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Reviews For: Ham Central Terminal (HCT)

Category: QRP Accessories

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Review Summary For : Ham Central Terminal (HCT)
Reviews: 5MSRP: 249
This is a smart portable terminal designed specifically for
the KX3 and K3 Elecraft transceivers. Called the Ham Central
Terminal, this light, compact, battery powered device
connects to the rigs' serial port and displays decoded PSK,
RTTY, and CW characters in a 20 X 4 line back lighted
transflective LCD display. It also supports the use of a
keyboard to transmit characters and pre stored messages and
rig macros. It can also log 1300 QSOs using a built-in real
time clock. HCT is available from
Product is in production
More Info:
# last 180 days Avg. Rating last 180 days Total reviews Avg. overall rating
VK4JRC Rating: 2015-01-06
A Great Accessory For KX3 Time Owned: more than 12 months.
When I first got the HCT I had a few troubles getting my KX3 to "talk" to it. I returned it for testing and at the same time QRPworks shipped me an exchange PCB with latest's that for great service! Well, I soon had it up and running and was sure better than try to "speed read" the KX3 screen, for incoming messages.
Once I got used to tuning the KX3 it all came together and worked well on PSK31. Whilst there maybe better ways of operating PSK31, the HCT is the most compact solution that is internal battery powered to boot!
Definitely a great field portable solution with a very readable display in bright sunlight conditions. It's easy to operate with the programmable macro functions with the KX3, too.
W6GDK Rating: 2013-09-26
Great service and good product Time Owned: 0 to 3 months.
My HCT had a problem with the MAX232 and couldn't talk to the radio. Steve and Shel sent out a new board the next day and I had the unit back up and running. Makes PSK and CW decoding much easier, and using the keyboard with the HCT makes PSK more like using the big rig with DM780.
KD8ME Rating: 2013-09-25
Great Solution for KX3 & K3! Time Owned: 0 to 3 months.
Before I saw the HCT mentioned in the KX3 yahoo group, I was starting to assemble my own simple keyboard to CW/PSK/RTTY solution and estimated to spend about $200+ on building it for the KX3.

After I read the HCT manual, it was clearly apparent, they had already solved not only the general keyboard interface issue, but had added numerous useful features, like logging, scrolling display, and keyboard macro with call sign substitution via ALT+C, to change the QSO call sign, then in the macros, it replaces ! (bang) with the call sign, or # with the serial number.

So the $249 price with a great case was in the ball park of what I expected for a dedicated firmware interface, plus they already developed a bunch of software for it. Major time saver for me.

The HCT can store 1200 QSO internally, while it's not going to replace your contest logger or full DX logging SW, for the field it's perfect.

Keep in mind the actual decoding is done by the KX3/K3, not the HCT. The HCT gives you a bigger display that you can scroll through as well as keyboard interface if you wish to use it.

The LCD is easily readable in daylight, the case looks great beside the KX3. The lettering on the case is actually etched instead of silk screen, and looks great.

Easy setup and custom programming of both the keyboard macros as well as rig macros, which allow you to just ALT+Fn and it send to the KX3 setup changes.

By default there are two rig macros:
ALT+F1, sets the KX3/K3 to 14.070, 5 Watts and into PSK31 mode
ALT+F2, sets the KX3/K3 to 14.080, 5 Watts, and into RTTY mode

It's supper easy to edit existing macros... F12 for keyboard macros, then the Fn key you want to edit or add and for the rig macros, use ALT+F12

In my case I added a rig macro to move it down into 20m and set it for CW as well as added several keyboard macros CQ, QTH, RIG info, 73, & SK

Firmware in my HCT appears to be the latest v2.1.5. The manual & website states that in the near future, firmware upgrades will be possible and they are adding ADIF export functionality.

QRPworks has yet to release the utility that allows the upgrade of the firmware, hopefully it works as nice as the Elecraft utility, wonder if it could also set the real time clock as well?

The HCT manual & FAQ states you must use a wired PS2 keyboard, since many today are USB keyboards with a PS2 adapter, including all of the USB keyboards, which as expected didn't work. However I was able to find a very high quality Cherry G84-4100PRAUS Compact Keyboard with PS/2 Interface on Amazon to match the HCT, that is only 11".. well built and has switches rated for 20 million presses, even has a nice little ferrite core right near the end with no discernible RF issues of the cheap keyboard. I mean seriously if your going to buy the HCT, get a solid, well built keyboard.

The HCT is powered by either a internal 9v battery or external power, which could be etch labeled with input voltage range. The HCT also has a realtime clock which needs a CR2032, this will automatically timestamp the QSO.

I know I could use my iPad or drag along my macbook, but why? I want everything to fit in a nice little pelican case for my travels and unlike the NUE-PSK modem, this is designed specifically for the K3 & KX3 rigs.

The only real things I could see that would possibly improve on the HCT, and this is not taking away from the operational use of HCT at all, is the rather LARGEish protruding feet on the back, would much rather see smaller fold out feet, option for internal rechargeable battery, include the cables in the cost, label the power input. And a substitution character for inserting the date & time in the macro.

However these are very small issues, that Shel & Steve can address over time or not, and are not enough to ding my rating or limit my use of this great product by the guys at QRPworks!

Simply put, it just works and it works very very well.
AG2AA Rating: 2013-08-03
cool gadget Time Owned: 0 to 3 months.
I love to operate portable from a picnic table or while camping and this accessory is a nice addition to my kx3 station. It is light enough and fits in the backpack with the kx3. I run both the radio and HCT from the same LithiumIronPhosphate battery pack and use an extra small keyboard when needed. It's not a "must have", but it sure is a "nice to have" accessory.
N4KGL Rating: 2013-07-16
PSK with no laptop required Time Owned: 0 to 3 months.
The Elecraft KX3 is capable of decoding and transmitting CW, PSK and RTTY without a computer. The KX3 modes that achieve this are CW, PSK-D and FSK-D. Eliminating the computer is an advantage to portable operation. There are some caveats to be aware of. The success on decoding CW varies with the sender but it is still useful. The display of decoded signals on the KX3 is on a short scrolling display. Note, you won't have a waterfall display on PSK. But this does not mean you can have fun with these modes. The input for PSK-D and FSK-D is via the paddle inputs. For me, I have yet to fully master the paddles.

Perhaps a portable computer such as a laptop, tablet or smart phone could provide a better display and a keyboard. However, I can't read their display in direct sunlight. The Ham Central Terminal (HCT) comes has an excellent sunlight readable display that works at night as well. The display can provide 80 characters at a time with scrolling memory. The HCT also accepts a PS/2 computer keyboard so paddle inputs are not required.

I paired my HCT with a mini keyboard. I find it fits in my backpack with the KX3, Alexloop and external battery. This is major as I would not like to have more bags to handle.

I am now enjoying PSK QSOs without a "computer." I also enjoy the logger. It captures frequency and mode from the KX3 and logs up to 1200 QSOs. There are has some limitations in fields but the essentials are there. The time of day is automatic if you install a CR type cell internal to the HCT.

The unit has ten memories for messages usable for CW, PSK and RTTY. You access them with one press of a function key. This is better than the two presses required on the KX3. You can also stack the memory messages not just the same message but combinations. I don't think the KX3 will let you stack mixed memory messages yet but it is on Wayne's list. It will also substitute a call or serial number in the messages. I am not a big time contester but I could see the memory capabilities as very handy for Field Day.

I am impressed with the job QRPWorks has done with the HCT. I prefer a firmware approach over the mix and match of software and interfaces. I have not covered every detail but I am having fun with mine out in the field. My blog is