The May ‘Bug Roundup’

Vibroplex "Blue Racer"

Ever since earning my ticket as a teenager back in '63, almost all of my on-air activity has been focused on CW ... I've always loved it.

For my first year on-the-air, I used a nice brass hand key purchased locally for just a few dollars but once I had mastered that and I was just unable to send any faster with it, I purchased a Vibroplex 'Original', for, if memory serves me correct, around $40. I used it exclusively until building a homebrew memory keyer in the mid-70's and the Vibroplex saw little service for several years.

The Vibroplex 'Original'
Back when I first got on the air there were very few amateurs using keyers. Most used bugs and the remainder used the brass hand pumps. It was very easy to tune across the band and identify any of the locals just by the sound of their fist ... like snowflakes, no two were the same. The same went for most stations that were very active. DX or otherwise, one could usually tell who it was long before the callsigns were heard.
So much has changed now with the almost exclusive use of electronic keyers and everyone pretty much sounds the same, which is rather a pity I think.

Once my interest in building vintage-style vacuum-tube transmitters evolved, my interest in bugs was reactivated and over the years I have purchased a few more.

I'll do anything I can to promote and encourage the use of CW and especially hand-generated CW. That's why I was excited to read a recent e-mail from W6SFM, posted to several lists that I read, announcing the Bug Roundup!
The Samuel F. Morse Amateur Radio Club, a Sacramento, California based CW enthusiast club wanted a special time to bring bug operators together on the air. In the same spirit as ARRL's Straight Key Night, participants are encouraged to make simple, conversational, “chewing-the-fat”, "Rag Chew" QSOs using their bug type key. This is an opportunity to exercise, share and exhibit your personalized fist. This is NOT a contest. Simply Call "CQ BR" so folks know you are a Bug Roundup Participant. Grab that bug, clean those contacts, and let’er fly! Let’s hear that “Banana Boat / Lake Erie Swing" or that commercial KPH/WCC quality fist.

Reserve the day! Saturday May 20th - Sunday May 21st, 2017
7:00 AM to 7:00 AM Pacific Time (LOCAL)
1400 UTC through 1400 UTC

For more information, to register your station and key for participation, and to help assist in spotting, potentially increasing QSOs, an On-line chat window link can be found near the bottom of Bug Roundup home page located at We hope to hear you all on the air!

It looks like a fun event and might make another good reason to fire-up your old boatanchors on CW once again. It looks like you can keep track of activity and possibly set up skeds via their chat-window page during the BR.

In any event, my biggest decision will be to choose which bug to use as I have five at last count. I think I'll be brave and try the Blue Racer but will probably have to dampen it down a bit as they are really quite fast.
Steve McDonald, VE7SL, is a regular contributor to and writes from British Columbia, Canada. Contact him at [email protected].

5 Responses to “The May ‘Bug Roundup’”

  • Grant N7AS:

    I purchased my Vibroplex Original for about $16.50 in 1965. I didn’t get the case as it was $4.50 more.

  • Dave WB7ESV:

    I have the “Presentation” model and I love it. I have had keyers and I keep coming back to my Presentation.
    Dave – WB7ESV

  • Ed VK4AN/NH7AA:

    Great reason to take my restored pre-1912 bug out of the display case! Hope to get enough propagation to work a few “BR”s from VK4AN QTH. It sure is hard to transition from ‘auto-keyer’ to bug!!

  • Dave, WD8CIV:

    I bought a used Vibroplex Original online ten years ago, and the box the seller used to ship it to me was the same box he received it from Lafayette Radio in back in 1973. It even had the original sales receipt.

    I need to practice more with it because the dits just keep on coming.

  • Steve VE7SL:

    Dave … an old trick to slowing these things down is to wrap a few turns of solder around the shaft that holds the weights. I think it’s called the ‘reed’. As the Original comes, the slowest it can do is 20WPM. A couple of years ago I purchased an adjustable swing-arm weight from Vibroplex that slides onto the reed in place of a weight and this allows a much greater variation in speeds below 20WPM.

    I hope to work all of you in the BR!

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