The G3ZPB “Virtual Shack Tour”
I used to have an Icom IC-9100. I chose this particular rig because it covers just about everything I needed in one box:-
- Covers 160m to 70cms (except for 4m)
- Therefore I only need one connection for Microphone, Headset, Key and computer USB connection
- It has reasonably high performance in terms of sensitivity, selectivity, spurious emissions and output power
- Three antenna connections for HF, 2m & 70cms (I have 3 antennas)
- Includes most of the features one needs except Voice Keyer.
However, it was getting a bit old and did not have some of the “modern” features such as Spectrum Display. So the decision was taken in 2022 to replace it with an Icom IC-7610 for HF and an Icom IC-9700 for 2m/70cms/23cms.
On the second shelf sits the Rotator Controller, Radio-controlled Clock, 3 x SWR Bridges/Power Meters (for the 3 x antennas) and HF Antenna Tuner. The Rotator Controller is now a Yaesu G-5500 to allow Elevation and Azimuth of the VHF/UHF antenna system and includes computer control. The normal program I use to drive this is the “PSTRotator” software which can be used direct but also interfaces with other software described later. The HF Antenna Tuner is an LDG AT-600 Pro2 fully automatic tuner with 4000 memories and a power rating of 600W. It is linked to the IC-7610 rig and thus band changes immediately pre-set the approximately correct tuning. Two rows of LEDS indicate the peak output power and instantaneous SWR.
The HF Linear Amplifier sits on the top shelf. This is an Acom 1010 and is rated at 700W SSB and 500W FM and FT8 and thus runs very comfortably at full UK legal power. It has a single 4CX800A tetrode valve running with nearly 3kV on its anode so is fairly rugged. It covers all the main amateur bands 1.8MHz to 30MHz and is very easy to tune with its special “Plate Load True Resistance Indicator”. It also has two rows of LEDs indicating peak forward output power and reflected power respectively. Next to this sits a Gemini 70 300W Linear Amplifier for 70cms. Being all solid-state it requires no adjustment and has many built-in safety and overload protection systems.
All this RF equipment is connected to and/or controlled by 2 x Dell Laptop Computers. The most important program being the Logging program. This is “Log4OM” – a very sophisticated piece of software that automatically logs the band, frequency and mode of the rig plus time of course. After the QSO is complete, it automatically uploads the details to a number of sites including the ARRL “Log of the World”, HamQTH and HRDlog.net thus sending off eQSLs.
The second most-used program is for VHF Contest Scoring. For this I use “MINOS” which contains a calendar for all RSGB and most other EU contests that allows for automatic scoring of each QSO; this can sometimes get complicated if there are possible “Bonus” points for new “Locator Squares” or PostCodes etc. In order to maintain an accurate station log, the details of each QSO are transferred to Log4OM after the QSO is complete.
The other frequently used programs are for the data modes FT8 and JS8. For these I use the JTDX and JS8Call software respectively. Here again, after each QSO is complete, the data is transferred to Log4OM.
In addition to these main programs, I also use something called “PSTRotator”. This clever piece of software drives the VHF/UHF Antenna Rotator. It has several modes of operation including simple “point and turn” but also the ability to enter a “Locator Square” or DXCC callsign prefix and it will automatically turn to the correct direction. But more than this, it can take “commands” from all the other programs mentioned above and thus with one click of the mouse will turn the beam in the direction of the station being heard or worked!
With all this software available and sometimes all running together, a third Computer Screen becomes not just desirable but essential; thus there is a 17ins high-resolution screen adjacent to the operating position.
With a second display screen available comes the option of running yet more equipment!
I also have an SDR receiver (model RSPdx) running “SDRUno” for use as a completely independent receiver for use as an RF Monitor or very sensitive “BandScope” covering any band or frequency up to 2GHz.
Finally, all this equipment is connected to three antennas. There is a half-size “G5RV” wire antenna for 80m to 6m and a two-band Yagi for 2m and 70cms. The Yagi is a commercial item from “Dual” and has 7 elements on 2m (giving 12dBi gain) and 12 elements on 70cms (giving 15dBi gain). Also, just below the Yagi are masthead preamplifiers for 2m and 70cms.