This is a sad story. Well, it’s sad for me. But hopefully my sad story will yield “radio life” for somebody else and that life will bring them joy.
I’ve been an SWL’er since the early-90s. Due to the decline of international broadcasters, “collecting” has become just as – if not more – important to me than listening. I’ve always been fond of the Sony ICF-SW100 pocket radio. I often read here on this blog about Thomas’ affection for it. To make my dream a reality, on 19 November 2017 I found the perfect SW100 (with the leather case) and I purchased it. It did not disappoint! That radio has to be the most sensitive radio for its size out there. No, correction – that little baby has held its own against any other portable shortwave radio (of any size) that I own (I have 17 or 18, incl. this SW100). That’s quite amazing for a true pocket radio.
But please allow me go back to the beginning of my story. Once I acquired the ICF-SW100, I assembled a “kit” … piece-by-piece (remember, I’m a collector).
I surmised that the SW100 would fit into the Sony ICF-SW1 case – and I was correct (sans the SW100’s leather case). The SW1 case was one of my first purchases for my SW100 as I wanted something rugged to protect it.
The Sony AN-1 antenna works great with the SW100, and that was part of my kit. Of course, I also wanted the OEM Sony Compact Reel Antenna. “Check” – found one on eBay! The OEM AC adapter? Yes, “check” that one off the list. A photocopy of the OEM manual would not do – I found an original on eBay and “check”, that was added to the kit.
I already owned a Sony AN-LP1 (active) antenna. That would not fit into the case, so I added a TG34 active antenna that I already owned (that’s a Degen 31MS clone). Why? I gotta have a ready passive antenna in my kit.
Wait, who wants a 30+ year old OEM set of earbuds? Exactly, neither do I. This is the only thing I did not want to be OEM! I bought a new pair of Sony earbuds (off Amazon) to throw into the kit. Other than the TG34, everything in the kit had to be Sony. In the end, this handy little case was my Eutopia – it had everything I needed in its own “shortwave bugout kit”.
Of all of the radios in my shortwave arsenal, this was by far my favorite. Hobbies should bring us joy. So even if there weren’t many broadcasters to listen to, this little pocket radio never failed to bring me joy.
The last time I really used this radio was June-August 2020. My newborn grandson was in the NICU far from my son’s home. I “deployed” (with my SW100 bugout kit & 5th wheel camper) to my son’s very rural & very remote farm (275-miles from my home). I was there to tend the farm, solo, for that period of time while my son and his family could be with my grandson at a specialty hospital some 350-miles away. During this stressful & physically demanding time – tending to more farm animals than I care to mention and rustling bulls that escaped from the pasture – my SW100 was the only friend that I had. It provided many, many hours of enjoyment. Literally, other than a neighbor about ¾ of a mile up the road my ICF-SW100 and I were alone (not including the 50+ animals I tended to) from June through August.
Fast-forward to the present: last weekend I reached for my kit and I removed the my SW100. I turned it on and there was no power. Not surprising but actually very unusual as my NiMH Eneloop batteries typically last for a year or more inside my radios in “storage”. I reached for the battery compartment, I felt an anomaly on the backside of the case and imagine my horror seeing this as I turned it over!
Surprisingly, there is zero damage to the Eneloop batteries (they did not leak). I can no longer power the radio via ANY batteries, but amazingly the radio seems to operate at full capacity via AC Adapter. Whatever happened inside the radio, it still seems to operate (though admittedly I haven’t taken it through all of its usual paces).
Unfortunately, a pocket radio that only operates via AC power does not suit me. There is a better option: my loss may be someone else’s gain? I am sending the radio and the necessary components to Thomas’s friend Vlado for a full autopsy (Vlado emailed that he has worked on these radios for years and has “never” seen this issue before). After the autopsy, my radio will become an organ donor. The remaining healthy components of this radio – and there are many – will be used for repairing other SW100s (singular or plural).
Strangely, I cannot detect any other “trauma” to the radio other than that one melted corner. The battery compartment *seems* undamaged though I refuse to open the case as I do not want to accidentally damage the radio’s healthy components (I’ll let the professional “coroner” do that). I am looking forward to the coroner’s report because I need to know what the heck happened to my baby?!
In closing, though we’ve only had a 3-year plus relationship I can honestly say this amazing little pocket radio had become a great friend. I’m sure it’s grief, but I am considering liquidating the remainder of my radio & antenna collection – my heart just isn’t “in” to SWL at the moment. And the timing of this is just awful for me: I’m having surgery Tuesday for an injury I incurred eight months ago while tending my son’s farm. I had big plans that my SW100 and I would pass the time while I convalesce. But alas, my buddy will be headed to radio heaven as an organ donor. May others benefit from my loss.
Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Steve (KZ4TN), who shared the following guest post originally on QRPer.com, but I’ve posted it here as well because I’m sure it’ll resonate with those of us who love building kits!:
DC30B QRP Transceiver Project
by Steve Allen, KZ4TN
I wanted to build a lightweight backpackable transceiver I could take hiking and camping. I chose the 30 meter band as it is specific to CW and the digital modes. I am also in the process of building Dave Benson’s (K1SWL) Phaser Digital Mode QRP Transceiver kit for the 30 meter band. Also, a 30 meter antenna is a bit smaller than one for 40 meters and the band is open most anytime of the day.
I sourced the DC30B transceiver kit, designed by Steve Weber KD1JV, from Pacific Antennas, http://www.qrpkits.com. It appears that they are now (10-11-20) only offering the kit for the 40 meter band. The following information can be used for the assembly of most any kit that lacks an enclosure.
Lately I have been finding extruded aluminum enclosures on Amazon.com and eBay.com. They come in many sizes and configurations. I like to use the versions with the split case which allows you to access the internal enclosure with the front and rear panels attached to the lower half of the enclosure. Most of these enclosures have a slot cut into the sides that allow a PCB to slide into the slots keeping it above the bottom of the enclosure without having to use standoffs. The one requirement for assembly is that the PCB needs to be attached to either the front or rear panel to hold it in place.
As the enclosure is anodized, I didn’t want to rely on the enclosure for common ground. I used a piece of copper clad board that I cut to fit the slot width of the enclosure and attached it to the back panel. I was then able to mount the transceiver PCB to the copper clad board with standoffs. This basic platform of the enclosure with the copper clad PCB provides a good foundation for any number of projects. All you have to do is mount the wired PCB on the board, install the components on the front and rear panel, then wire it up.
I wanted to have the choice of a few frequencies to operate on so I searched eBay for 30 meter crystals and found a source for 4 different popular frequencies. I installed a rotary switch on the front panel and added a small auxiliary PCB with two, 4 pin machined IC sockets. This allowed me to plug the crystals into the sockets. I wired the bottom of the socket PCB first using wire pairs stripped from computer ribbon cable leaving extra length. I marked the wires with dots to indicate which sockets each wire pair went to so I could solder them onto the rotary switch in the correct order. It was tight but I always work with optical magnification so I can see exactly what I’m doing. I have used this crystal switching method in the past with good success.
The rest of the assembly was straight forward. I find that most kits are well designed and documented, and if you take your time and follow the directions carefully all should go well. The two most common speed bumps seem to be soldering in the wrong component or bad soldering technique. I double check all component values and placements prior to soldering, and I always use optical magnification while working. I inspect each solder joint and look for good flow through in the plated through holes, and make sure there are no solder bridges.
The finished product. I bought a Dymo label maker and it works very well for projects like this. I love using these enclosures and they are a leap forward from the old folded aluminum clam shells I used in the past. I could stand on this without causing any damage. Power out is 1-3 watts depending on the DC power in. The receiver is sensitive and the ability to choose from four frequencies is a real plus.
73 de KZ4TN
Gorgeous work there, Steve! Thank you for sharing!
After posting Ron’s note about the MFK-8100K receiver kit, I touched base with MFJ and they have kindly donated a new 8100K kit to us for an SWLing Post giveaway. Thanks, MFJ!
This giveaway is open to anyone, anywhere. MFJ will ship it directly to you if there are no Covid-19 shipping restrictions to your country.
Here’s how to enter the giveaway…
Simply comment on this post and tell us about your favorite kit that you’ve built. This can be your first kit, your last kit, or anything in between. Don’t just give us a model name, tell us what made it a fun or special project.
If you’ve never built a kit, but are eager to do so, tell us why you would like to build the MFJ-8100K! Do you have a soldering iron?
We simply want to make sure a kit builder or want-to-be kit builder gets this prize! We’d even invite you to share a short post about building the MFJ-8100 (no obligation–only if you wish).
This means you must enter a valid email address in the appropriate comments field (not within the comment text itself) so that we can contact you.
Of course, the SWLing Post doesn’t sell or share emails–never have, never will–this is only so we can contact you to obtain your shipping address if you win. Feel free to use a throw-away email address if you wish.
This is all about taking us on a great kit-building nostalgia trip, so have fun!
Following up on our recent MFJ post, SWLing Post contributor, Ron, writes:
Another thing about MFJ is they still offer the MFJ-8100 as a kit or built. This is the only regenerative receiver available as far as I know.
Mr. Jue and his guys did a couple of tweaks like limiting band coverage to insure stability, using 1/8 inch 3.5mm stereo phone jacks and use an LM386 audio IC to drive headphones or speaker.
The whole thing is in a metal enclosure to minimize hand capacitance found in most regens.
The QRP crowd likes to use the 8100 with flea power CW rigs, it’s that good.
And it’s been in production far longer than the Heathkit GR-81 or any of the Knight Kit regens, too.
Thank you for sharing that, Ron! I had completely forgotten about this little kit when someone recently asked about the availability of Ten-Tec regen receiver kits (that are, sadly, no longer on the market to my knowledge)! I might have to grab one of these kits–looks like a fun one to build.
Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Neil Goldstein, who writes:
I added a sub-page to radiokitguide.com with a list of the remaining electronics and radio surplus outlets I was able to find and verify. The list is evolving, but is complete enough to publish at this point. Enjoy!