RAN Technology

Astro...Don Stoner's legacy

Vintage Ham Radio 0 Comments 12/09/2018 

How many of these rare transceivers have you seen?

Posted By: Robert Nickels (ranickels)

A recent post on the Cubic-Astro mail reflector noted the similarities between the rare CIR Astro 200 and the much more common Cubic Astro 150 transceivers.   And therein lies an  interesting story...

I have done a little research on the CIR Astro 200, and the commenter was right - it is the progenitor of the Astro line we are much more familiar with as a result of Swan (already owned by Cubic) taking over CIR in 1978.   But the Astro 200 was based on a design by SSB pioneer Don Stoner, W6TNS.   Stoner had been in the mil/commercial SSB business by way of Stoner Communications of Cucamonga CA in the 1960s, and more recently was the "S" in SGC, which he formed with Pierre Goral in 1971 and which still exists today.    By 1977 Stoner, now in Mercer Island WA, evidently chose to pursue a different business model.  Instead of bearing the burden of capitalizing another manufacturing company he shopped the design of a compact solid state HF transceiver around to various ham manufacturers under some sort of license or royalty arrangement.   His sales tool was a working 80-10 meter 100 watt synthesized SSB (only) transceiver bearing the name "Stoner PRO 80-10".    It bears the the same similarities to the Astro 150 that were noticed in the CIR Astro 200.

KLM was a big "force" in antennas and linear amplifiers at the time and launched the production of what essentially the Stoner PRO 80-10 under the name KLM FORCE 5 (there's a photo in Joe Veras' book).    According to one of the founders of KLM the radio did not pass FCC testing and the project was dropped after a few dozen radios were produced.   The other company who took interest in Stoner's design was a start-up called CIR Industries of El Cajon CA.   In essence, CIR looked at Stoners design and found it lacking several important features to make it acceptable to hams, and did a it of redesign to add the CW mode and narrow filter, a fine tuning and RIT feature, noise blanker, and even a squelch.   It was virtually the same size as the PRO 80-10 but with different cosmetics including a metal cabinet rather than Stoners trademark walnut side pieces (which also appeared on his CB designs).   But the most obvious similarity - the two toggle switch up/down controls (mirrored on the hand mic) are the same as on the Stoner design and the would-be KLM    That's because the synthesizer in all three - and in the later Cubic Astro models - is the Stoner design.

I've always envied Don Stoner for making a career out of writing about and building radio equipment, mainly SSB gear, but it's unlikely his last sideband transceiver design made him much money, although at least parts of it certainly had a decent run in the Cubic Astro transceivers.  By the way, Don Stoner is also the "father of OSCAR" having outlined the idea of putting amateur radio satellites in orbit in a 1961 article in QST.   I've always intended to write a story about him and his companies, and would welcome any input.




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