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[Articles Home]  [Add Article]  

Smart Expander Keypad... for Your Radio

Jean-Francois Menard (VA2SS) on July 4, 2014
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Hi everyone!!

 

I really believe that many users who would like to use their favorite radio would really enjoy to sometime have more flexibility for their radio operation.

Instead of always searching inside the radio menu, or even when trying to set a bunch of actions at the same time, like set split , set TX bandwidth to DX, set EQ settings to DX, set receiving filter with narrow bandwidth, etc., all this when trying to work a rare DX !! 

 

With the Smart Expander project, ONLY push ONE button!

 

 

The main goals of this project:

·         To use of your favorite radio with more efficiency.

·         To let the user customize the station on their own preferences: DX, rag chew, etc.

·         To give the user more benefit of using complex macro to fit their needs.

 

A few advantages: 

·         Low cost integration

·         Easy to program by the user, from a simple command to a more complex macros… many CAT commands at the same time!

·         Standalone solution, NO need of a PC to use it; only once for initial programming.

·         NO serial polling. Only TX over the serial line when a key is pressed on the keypad.

·         Very responsive and gives the ability to add pause in macro execution, to let the radio digest the data stream.

 

 

I also did a template for my own needs. I divided the keypad into different color regions, that’s giving the user a faster way for locating button.

 

 

·         GREEN = all things related to “receiving functions” or so.

·         BLUE = all things related to “memory” usage.

·         RED = related to transmit settings, like SPLIT function, TX bandwidth and EQ settings.

·         BLACK = alternate functions, execute command display in black on the keys with the ALT FNC button. A total of 70 macros could be programmed!!!

·         PINK = other user functions.

 

Examples of ONE button push macros:

 

SSB Normal 2.4kHz with COMP ON : It sends CAT commands to set your TX bandwidth to 2.4kHz, set your compressor setting and also set your transmit EQ settings if you have one and adjust the MIC gain if needed.

SPLIT SSB UP+10 : It sends CAT commands to COPY VFO A to B, send SPLIT command, narrow the RX bandwidth to 2.2kHz, set XIT and RIT to 0 to be safe, enable the DUAL RX on some radios, etc.

RESET TX : It sends CAT command to reset every TX related settings, XIT, RIT, SPLIT, disable DUAL RX, etc.

 

Your imagination is the only limit !!

 

The recipe is simple, the project only need and use a serial RS-232 programmable keypad, like the one found at Genovation see: www.genovation.com for more information. If you need to tie the keypad at the same time as your PC for logging purpose, you will also need a serial splitter that can be found at B&B Electronics see: www.bb-elec.com for more information. The keypad will use any CAT RS-232 port of your radio. It will simulate any control CAT command sent by software like HRD, etc. But no need of a PC when operating the keypad. This is a standalone solution once it is well programmed. So it can also be used in the field too!!

 

It will also enhance your station ergonomic position and add more flexibility. I found this idea when trying to use my Elecraft KX3 as my main station. Now I have all needed buttons to help me improve my skill when using my radio setup.  That’s it!

 

 I really hope some of you will like this idea. Please feel free to contact me if you have question.

 

Regards,

_______________________________________

Jean-François "JEFF" Ménard / VA2SS

Member Comments:
This article has expired. No more comments may be added.
 
Smart Expander Keypad... for Your Radio  
by KE7FD on July 4, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
Just on the surface this seems like a great idea. There's not a lot of choices when it comes to this type of programmable keypad but that being said, the Genovation products seem to have what you need to program theirs easily enough. The thing I think some of us have to keep in mind is that this won't replace a computer for things like digital modes since you still need a display for a waterfall for instance. Where it would be useful again as the author points out is not having to do a deep dive in a rigs menus to do something or use something like CAT control with HRD with a computer if that's all you use it for. Even though the photos shows the set-up in his shack, just picture that same simple arrangement going portable. Why lug a netbook around when all you need is a keypad (voice and CW; digital you'll still need a computer). I would think there are some rigs that play nicer with this set up more than others with respect to the available ports on the back of the radio so give that some thought before taking the plunge.

All in all though, this looks like an elegant solution. I would like to see a follow-up with some more details as there are some hams who have never stepped outside the box of over the counter and this project is simple enough for almost anyone to take on. Good job!.

Glen - KE7FD
 
RE: Smart Expander Keypad... for Your Radio  
by N4CQR on July 4, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
Very, very nice!
 
Smart Expander Keypad... for Your Radio  
by WA7PRC on July 4, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
The only thing I don't like is the big bulky thingy (I think it's called a 'microphone') in the top photo that's parked in the way of the rig & keypad. Better would be either a boom-mounted microphone that gets it off the table or bestest, a headset that ALWAYS has the microphone in the correct place.

vy 73 es gud dx,
Bryan WA7PRC
 
Smart Expander Keypad... for Your Radio  
by K9ZF on July 4, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
This product looks interesting. I think it would be really cool to "add a button" for all of the useful functions in modern radios, instead of digging through seemingly endless embedded menus...

It would be nice to see an actual "how to" article with more details.

73
Dan

--
K9ZF
Amateur Radio Emergency Service, Clark County Indiana. EM78el
The once and future K9ZF /R no budget Rover
***QRP-l #1269
Check out the Rover Resource Page at:
<http://www.qsl.net/n9rla>
List Administrator for: InHam+grid-loc+ham-books
Ask me how to join the Indiana Ham Mailing list!
 
RE: Smart Expander Keypad... for Your Radio  
by VA2SS on July 4, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
My wish is to use the same my in the field and in the shack.

Regards,
 
RE: Smart Expander Keypad... for Your Radio  
by KG4RUL on July 4, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
Interesting but, some idea of the price?
 
RE: Smart Expander Keypad... for Your Radio  
by KG4RUL on July 4, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
Interesting but, some idea of the price?
 
RE: Smart Expander Keypad... for Your Radio  
by KG4RUL on July 4, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
Interesting but, some idea of the price?
 
RE: Smart Expander Keypad... for Your Radio  
by KG4RUL on July 4, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
Interesting but, some idea of the price?
 
RE: Smart Expander Keypad... for Your Radio  
by KG4RUL on July 4, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
What I don't see is some idea of the cost?
 
RE: Smart Expander Keypad... for Your Radio  
by KF4O on July 4, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
This site $189 :

http://www.datacal.com/genovation-681-keypad.htm

 
Smart Expander Keypad... for Your Radio  
by AE5QB on July 5, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
It looks like a well laid out project. However, I don't really see the need. The KX3 is not that difficult to use and I don't find myself going into the menus very often once I get set up. Most of the functions that are needed during operation are right on the panel with the push of a button and/or a turn of the knob. From the functions I can see on the buttons, none are difficult to set using the KX3 controls. I put this in the category of a solution looking for a problem that might not even exist. A well done job, though, from what I can see. But a bit pricey to me for the minor utility it provides.
 
Smart Expander Keypad... for Your Radio  
by DL8OV on July 5, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
Am I the only one who finds it surprising that in 2014 we are still using CAT commands over RS-232 lines? It shouldn't be that difficult to make a rig a USB device with a driver under MS Windows and/or Linux.

Peter DL8OV
 
Smart Expander Keypad... for Your Radio  
by DL8OV on July 5, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
Am I the only one who finds it surprising that in 2014 we are still using CAT commands over RS-232 lines? It shouldn't be that difficult to make a rig a USB device with a driver under MS Windows and/or Linux.

Peter DL8OV
 
Smart Expander Keypad... for Your Radio  
by WS4E on July 5, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
Those custom keypads are very niche and expensive.

An arduino could do this for much much cheaper.
 
Smart Expander Keypad... for Your Radio  
by WS4E on July 5, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
Those custom keypads are very niche and expensive.

An arduino could do this for much much cheaper.
 
RE: Smart Expander Keypad... for Your Radio  
by K5TED on July 5, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
An Arduino would still need a keypad and lots of dev time. $185 for a finished rig control product seems very reasonable, considering a simple Big Three factory hand mic goes for about $30
 
Smart Expander Keypad... for Your Radio  
by DL8OV on July 6, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
Is anybody surprised that in 2014 we are still using CAT commands over RS-232? It shouldn't be that difficult to make a rig a USB peripheral and then have a driver under MS Windows that accesses all the functions.

Peter DL8OV
 
RE: Smart Expander Keypad... for Your Radio  
by K9MHZ on July 6, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
No, you're not the only one who has noticed. Icom seems to get a lot of accessories dollars for staying somewhat old school in that way. The latest firmware upgrade for the 7700 just now, in 2014, allows for the use of remote software through its ethernet port via the web. Rig control in the shack is still pretty old. USB plug 'n play today should be a no-brainer.

 
Smart Expander Keypad... for Your Radio  
by DL8OV on July 6, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
Sorry about the duplicate comments, minor problems with the Eham.net site.

Peter DL8OV
 
RE: Smart Expander Keypad... for Your Radio  
by K9MHZ on July 6, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
Darmstadt Germany, oh man, you're killing us Peter! What a beautiful part of Germany. Some year, I will make it to Friedrichshafen.
 
Smart Expander Keypad... for Your Radio  
by N7KFD on July 6, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
Excellent idea! It's always fun to come up with an idea, put it together and use it on a regular basis. It looks good and it's functional, thanks for sharing!!

Jim
N7KFD
 
Smart Expander Keypad... for Your Radio  
by KE7FD on July 6, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
I think some of us are getting distracted here and missing what the author was suggesting. Regardless of the many varied ways that we operate, one of the more challenges is getting to the one function that might be buried under layers of dialing spinning, button thumping or mouse clicks. What the author has here is a way to give us direct access to those same functions without lugging a computer around. Sure if you're still in the shack and you have HRD (or whatever) running, then this might not be of interest to you. But if you like using a compact rig and go portable or you just like a tidy desktop, this might be just the thing you need. And guys, take a moment to look at the keypad programming aids. From what I see from the materials you just connect the keypad to a computer, use their software to assign the codes from your rigs manual to the keys. Done. The manual is free to download:

http://www.genovation.com/files/681UserManual.pdf

For example, here's in essence what you're doing in the software for each key:

Standard ASCII number values (1=31h)
• Followed by “ENTER” (0Dh)
• Example (Key # 35) = (31h + 35h+0Dh)

So if this appeals to you, you can either do it yourself for the price of the keypad or you can wait for someone to start selling them at Dayton for what will likely be more. Sure the keypad is not free or dirt cheap (the only criteria for some guys) but it at least is a solution for those looking for a faster way to work a "menued" rig.

IMHO,
Glen 0 KE7FD
 
RE: Smart Expander Keypad... for Your Radio  
by VA2SS on July 7, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
Also, keyboard will less keys are also available for different needs... Macros will also be useful when hooking up an external PA, like the KPA500. User must bypass the internal tuner, bring down the power around 30W, etc... So ONE button to do all this called "KPA500" would be great !!

Or by using this keyboard with a Yaesu FT-897, FT-817 or any other deep menus radio for such basic function like lower the power....

Many ideas and tweaks are possible.... for the one who would like to try. :-)

Regards,
 
RE: Smart Expander Keypad... for Your Radio  
by K9MHZ on July 7, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
>>>>by KE7FD on July 6, 2014 I think some of us are getting distracted here and missing what the author was suggesting.....
IMHO,
Glen 0 KE7FD<<<<

Maybe, but I also think that a little grounded thinking might be in order as well. We demand these compact rigs and the manufacturers pack them full of features, no doubt. I have two that are very menu-driven, but they're just not that hard to use. I admire these ideas and entrepreneurship, but I don't think that we need to go to the mat in thinking it's our way of "fixing" what the manufacturer man put in our rigs. Elecraft moonies will sing the praises of their magical rigs all day long, but now we're to go full circle and add something that essentially makes them bigger like older rigs? Most of the QSYing, mode and band changes, like on the author's keyboard, are very easy and quick on modern gear. I think so much of the pushback on menus in modern gear is from frankly, older operators who get overwhelmed and lash out at the totality of options their modern gear provides, rather than taking the time to understand and getting familiar with what's really important to their daily operating activities. It's just not that hard, but it takes a little effort.

Again, neat idea, and if it's for you then go for it.
 
RE: Smart Expander Keypad... for Your Radio  
by VA2SS on July 7, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
You're right Glen.

Knowing our radio functionality for more efficiency first, should be near at top of the list of almost every ham...

73

J-F VA2SS
 
Smart Expander Keypad... for Your Radio  
by W2NLS on July 7, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
The http://www.bb-elec.com is a very confusingly laid-out website! Can you post a direct link to that splitter you mentioned? Thanks!
 
Very interesting!  
by WB4M on July 8, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
This looks like something I'd enjoy using with my FT-817ND.
 
Smart Expander Keypad... for Your Radio  
by KA1KXL on July 8, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
Jeff, VA2SS, I think this is a fantastic idea!

My old active radio is an Icom IC-751A that I bought new in the 1980s. With the optional numeric keypad in place, it has all of the controls at the tips of my fingers. It's a breeze to make virtually any adjustment whenever I desire.

My modern radio is an Icom IC-7000. Great little radio, a lot of bang for the buck. BUT, it is almost always tedious and a PITA when I want to change something.

Examples:
Tuning up? Old radio, turn the RF Power knob to min and key down. New radio, push a button for a menu, choose quick-set (for the more readily available options), if power is not selected, scroll until it is, turn the tuning knob to drop power and finally key down. Switch VFOs? Old radio, push the "A/B" VFO selector button. Done. New radio, If not already in the M-menu, go there by holding the appropriate up/down button down long enough for the menu to switch (repeat if you went the wrong way), now toggle through each sub-menu until you have the one that shows "A/B" over one of the multi-function buttons, finally press it.

And yes, I have pressed the wrong button at various high-pressure moments...

So I completely disagree with the poster who said that this was a solution looking for a problem.

This is cool, elegant, can be moved to a new radio if desired and customization is a snap.

In short, I love your idea! Bravo!!!
Bruce, KA1KXL
 
RE: Smart Expander Keypad... for Your Radio  
by KB6QXM on July 8, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
Just buy a Flex radio and be done with it!
 
RE: Smart Expander Keypad... for Your Radio  
by KA1KXL on July 9, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
"Just buy a Flex radio and be done with it!"
Putting aside the issues of cost and that they may like their radio... SDRs have their place, but they are not without risk. Lots of people have radios made many decades ago that still work fine. My IC-751A went into storage in the late 1980s, I think PCs were running DOS back then. It just returned to service a couple of years ago. FLEX radios need PCs with drivers: If you put your FLEX radio into storage for a comparable amount of time, what are the odds you'll still be able to use it?
 
RE: Smart Expander Keypad... for Your Radio  
by VA2SS on July 10, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
Thank Bruce for your comments.

Because I would like to use my KX3 as my main radio and also wish to use it in the field, I tried to find a solution to give me more convenience when running in the shack.

People always told me that the KX3 is too small for a main radio..... not really now....

Any way, I'm just trying to have fun with such ideas that enhanced my station and let me use my KX3 everywhere. I also did the same thing with my mic. By willing to use the same mic everywhere, I also built a mic holder with pop filter that let me use my mic even when using 3 Khz TX bandwidth and a little bit of EQ'ing ! :-)

It is not like when using my PR-40 when used with my FT-5000MP, but my goal was to find a way to exploit the same KX3 portable hardware no matter where I am.

 
RE: Smart Expander Keypad... for Your Radio  
by KB6QXM on July 11, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
Hello....the comment that SDRs will not be working 20 years from now is just ignorant. The failure rate of SDRs is not any higher than "knob"radios. In my personal opinion, I believe that many hams are afraid of SDRs. Granted, they are not for the typical appliance operators or the non-technical hams. SDRs take a bit to setup, but the reward is far greater than the pain of the setup. Another comment is that you need a PC for an SDR. For the most part, that is true. The new Flex radios have the CPU built into the case, so no external PC is needed. The flexibility of SDRs are far greater than a conventional radio. The future of radio in general is going SDR. Like it or not. The features are just limited by the imagination of the software engineer. The latest generation of SDRs with direct conversion are light years ahead of conventional radios. Are SDRs for everyone? NO! There are plenty of firmware defined radios on the market. Is the cost of SDR higher than a conventional radio? Not really, but they are not cheap, unless you get an entry level SDR or a limited capability SDR radio. Maybe one of those cheap SDRs may be what you need to understand the world of SDR. You may never go back to a conventional radio after the experience.

73
 
Smart Expander Keypad... for Your Radio  
by AG2AA on July 21, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
When I first read this article, I knew J-F had hit on an outstanding idea - and it fit my need perfectly. I have since purchased, installed, and configured both the keyboard and splitter. I had a bit of a puzzle with the TxD and RxD, the splitter, the computer and the radio but sorted it out and now I have the radio, expanded keypad, and logging computer all connected to the KX3. I had already played with the KX3 macro command set somewhat, using the Elecraft configuration software so I had some prior knowledge as to what I was getting myself into. Not bad overall. And many thanks to J-F for some offline advice and tech help as well. Je vous remercie beaucoup mon ami.
 
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