Posts Tagged With: hamfest

ADVANCED RADIO DEVICES ARD-230A AMPLIFIER

 

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Several years ago in the Dayton Hamvention fleamarket this beast of an amplifier revealed itself.  I’d only ever seen one other example of this technical marvels of the 1980’s; and oddly enough, it resides in my own county.  Neighboring ham and fellow ARD-230A owner Steve W9RO nicknamed the beast “R2D2” because of it’s unique commercial design features.  Alas, the siren song could not be overcome.  Hamfest buddy Nick N9SJA and I each pooled our funds and gambled $1000 on this mysterious amp.  Click below to see a neat, period advertisement from the February 1988 issue of 73 Magazine.

ARD 230 amp-Feb1988-page102-73magazine

 

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So here’s a quick rundown on the basic specs of the ARD-230.  It’s a remotely operated linear amplifier capable of operation on any band from 160m through 10m.  The RF deck is integral to the power supply and contains a pair of Eimec 3CX800 metal ceramic tubes.  The power supply provides 2300V DC at around 1.5A max.  This combination will make 1500W at full duty cycle continuous operation with around 60W drive from the exciter.  It’s operated by the remote control head that can be located up to twenty feet away.  You can choose from fullyOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA automatic operation, semi automatic operation or manual operation modes.  It’s capable of sensing the frequency of operation and changing bands automatically, while adjusting the Tune and Load capacitors for ideal settings.  During operation it can also sense various abnormalities such as excessive plate or grid currents, or low air flow, and alert the operator or entirely lock out the amplifier for protection.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMuch to our dismay the amp proved to be in ill health.  Initial testing rewarded us with many tripped breakers.  Further inspection found some damage to the undercarriage.  Possibly the result of a drop?  After some weeks of gentle coaxing I was able to fire it up without tripping breakers.  Perhaps the HV power supply caps were re-forming?  Now I could apply some low drive and see if it would truly amplify.  Fully and semi auto modes proved unsuccessful.  Manual mode was slightly better but more discoveries were to come.  Further inspection revealed the proverbial golden screwdriver had been used quite liberally on this device.  The motor driven air variable caps where totally out of synch, and didn’t even come close to indexing with the 0-180 degree indicators on the display.  The shaft couplers from motor to drive, and drive OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAto cap were a mess.  The only redeeming values so far have been the beefy power supply with a massive Peter Dahl transformer at its heart and a very clean RF deck.  The 3CX800 triodes were still in good shape, too.  This is an instance in which the sum of the parts is actually more valuable than the whole.  It’s worth more money in pieces!  But what a shame to hack the beast…a very unique and capable amp that seems to be fairly rare and something of an enigma for hams.  And so it’s lived for several years now–cast away in a dark corner of the ham shack and awaiting its turn on the workbench.

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While I haven’t been working on the amp too much, I have had a pretty good opportunity to research it.  It’s not without flaws, but they’re few in number.  The components are of high quality and it’s even capable of QSK CW operation due the the vacuum relays, for the so inclined.  As I understand it, ARD was supposed to produce this amp and badge it for Icom, as a part of their product lineup.  In the end, Icom backed out of the deal.  What a difference that might have made!

Google searches have turned up tiny bits of information but a lot of it is dated material from old listserv sites and such.  I’d be curious to the know the total number produced by ARD.  I’d be even more curious to know how many are still in operation.  My goal is to refurbish this amp and enjoy a little unashamed QRO operation.  This amp is just plain hamsexy!  It’s capable of mondo power output if desired.  I don’t think it’ll win a key down contest with a Henry 4K Ultra, but we only get 1500W PEP, right?  An ARRL search turned up a couple documents from 1988, ’89.  I’ve included them below if you’re interested.  The first is a product announcement for the amp and the second is their product review.  They found it quite capable and were very impressed.  Keep in mind that this was a time when a powerful computer of the day had less performance than my smart phone!  A little Z80 processor was the brains of the machine.  Only a serious ham would’ve had the cash to own one of these.  Suggested list price was anywhere from $3500-5500!  I think this blog will become a series as I go through the necessary repairs to return R2D2 back to its former glory.  Perhaps I’ll even post some videos on my Youtube channel.  Hope you enjoy.

QST_Apr_1988_p25 ARD230

QST_May_1989_p43-46 ARD230

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Categories: Amateur Radio, Projects | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments

FT WAYNE HAMFEST ADVENTURE

The weekend of November 16-17 was the annual Ft. Wayne Hamfest and Computer Expo.  It’s also the annual ARRL Indiana Section Convention.  For my friends and I it signifies the end of the yearly hamfest circuit until the “Big One” in Dayton.  I try to attend when I can.  It’s held at the Allen Co. War Memorial Coliseum and is all indoors.  A real bonus this time of year in Indiana.  My travelling buddy, Nick N9SJA accompanied me to the event.  We didn’t go to any of the convocation lectures that were held, but did enjoy looking at all the wares on display.  There was quite a variety of new and used radio gear and accessories for sale.  I somehow managed to spend a couple hundred dollars on random goodies.  Nick had more self control than me and only came away with a neat book on cold war missiles.

In addition to the commercial vendors and swap meet sale tables, there were several displays.  I enjoyed the FlexRadio display since I’m a proud owner.  That new 6000 series SDR is really something.  One display that really caught my eye was an APRS demo.  I think their main emphasis was targeting the EMCOMM community but it’s applications are far reaching.  As we were watching the display we saw the Purdue University AMET high altitude balloon beacon come across.  The students are doing upper atmosphere and near space research.  The W9YB Purdue Amateur Radio Club was partnering with them to provide tracking and comms.  As members of the Purdue ARC, Nick and I were quite interested.  The members had texted us earlier to let us know when it launched.  It was really neat to actually see the W9YB balloon beacon on the screen as it floated through the area.

The Purdue chase team already had two van loads of students on the way to track the balloon to the landing point.  Since The Nickster has a Yaesu FTM-350 mobile in the mighty F-150 we would be able to directly intercept the APRS packets.  We decided to join in the hunt.  Off came the shorty dual band antenna and on went the big 5/8 wave for better signal reception.  It also turned out to be of assistance in comms with the other chase team since they only had HT’s.  We were able to access good maps using our smartphones and aprs.fi.

After a hearty dinner we headed out on our adventure.  The last beacon was heard just south-west of Kalida, Ohio.  It was just under 3000 feet in altitude and travelling about 40 MPH.  We estimated where it might go down based on it’s direction of travel and approximate rate of descent.  You can’t believe our surprise when we saw the first directly-received packet come across the display on the Yaesu!  We were only a half mile away.  Soon after that we got a call on the radio and the AMET/PARC students had recovered it in a field.  They had thought ahead and covered the payload with blue LED’s in addition to multi-colored flagging to make it easier to visually locate.  An excellent idea as it was fully dark by this time.  They saw a glowing blue light in the field that led them right to it.

If you’ve read this far you might be interested in some further information.  Here’s a nice article and video from the local station WLFI TV18.  The AMET crew has loaded several videos from the on-board GoPro camera on their Youtube channel.  A lot of this was boring as there wasn’t much to see besides clouds.  I skipped a lot of them but really enjoyed the take-off and landing.  Warning!  the camera spins around a lot and can actually make you dizzy just sitting on the couch.  Still, pretty neat to actually see the curvature of the earth from so high up.  Finally, there are some nice pics on the TechPurdue flickr page.  They show some really great detail.  This was probably the most enjoyable ham radio activity in which I’ve participated in a long time.  Nick and I definitely want to do this again.  Now I guess I’m going to have to start building an APRS station for the “Zed Sled.”

Categories: Activities, Amateur Radio | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

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