Monday, October 13, 2014

Weekend Find

Saturday was the annual hamfest here in the Silicon Swamp.  I report on hamfests regularly because Mrs. Graybeard and I go to a couple regularly.  Not every one within a few hundred miles, but a couple.  For those unfamiliar with the term, a hamfest is a generally a swap meet with a lot of other interactions - a place where hams meet in person, catch up with old friends, share new stories and just be social.  Some fests have a full schedule of meetings and technical talks; some are simple swap meets.  Amateur radio is a social hobby, by and large, and is full of guys who can talk for hours on many things.  The granddaddy fest is held every year in Dayton, Ohio, the Hamvention.  If you're a ham, you should go to Dayton at least once.

For the first time in several years, I found something I wanted to take home.  A radio called an Icom IC-703 in a complete station.  Here's the illustration from their brochure. 
The '703 is not currently in production, but I consider it a good SHTF radio, and it frequently gets mentioned in places like Arfcom.  It covers all of the HF ham bands from 1.8 to 30 MHz and the 50 MHz 6 meter band.  The radio I found came with that microphone and backpack you see, along with too much to list.  It included the 9.6V BP-288 NiCad battery pack Icom sold for the radio.  The radio is a low power (also called QRP) transmitter, 5W off that 9.6V battery, but 10W off a car battery (or my 35 AH AGM battery from my solar panel).  It didn't come with that antenna, though! 

The Icom specifications page shows the transmit current draw to be 2 amps with unsquelched audio from the receiver around 350 to 400 mA.  Most commercial radios are rated for about 20% transmit, which would equate to 0.72 Amps average (20% 2 and 80% of 0.4).  That 9.6V battery pack's 2800 mAH will power around 4 hours of operation at that current drain.  My 35AH battery will power it for over 38 hours (and it will transmit at twice the power output). 

The radio was in excellent shape, the subject of an estate sale.  The ex-owner's widow was selling it and said she thought he had never used it.  Regardless if that's true, it looks mint and had virtually everything that comes with the new radio along with a good assortment of accessories.  I had it on the air long enough to verify the major functions are working.  The antenna tuner was happy with my antennas (it should be: they're all full-sized, good antennas), the DSP worked, it had an optional narrow filter for CW (Morse code) operation, and an hour of poking around with it showed no problems. 


  1. Yep... the Hamvention here in Dayton is still a huge deal. I haven't gone in a couple of decades (pert near). But even Washington correspondent Jamie Dupree (Cox media) makes it here for that event when he can.

  2. Well done, a very well-regarded QRP radio. When I was researching a QRP rig I gave serious consideration to the IC-703 (or maybe it was the IC-703+ by then) but it fell off the market before I pulled the trigger. I ended up with the FT-817ND instead, which is also good.

    During my IC-703 research I found a few resources I'll pass along that may interest you.

    The last is what I consider the definitive general QRP gathering spot.

    73, Jim

  3. Mine is an FT 897. I also have an FT270.

  4. I've got some friends with 706/703's and they really like them.
    My "little" radio is an Elecraft K2, which I'll be running this week on the Battleship Iowa for JOTA.

    Give us a call if you hear NI6BB!

  5. Divemedic - I've almost bought an FT-897. It's a nice rig. I bought the FT-817 (original version) for QRP.

    Pretty sure this is a 703 Plus. It has an ATU, a DSP board and a narrow filter.

  6. I have always been a little fuzzy about the 703 vs 703+, but the big difference is the 703+ has 6m. Unfortunately both the 703 and 703+ are labeled as "703" on the faceplate and rear panel. To further aggravate the issue, both radios also declare themselves to support 6m on the faceplate, despite the fact the 703 doesn't.

    This quirk is documented in the ARRL review for the 703+ (QST, November 2003). The corresponding 703 review ss QST, July 2003. The normally reliable Universal Radio website agrees, altho they don't seem to have a 703 page, just the 703+ page.

    Icom doesn't make the issue any easier to resolve. Manual and other documentation downloads are provided for the 703 only. Good luck figuring out whether they really mean the 703 or 703+, because the manual also says "HF/50 MHz ALL MODE TRANSCEIVER IC-703".

    I only found the Icom 703+ page because I saved the page and URL from when I did my old research. If there is a 703 page out there, I couldn't find it. Note the URL for the 703+ page. Confusing, eh? As far as I can tell, the downloads are the same as above.

    My standard comment is to always save the relevant web data from the time you acquire and/or research a new or used rig. More than once I've seen vendors lose (or start charging for) old documentation.

    For what it's worth, the Yahoo 703 forum has a serial numbers page in the Files section.
    Serial numbers beginning with 15.... are IC-703+;
    serials with leading 18.... are IC-703;
    serials with leading 12.... are Non-US.

    One final note. The Icom website serves a IC-703.bin file rather than the 60m PDF. You can rename it to IC-703-60m.pdf, and it's the 60m instructions. The G3EJS website has a mildly more complete copy of the 60m instructions, and some additional goodies.

    Heads up, as I recall the 60m allocation has probably changed since
    the document and hex image was issued. I see no reason you couldn't
    manually set the new 60m frequencies.

    Fire that puppy up & see if it has 6m. If it does, it's a 703+ or close enough. Congratulations on a great find. I hope it serves you well.

    73, Jim

  7. I've got an FT897D, but I haven't quite got the antenna issue figured out. Any recommendations from anyone?

    I'm doing portable power with a spare car battery. I'm thinking a smaller AGM battery. Any recommendations on that?

  8. Jim - this is definitely a plus version. It has 6 meters and put out full power into my 6m beam. Thanks for those links to go through.

    Weetabix - for a battery, I have one of these. Seem like well made batteries. 35A hour will run a full power radio like that for 12 hours or so, figuring 20A during transmit at 20% talk/listen. As for antennas, I've used an off-center fed 40m dipole on every band from 40 to 6 with my Icom's built-in tuner. Does your FT897 have the tuner?

  9. No tuner yet. LDG makes one that I think I'll covet after some more research.

  10. Weetabix - I've got two LDG tuners now; a larger AT-11MP that's good for any 100W class HF rig and a smaller one that works better on 6m. I also used to have a Z-11, their QRP autotuner. You might gather I think they make good products.