SMCC Hamfest 2017

Sunday morning I attended the Six Meter Club of Chicago’s annual hamfest in Wheton, IL. Much like my visit to them last year, it was a well attended, fairly well stocked event, with perhaps 4 or 5 dozen tables outside and the usual smattering of vendors indoors. I was a bit of a lazybird this morning and din’t get there till close to 9am, when the flea market folks were already making noises about packing up. Thankfully, most stuck around until after the 11am auction.

There were a number of tube testers at the fest today, both at the flea market and indoors. But the bell of the ball was an old Rocketest freestanding model that showed up at the auction. I think it went for $10 to a fellow who really just wanted the interesting nameplate. Sad to see it get parted out, but it really has reached the end of its time.

Speaking of the auction, that’s where I picked up most of my haul today. All in all, I can home with:

  • A Tenma 72-475 sweep generator (working!)
  • A ‘Model 175’ Oscillator Comparator (not yet tested)
  • From some old homebrewer’s box of bits at the auction, $1 each:
    • An inductive SWR bridge
    • A resistive SWR bridge with detector circuit and DC amplifer
    • Another SWR bridge, I think?
    • A 1/4″ headphone extender with volume adjustment
  • Five sheets of some thin, flexible copper clad for experimenting (a dollar a sheet!)
  • Another breadboard (can never have too many)
  • A spare set of flush cutters


I haven’t been able to find an available online manual for the 72-475 sweep generator (just this datasheet for a similar model) but it seems to be a relatively straightforward device. The main dial selects between 0.0 and ~2.3 continously, and 7 range switches select between 1Hz, 10Hz, 100Hz, 1KHz 10KHz, 100KHz, and 1MHz multiplies.


In manual mode, the device is simpler a function generator, with sine, sawtooth, and squarewave outputs. In swept mode, the device will sweep over about 3 decades below the selected range. So, for example, with the dial at “1.0” and the “1MHz” range selected, the automatic sweep will go from 1 Khz to 1 Mhz. It can sweep linearly over the range or logarithmic-ly, and total sweep time is adjustable from about 0.3 seconds to 15 seconds. There are also adjustments for the output amplitude, DC offset, and overall sweep time. In addition, a dedicated “TTL/CMOS” BNC jack is mounted next to the the main output for driving digital circuits.

As a preliminary smoke test (since I bought this thing as-is-no-test), and after verifying that the Power On LED lights (good sign!), I tried passing the signal through an old Vectronics 821 Super CW Filter that I got from another Hamfest. The 821 is a variable audio filter with a 750 Hz center frequency and selectable 180, 110, and 80 Hz filter ranges. Setting the sweep generator up to sweep from 1Hz to 1000Hz, the peak of the filter was audible, though not as pronounced as I would like. I feel this is a good smoke test of the sweep gen, and a questionable test on the filter. (Looking at the sweep into a 50-ohm load on an oscilloscope also showed promising behavior.)

The Oscillator Comparator is a nifty piece of kit from the 70’s, designed to allow a homebrewer or other ham to calibrate a frequency source against the (then-ubiquitous) 3.579 NTSC “Colorbust” frequency. The idea in broad strokes (outlined in a 1975 QST article rubber-banded to my purchase) is phase lock an internal 3.579 MHz VCXO to your input signal, which then generates a color-bar test pattern for viewing on a TV.. By connecting this signal to an analog TV’s Chroma input, if the derives 3.5795454… frequency exactly matches the colorburst frequency that the TV is receiving on one of it’s analog “Network” channels, the set of bars will not drift an its colors will be stable. If the VXCO frequency differents from 3.5795454 MHz (because your input signal is not exactly 2.5/5/10 MHz), the color bars will change in appearance over time.


The advantage of this somewhat cumbersome system of calibration is that the Colorburst frequencies embedded in network television signals would presumably be of very high precision. Probably from a Rubidium source or better, or possibly derived from another atomic source where possible. So the home experimenter would have access to this high-precision time-base “over the air,” as it were.


Interestingly, the manual notes that a perfectly-still color bar pattern does not, in fact, represent a perfectly calibrated signal. The networks, apparently, offset their Colorburst frequencies below the National Broadcasting System standards. Roughly 300 parts in 1010, to be specific, with some variation by network. Thus, a perfect 10Mhz signal, for example, should cause the rainbow color cycle to slowly change with a period of roughly 9.3 seconds.


It’s unclear from some quick investigation whether there are any NTSC signals still on the air in the states. All mainstream broadcasting has gone ATSC or other digial format, but it seems there may still be some low-power stations in major metropolitan areas still transmitting in NTSC. Being in the city limits of Chicago, I hope to find these signals, if they still exist.

Finally, one humorous note from the manual:

“In order to make meaningful use of the comparator, the user must be certain that the received T.V. signal is of network original. Since most of the daytime programs, especially the soap operas, are, this task is relatively simple.”

Hear you at the bench!


Six Meter Club of Chicago (SMCC) Hamfest 2016

This past Sunday morning, bright and early, I made my way out to my second Chicagoland hamfest, the Six Meter Club of Chicago‘s annual hamfest in Wheaton, IL. It was quite different in feel and size to the De Kalb Hamfest I attended a couple months ago – not better or worse necessarily, but definitely different.

Apparently, theatrical tie-line is also “Nylon-core Antenna Rope.”

Where the De Kalb hamfest was spread out over several long winding paths and four or five buildings, all of the tailgaters in Wheaton were compacted in one central parking lot, which was already filled and thrumming when I arrived at 8:02. With the thermometer and humidity spiking by 9am, it was nothing like the foggy March morning of the last Hamfest.

Even the morse keys need shade on a hot day.

In terms of sellers, I would say the Wheaton hamfest had perhaps a third as many actual vendors (including The RF Adapter Guy and all his wears and a few others) but three times as many tailgaters. Many tube radios to be found in the parking lot, same a last time, and maybe five or six folks with a healthy collection of CB gear and some antique television sets.

If you need tubes, there are three or for folks who would love to unload theirs.

I picked up a few little things early in the day – some more trimmer capacitors, a couple used hand mics and panel-mount connectors for the same, but nothing was really catching my eye. There were more parts-dealers at Wheaton then out in De Kalb,  but no one really had anything special that caught my eye. I did find a couple twins to the air-variable capacitor that I picked up, with and without casings, but no split-stator types, which is what I’m hunting for now. Not many enclosures or antenna parts either.

A very similar variable capacitor to the model I picked up in March; I think this was the same gentlemen who was selling them in De Kalb as well.

Just as I was ready to pack in for the day, a gentleman announced that the Antique Radio Club of Illinois auction was about to start. This proved to be the most bountiful part of my morning, and had a fascinating structure. Lots of equipment, lots of it Boat Anchors, was laid out in rows along the side of the main exhibition building. After allowing a few minutes for folks to wander through and poke at things, we began the action proper, which they called “bidders’ choice.” Basically, if you wanted to bid on something, you held it up for the gentleman in charge to see, and he’d throw out a starting bid, say $5. Anyone else who wanted that item could volunteer a higher bid, much like a regular auction, but there wasn’t much bidding happening. No item went above $20. It was during this period that I snagged an antenna analyzer on the cheap (see below)

Then, once there were no items left that anyone wanted to bid on, the gentleman in charge announced, “Everything left is $5. Grab what you want, and get your $5 to Rudy.” Rudy did well for himself at this point, and maybe half of the items vanished. Once the dust had settled, the gentleman in change once again proclaimed, “Alright, now everything left is a dollar!” Well, for just a dollar…. and once that was concluded, anything left on the ground was set loose for free! All in all, I snagged an MFJ-207, a big analog multimeter, an antique transistor radio, and a hustler resonator for under $20. Not too shabby! I must remember to stick around for Auctions in the future.

After that, a quick trip to Fry’s and Menards capped my morning, and I was home by 2pm. Another great, friendly, fruitful hamfest.

So, here’s the final haul:


  • An MFJ 207 Antenna Analyzer. The big score of the day! I’d be eyeing an identical unit in the parking lot marked at $70, but to score this one, working, for $15 at the auction really made my day. All it needed was a new battery.
  • A Micronta Analog Multimeter. With settings for AC and DC voltage and current measurement, as well as resistance, it’s a neat unit with a six-inch analog meter movement. It’s in pretty good shape, but I’m sure it’ll need new batteries.
  • An Arvin 9562 Transistor Radio: Apparently made in the late 50’s, it’s got an attractive wood case and a big ole internal six inch speaker. I was planning on gutting it and using the case, but it turns out the thing actually works – it turned on while I was carrying it in from the car and scared the bejeazus out of me.
  • A Hustler 40m Resonator: I took a flyer on this, since it was free. It’s designed to go on a  mobile vehicle mast and turn it into a 40m antenna that’s only 6′ long. We’ll see what it gets gutted and turned into.
  • Two hand-mics, both with 5-pin connectors
  • Two 5-Pin Panel Mount Connectors to go with the above microphones
  • Two baggies of Trimmer Caps of a couple different sets of values.
  • A Pack of Binding Posts, probably will end up used as grounding logs
  • A Small Metal Box – can never have two many enclosures!
  • A two-pack of NTE110 germanium diodes (from Fry’s electronics, on my way back home).

Another swell time hanging out with hams. And with ARRL Field Day coming up this weekend, I’m sure I’ll have more ham stories to tell. In the two days I’ve had it, I’ve already put the antenna analyzer to good use out by the lake, but that’s a story for another post.

See you at the Fest!