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Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Vintage receiver brings the past to life
Thirty-three years ago, when I started in ham radio, the equipment was beginning a shrinking trend - one that continues in some ways today. Mid-80s radios, holdovers of earlier decades, could be big, bulky, warm and drifty. But transistors and ICs gave way to a new generation of small solid-state rigs that didn't use tubes and offered a lot more features.
Famous transceivers of the 1970s were being sold off as their owners traded up for compact HF transceivers, like the ubiquitous Kenwood TS-430 (later the TS-440), the Yaesu FT-757 and the ICOM 735. These little beauties offered carefree operating - no transmitter tuning and the benefit of a digital frequency readout. 
Late in 1984, I was a Novice-level operator, itching to get on the air. New radios were very expensive, so I purchased a classic "boat anchor" - an FT101B that was on the consignment counter at my local ham store, Rogus Electronics. Working the counter that day was Frank, W1FD (now a silent key) who made sure I could safely operate the radio before it left the store. (Maybe he didn't want to be accountable  in the event I electrocuted myself or accidentally set the radio on fire. Either way, he was a good teacher.)
Vintage display ad for the Yaesu Musen FRG-7.
Just before Christmas, I lugged my FT-101B home, set it up on a desk and connected a long wire antenna and a tuner. Lo and behold, it worked well and I made lots of contacts over the next two years.
My ham friends mostly had newer radios, so after scrimping and saving, I sprung for a Yaesu FT-757 GXII when it went on sale in 1986. I sold the FT-101B and swore it would be the last breadbox-size behemoth - legendary or not -  to occupy my radio desk.
And for 31 years, it was – until October, 2017. That’s when I brought home a pristine, like-new FRG-7 (known as "The Frog") modeled after the FT-101 line of radios and still very selective and sensitive. Mostly it shines on the AM broadcast band due to its 6 kHz bandwidth. Sideband and CW sound good, too.
How did I acquire this radio? I have to credit (or blame) my friend Bill, W7YY, who is the ARES director for our town. While working an emergency simulation (the SET test) last month, he mentioned he acquired radio equipment from someone who cleared out an estate, and the Frog happened to be in the collection. My interest was piqued, Bill quoted a very reasonable price, and the rest is now history.
Here are some specs: The Frog is a solid state, triple conversion receiver covering 500 KHz to 29.9 MHz in four bands. It uses an oscillator called a “Wadley Loop” that generates harmonics at 1 MHz intervals. Determining what frequency the radio is on requires a slight bit of math, but with practice, I can tell where I’m listening within one or two kilohertz. A fine tuning dial makes things exact, and clarifies stations operating on sideband.
The Frog was built between 1976 and 1980, slightly later than the FT series of transceivers.  I don’t know who the previous owner was, but he or she kept the radio in incredibly new condition. For that, I am a grateful and proud owner of a beautiful, well functioning boat anchor. See a complete history of Yaesu radios at this link.

Here's my YouTube video of the Frog in action:

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