Wednesday, 16 May 2012

FT-790R, 1W of Forlorn Hope? Part II

I’m treasuring my multimode, single band transceiver of yesteryear. They really ‘don’t make them like that any more’. When the FT-790R was manufactured, the UK still happily built cars that broke down and industrial action was a continuing popular pastime. Thank goodness the Japanese manufacturing success story was at its zenith.

In my previous blog, FT-790R, 1W of Forlorn Hope? I outlined my trepidation, my dreams and anticipated joy of achieving hilltop 70cm SSB contacts over phenomenal distances. This was in the face of an antagonist old-timer who thought a little too much RF had leaked into CPU of my head. So what was the reality?

Since taking delivery of the ‘790, I’ve managed to test most of the functions. With a radio of that age I shouldn’t have been surprised that the front panel illumination bulbs have long since ruptured their once-bright filaments, probably in the early 1990’s. A simple removal and refit of the battery tray, which holds eight ‘C’ cells was required to reconnect the internal power.

Powered by 8 'C' cells
Straight away, I connected a spare telescopic antenna for 2m to the front panel BNC and gave a call on FM. I enjoyed two great local contacts with stunning audio quality. Excellent audio reports came back too. Two quick tests with local station John GW4ZPL confirmed that SSB was working fine, albeit a little off frequency with his TS-2000 shack-in-a-box. Then we tried CW (my first CW attempt, ever). Apparently John hadn’t heard ‘chirp’ like mine since working Russian stations in the 1980’s! Luckily the operation manual comes with a full schematic diagram. I’ll have a look and see if a key click filter is misbehaving, for example.

Realistically speaking, I do know that a random 1W call on 70cm SSB is unlikely to attract an answer under normal conditions. My plan was to get to a modest local hilltop with a small beam antenna. If there was any tropospheric enhancement or lift, all the better. Unfortunately, the Welsh weather of late prevented this. Following the advice of Tim, G4VXE, a competition evening would give me a fighting chance.

Casually having a chat on D-STAR the other evening, someone mentioned that a 70cm activity evening was due to start in around half an hour at 20.00. No time to get up a hill and where the heck was my BNC to SO239 adaptor when I needed it to hook up my homebrew 9 element beam? So, if you can picture me leaning out of the upstairs window with a small, non-resonant, telescopic antenna pointing out at a jaunty angle, then this was my big chance. My only chance, so far.

I scanned the SSB portion of the band. Nothing. I twiddled the telescopic antenna and re-scanned. Nothing. But then, a quick call in a clipped English tone and a GD (Isle of Man) callsign. After a couple of failed attempts, antenna adjustment, more leaning out of window, the received signal came up to 5,9. The other station adjusted to my offset frequency and SUCCESS! - Gave me a 5,4. He said he was using 400W and a 23 element beam that wasn’t even pointing my way. The distance was around 73 miles or 117km, admittedly mostly over a great sea-path.

He’d been calling out rather robotically but had a chuckle and warmly wished me 73 when he heard about my operating set up. I forgot his callsign in the excitement and my bemused YL heard a whoop of joy from downstairs.

Anglesey to the Isle of Man
For every person that has told me that an FT-817ND would be the ideal rig for me (and it would), there has been another that has regretted getting rid of their FT-2/6/790R. My FT-790R is a solid, brick-like joy to own. When I get up to a hilltop to try it out again, I’ll be supremely hopeful!


  1. Brilliant! A new country on 432Mhz! And I'm confident it was Richard, GD8EXI!

    Vy 73, Tim

    1. Bingo! Yes it was! Thanks for that Tim! Hope you liked the operating set-up at my powerhouse of a station(!) 73, Rob.

  2. Wait until you get some good tropo down the sea towards Spain - I'll bet you can work EA on a watt if you can get up on the cliffs! I managed to do so from Cornwall many years ago with my FT790...!

  3. Hmmm - actually that path's not so good for you, is it! Just looking. But maybe from the Lleyn?

    1. The 3000-footers at my back door don't help, but I'd be happy with any country. It may be still possible to 'tap' into a duct above 3000'. Just need to be up a hill when a lift comes to give me a chance. I'm checking the tropo forecasts regularly, just in case(!) Any success this year and I'll be posting it here! 73, Rob.