Monday, 16 March 2020

Farewell, FT-817 and accessories

I am starting to write this posting from Madeira, where we are on a short holiday.

Lest you think I am living a jet-set life style, I might point out that for many years I have generally limited myself to one return aircraft journey per year.
Julie Walters (left) playing Mrs Overall in Acorn Antiques (photo Wikimedia Commons)

I really like Madeira and we have been here three times over the past ten years. Staying in the same place, overlooking the harbour, has provided me with many hours of innocent fun using my trusty Yaesu FT-817.

Well, not so trusty Yaesu FT-817. I reported before that it was threatening to die on me. It was a bit of a rant so best ignored really, but it is here if you feel the need to read it. No, don't bother.

It didn't just peg out, it lingered for ages, working in some ways and not in other ways, before I finally give up on it. I did summon help to try to resuscitate it, only to be told that it seemed to have had a transient spike in the processor, possibly a lightning strike, and it is was not worth fixing.

I had hoped to sell the remains for £1.00 to one of those people on eBay who scrap old rigs and sell the knobs. Before that happened someone contacted me and offered me double that amount so I sold it on the basis that it was scrap value only. It did receive on HF with some persuasion so he planned to use it as a portable QRM chaser.

This released me to sell all the accessories on eBay. They all worked fine, so I have since sold an SSB filter, a TCXO, a speech processor, a Kranker knob, a microphone, a strap, an LDG ATU, a 4m transverter, a Wonderloop antenna and a battery charger. All this netted a lot more than the still impressive £2.00 I was able to trouser for the rig. The guy who got the rig also got the rubber duck antenna and the battery. Despite this clearout I still have the instruction manual, the cardboard box and my whip antennas. As you can see, I had invested a lot in those FT-817 accessories over the years.

I also have various CAT and data boxes for Yaesu radios which I should have tested before I let the 817 go. Now I will need to test them using a home-brewed test rig. As far as I know they all work but I need to be sure. D'oh. I should have thought of that earlier.

While I was at it, I used my eBaying time to sell off various other things. After much soul searching I sold my excellent 2m transverter. Sure, I think it was better than my IC-9700 for moon bounce, but only a fraction better. Also gone is the KW-style Decca dummy load I bought more than 40 years ago, and a Western power meter from the same era. I sold an MFJ ATU as well.

I bought the FT-817 as a transverter driver. It worked fine for that task. Unexpectedly I found I quite liked using it on holiday. One time I took it to Greece to see what I could hear, and I worked into Austria on 6m. After that I was hooked and I took it to about 10DXCCs to operate from apartments and hotel rooms. It collected various dents, dings and scratches along the way. But it has gone now.

Do I need to replace it? Not for anything other than the portable operations. The new IC-705 looks excellent but it is very expensive. There are others for HF only, but having 6m was a real bonus. I have kept my small portable power supply and my whip antennas just in case. However if I do decide to replace the FT-817 it will probably be as part of a swap with an IC-7100. I just do not need another rig and the IC-7100 would have to go to make room for a QRP portable radio.

I certainly will not be buying an FT-818.

The ALT-512 looks interesting and it got a good review in Practical Wireless RadCom recently. You can find it here Having 4m and 6M is a real plus when portable. The price is not bad considering how much extra cost the Icom 705 would be to add 2m and 70cms, but of course the Icom has a built in li-ion battery, etc.

EDIT - Sorry, the review of the "Aerial-51 ALT-512" was in the March 2020 edition of Rad Com. Apologies for that mistake, but I was away and without my archive. Thanks to John AE5X for pointing out my error.
Street in Funchal, Madeira (yes, that is somebody on a ladder lopping the tree in the distance).

Since arriving in Madeira things have been gradually shutting down thanks to the spread of corona virus. At first, as on previous visits, we enjoyed watching the arrival of cruise ships in the harbour. Had I had room for it in my bag, I would have brought my Wouxun FM hand portable to listen to the marine traffic. As the days went on Madeira refused to allow any more cruise ships to dock. One, the Marella Celebration, arrived here after a 5 day trip from Anguilla, did three laps of the bay and left again. When they sailed from the Caribbean there was no sign that they would be refused permission to dock at Funchal. The Marine Traffic website maps, usually full of vessels heading for here, are empty.

It was the same for us. When we set out, everything seemed fine - by the end of a week the whole place was shutting down and we were offered a place on the last plane back. If we had known what was over the horizon we would never have set off.

Right now I am thinking of the many workers in the local economy who will be deprived of their livelihood. Also, the staff of Jet 2 who are, we hope, coming here to pick us up and take us home. It has been a trying time for the airline industry recently, with companies going bust and now this health disaster to force more woe onto the staff.

Fighting coronavirus is a personal duty in my opinion. We are all involved and we must do our best. Along the way we will lose some good people, but eventually the world will pick itself up. A different world will emerge, no doubt. Wiser? I wonder.
View from Madeira balcony (before the harbour emptied)
On previous trips I have sat on this balcony with my FT-817 and worked the world. Now I am looking at an empty harbour and wondering if I will ever operate from overseas again now that the FT-817 is no more. Perhaps I will let this aspect of the hobby rest for a while.

As Mrs Overall of Acorn Antiques, played by Julie Walters, might have said "Maybe your FT-817 packing up is God's way of telling you to 'Stay at Home for a while, Jim'"

73 and keep washing your hands.

P.S. We are back in GM tonight. That scary runway at Funchal ending in a steep fall to the sea, which puts Madeira in my top three hairy airports to use, worked well enough for us to return. Phew.


  1. Jim,
    I am glad you got home, I just hope you did not catch the virus. As you probably know already, people over 50 are often much harder hit than younger people.
    You should probably stay at home for a long while. I am, with the exception of a CT scan this week (if it does not get postponed). In a sense I'd rather not go, due to the risk, but it is a regular check after cancer treatment, so I'd probably better go there, and take all possible precautions.

    Re.: the 817.
    I have one where the PS died, as was usual with the early models. I have one more that seems to be in good working order, at least when I last checked.

    Welcome home, and take care!
    73 de Jan, OZ9QV

  2. Jan
    Thank you very much. I also have some treatment coming up and a test. Maybe the test can wait. I probably have to travel to Edinburgh for the treatment so we shall see. I hope you get yours decided soon. If you take precautions you should be OK, but the medics should give you advice. For now we are keeping the postman at 2m separation and the radio is still getting through.
    The thing about the 817 is that they usually last for a very long time. I do not give up on things easily. I keep them for years, but this time it had to go.
    Take care and stay safe. Oh, and watch the tropo for the next few days please. I might be able to work you again.
    73 Jim