Saturday, April 14, 2012


Actually, it's an exhibition, not a contest of speed. My three Vibroplex No. 4 or Blue Racer bugs of varying vintage:
L. to R, pre WW II, with a U-damper and "cloverleaf" frame; 1946, with scaled-down "Original" style upperworks; a 2001 "Millennium Bug" with full-scale mechanicals on a small base.

From the front, the frame differences are clear:
The damper variations show in the rear view:The oldest one had obviously been dropped and was green and nasty with corrosion when purchased. I replaced the thumbpiece and straightened the frame gently, enough so it would function. The reed (flat spring) had been deeply filed by a prior owner, an old trick to slow 'em down:
The very oldest ones had smooth blue-enamelled bases, probably with the gold-pinstriping treatment; my oldest probably dates from 1921 through '41 but without the nameplate (long gone), I don't think it can be narrowed down any more than that.

They all work pretty well. The 2001 bug has a "bug tamer" extension on the pendulum to slow it down. I'd like to add a "Vari-Speed" to the '46 De Luxe (sold here, scroll down for a video link of the gadget in action), and give that a try. The oldest one, with the filed reed and massive pendulum weight, is already just about right.


  1. Nice!
    Your collection is quite impressive.

  2. Great post. Never was able to 'tame my bug' so I sold it and went back to the straight key. I guess the straight key is kind of like the manual typer - simple and easier to master.

  3. Cool, Nice bugs. I like how you set up the pics to show the differences between the frames and dampers.

    I've been playing with my original bug tonight after some time away from ham radio. I've got some sweet paddles but I seem to do the best with a bug. I love the tactile response in the handle that just isn't present with paddles.

    That's interesting about filing the spring to slow down the action. I've not seen that before. Here's a post I wrote about my homebrew bug tamer:

    And another about the Vibroplex nameplates:

    73 Mike W8MDE

  4. Any idea how many units a company like Vibroplex sells in a year?