A Pictorial History Of Collins Amateur Radio Equipment

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APICTORIAL HISTORY OF COlllNS AMATEUR RADIO EQUIPMENT JAY [email protected] K#t..-c• I ... t .. f .. ,.,.. .. twn'1 •t.an.f.ar•l«"'"1 dJl'"«'"nt (•W• !11 c ~ll~wr, lH U11tf""'· .H lltklti'.i.tl ,\ n.11• I' ·••~•: ,-vmt.unnl hr.4\')' •1111) ll Al l .

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Left: Introduced in 1934 , the Collins 30FX transmitter hod a conservative power roting of l 00 watts ON. The 30FX hod a frequency range of 1500 to 15000 KC and was crystal controlled. The final amplifier tube was o 21 l . Control grid modulation was added in 1935. "Development hos been mode in the Collins Laboratories for several months. Unlike earlier systems of grid modulation, the modulation characteristic is linear, adjustments ore simple, and the modulated stage operates at a relative high efficiency." so stoles a 1935 Collins ad. A complete description of the modulation system is described by Arthur Collins a nd Wolter Wrikler in the Morch 1935 issue of QST. Below: In February 1933 the first issue of the Collins Signal appeared. It was published occasionally until ofter the war, thence appearing quarterly until the early 1970s. - Author photo, J. B. Jenkins Collection

FEBRUARY, 1933

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Collins set up o special factory in Burbank, Colifornio to monufocture mechonicol filters. Shown here ore representative cose styles of filters for o variety of opplicotions. Mechanical filters eventually found their woy into most oil types of Collins equipment including amateur, avionics ond microwave equipment. The devices were difficult lo monufocture ond - Jim Stitzinger Collection mointoining quality control wos o tough job. It wos later soid thot "anyone could design o mechonicol filter but only Collins could build one."

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A Phenomena Called Magnetostriction curve ideal for the reception of AM and single sideband signals. The The mechanical filter uses the principle of magnetostriction to convert mechanical filter in the KWS-1 transmitter has the same passband width oscillating electrical energy into mechanical vibrations and back again to but is center on 250 kc.FN electrical energy. In much the same fashion as when a tuning fork is struck, Previously, only with expensive, delicate crystal filters or tuned circuits it sounds a fixed tone in perfect pitch and also vibrates at its precise tone when a like sound impinges upon it. Collins engineers discovered that the could ports of a signal be filtered out. These circuits were nowhere near as same process could be used for electrical impulses and at the 1952 Institute selective as the new mechanical filter nor could they accomplish the job in of Radio Engineers meeting in New York, announced the mechanical filter. a single, small, plug-in package. Production of the mechanical filters was extremely complex and initially The magnetostridion transducer input coil is resonated at, for example, plagued with high failure rotes. Purity of the component elements was critical 455 kc, by a small electrical signal. Within the filter, a nickel wire in the and assembly of the tiny discs and wires turned out to be a mechanical input transducer coil vibrates mechanically and transmits this energy to the nightmare. Various processes first of a series of nickel alloy were tried and discarded but discs. The mechanical eventually the engineers vibration of the first disc is gained enough experience to coupled to succeeding discs yield reproducible results. A by means of nickel-wire new plant was located at coupl ing elements. Biasing Burbank, California in the magnets at either end of the mid 1950s to build nothing filter polarize the filter but mechanical filters. elements to prevent frequency Mechanical filters were doubling, in much the same quickly developed with manner as biasing magnets varying passband widths in a headphone prevent the and center frequencies as the headphone diaphragm from electronic capabilities of the bending in the same direction device in radio work became for both halves of an AC \ known. Their use extended cycle. The mechanical for beyond the single vibration of the last disc is Inside view of an early Collins mechanical filter showing the resonant nickle alloy discs and coupling sideband revolution and coupled to a mogneto- wires. This type of filter was first used in the 75A-3 receiver. played a vital role in the striction transducer element development of multi-channel microwave systems. identical to the one used at the input of the filter. By a reverse principle of The mechanical filters could, on the transmitting end, combine several magnetostriction, the mechanical vibration of the nickel-wire transducer discrete signals before transmission and on the receiving end separate the core is converted to electrical energy. different signals out for further processing. In this fashion Collins engineers Each of the discs employed in the mechanical filter have a very high were able to send multiple, independent channels of information over a mechanically resonant 'Q,' or quality factor. Six of these discs ore single microwave frequency. overcoupled to produce a mechanically-shaped response curve with a Aat Collins held a monopoly on the mechanical filter business for many top and straight, almost vertical sides. Thus, the filter passes a band of years. As late as 1998 Collins mechanical filters could still be found in frequencies very little wider than the Aat top of the selectivity curve. The mechanical filters used in the 75A-4 receiver poss a band of frequencies modern high grade amateur radio equipment. approximately 3 kc wide and centered on 455 kc providing on IF selectivity -Adapted from Collins Radio Company documentation 73

On December 10, the big C-97 took off again from Omaha, this time with Don Merfen's Eldico single sideband equipment on board. A pair of Merten's SSB· 1OOMIL exciters and SSB· 1000 linears were installed in the passenger compartment. The Collins receivers remained. The plane with Merten and Griswold aboard Rew lo Goose Bay and then across the North Atlantic lo Paris and then lo London making SSB contacts all the way. The return leg began on December 15 across the Atlantic with stops at the Azores and Bermuda finally landing in Omaha on December 18. The 12,000 mile flight generated almost 1,300 QSOs. 13 Somehow Arthur Collins made another trip on the same plane, within a few weeks, but with the KWS· l reinstalled on the right side. He, Griswold and Griswold's deputy Joe Beier, now W5JB, gave both rigs a work-out. Little documentation is available for this trip as Arthur probably just talked his way along on an "inspection trip." Beier, who later went lo work for Collins, remembers Griswold ordered him "to give Art Collins anything he wants." Merfen's equipment, without access to the Collins PTO and mechanical filter just did not measure up to the performance of the KWS· 1 and 75A· 4 combination. Despite these shortcomings, the trip once again demonstrated the superiority of single sideband for long-range communications. A little later on, General LeMay was flying his command plane over Pearl Harbor and placed a radio-telephone call to Admiral Arleigh Burke, Chief of Naval Operations at his home in Washington (it was about 0300 Washington time}. When the Admiral came on the line LeMay bellowed "Arleigh? ... This is Curt LeMay... I'm flying over Pearl Harbor looking down on your ships and talking to you on my new single sideband radios!" The Admiral responded, "Curt you SOB ... you sound like you're next door!" After LeMay signed off, Admiral Burke told his sleepy-eyed chief-of-staff "Coll everybody! By 0900 I want to know just what in the hell this single sideband stuff is!"'d

General LeMay was promoted to Vice-Chief of Staff of the Air Force in 1957. He traded in his piston engine C-97 command plane for a brand new KC-135 jet transport which became a prototype for the first flying command posts. The onboard communications center included two pairs of KWS· 1/ 75A·4 combinations- one standard amateur model and one specially modified for SAC frequencies as well as a 51J-4 receiver and a new Collins ARC-58 SSB transceiver. Nicknamed the Speckled Trout, the transport version of the first jet lanker, took off for a "cross-country" trip from Andover AFB to Buenos Aires on November 12, 1958. The Right covered 6,350 miles setting a new world record for the longest Right without refueling. Returning to Washington National Airport the next day with LeMoy at the controls, the plane set a new speed record for non-stop flight between the two capitols. Collins SSB communications systems aboard the plane enabled it to maintain continuous contact with SAC headquarters as well as with many MARS stations back in the states. Ever alert to positive publicity, LeMoy allowed the press representatives on board to file their stories with their home offices via phone-patch. With retail prices of $595 for a 75A-4 and $1,995 for a KWS· l, the new radios were big ticket items to be sure. Put together with a speaker console, the $2,627.50 total was as much as a well-equipped 1955 Chevy. It is little wonder they acquired the "Gold Dust Twins" moniker. Production of the amateur products began in earnest from the pilot line in the Cherry Building downtown. What would later become known as a "systems concept," was built into the KWS-1 /75A·4 line. The speaker and lighted station control console (312A· 1} were sold with on extra front grille so the buyer could odd meters, antenna selectors, a clock or any custom features to his station. The company manufactured a built up model (312A-2) which included a Tymeter digital clock, power meter, phone patch and direction indicator. As port of the SC· l 0 1 package, the 3 l 2A· 2 come with a selsyn for the antenna rotor, a wiring duct and on antenna relay box. To measure forward and reRected power, the company initially contracted with the M. C. Jones Company to private label its Micromotch under the Collins name. Arthur hod trouble with his current sensing resistor burning out so Warren Bruene "invented" a directional coupler, hooked it up to a meter and the 302C· 1 was born. Only a handful of the Collins-labeled Jones devices ever mode it out the door. Various plug-in mechanical filters were later mode available for the 75A·4 and a 4: 1 gear reduction assembly with knob made precision tuning much easier. The end of 75A·4 production was announced in January 1959. 15 About 23 remaining units, built in Canada, were offered for sole in Moy dealer bulletins. The price was $840. 16

Text continued on page 96. 74

With the 75A-4 circuit developed and models in various stages of operation, the amateur sideband group, led by Gene Senti, initially started work on on exciter and outboard power amplifier concept. The 3 lOE-1 exciter was a prototype model that did not make it post the mock-up stage. The engineers felt (and Arthur Collins insisted) that a compact kilowatt package could be designed. Getting a few millivolts of 2 to 30 Mc. single sideband signal up to a kilowatt and out of one box would prove to be quite a task. The high voltage power supply would remain outboard. - Rod Blocksome Collection

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The man in charge of SSB••• I graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1941 with a degree in Within a few years, the orders and contracts with civilian and military electrical engineering. In those days there was not much electronics offered amounted to about $50 million. That was when a million was real money. so I was forced to take a lot of electrical courses even though I was a Ham Included in this array of new equipment was o kilowatt airborne radio for and most of my interest was in electronics. During college I worked for the SAC, o 45 kilowatt servo-tuned amplifier and various exciters and receivers. university radio station and for two other AM broadcasting It was apparent that the amplifier siring in both the stations in the Minneapolis area. In my lost year of college, receiver and the transmitter were similar so it was logical I was offered several jobs with b~g companies but decided to design ham transceivers. The first one was the KWM-1. to join Collins Radio because it offered the best opportunity This transceiver mode mobile operation very successful. to design electronic circuits. For some unknown reason John Nyquist and I were My brother worked at Collins and was several years selected to visit all of the Big Ten colleges and try to recruit ahead of me. He scrounged several surplus ports from the engineers. This was during the period of great growth for Admiral Byrd project when Byrd went to the south pole. Collins Radio. We were able lo locate and hire hundreds of These were incorporated into my ham rig and were a source top engineers for the company and these were the people of much pride on my port. When I went to Collins to work, who designed and developed the excellent electronic products my ham activity was limited to just renewing my FCC license of the post World War II era. The design and engineering goal was to produce new and innovative electronic products because the doily work on electronic design seemed to be enough contact with electrons- I got my first ham ticket in without loo much attention lo cost factors. The design groups 1935. I started working in the test deportment which was were given a free hand lo freely design circuits and equipment the standard training route at Collins. In o short time I was that represented on advancement over anything that was available on the market. It was on atmosphere that was, in transferred to the design deportment and worked on a number of design jobs. During my career in engineering, many ways, an engineers' heaven. The man responsible for I worked on a lot of military projects and gradually moved this concept of superior design goals was Arthur Collins. He ahead into engineering management which included at spent a lot of time involved in engineering projects, usually in one time the control of a division of 1100 persons. the broad concepts but sometimes even in minute details. There The start of the SSB development is rather interesting. is no question that Art created the whole impression that was Al the time only Central Electronics offered any SSB gear the Collins Rodio Company- I spent some of the best years for the ham market. Art Collins realized the great potential of my life there. An inter~.ting project is ~e initial development of t~e of this mode of communications and decided to plunge Ernie Pappenfus in 1956 as chief of into the. design effort. He c~me into my des~g.n deporlme~I Collins single sideband develo ment 30L-1 ampl1f1er. Gene Senti hod made a home built and pointed at my best engineers and technicians and said p prototype that proved the feasibility of the concept. I was "I want these men moved to a small building near the main plant of Collins convinced that engineering projects took loo long. In an attempt lo reduce Radio by Monday morning. We will start design projects to toke us into the time dramatically, I decided on o crash program. I selected the best SSB." I was shocked because all of those men were working on urgent projects design engineers draftsmen and technicians and moved them all into an empty room that happened lo be pointed green. We went into the room on at the time. However, it proved to be a brilliant decision and within six months or so we had experimental ham equipment to try out on the ham bands. Wednesday and put the 30L-1 on the air on Saturday night. There were long About ten rock mounted transmitters and modified 75-A receivers were given days and nights but everyone who took part in the project was very excited to the hams in the organization to get them Familiar with SSB operation. This about it. This concept was carried on at Collins whenever o fast response on got me active on ham radio and this activity had continued until the present a project was needed. Even though the color of the rooms changed, they time. It was amazing how the reduction of heterodynes on the bonds and were called "green room projects." avoiding selective fading improved ham radio. The project under the direction Emie Poppenfus, K6EZ, /eft Collins in 1962 and moved to California where he of Art Collins developed linear amplifiers, synthesized frequency generation, pioneered the development of FM wireless microphones for the motion picture product detectors and all of the specialized circuits needed for future industry. He become 0 silent key in August 1999 shortly ofter writing this piece. development of SSB apparatus.

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Senti's group junked the 31OE·1 exciter pockoge and settled on o sligh~y different design colling it the 32W-1. Note the transposed meter position and reassignment of controls from the 31 OE· I pictured on poge 7 5. As development progressed, the accessories took shape as well. In the center is o model of the 3 I 2A· I speaker console. In many examples, simple dressed up cabinets were photographed for conceptual purposes. In later years, balsa models were used instead. -Rod Blocksome Collection

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PROUDLY ANNOUNCES A NEW STANDARD in AM,CW and SS8 OPERATION h 1ool Cullins co produce the fir'c rc.alll t1C\\ Am..11cur conuuuni,.1tiun digned I) for Single Sidcb,,nd :is "ell .l> A,\I "nd (,\'\1 oper•cion. Collins new 75A··I Rr