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SBX-11A Portable SSB Transceiver

Note: All the products described on this page are out of production. Spilsbury Communications no longer exists. This information is presented for historical interest only.

The SBX-11A portable 10 Watt HF SSB radio was for some time the primary means of communication in Canada's North.

I did not have any involvement in the design of the SBX-11A. By the time I moved from Racal Research in the UK to Racal Canada the product line had been extant for many years. I occasionally worked on specifying alternate sources for obsolete components; I was involved in a project to transfer production to a contract manufacturer (which did not take place, but did result in improved internal documentation); and I was involved in a feasibility study for its replacement (which was never developed). However, I did walk through the factory where they were assembled every day.

Sales Brochures


Service Manuals

The differences between the two versions of the SBX-11A service manual that I have include:
  • The 1984 manual was clearly typewritten. By 1997 the text had been re-typed into a word processor, from which the manual was printed. The most obvious result of this is a number of transcription errors (esp. "metre" instead of "meter" in many places).
  • The 1984 manual has an Accessories section which is missing from the 1997 one.
  • There are some differences in the parts lists, mostly the result of component replacements and substitutions over the years, but also due to circuit changes.
  • The 1984 manual has issue 5 schematic as the last page; the 1997 has issue 8.
  • The 1997 manual has a general layout diagram which is not present in the 1984 one.

Papers and Articles

Photos

A set of four 9.5in x 8in black and white prints produced in 1977(?) of an early SBX-11A, presumably for promotional and documentation purposes.

There are quite a few photos of the SBX-11A in action in various parts of the world in my Racal Canada photo collection, and many photos of the factory and the people who worked in it in the Spilsbury collection.

Sales Information

I was asked if I knew how many SBX-11A units had been produced over the years. As it happens I can answer that question because I was involved in a study in 1998 in which I researched historic production records. The chart below shows the number of units produced on a yearly basis from 1977 through 1997. Additionally, at least 50 units were produced in 1998 before the product was discontinued. These figures come from records maintained in the production department (on 3x5 index cards!) and thus show the number of units manufactured, not sold. Sales typically lagged production by a few months, but there were never more than a few hundred unsold units in stock, fewer in later years.

To the best of my knowledge 9499 units were produced between 1977 and the first quarter of 1998. Allowing for a couple more batches produced later in 1998 and early 1999 the total production volume is probably close to ten thousand units.

Each unit was sold with one or more channel kits fitted. Most radios were sold with two channels. The "red" channel kit (4.0 to 5.66MHz) was by far the most popular, including as it did the very popular channels 4441kHz and 5031kHz. Orange (5.66 to 8.0MHz), brown (2.82 to 4.0MHz) and black (2.0 to 2.82MHz) were significantly less popular, and yellow (8.0 to 10.0MHz) was very uncommon.

Each unit was typically sold with various accessories. By far the most common was the STA133 antenna. In later years this was sold with almost nine out of ten radios.

Other Information

  • SPARC Society for the Preservation of Antique Radio in Canada.
  • Spilsbury & Tindall information from SPARC.
  • Spilsbury's Coast, Jim Spilsbury's autobiographical account of his life on the west coast, including the formation of the radio business. Co-written by Howard White, published by Harbour.
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