FT 101 Line

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The FT-101—The Radio that Put YAESU on the Worldwide Map

© 2005 Vertex Standard USA, Inc.

The FT-101 Series was a true classic. Not only did it break new ground in terms of all-in-one design, but its workmanship also stood far above that of other Amateur Radio equipment of the time. It transformed Yaesu Musen Co., Ltd. from a smallish producer of specialty gear into a mass-production powerhouse in the industry.


The FT-101 was conceived as the Amateur Radio industry’s first self-contained, AC/DC HF transceiver. Previously, transceivers had required external power supplies, but with the birth of the FT-101 everything changed forever.

The first FT-101 transceivers started appearing in the United States in 1971, after some early distribution in Japan. They were imported both through the U.S. importer and through other channels, significantly including the role of U.S. military personnel returning from Vietnam. They would stop in Tokyo on the way home, take a train to the Akihabara electronics district, and buy a rig at the fantastic exchange rate of Ľ360/$1 (today, it is more like Ľ105/$1). Such quality features as plug-in circuit boards and expensive tuning gear mechanisms caught the eye of knowledgeable Hams everywhere. Word quickly spread of this amazing new rig from a company called Yaesu, and production of radios was quickly ramped up to meet the growing demand.

After the first 25,000 or so FT-101 rigs were produced, a major upgrade was produced, yielding improvements in many areas, primarily in the receiver section. Although this was never given a model name of its own (such as “FT-101A”), it nonetheless represented a major set of changes to circuit boards.

After about a year of the later version’s production, another set of upgrades came about, including the addition of 160 meters. This model came to be known as the FT-101B, and both owners of previous FT-101s and new buyers pushed the production capacity of the Yaesu factories to the limits once again.

While no “C” or “D” versions of the FT-101 were ever produced, the next big set of upgrades came with the addition of an RF Clipping Speech Processor, and this version was designated the FT-101E. Several scaled-down versions were produced, including the FT-101EE (no Speech Processor), and the FT-101EX (no built-in DC power supply, Speech Processor, or 160-meter band crystal). Owing to the plug-in board construction of the FT-101E, it was a simple matter for an owner to install an upgrade in the field: just buy the board from a dealer, and plug it in!

Finally, the FT-101F version was produced in the late 1970s, in response to an FCC request to remove 11-meter capability from the FT-101 series. When the FT-101 production began, 11 meters was a Ham band in Australia, and in the interest of efficiency on the production line, separate models for Australia and the rest of the world were not produced. Of course, at this time the world was re-aligning its economic structure with the creation of OPEC, and long-haul truckers in the United States and elsewhere bought the FT-101 in droves. When abuses of the CB band became evident, Yaesu cooperated with the FCC in removing this frequency coverage.

The spirit of the original FT-101 series lived on in the FT-101ZD, which bore more of a resemblance to the FT-901, but the overall design concept of an all-in-one, ruggedly-constructed utility rig remained very much intact. This same spirit lives on today in models like the FT-897D and FT-840.

Design Highlights

The FT-101 brought a number of innovations and sought-after features to the prospective buyer:

• Built in AC and DC Power Supplies

• 160 – 10 meter coverage (some models did not have 160 m)

• Built-in WWV reception

• Factory-sealed VFO with 1 kHz Readout

• Pair of 6JS6C TV Sweep Tubes for High Output Power

• Fully-adjustable VOX

• Built-in Speaker

• Plug-in Computer-type Circuit Boards for easy servicing

• RF Speech Processor

Quality Highlights

The use of computer-type plug-in circuit boards was a significant factor in the popularity of the FT-101 Series. Not only did the plug-in boards produce a clean, well-organized interior design for the transceiver, they made servicing a breeze, because an “extended board” could be fitted underneath the board being worked on, providing easy access to alignment points for the technician. One of the most effective ads ever produced for the FT-101 showed a circuit board with a postage stamp on it; the message was that, if a problem could be narrowed down to a particular board, you could just send the board in, instead of the entire (heavy) radio. It worked!

Another hallmark of the FT-101 Series was the fantastic mechanical design inside. Premium-quality ball drives and gear mechanisms were utilized in many areas, giving the FT-101 a distinctly “quality” feel during operation. The drive for the Preselector control, for example, found its way into production of the FT-901 and FT-101ZD series in the years that followed.

These were the days of a very favorable (if you’re a buyer of imported items) exchange rate between the Japanese Yen and the U.S. Dollar, so it was possible to include such high-cost components in a radio that still sold for well under $1,000 in the United States. Today, with the Dollar buying less than 1/3 of what it did back then, one can easily see how a similarly-constructed radio would sell for well over $2,500!

Operating Highlights

The FT-101 revolutionized the modern DX-pedition. Before the FT-101 came along, expedition operators had to drag along separate transmitters and receivers, or a transceiver and its heavy power supply. There was no escaping the “two-box” syndrome.

Since that time, the FT-101 and its successors have been used by thousands of DX-peditions, both “serious” and in the “vacation” category. While modern rigs like the FT-897D are much smaller and lighter, they owe their design concept to the FT-101, the radio that started it all.

Still highly sought by collectors, the FT-101 truly is “The Radio.”