If you search the Para Set, you’ll find an incredibly neat piece of history from the genesis of the clack and dagger era: WWII and the early part of the Cold War. Spies relied upon one way messages transmitted via Shortwave (HF Radio) and encrypted with One Time Pads that also had the ability to transmit should the need arise. For that reason they required a simple, self contained, low power radio that met the needs. What they got was known as the Para Set.
Having a receive and transmit coverage between 3 and 7.6mHz or so in two selectable bands, we’d come to know this in later years as the Amateur 80m (3.5-4mHz) and 40m (7-7.3mhz) bands for Night and Day use, respectively. And while these weren’t meant for civilian use, some inevitably did find their way into civilian hands in later years with Hams even creating reproduction kits.But the Para Set was really a special tool beyond the novelty of its history. It was a compact, self contained tool. No cables necessary for a separate tuner – an antenna matching unit was built in, as was the power source. This made for a radio that could also easily be hidden and otherwise camoflaged. Rather than the large capacity base stations pumping out thousands of watts safe from the Radio Direction Finding (RDF) hunter killer teams of the Gestapo and Waffen SS, the Para Set maintained a diminutive 5 watts maximum output – enough for a quick burst of CW Morse code.
These days I get a lot of questions from radio operators and guys looking to develop their communications capability past the Sustainment and Tactical or Inter-team roles into the Clandestine end of things, meaning HF. Much of my early work focused on HF as a means to communicate over long distances coordinating different groups, and in particular, utilizing Near Vertical Incidence Skywave (NVIS) as a technique for reliability and mitigating the RDF threat. Those early articles are all found in the Guerrilla Dispatch Volumes 1 and 2, including some excellent work by my close friend Historian on antenna design and a Master Class on NVIS propagation and RF theory. Don’t worry…I wrote a lengthy layman’s piece on it as well in Volume 1.With that said and going back to the question above, most broach the topic asking what to buy before they ask the how. I totally get it, and I’m doing what I can to supply that option. The Xiegu X6100 is in many ways the modern incarnation of that same Para Set from eras gone by. Small, self contained, with a large display screen and extremely simple user interface. Perhaps the best feature is the large waterfall display which allows the operator to see signals the same way they would on a panadapter of an SDR. I’ve found this reduces the learning curve for newer radio operators. The radio features 5 watts maximum output and can work in all modes – including SSB voice (often referred to as ‘phone’ by Hams) and CW. In particular its become a very popular option for the Summits on the Air (SOTA) crowd and the FT8 family of digital modes. For that reason it was a natural addition to the Brushbeater Store.
At its entry-level cost along with its big brother the G90 (with 20w output), these radios are about as close to plug and play as its gets for getting into HF. And their track record thus far has proven them to be rugged and durable, quieting some of the harshest of critics. I have both in my arsenal and have found myself reliant on them over some of my older, higher-powered rigs due to the features and simplicity and overall quality, and I think you will too. The Xiegu X6100 in particular is every bit the modern day Para Set and I’m very excited to offer them to our community.