Op position


This is how the station looked the morning after the 2017 ARRL International DX Contest (CW).

Things may be arranged differently for other contests.

The black keyboard in foreground connects to my laptop off to the left that is used for things other than contesting. This keyboard is removed during contest operation. The white keyboard sits by itself during contests, connected to an aging XP “desktop” computer that actually sits below the desktop and uses the large Samsung monitor behind the two Elecraft K3 transceivers that are used for SO2R operation.

Off to the left are three DX Engineering NCC-1 phasing boxes that are used with various phased Beverage and short vertical receive arrays. I hardly touch these phasing boxes during an all-band contest. Some receive antenna switching is above them for some experimental antennas.

On the top of the left-hand K3 is a pair of Top Ten Devices band decoders that switch the transmit antennas that go through two Top Ten 6-way relay boxes on the wall behind the monitor. Visible on the wall just to the left of the monitor are three Top Ten 6-way boxes that select 18 different receive antenna feedlines.

On top of the right-hand K3 is a Top Ten DX Doubler for SO2R control.

Just to the right of that K3 is a stack of four homebrew switch boxes. At the bottom is the direction switch for the 160-meter transmit antennas. The rotary switch in the center controls the direction of the K3LR-style parasitic array, and the small toggle switch at lower right selects either the K3LR array or the broadside-endfire array.

The next two boxes up are the main receive antenna switches. The lower beige one is a “Belkin data switch” that actually has been rewired with a 3-position rotary switch to select one of the three receive-antenna switch boxes on the wall. Labels coming soon. The red-and-black box above this has three switches, one for each 6-position relay box on the wall. So the lower box roughly selects “west” (antennas at 280 through 342 degrees), “northeast” (0 through 75 degrees), and “south” (105 through 245 degrees), and the upper box selects the actual antennas in each of these ranges. I find this more convenient than a single 18-position switch.

The small grey box on the top of this stack is a rotary switch to control the 3-stack of 20-meter yagis. There are 7 positions so all possible combinations of any single antenna, all three antennas, or top/middle, middle/bottom, and top/bottom. That last position produces a very high angle that can make close-in signals from OX, OY, TF, etc. peak up nicely.

Next to the right is my Alpha 89 amplifier, the main workhorse for about the past 10 years. I’m the third owner (previously K3NZ and W2FCR). The 89 is a very quiet amp and greatly reduced the hamshack noise from my previous double-rack of six separate glass-tube amps with large blowers that I used for about 25 years. An Alpha 91B is now the usual second amp and sits off to the right of the Alpha 89 on a separate desk that becomes the second position when our son Adam, N3TTT, joins in for a phone contest multiop.

Directly on top of the Alpha 89 is a homebrew switch box that I built for Beverage and other antenna control in the late 1970s. The knobs on the right are for a homebrew preamp using a pair of MPF102 transistors for 160 that I haven’t used for years. In fact the only thing this box currently is used for is a single toggle switch to select upper/both/lower in the 15-meter yagi stack. On top of this are six Hy-Gain/CDE rotor control boxes. One was modified to add switching for the 40-meter stack. At the very top are a pair of ICE bandpass filters.

On top of the Top Ten decoders is the charging base for the Sony TMR-RF925R wireless headphones that are used for general operating and CW contests. These are great for a quick dash to the kitchen, which is adjacent to the hamshack.

For phone contests I switch to a set of wired Yamaha CM500 headphones with boom microphone. Sometimes when using these I forget I’m not wearing the Sony headset and start to pull things off the desk when I make that dash to the kitchen.

The main CW paddle, just to the right of the white keyboard, is a Bencher model that my wife (Jeanie, AB1P) bought me for a birthday present in the 1970s.

The second paddle is a more recently purchased Vibroplex Junior that I mostly use for CW mobile operation.

The operating desk, facing north, sits out about two feet from the wall behind it to allow access to the numerous cables and wiring for the station.

This room, about 11 feet square, was the original dining room in our rural ranch house built in 1978. Partially visible on the left is a large picture window that provides plenty of light and a view of our driveway area and the woods beyond. A world globe sits on the picture-window sill. I can watch the sun set through this window, and in winter sunrise is visible to my right through a kitchen window.

Behind the rotor boxes is another, smaller window through which all antenna feedlines once were routed — beginning with about 10 in 1998 and up to about 60 when I removed them all about five years ago. Now two 4-inch diameter steel tubes go through the wall behind the operating desk, and all coax and control cables go through these. The relay panel on the wall is a grounded steel plate. All hardline and coax cables are grounded just outside the wall before entering the shack.

An antique rolltop desk that once did service at the U.S. immigration station on Ellis Island and the Coast Guard station at Sandy Hook, New Jersey, is behind my operating chair and used  mostly for non-radio things. My father acquired it in the 1970s and gave it to me around 1991. Special meaning since his parents had arrived from Greece at Ellis Island in 1912 and 1914.

A small TV is on the wall to the right of the small window, visible from the operating chair. Some QSLs and award certificates also fill wall space.

Other wall space is filled by a set of bookshelves that my father and I built from poplar boards around 1965 or so. They were sized to just accommodate the QST magazines that I was collecting, which were a smaller size in those days. When ARRL started printing in a larger size a few years later, I had to lay the new magazines on their side to fit on these shelves.