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Old 09-05-12, 09:20   #1
IZ0IEN
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Ten questions for Ten hams #7: The Elecraft Company !

Hello readers,

we are used, in the IT world, reading somewhere sometime about two young guys in a garage that bring to the world a revoluctionary product. The same product that the "Bigs" never realized, despite they have a dedicated R&D team...

.. yes, also in our world, we have an analogy: the garage is not a garage, but the Santa Clara beach, and the product is not software or hardware, but a RTX

now, microphone to Wayne, N6KR/WA6HQH, "The Elecraft" !


Q: How did you and Eric Swartz WA6HHQ start with the radio, at what
age and with what equipment ?

My dad somehow knew I was going to be an engineer. He bought me a Radio Shack "electronic organ" kit when I was 8. I worked on it until far past my bedtime, and when it was finished, I noticed it was out of tune. Looking at the schematic, I realized the note pitch was set by the resistors. So I change the resistor values and tuned it up.

In middle school I had a science teacher who started a radio club. Many of us got our novice licenses at that time. I soon picked up a used Heathkit DX-20 transmitter and a Hallicrafters S38D receiver. Later I built a Heath HW-16 kit, and this was the start of my lifelong interest in designing kits myself.



Q: WA6HQH (your previous call) and WA6HHQ. Even in your qrz.com page,
is a bit of fate in those calls Why Elecraft is born? What is the
Elecraft mission ?


The call signs had nothing to do with it, but it is an interesting coincidence. It just means we got our licenses about the same time. I changed my call when I got my extra-class license (N6KR). Eric like his original call and kept it.

I designed a little 40-meter QRP CW rig called a Norcal 40 in 1992. I met Eric because he bought one of the kits and improved it. He called me up one day to tell me that it was now putting out twice as much power, and that he had worked 100 countries with it on 40 meters. But we got along very well and started working together on other club projects.

In 1997 while walking along the beach in Santa Cruz, we decided to do a much more ambitious kit based on plug-in modules. This became the K2, which was very successful from the start.

Eric and I were a good team, in two different ways. First, he had a lot of business experience and had started another company earlier. He likes to "design the business," as he says. I, on the other hand, was almost entirely focused on the product concept and design. Second, Eric was interested in high performance and features, while I was most interested in small size, low current drain, and portability. We met in the middle with the K2, literally designing it on the backs of napkins at Field Day. Every product since then has benefitted from this synthesis of our two philosophies.


Q: Imagine four values, from 0 to 10, regarding: 1)performances
2)user-friendly 3)cost 4)upgrades. How you will place globally
Elecraft regarding this scale, and why ?


Performance -- 10
User-friendly -- 9 (some users do prefer simpler equipment)
Cost -- 9 (we keep cost as low as possible, but quality and high performance have their cost)
Upgrades -- 10 (we offer free firmware upgrades and we're very proactive with customer issues)


Q: Many Elecraft users said that the K2 receiver had outstanding
performances, also compared with K3. Urban legend or
technically-explainable fact ??


At the time the K2 came out, it had the best close-in dynamic range (2 kHz) that the ARRL had every measured. This helped put us on the map.

The K3 is much better than the K2, which you would expect in a larger, higher-current radio using the latest technology. In fact the K3 is at or near the top in every receive category (see Sherwood's web site, for example).


Q: Many young users are revaluating the valvestate technology.
Heathkit was in the "old days" the start playground for almost all the
hams all around the world. Will Elecraft in the future plan a simple
and straight valvestate or partial valvestate kit ?


It's possible, but we have no current plans to do this. (By the way, we call them "tubes"


Q: A classic question in my interviews: SDR or traditional radio?

Answer: Both. The K3 and the KX3, our newest all-band/all-mode radio, both are full SDRs. But they also have front panels, so you can use all features with or without a computer.

Both of these radios also have much better performance than traditional SDRs in some categories because they have roofing filter options.


Q: The most exciting thing you and Eric remember about our hobby ?

I've always loved building miniature radios and taking them hiking or camping. I've also had some amazing QSOs running very little power to poor antennas. For example, I worked Rwanda from Arizona using 200 milliwatts and an 8-foot piece of wire about 6 feet off the ground on 15 meters.


Q: Have you and Eric some other brand in the shack than your rigs (i'm
talking about HF/50 Mhz rigs) ? What is the brand that, if you and
Eric you were not "the Elecraft", may choose today ?


Everything we need ourselves we consider a product opportunity, and we design it. Of course we both have some rigs collecting dust, or in use as test equipment.


Q: The strangest mod you ever seen on a Elecraft ?

Silver-colored, clunky-looking VFO A knobs come to mind. I've also seen some crazy mobile installations.


Q: And the strangest request you've received about Elecraft products?

Some contesters have asked that we add CW key-clicks! (The K3's transmitted CW keying envelope is so clean that other stations can sneak up right beside them, without being interfered with by the K3. If everyone used K3s, of course, this wouldn't be a problem


Q: Last but not least - can you and Eric reveal some anticipation
about the next future in the Elecraft products ?

Nothing specific, but we'll continue to improve all of our transceivers without forcing customers to buy new ones each year.


Thanks to Wayne for the courtesy, and we expect soon also the answers of Eric, the other side of Elecraft. He is simply to busy, maybe is planning the K4 ...

.. see you to next post and vy 73,

Cristiano IZ0IEN/AB3NT
IZ0IEN non   collegato   Reply With Quote
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