells for the bias voltage.

In "Part 2" I'll get into modifying an actual radio

Running a Tube-Type Radio on "Car Batteries" - PART 2 -

OK....on to the radio....finally!

There's nothing magic or wizardly going on here. The circuitry doesn't care if the voltages come from AC, DC, Solar, Nuclear, coal, or filtered unicorn farts. If you supply the radio with the correct voltages, it will operate.

In order to take an AC powered radio and run it from batteries, we'll need to make some changes to the wiring. Specifically, we'll need to connect the correct voltages to the correct circuit points for both the B+ and Bias supplies. To do that we'll add some wires to those points and bring them out of the radio for the external power to be applied, along with a ground connection to a new plug.

And we'll need to separate the filament wiring from the secondary of the power transformer, and bring those two (or three, in the case of a radio having both 6V and 12V filaments) leads out, too.

So, we'd need to use a 6-conductor plug and socket, rated to withstand, say 300 Volts.

But in a real SHTF/TEOTWAWKI situation, we'd probably just run wires out of any convenient opening in the radio case.

Here's the schematic for the power supply section of an SB-310 General Coverage receiver:

Just about smack dab in the middle, you'll see two symbols that look like right-pointing arrows, labeled "D6" and "D7". The right side of this symbol, the direction the arrow is pointing, are the positive (Cathode) ends of the rectifiers. Solder a red wire to this point, and bring it out for later connection. The wire has to be rated for at least 300 Volts to be safe, but wouldn't have to be much more than 20 gauge as the current draw is pretty low. Since we'll be feeding in a positive voltage, and that voltage will be blocked by D6 and D7, no other surgery is required. *IF* D6 and D7 are shorted (blown by that commie EMP blast!), just clip them out of the circuit.

A little below that point, you'll find D8, which is the rectifier for the bias supply. This time you'll want to solder an orange wire to the junction of D8, the capacitor C233, and the resistor R211. This will be where we apply the -85 Volt bias supply. If D8 is shorted, just clip it out like you did to the rectifiers.

Damn commies.....

Underneath the chassis should be numerous terminal strips. Look for one with a "foot" that's grounded, and solder a black wire to it.

On the terminal strip pictured below, the "#2" position is the "foot" I was talking about, which bolts it to the chassis, and provides a ground point.

That takes care of the "high" voltages. Just make sure the red, yellow, and black wires you added are long enough to come out of the radio a foot or two, so you'll have some length to work with when you connect your battery bank.

For the filaments, we'll have to be a bit more careful. Since we'll be using DC to power them, we must disconnect the secondary winding of the transformer or otherwise it will short out the new DC supply to the filaments.

Look back at the schematic for "T1", which is the power transformer. You'll notice (sorry, but I'm assuming you can "read" a schematic...) that leads "1" and "3" are the yellow filament power leads. One side is grounded, which means it's common to the B+ and Bias supplies. Pick the yellow lead that's NOT grounded, and cut it loose from the terminal strip. Add a new yellow wire to this point, and bring it out like you did the others.

That should complete the modifications to the radio. Simple, and pretty easy to reverse if the AC power ever comes back!

The battery connections will simply be 15 car batteries connected in series, with the positive lead going to the red lead coming from the radio, and the negative lead going to the black lead coming from the radio, and that takes care of the B+ supply.

For the bias supply, you'll have ten 9 Volt transistor radio batteries in series, with the NEGATIVE side of your battery stack going to the orange wire coming from the radio, and the POSITIVE side of the battery stack going to the black lead coming from the radio.

For the filament supply, you'll have a single battery in series with a 2 Ohm, 25 Watt resistor (drops the 12 Volts down to 6) on the positive side connected to the yellow lead coming from the radio, and the negative side of the battery going to the black wire from the radio.

Will this work, and power the radio as if it were plugged in?

I have no doubt it will. As I said at the beginning, the radio doesn't know/doesn't care where its power comes from. Apply the correct voltages to the correct points in the circuit, and it will function, assuming it was an operating radio to begin with.

If anybody wants to loan me 16 car batteries, I'd be willing to modify the receiver just to prove this will work!

Personally, I'd rather just buy a few inverters and some extra ammo cans to keep them in. Saves a lot of work lugging batteries up the hill the old Ham lives on.......

Now....a few words of caution here.....


You've just built a 185 Volt DC power supply capable of SEVERAL HUNDRED Amps output.

This is a LETHAL voltage source! You will NOT get a second chance if you accidentally contact the positive lead while grounded.

Use EXTREME care when operating this power supply!

You have been warned!

It would definitely be a good idea to fuse the positive lead of the battery string, and properly insulate ALL exposed metal connections, but make sure you use a fuse rated for 250 VDC, and with a very high "interrupting rating" so that the fuse doesn't turn into a bomb. Fuses for this service usually are packed with sand, and use a ceramic body instead of glass, so that when the fuse link inside opens, the grains of sand fall into the gap, and quench the arc. Otherwise, with a supply this "stiff", there will be enough energy available to keep the arc "lit" when the fuse link opens, and a plain glass body fuse will violently disintegrate, possibly causing somebody to get hurt.

And a 1 or 2 Ohm, high wattage current limiting resistor in series with the positive lead wouldn't hurt anything, either.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Thoughts on Iowa

No, not my beloved BB-61, but last night's goings on.

I'm no political analyst, and I sure don't play one on TV, but a few things immediately struck me.

1. Hillary is in deep doo-doo. If Bernie Sanders can wind up in a dead-heat TIE with her, I think she's doomed. I wonder what's going to happen next week in New Hampshire....

2. Cruz is much stronger than I expected, and I think that's a Good Thing. I thought the final numbers for Ted and The Donald would be flipped around. And Rubio's results surprised me, too. I figured he'd get about half what he did. Carly and Dr. Carson did poorly, and I wonder how much longer they'll slug it out. I think Dr. Carson is a fine man, a wonderful surgeon, and a great example for young people of ANY race to emulate, but I'm not sure he's got the stones to be President.

3. O'Malley and Huckabee are doing the right thing. I'm sure we'll hear more from them.

4, The people of Iowa were sure full of surprises, weren't they?

Been Busy....Follow-Up Post Coming Soon To A Browser Near <i>YOU</i>!

 Been a week since last post. Been busy herding grandkids, playing with the dog, yard work, house items, and working on all manner of stuff....