Monday, February 01, 2010

Remembering the Belcom LS-202E

I'm not really cut out to be an award chaser. You can too easily end up with the tail wagging the dog, staying in the shack on a fine, sunny day just to be near the radio because you know that someone is going to be activating a rare island or whatever.

This weekend I had hoped to catch some activations of Wainwright summits for SOTA and WOTA. But I had to go out. The activator was using 2m SSB, and an FT-817 was too bulky and conspicuous to carry around with me. So I took to wondering, not for the first time, what a shame it is that the Kenwood TH-F7E (TH-F6A to you Americans) cannot transmit SSB as well as receive it.

Back in the 1980s when, despite the lack of sophistication compared to today's technology, ham radios somehow seemed more exciting and innovative, you could buy radios from small manufacturers like Mizuho, Belcom and Shimizu that offered something out of the ordinary compared to the offerings from Yaesu, Icom and Kenwood.

One such product was the Belcom LS-202E, a 2m hand-held transceiver that worked on both FM and SSB. It was slightly larger than a 2m FM hand-held of the time, with 1.5W output (fairly standard for those days.) The frequency was selectable using thumbwheel encoders as in Icom's highly popular FM hand-held, the IC-2E.

I had one of these radios and had quite a lot of fun with it. I was also trying to break into journalism at that time so I wrote a review of it which was published in the short-lived independent ham radio magazine "Amateur Radio". If you are interested, you can see a copy of the review.

Sadly, the LS-202e wasn't a keeper. The output on SSB was quite low and there appeared to be no speech compression or ALC so you couldn't make the best of that 1.5W. Stations who found you weak on SSB often heard you better when you switched to FM.

Another problem - which I didn't discover until after I'd written the review, so it wasn't mentioned - was that the synthesizer tended to go out of lock if the radio was cold. And it usually is cold out of doors in this country, so several trips out to work SSB from the hilltops proved abortive. The radio went back to the importers two or three times to try to make it work right. But they never really succeeded, so in the end I sold it.

I still think the basic concept was a great idea. And I'm surprised that none of the radio manufacturers have tried again to make something like this using today's much improved technology. A multimode hand-held you could slip in a pocket covering VHF and even HF with a couple of watts output would have me plunking down my money faster than you can say "Mastercard." How about it Yaecomwood?
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