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Technology that Works for Me -- Portable DVR!

from Dale Kubichek, N6JSX on October 8, 2012
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Technology that Works for Me -- Portable DVR!
By N6JSX/8

The marvelís of the todayís technology is mind boggling. Look at the size of your HAM radios and what they can do compared to the old Drake, Swan, Hallicrafter, Heathkit, or the infamous IC-2AT thumb wheel HT. HAMdom has really progressed in just a generation with super miniaturized solid-state components giving us remote control head radios, blue-toothís, CTCSS, HTís smaller than a cigarette pack and now IF DSP, clearly the best all time RX improvement.

As I age I find that my hard-drive between my ears has nearly reached capacity with retrieval seek-times getting longer and longer. Only my wife can effectively push the defrag button. Bill Cosbyís recommendation to sit down hard in the chair to push the forgotten back to the top of the stack, just doesnít work anymore. It still remains lost until my wife barks which miraculously pops it to the front of my mind, but that bark comes with consequences. Now that Iíve been diagnosed with sleep-apnea (that is causing occasional short-term memory losses) I found the DVR a handy if not necessary tool.

Decades ago when I my life was super busy balancing work, family, night-college and more, I bought myself an expensive pocket mini-cassette recorder/player but found it was too cumbersome to use. It was a battery and tape killer (it stretched tapes). Then about ten years ago, I again decided to reorganize my thoughts in a desire to become more efficient. I bought an Olympus VN-90 (90min) ~$65, DVR with three message folders, using two AAA batteries, very light pocket small, using EE memory and no tapes. This DVR can be adapted to many different uses, imagination and ingenuity being your only boundary. The DVR even has a built-in mic/speaker and two external jacks for mic/speaker. I used it for years until I forgot where I put it, only to find it last year in one of my old NoteBook cases. It is now part of my HAM shack to record my Satellite operations with passes not exceeding 12 minutes. Afterwards I transpose the contact data to my PC log and make a PC audio file (.wav/.mp3/.wma) to save those special contacts.

VP-90 used in my portable SAT Com OPs

Yesterday, I bought another Olympus VN-7200 DVR (HQ mode = 68hrs of record time with the same features of the VN-90) from Wal-Martô for ~$29.95. I carry this one in my pocket at all times as one never knows when an epiphany, tid-bits of wisdom, or a fable will hit me or a task is created that cannot be lost. I want to insure I follow up before something distracts me and I lose those witticisms. This one button pocket DVR allows me to use the DVR while playing mobile HF to retain contact reports for later transposing to my log. With todayís social focus in creating hands-free laws to minimize vehicle driver distractions (due to untrained/undisciplined cell phone users) the use of a DVR is a safety tool eliminating the need for pen-paper and taking my eyes off the road. Another handy use of the DVR is to record a radio conversation where the other party insists their signal sounds good and the problem must be yours. Playback will surely humble these know-it-all braggarts.

I was considering buying a voice-keyer for contesting, not now. Iíll use my DRV speaker output into my HF IC-746P mic input. Now I just need to toggle the DVR to the pre-recorded message number, key the radio (or set VOX), and press play - sending my pre-recorded voice message again and again. This will save my voice and insure consistent CQ/contact information every time. The boss can bark at me even while Iím playing radio but the message will still get out without background interference! And while the DVR is playing I can input the contact information into the PC log Ė improving my contact speeds and efficiency.

How many times have you been working on a project to discover you need to buy something to complete it or youíve made a critical measurement Ė and JUST THEN the phone rings, the radio calls, or the boss yells for you - to discover you now have just lost that important thought/measurement? Worst of all you know what ever that thought was is important. That lost thought begins to nag at you to be rediscovered, to the point that you will even retrace your footsteps hoping something you see will jog your memory! A pocket DVR can solve this dilemma and save you much time (and embarrassment). These new pocket DVR tools have become CHEAP with long battery life. Iím not much of a pocket guy so I just bought a nice vertical small cellphone belt holster for my DVR.

A side note; do not use the DVR to record the boss snoring (to prove she does), she really barks when you play that one!

Once again technology is wonderful, providing I remember to carry my DVR with me and use it!

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Technology that Works for Me -- Portable DVR!  
by K0JEG on October 8, 2012 Mail this to a friend!
Nice article. Most smartphones can be used for this as well, some, like the Galaxy Note, will let you attach voice comments to text memos and vice versa.

I use an upgraded program called "MP3 Recorder" on my Android phone that will create a standard MP3 file. This can then be transfered to my PC or sent as an email attachment to someone else easily.

I like the idea of using it as a voice keyer. I'll have to try it out with the Android interface that was in QST a few months back.
Technology that Works for Me -- Portable DVR!  
by WA0TML on October 8, 2012 Mail this to a friend!
WOW! Great article, I can sure relate to the part about retracing footsteps - have done it many times. I will surely have to get a DVR in the near future.

K0JEG, I can see using one of the new multi-purpose cell phones for the same thing. There are still some of us that believe a cell phone is used to communicate from point A to point B with our non-ham friends and family and therefore have no need for a do-all cell phone - please no offense intended here, I just do not feel I need such a phone. That is a fantastic idea and does further the art of Amateur Radio and we all should be encouraged to do that.

I like the satellite setup with the DVR for recording the QSO, great idea - I will try it when I get the satellite station up and running, would like to try some of the FM birds. Thanks for the great article and idea.
RE: Technology that Works for Me -- Portable DVR!  
by G7MRV on October 9, 2012 Mail this to a friend!
I use the same trick for logging when HF mobile. Although i keep a logbook in the car, it only gets filled in once i reach my destinations. Most QSOs i dont log, but exceptional ones such as special events or interesting DX get noted.

I use an old, tape based pocket dictaphone, which i bought over 20years ago. It doesnt have a great capacity, but its enough to quickly record the callsign, band and time, and signal report. I keep it in the little pocket in front of the gear lever, within easy reach (the PTT is on the side of the gear lever)
RE: Technology that Works for Me -- Portable DVR!  
by K8AG on October 9, 2012 Mail this to a friend!
It's like having a voice keyer on any radio. Cool. Good article.

73, JP, K8AG
Technology that Works for Me -- Portable DVR!  
by KG6AF on October 10, 2012 Mail this to a friend!
My IC-2AT still works after 27 years. Look up the word "infamous"; I do not think it means what you think it means.
RE: Technology that Works for Me -- Portable DVR!  
by K9MHZ on October 10, 2012 Mail this to a friend!
LOL! Well, the IC-2AT is Japanese, so maybe he was a little confused, although it did came out quite a long time after Roosevelt's speech.

Great radio, wish I still had mine. Icom built those like bricks.

RE: Technology that Works for Me -- Portable DVR!  
by AB0RE on October 11, 2012 Mail this to a friend!
I'm sorry, but you lost me at "no tapes". :-)

Another helpful thing to keep in mind when taking off-air recordings... many mobiles with the 6-pin mini-DIN "data" jack on the back have a "SQC" / "Squelch Control" pin that will go "high" (~5V) when a signal is present. This, in conjunction with a transistor and relay, can be used to trip the "remote" jack of a recorder, if present. This method makes for a much nicer recording than relying on VOX. The recorder will run anytime the squelch is open, even if there is no audio.
RE: Technology that Works for Me -- Portable DVR!  
by W7DAH on November 4, 2012 Mail this to a friend!
K0JEG, I like the idea of using my smart phone for voice recordings, and with a 32GB memory card installed it tells me I have 12-hours capacity with the current settings. I have to carry the phone anyway (job) so one device for phone calls, voice recordings, music player, GPS navigation, EchoLink, QTH Grid Square locator, IRLP Finder, Ham Radio Study, scanner, etc, etc, etc means that I don't have to carry separate devices. Thanks for the mp3 app tip. The default voice recorder uses "ASR" file format and it seems to provide greater compression than mp3, but the mp3 seems to sound better on replay.
Portable DVR! always wondered if there was one!  
by NL7SX on November 6, 2012 Mail this to a friend!
Bob Crane "radios" had a unit that had a clock to start and stop recording. Does the Olympus have a clock to turn off and on at a preset time? I've looked at the WalMart pocket recorders and there are a lot of options depending on price/features. Thanks for the VN-7200 summary!
CCRANE not Bob Crane..sorry  
by NL7SX on November 6, 2012 Mail this to a friend!

There aren't many choices for recording radio but this unit has the USB port!
KAITO KA1121  
by NL7SX on November 6, 2012 Mail this to a friend!
This may be off topic but it concludes my search for some kind of radio DVR. USB included and it says it has a timer. Not pocket sized though.
Ooops... this is pocket sized KAITO DE1127  
by NL7SX on November 6, 2012 Mail this to a friend!
I think I'll get one :-) 73
RE: Ooops... this is pocket sized KAITO DE1127  
by N1DVJ on November 18, 2012 Mail this to a friend!
Almost any digital camera in the last many years can work this way.

And... If you want an external control for start/stop, check out the R/C model forums. A lot of then have kits, hacks, or interfaces to tie to digital cameras to start/start video or to take a picture under remote control.
DVR = Digital VOICE Recorder  
by K8LL on November 21, 2012 Mail this to a friend!
When I first saw this I thought "DVR? How can I use a Digital VIDEO Recorder in ham radio? I didn't know they made a portable Tivo!"

Acronyms should ALWAYS be explained...

I have used a digital voice recorder for almost all contests, mobile contacts, and DXing for several years now. It can be a wonderful tool!

Sony has a "Digital Voice Editor" program which is pretty good for editing MP3s. You can slow them down and speed them up easily (without changing the pitch) for trying to figure out what they were saying (call signs, etc). I think you can use it on any MP3, and it seems to work on .wav files too. It appears to be a free program that you can download from:

It came with my Sony DVR that I purchased a few years ago and has been very useful.

Just my 2 cents worth.
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