|Emergency Beacon Corp.
The EBC-144Jr and other EBC Products
For many years I've had an interest in the first generation ham VHF synthesized FM transceivers. They were relatively easy to collect, as current technology rigs offer so much more versatility for much lower cost that it has placed most of these now long forgotten radios in the junk bins of radio history. For a collector like me this has been a blessing. Often these old generation VHF radios can be purchased at swapfests or online for a very small outlay of cash. I am also prompted to write about these radios, of the early synthesis era, as I have found little reference to many of them on the internet. I feel that indeed these will be items that future generations will seek information on to fill in the blanks of our radio industries progress.
This paper is the result of two transceivers I have collected over the past five or six years that I remember seeing in the mid-70's ham magazine ads. Described are the Emergency Beacon Corporation models EBC-144Jr. The two units I own are shown in the picture below. The top covers were removed for pictures taken on this page.
First let me tell you a little bit about the Emergency Beacon Coporation. Founded in 1968, Emergency Beacon Corp. (EBC) produces avionic electronics relating to Search and Rescue. EBC has reported to have sold more Search and Rescue equipment than any other company in the world. All products are designed by professional engineers who are also pilots. The founder and president was Stephen Gordon Glatzer a licensed ham (sorry I don't know his call) and only a bit over 30 years old when EBC started. Sadly Stephen became a silent key in 1987 at age 51. The company is still in operation and at the same address of 15 River Street in New Rochelle, New York as it was during their ham equipment days.
When EBC was about four years old they decided to give the ham equipment field a try. The first ads I found were at the beginning of 1974. Two ads appeared in 73 magazine in the January 1974 issue. One was advertised as "The Ultimate F.M. Transceiver" called the EBC-144. This is not the junior (Jr) model that I own, but a deluxe full-featured 2M FM transceiver selling initially at a very expensive $995.00! This was a radio that featured just about everything imaginable, plus a bunch more. The second ad that appeared in January 1974 was a want ad for technicians to build the rigs. So it does appear that by early 1974 they were beginning the ramp up for full production. Here is a link to an ad for EBC that appeared in October of 1974 which shows all the ham related products they offered. Like most of the American companies making VHF FM rigs in the mid-70 most of them began disappearing, or dropping their ham lines, before the end of that decade. Often due to the influx of import radios hitting the country offering similar features at reduced cost. The EBC ads appear to have stopped in 1976. So the EBC ham offerings were relatively short lived.
Specs for the EBC-144Jr
Fully Synthesized from 143.5 to 148.5 MHz in 5 KHz stepsThe first EBC-144Jr I found was the unit on the right in the above picture. This is what I have determined to be a real production unit due to it's professional internal quality and mass production workmanship. The unit on the left was purchased a little later. This second unit had a box added to the top that had a digital display along with various switches and LED indicators. I thought it might have been a user added scanner/memory box. Recently, only when I had the opportunity to open it up, did I discover that the base transceiver was very much modified and assembled in a prototype fashion. Below is a picture with the top cover removed and the scanner/memory box hanging off the side. The two units are hardwired together!
Dual Frequency Selection (A & B)
Simplex, Auto Repeater Offset or Nonstandard Spilt
Sensititvity .35uV for 12dB sinad or .30uV for 20dB quieting
20 Watts Output
Intermodulation, spurious and image 60dB min
10 pole xtal filter
Frequency stability 0.001%
Builtin S-Meter/Power Meter and speaker
12 VDC operation
Why do I feel the above is a prototype and not just a user modified radio? First all the internal units are built into soldered together brass enclosures. The tops are plated, but the sides and bottoms are bare brass. As you will see later the production unit is a much cleaner packaged deal. Secondly, after viewing the magazine ad I saw that EBC made an external control unit (EBC-145SA) that does the following:
Notice this was an add-on for the EBC-144Jr transceiver. No it doesn't look as pretty as the magazine ad unit, but all the front panel controls and displays are in exactly the same locations. In addition, the box which houses the unit has exactly the same cover as the one for the EBC-144Jr transceiver. I'm confident this rig with its controller unit is a prototype of the future finished products. On the underside of the transceiver is a show exhibit sticker. So EBC probably took this prototype to a conference to show it off.
Now lets look at the unit on the right of the first picture above. This is what I consider a finished product of the EBC-144Jr.
You can see how clean and refined it all looks inside. The PCB visable on top is called the "logic" board in the schematics This board does exist on the prototype, but it was located below the RF tight box, instead of on top of it. If you look closely at the two units you can see the space below that front module where the PCB is located on the prototype.
Noticed changes between the prototype (early) and the production (late) models:
Prototype Receiver/Audio Board Underside
Production Receiver/Audio Board Underside
For the most part the undersides are identical. Only the addition of the header socket with ribbon cable on the production unit is obvious. Naturally they relocated some compnents to allow placement of the header socket. Also the large cable bundle thus gets reduced in the production unit. Notice the framing of the unit has changed from aluminum bar stock to a reduced cost formed aluminum sheet material. EBC even provided an attached tuning tool that is mounted on the side of the upper deck. You can see it on the bottom of the lower picture.
Where do I go from here?
At this point in time I have not powered up either unit. I do plan on testing them. When I first bought the rig with the attached controller unit I was going to remove the controller and return it to being a normal EBC-144Jr. However, now that I see that this appears to be a factory prototype there is no way I will mess with history. I will eventually check it out and have it running as it was built. On my production version someone has cut the DC power cord off right at the back panel. So I will need to fix that before applying power. I do want to get one of these running as they appear to be solid designs for an early ham sythesized radio.
In October of 2004 I was in contact with Emergency Beacon. I corresponded with a Pat Wyllie (I think that's the name as all I have is a signature on a letter - if I can find my original archive emails I will correct this). That's how I found out the original owner was a ham as was his chief engineer. Pat dug thru their files and was able to send me a copy of the EBC-144Jr manual which has all the schematics thankfully. I also asked about the EBC-144 non-junior. All Pat could find was a preliminary manual for the EBC-144.
Neither of the EBC-144Jr's I own has any form of serial number plate attached. I find that interesting, especially for the later version. I have found very little reference to the EBC-144 series on the internet. One posting I did see complained about how poorly they were built. I wonder if early versions were released too soon. Notice in the provided ad that they were still taking deposit money on these rigs in late 1974. So were they building them as orders were received?
The manual I have mentions a speaker jack and it is shown on the schematic. The schematics are dated from early 1975. Neither of my two radios have a speaker jack! As I dig into these two units more I'm sure I will find additional differences between them and the schematics. I will report on other differences when they are found.
Does the EBC-144 Exist?
I've been keeping my eye's open for an EBC-144 (non-junior) version. Have never seen one yet! I wonder did they ever sell any of the big brother rigs? Did they share any circuits in common? The EBC-144 is definitely the coolest looking 2M FM transceiver ever produced, if it was indeed produced!. The early ads have it at $995.00, but by late 1974 it was up to $1495.00. Not many hams had that kind of money to spend back in 1974 for a 2M FM (Note: AM and Modulated CW too) rig.
Here is the text from the EBC-144 specification from the preliminary data sheet:
EBC-144 Preliminary Data Sheet
This is the "Dream Machine"
The Ultimate F.M. Transceiver
Here it is, the FMer's dream, a fully synthesized transceiver that'll cover the entire two meter band, plus a built-in scanning receiver that'll locate any repeater frequency in your area that's in use.
And get a load of these other features that make the "Dream Machine" the ultimate rig:
EBC was also planning to release 50Mhz, 220Mhz and 440Mhz transverters. If the front thumbwheel switches on the EBC-144 were set for 50.010MHz for example, it would automatically activate the 6 meter transverter and you would be operating on that band. A nice dream but appears to never have made it to production.
Wanted - Dead or Alive
Emergency Beacon EBC-144
If you come across one email me please or any other EBC tidbits....
ReferencesDon N9OO 11-Feb-2008
CQ Reviews: The EBC-144JR. June 1975, CQ Magazine - Excellent review by Norm W2JUP. He runs the rig through some very extensive testing, including running 60 minute AFSK RTTY at full power.
Going First Class - Using the EBC-144 Jr. 2M Transceiver. October 1974, 73 Magazine - Another good review which talks about the major price increases experienced on parts procurement. That's why the EBC-144 was reported to have a $500 price increase from the early ads and obtaining the parts was one reason for the delay in getting the big brother rig out the door.
Notice - No reviews were found for the EBC-144. So perhaps it never did leave the factory!