Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Dan Robinson, for the following guest post–an interview with noted shortwave repair technician, Rod Wallberg:
Profile: Rod Wallberg
by Dan Robinson
Rod, tell us a little bit about yourself, your background, how you got interested in radio as a hobby, what focus you have now? Are you also an amateur radio operator?
My dad was connected to electronics mainly in radio for many years. He received his training during World War II — he was a radar technician and operator stationed in Florida. Later, as the economy was adjusting, he found a nitch as a television and radio repairman. He was also licensed as an amateur radio operator.
I think some of this rubbed off on me! I would listen to my dad’s receivers to all sorts of short wave stations and amateur radio operations. I even remember listening to Mississippi River barge traffic and even caught ‘number stations’ in the utility areas of shortwave These were heard on old tube type receivers like the Hallicrafters and military receivers.
My first shortwave receiver was the famous SONY ICF-2010 in 1985. A leap ahead of the old tube rigs it was! Digital readout and memories! With precise tuning and lock on frequency, it was a dream to use. This really piqued my interest and since I was a CBer at the time, HAM radio was just a written test away, including 13 word per minute Morse Code to get my general license.
Electrons must have rubbed off on me from my dad as I dove into repairing electronics. I did this mainly to keep my own radios going and repair them if they broke down. This included building of antennas for both receive and transmit, from my understanding of amateur radio.
Some 20 years later my SONY 2010 lost it’s ability to ‘hear’ signals. It was the usual FET front end failure and since mine was an early example it did not have the protective diode protection.
Taking the radio apart was pretty simple and on-line resources told me where to look. Radio Shack carried a decent FET replacement, and in short order I had my wonderful SONY back in working order. I even changed out the rather dim LED back light!
Around this time I had joined the Yahoo user’s group for the SONY ICF-2010 and it was not too many years that owners were looking for someone to repair their receivers. I answered a few help wanted ads found on the group. Word spread and suddenly I found myself in the repair and maintenance of the wonderful SONY 2010!
I was receiving five to ten packages a month of receivers to be repaired, not only the 2010 but others like the ICF-SW7600, SW55, SW77 and the SW100. Panasonics, Grundigs and Kenwood receivers also make their way to me!
The biggest problem was finding parts for all these radios. SONY was not making or stocking parts and the few warehouses were running low. I had to think fast so I went to places like Ebay, thrift stores and HAMfests to find ‘parts’ radios to get my customer’s receiver working again. Most of these finds were fully restorable and I could easily sell them for a nice profit but they serve to keep owner’s radios going.
Which receivers do you personally own, or have you owned, that you have the highest respect for in terms of their design?
I have eight working 2010s as of this writing. and once in a while I will sell one!
What challenges exist today standing in the way of being able to repair these classic radios — are capacitors and other small components still available, and if so from where?
Capacitor problems on the SONY receivers are the worst as the damage can be extensive. Only around 50% of SW77s survive this calamity. One of the worst problems for all portable radios is battery leakage. This can be very destructive to the copper traces and components.
How are your family members toward this kind of work you do — it does bring in extra cash, so are they supportive?
My wife is very supportive with this venture and she keeps the ‘books’ on this business.
What role has the Internet and specific Yahoo groups played in your getting business from collectors who want to preserve their equipment and rescue it from the trash heap?
Thanks to the Internet, IRC chat and Yahoo groups, communication connects me to customers and I do not advertise as I consider this a hobby. Since I have been doing this for about ten years, I have repaired at least several hundred SONYs, mostly the 2010. I just charge a base fee plus return postage. The earnings have paid for the spare parts radios, tools and parts including several solder stations along with a hot air rework unit for surface mount technology. I also use the funds to keep my HAM radio hobby going and make the annual trip to Dayton. I find a few ‘parts’ receivers there from time to time!
What’s your take at this point on how much longer these classic radios will be able to be fixed? Clearly after you end your services to the radio community there will be no one else left?
I consider this a hobby to keep the old receivers going! I plan on doing this for a while and as long as I can find the needed parts. Recently I discovered a source for the SONY Q303 problem, the original FET is getting scarce and the MPF-102 Radio Shack part is headed that way. My trips to Dayton include a stop at Mendleson’s, a rather large surplus outlet that has a huge stock of electronics. There I found a great replacement, close to if not better than the original 2SK152!
Thanks to Mouser and DigiKey for all the small parts they can supply and they both do small orders! I usually can be reached at my best email at email@example.com or my (not so good) firstname.lastname@example.org
Finally, if you could put into a few words what drives you when working on these radios, would you say it comes down a real appreciation or love for the technology and efforts that companies used to put into manufacturing these radios?
The wonderful memories of sitting in front of the receivers, listening to radio from all over the World, the memories of my dad and all the friends I have made from my repair service, keeps me going ahead with the repairs and I will do so for as long as I can!