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This Vibroplex model is known as the Vibrokeyer and is the company's upgraded model with jeweled movement. The design of this style of key dates back to 1960. Unlike an iambic keyer that incorporates two levers each producing a dit or a dash, the Vibrokeyer employs a single lever. The Vibroplex website describes the action as follows " Unlike iambic paddles that can be squeezed to send individual letters, a single lever paddle is a single arm that pivots between the dit and dah contacts for clean sounding code sent with the electronic keyer in your transceiver.". The Vibroplex website goes on to state: "The Vibrokeyer has long been the go-to standard for DXpeditioners for the fastest, snappiest CW transmission. The knob and thumb piece arrangement reminiscent of the "bug" keys is the most ergonomically correct for CW operation.".

The Vibroplex company makes two versions of the Vibrokeyer along with a choice of a black, chrome or gold plated base. The "Upgraded" version has a "jeweled spring-loaded movement". Both styles look the same from the outside. The upgraded model has jeweled trunion screws and pins thus meaning that the pins ride on jewels instead of metal on metal. The pins on the upgraded model are rounded at the end whereas on the standard version they come to a point. Vibroplex claims the upgraded model "gives the key a slightly more “free” feel than the standard trunion pin and screws have. But for the Vibrokeyer, the jeweled spring loaded movement only affects the dit contact. On an iambic key both levers would benefit from the jeweled movement.

According to the "Birth dates of Vibroplex keys" by John Elwood, WW7P the Vibroplex vibrokeyer first appeared in the January 1960 issue of QST on page 140 and is still in production today.

In October 1960 the very first "73" magazine was published. On page 57 of this issue there is an ad for a Vibrokeyer. The picture/drawing of the Vibrokeyer in the ad has the nameplate facing the opposite direction as the nameplate on the Vibrokeyer featured on this site. The ad states the base is a heavy beige color with red finger and thumb pieces. The listed price is $15.95  

  

The Vibroplex company

Founded in 1905 in New York.

1979 the company went from New York to Portland, Maine.

In 1907 Mr. Martin briefly moved the company to Norcross Georgia and sold his keys under the name of United Electric Mfg. Co.

By 1910 Vibroplex bugs were manufactured back in New York and were sold under the Vibroplex name and  New York  on the nameplate.  

In 1995 S. Felton Mitchell Jr., WA4OSR, purchased Vibroplex and moved the company to Mobile Alabama.

In 2009  Scott Robbins, W4PA purchased The Vibroplex Company and relocated it to Knoxville, Tennessee. Currently the company is located at 2906 Tazewell Pike, Suite A2B, Knoxville, TN 37918.

Vibroplex is the oldest continuously operating business in Amateur Radio.  They were founded in New York in 1905 by Horace Martin, the inventor of the semi-automatic or "bug" Morse code key.  After many years in New York and a handful of ownership changes over the 115 year period, Vibroplex has been operating in Knoxville, TN since 2009. Vibroplex keys are manufactured in the USA and they presently manufacture Morse code keys under the Vibroplex and Bencher brands. In addition Vibroplex manufacturers INRAD(International Radio) which is aftermarket crystal and roofing filters for use in transceivers and receivers from the 1960's to the present day. The company also supplies the  OEM filters for the Elecraft K3S transceiver. In 2017 the company introduced the INRAD line of microphone and headset products. To complete a ham station the company also manufacturers the Par Endfedz antennas for both single and multi band operation.

With W7FG Vintage Manuals, Vibroplex creates reproduction manuals for vintage Amateur Radio, shortwave radio, scanners, audio and test equipment.  They have 17,000 titles in stock for both service and operation manuals for equipment dating from the 1930's to the present day.

In addition, Vibroplex is the North American distributor for Spiderbeam, Easy-Rotor-Control, mAT-TUNER automatic antenna tuners, 4O3A Signature Products, and DXPatrol receivers.

If it comes from Vibroplex you known it has to be good! Although I personally prefer their pre Knoxville TN keys as the few that I have examined seem to be built with a touch better quality then their modern day equivalent.

Another way to look at Vibroplex is from a quote by former owner S. Felton Mitchell Jr., (W4OA, ex-WA4OSR) “The Vibroplex name is older than amateur radio and has come to represent the one piece of equipment in the ham shack that symbolizes the interest, camaraderie, and esprit de corps of the world-wide ham radio community.”

  

  

The picture on the left shows how the vibrokeyer looks from the operators viewpoint.

The picture on the right is of the back of the key. Here we can see the three connection points. From left to right they are as follows, dash, ground, and dot contacts.

  

  

  

The picture on the left is of the  bottom of this vibrokeyer. Notice the three rubber feet. That is not a manufacturing shortcut but rather done intentionally. Many Vibroplex keys are found with three(3) feet on the bottom. The reason why three feet are better than four is because if one of the feet is at a different height from the rest the key will wobble on a desk. With three feet the key will always sit stable when in use.

The picture on the right is of the Vibroplex nameplate. This style of Vibroplex label is known to collectors as D9. This Vibroplex label which has a serial number of 106342 but does not have any patent information on it. The address listed on the tag is 11 Midtown Park E Mobile Alabama USA.

The serial numbers for these more modern keys are a little fuzzy. According to the 2008 3rd edition of the book Telegraph Collectors Guide by Professor Tom Perera(W1TP) he states that Vibroplex started at approximately serial number 100,000 for the D9 nameplate when the company moved to Alabama. N0UF's website on Vibroplex nameplates states the same. The "Birth dates of Vibroplex keys" by John Elwood, WW7P lists three serial number ranges. Beginning in 1995 serial numbers between 80,362 thru 80,870 along with 8,206 thru 8.514 have been reported with both Portland Me. and Mobile AL. The next set he list numbers between 80,871 and 100,499 but no date or place of manufacture. The last set begins at 100,500 in 1995 which I believe is solely for the Mobile AL plant. Continuing with the "Birth dates of Vibroplex keys" by John Elwood, WW7P in which he notes Vibroplex products being made in Portland Maine between the years 1979 and 1995. Mr. Elwood’s notes go on to state that in 1995 some Vibroplex products were made in Mobile Alabama. Thus meaning that some Vibroplex products were made in both Alabama and Maine in 1995.

  

Provenance:

I purchased this key from Carlos Aguirre(KD7WJZ) who resides in Arizona. I asked him the history of the key and he said he picked it up from his neighbor Michael Hurd(N7TTC) who lives in Sun City West, AZ. I do not know where N7TTC bought the key or how long he has owned it or if he even used it.

  

So when and where was this Vibroplex produced?

As best as I can tell it was made in East Mobile Alabama sometime on or after 1995. Since this vibrokeyer has a serial number of 106,342 and I believe that for this serial number range it began in 1995 at 105,000, that roughly dates it to 1995 or 1996 depending on how many keys the company was able to produced during this time of moving the plant from Maine to Alabama.

  

  

  

References:

Vibroplex company: http://vibroplex.com/ 

Tom Perera's(W1TP): Telegraph Collectors Guidebook

Tom Perera's(W1TP): Telegraph Collectors CD-ROM

Wiki Vibroplex page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vibroplex

Vibroplex collector: http://www.vibroplexcollector.net/

Vibroplex Collectors Guide by Tom French W1IMQ

N0UF Vibroplex plates: https://www.qsl.net/n0uf/vibro-plates.htm

Birth dates of Vibroplex keys by John Elwood, WW7P

The Vail Correspondent No, 9 October 1994

  

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