K8RR History
February 2006

I have been reading the old archives, and noticed a lot of interest in the history of SIGNAL ONE. For what its worth, I will go thru my entire history with
S/O since 1969.

I believe the first time I saw a S/O was at Dayton in 1969. It looked really neat, but I had an 'S' line,  so I was set. Later that year, John , WB8AKU,
now W8JG , ordered a CX7. I am not sure when it arrived, but I think it was during the winter of 69/70. All the hams and DXers wanted to try it out,  It was neat,
but it spent more time in transit back and forth to FL, than it did on his desk. Later that year [1970] I ordered one for myself, after being assured by the
factory that all the problems were fixed. I REALLY liked the radio, but God it was a pain to keep running. Early in 71, I bought a 2nd CX7, 
this way I could have one in my shack while repairing the other. Some time in 71, my friend John bought a PA70V from Dick Ehrhorn W4ETO.
[ for those who don't remember, the PA70V was a 8220;vapor 8221; [water] cooled amplifier that had true QSK].  Dick was one of the people who
designed the S/O. He left S/O, which I believe was a division of NCR.

With Dick having left S/O in Jan 1971 to form ETO INC. , the outlook for S/O looked bleak. I have been told that NCR saw the S/O fiasco as a
black hole of money, and began action to divest itself of S/O. I have no idea of how many CX7's came out of FL , but they never seemed to get
any better,  most buyers seem to have multiple problems. The reputation of S/O was headed for the basement. I sold my 2 CX7's in mid 1971
[sold is not quite accurate, gave away is more factual ]. Not much was heard from S/O till somewhere in mid 1972. All registered owners of CX7's,
got a letter from a fellow named Frank Quevas ,W6AOA. He was a big time 20M DXER from southern California,  and was loud,  { a pair of 4-1000's ],
both on the air and in person. I am not sure of Frank's title, but he was the front man for the Signal One Division of CMI.

When you read Frank's letter, you were convinced that the "new" CX7A would be better than "sex drugs and rock and roll". The hype and
promises were unbelievable. Milspec parts, 100 hour burn in,  everything redesigned. I talked to Frank [W6AOA] on the air and the phone many
times,  He was a salesman of the first order. Being a slow learner, I stepped up to the plate and bought one. I thought the "stick on CX7A
label " over the CX7 label was a nice touch. To be honest, I only had a few failures with the CX7A,but looking inside the radio revealed a basic CX7.

During 1972, Dick Ehrhorn [Mr. ALPHA] and I became good friends,  He and his wife would come to Ohio for me to do their dental work,  I made a
few trips to FL visiting the original ETO plant in Brooksville. Dick and I made arrangements to meet in Las Vegas in Jan 73 for the Ham Convention.

I must digress somewhat to lay the foundation for the next part of the story. Some of you will remember K2IXP, Larry Pace. A great operator who
traveled around the world on what appeared to be a continuous DX-expedition. His QSL card said "Around the world with K2IXP". Larry had left a
pretty good engineering job at [ I think] IBM. It turns out that after returning from his world travels, Larry was hired as the chief engineer at S/O in
Gardena, CA. Because of my purchase of a CX7A, Larry and I got to be pretty friendly. When he found out that I was coming to Las Vegas in Jan 73 [or 74],
he said he would come to Vegas and drive my wife and I back to stay at his place in Gardena, CA. He said it would be a great opportunity to meet
some of the SO CAL DXERS and to spend some time at the S/O plant,  It really sounded like a great plan to me.

Larry and his wife picked us up in Vegas and we drove on to CA. The next day he took me to the the HQ's of Signal One,  WOW,  There were CX7's
stacked to the ceiling that had been returned for repair , upgrade or modification. A realistic number would be 20-25. Larry said they had no
money from CMI to do the work,  Production was on about 3 20 ft tables, with nothing happening. The stock room had almost bare shelves. About
that time Frank, W6AOA came in to welcome me and assure me that things were a little disorganized now, but everything was getting better. I
remember the phone ringing a lot and the secretary either not answering or telling the caller no one was available. It was little scary and quite disappointing.

I want to set one thing straight. Larry Pace was, and is,  a straight shooter. He was an employee,  really had no authority to do much. It was
obvious to me the company was being run into the ground,  I had heard rumors that S/O was not paying their suppliers, and that they had never
paid NCR in FL in full for the S/O name and assets. Another shock that day was seeing a "mock up" of the S/O separate receiver and transmitter.
These were just the cabinet and front panel,  They NEVER had any electronics in side. I think both CQ and HAM RADIO had a couple of small
ads with picture of these "coming attractions'. NONE were ever produced.

After recovering from the shock at S/O, Larry said lets go to where all the surplus stores are. There are a lot of neat surplus outlets in CA.
About the 3rd store we went into, I made a startling discovery. In one bin, I found the following parts for a CX7 S/O's: PTO's,, BE heat sinks,
pushbutton assemblies and meters. I pointed these out to Larry and he said "I'll tell you on the way home." It seems some of the employees
hired by CMI for S/O were not getting paid, so they "liberated" parts and sold them to the surplus stores. After this day of surprises, Larry and I had a long talk.
He said the company was dying a horrible death, and that a lot of people were getting screwed. He was planning on leaving as soon as he had another
job. I asked him about my CX7A and he said." dump it". As soon as I got back to Ohio, that is exactly what I did. I am not sure how much longer
CMI, S/O lasted,  but it wasn't very long. On the air and at hamfests, people talked about all the hams that got screwed. The bottom line is that the S/O in CA
was a big joke. All it really did was further tarnish the Signal One name. Larry Pace is now K7DD in AZ. A helluva contester and homebrewer, he also does
some S/O repairs,  Still a great guy who got caught up in some corporate wet dream.

The next I heard about S/O was in 74-75,  Don Payne from Payne Radio in TN was pushing a revival of S/O. They were looking for investors to
restart the company in NJ. I know some people who were investors, but their names will not be mentioned here. The word began to circulate,
that a new , very smart [ some described him as a genius.] engineer, was redesigning the radio from A-Z. This fellow was Don Rohers. I have never
heard any one question his engineering or design ability. He also had a great personality and was a real people person.

With a good deal of advertising and word of mouth, S/O began to ship radios. The new radio was a CX11,  which was an almost a total redesign
from the CX7 Many, many improvements were made. I don't know how many radio were made and shipped from NJ even Paul Kollar W8CXS
wasn't sure., but thinks the number of CX11's was about 11.

The move to AZ was in late 75 or early 76. Don redesigned and improved the radio again and out popped the CX11A. The parts were much better, 
Gold SMB connectors and MIL spec coax inside. Sockets for all solid state parts,  It seemed like things were going well for S/O and Don.

A very good friend of mine worked at S/O in AZ for about 4 years. His observation was that Don had 2 faults. He was a compulsive/obsessive
about making the world's BEST radio. He was constantly tinkering, modifying, redesigning. He was never satisfied. This led to his second problem. Because
he was TOTALLY focused on "the RADIO" he promised unrealistic things and never really paid attention the business ends of the company. The more he
got behind, the deeper he dug the hole,  but ALWAYS tinkering with the product.

Around 1981, Don was working on a new radio, the MILSPEC 1030. He wanted to compete with the Collins 380, which was a very expensive radio. He
never settled on a final design, but the radio was Quality. Some hams like it better than the CX11A, Some like the CX11A better,  Whichever is right , these
are two great radios. Some where in the 80's/early 90's, Don and S/O got a govt. contract with the US Marines. Also some where in the late 80's or early 90's, 
Don began work on another radio. It is my understanding that after a great deal of research, he decided to use an IC-781 platform and repackage it with the
Don Rohers touch. You could either buy the finished product from him,  or send him your IC781 and $8000 to have it turned into a 1030C.  I am not sure how
many guys sent him radios or money, but the whole program began to unravel in the late 90's. I spoke to Don in 1999.  At that time I had 2 IC781's, but was
moving from my 20 acre antenna farm, in Ohio, to 1.5 acres in the Upper Peninsula of MI. I ask Don flat out what would $8000 do for my IC 781's that had
been thru 1000's of hours of operation and contesting with out a failure. Don couldn't give an on point answer, but promised me that the improvements were
enormous. I have never had a chance to operate one of these "souped up" 781's, but would like to hear from anyone who has.

My last S/O I owned was a CX11A late model. My friend John W8JG [mentioned at the beginning] was getting rid of most of his ham gear. This was a MINT
radio with ALL the options, paper work and a speaker. I think I bought the CX11A in 89 or 90,  Like an idiot, I sold it to buy another 781, because the CX11A
was not computer compatible. 

I am now looking for another CX11A,  I hope you enjoyed my walk down memory lane with Signal One. If any of you find a mistake or error in my
story, don't hesitate to bring it to my attention so we can correct it.

Thanks for reading:

Doc Sheller K8RR ex K8RZ, KN8Z, W8MZ, WA8ZDF, WN8ZCT



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Created: June 15, 2013. Last Updated: June 15, 2013
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