Barry Mishkind - The Eclectic Engineer
Last Update 4/24/22
Phone: (800) 733-5011
(See also the COLLINS RADIO page).
Continental Electronics was founded by James O. Weldon in 1946, as a spin-off of the consulting firm of Weldon & Carr, to build High Power AM transmitters (including XERA's 500 kW unit for Dr. Brinkley), and custom AM phasors under contract for Western Electric. When the FTC "broke up" AT&T's broadcast group in 1953, the AM transmitter line went to Continental Electronics Manufacturing Company (CEMCO). (The FM went to Standard Electronics, and the audio line to Altec).
Over the years, Continental developed a reputation for quality and reliability that was hard to match by any other manufacturer. It was the owner of Telefunken for a time. Transmitters in the multi-Megawatt range as well as frequency agile shortwave transmitters (capable of being preset and rapidly re-tuned for up to 10 frequencies) were a signature product.
In early 1990s, Omnitronix built solid state transmitters for Continental. They were called the"T" line. The 300 watt was called the 312T, 1 kW was the 314T, 2.5 kW was the 314T-1, and the 5 kW was the 315T.
Starting in around 1994, Lensa (Now RF Broadcast), a company based in South America built transmitters labeled Continental-Lensa. The Lensa AMS (PDM using HEXFETs) series including the AMS-K4 line from 1 kW to 25 kW. These were tall units. Later there was a AMS-K5 series, that much shorter.
Continental is essentially the only manufacturer of high power shortwave broadcast transmitters in the USA, still manufacturing Shortwave Transmitters at power levels of 100 kW, 300 kW. and 500 kW.
James O. Weldon
This tube was one of a set of eight used in an early Weldon transmitter built for XERA, one of the Mexican Border Blasters. Click on the picture for a larger view, and some specifications.
Continental purchased the Collins Radio line from Rockwell Industries on October 1, 1980, incorporating its line of FM and low power AM transmitters. It was then itself purchased by Varian in 1985, and Tech-Sym Corporation (TSY) in 1990. In November 2003, Continental Electronics became a division of DRS, a defense contractor. It was purchased in 2005 by Lonestar and the company name restored to Continental Electronics.
Along the way, Continental briefly sold lower-powered solid state models from their factory in Chile before announcing they were exiting the AM transmitter business.
(See Dave Hultsman's explanation for the numbering system, below!)
|Click on picture for a larger image|
|101 - 50 kW - (See the 317 series)|
|312 - 250
W (earlyy 1960s?)
First unit to WHDF (1400), Houghton, MI
|312T - 300
First unit to WVRM (1010), Savannah, GA
|313D - 500 W
First unit to Emissora Provincial, Bissau, Guinea
|314 - 1 kW Series
aka 314R-1 and XL-301
The "Power Pebble"
A 1kw Series, first built by Skip Marzden at Continental, then OEM'd from Omnitronics, and later Lensa
XL-301 - 1 kW 1991
|315 and 316 - 5 and 10 kW Series|
|317 - 50 kW Series|
"Really Big Power" - models over 50 kW
|318A - 100 kW
First unit (900 kHz) to BCC, Taipei, Taiwan.
|318.5A - 150
First unit (s/n 2) to XEROK (800), Juarez, Mexico.
|D318A - 200
First unit to VOF, Hue, Vietnam.
|319 - 250 kW|
|319B - 250
First unit (810 kHz) to Radio Sutatenza, Bogota, Colombia
also D, E models.
|319G - 300 kW
First unit (900 kHz) to CBS, Taipei, Taiwan.
|320 - 500 kW (1963)|
|D219 - 600 kW (1988)|
|(1/2)105B in 1950 (500 kW)
|320H - 600 kW
First unit (540 kHz) to MOI, Kuwait.
|105B - 1,000
First unit (173 kHz) VOA, Munich
|320F - 1,000 kW (1979)|
|D219 - 2,000 kW (1974)|
|D323A - 2,000
First unit (683 kHz) to Radio-TV Belgrade, Yugoslavia
|D323C - 2,000 kW
First unit (1440 kHz) to MOI, Dammam, Saudi Arabia
Clay Freinwald shares his plans for modifying the air filters for the 816 series.
Information is coming on the different color schemes?
Rockwell Collins CE - Continental - Varian - DRS
|Click on picture for a larger image|
based on a 386 motherboard
"D" = "Dan Dickey" designer
813A - .5 kW
|814 Series -|
|815A - 5
First unit to WCSF (96.7), Clifton Park, NY
815B - 5
In 2004, DRS Continental brought out their first new transmitter in years.
815D5 - 5 kW solid state
- Probably, the most well-known series, and
perhaps the series with the largest sales and longest average service of
any FM transmitter in history. (The "R" stands for
Rockwell, meaning it was originally the Collins 831 series.)
The 816 series were 10 to 35 kW FM transmitters in a three-bay cabinet. There were also some dual units that combined two into one larger transmitter.
The most recent variation has been the "HD" series to accommodate digital broadcasting. Both air and water-cooled versions have appeared.
11 kW 4cx1000D
11 kW - a two cabinet version with a
- 35 kW -
|817A - 40 to 70
kW - May 1988
KQKQ (98.5), Omaha, NE
This series of transmitters has a special story.
Allen Sherrill tells the tale of life with a one tube 60 kW rig!
|817B - 60 kW ... none were ever built. But here is an image provided by Walt Rice.|
|D817R-4C - 55 kW
First unit to WAQQ (95.1), Charlotte, NC
Continental manufacturers auto-tune shortwave transmitters that can store up to 100 frequencies and change frequency and band and be back to full power in seconds. (In most cases it is not done this rapidly due to the switching matrixes involved in switching antennas.)
Shortwave transmitters are offered for analog and DRM Digital operations. Their "Digital Step Modulator" is over 90% efficient and is all solid state. Four of the 500 kW transmitters are in Birmingham, AL at WEWN (the shortwave outlet for EWTN Television). Five 100 kW rigs are in Nashville, TN at two stations.
THE NUMBERING SYSTEM
My sincere appreciation to Nelda Hendon, Carol d'Happert, Kathy Stewart, Dan Dickey, Dave Hultsman and Dave Hershberger for their kind assistance in gathering much of the information and graphic content for this section.
Dave Hultsman writes:
The first digit indicated the band or service as follows:
1 - VLF 2 - LF 3 - MW (AM) 4 - HF (shortwave AM broadcast) 5 - ? 6 - HF (non-broadcast) 7 - UHF 8 - VHF (FM broadcast)
The second two digits indicate the "size" in terms of power. Powers above 50kW but less than 100kW would get a 17, so any FM transmitter from 50kW to 100kW from a single amplifier would be an 817 something.
I used to have a handy chart but lost it somewhere along the way. These are the most common power breakpoints from my "memory":
13 - 500W 14 - 1kW 15 - 5kW 16 - 10kW 17 - 50kW 18 - 100kW 19 - 250kW 20 - 500kW
The first change at Collins was the use of the name "The Rock" for the Model 820D-2, 1 kW. Which also evolved into the "Power Rock", 828E-1, 5 kW. which became the CE 315R-1.
Any Continental transmitter with "R" means it came from Rockwell-Collins
310-Z2 510-R FM Exciter 831-D2 814-R1 2.5 kW FM 831-F2 816R-1 10-11 kW. 831-G2 816R-2 20-21.5 kW. 831-G3 816R-3 25 kW.
831-H2 817R-2 40 kW. 831-H2C 817R-3 50 kW.
828-D1 314R-1 1 KW. AM 828-E1 315R-1 5 KW. AM
816R-2A,B,C 21.5 kw. - 816R-3A,B,C 25 kW. - 816R-4B,C 27.5 kW. - 816R-5B,C 35 kW. - 816R-6C 30 kW.
Also the use of the "D" designation started later at CE. the 40 kW. were 817R-2's, the 50 kW's. were 817R-3's and the 55 kW's. were 817R-4's.
All of the single tube transmitters sold with power levels from 33 kW. to 48 kW. were Model 817-A Transmitters of which as I recall there were 13 manufactured. All have since been returned and disassembled.
The 817-B, was a factory proto-type which was made from one of the units in stock by Ken Branton. The two similar cabinets were just 816R cavities installed within the cabinets and combined with a standard hybrid on the back. One power supply supplied both PA stages. It was configured to use two of the old reliable 4CX15000-A tubes instead of one of 4CX40,000G tubes.
None of these transmitter were sold.
The 310Z-2 exciter was made a 510-R at Continental (no particular reason), and the next generation exciter at CE was the 802-A which was at least a bit more consistent.
But according to Dan's note they put the 5 on it because they didn't know what to do.
Essentially all of the CEC HD transmitter are Red. No 816R numbers R stood for Rockwell so the HD is for CEC IBOC. Their Nomenclature are as follows; Based on 1% Power Levels (I haven't heard if they are going to change the type number for 6% and 10% levels) 812HD-500 500 Watt Crown with 802E-x Exciter (Crowns are Green) 814HD-1000 1000 Watt Crown with 802E-x Exciter No product between 1000 Watt and 9 kW. TPO 816HD HD 9 kW. up to 22 kW. Air Cooled Self Contained 816HD-25 12 kW to 27 kW. 816HD-L 15 to 30 kW. Liquid Cooled External Power Supply and external heat exchanger. (I believe 3 in operation) D-816HD Combined for 44 kW. TPO Several on line WQED Pittsburgh, first unit D-816HD25 Combined for 50 kW. TPO Several on line, first one to Raleigh NC D-816HD-L Combined for 60 kW. TPO (Non Built) Thats about it
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Peter H. writes:
The 317 number is from Western Electric Company.
I believe CE made 317s from WECo parts inventories, while the 317B and 317C were all CE.