Dayton, Lance Johnson had a booth there, on a comer I think it was, and he was hawking a keyer, pretentiously claiming that with itT "CW would never be the same again." I can remember seeing a group of ogle-eyed contest types huddled around the display, listening to the code coming out of a tan box, their fingers twitching and their smiles broadening as Lance led them through his spiel.
The next time I thov ghl of Lance Johnson's Kansas City Keyer was a tew hours after a grueling ARRL Sweepstakes, it was grueling because J had spent twenty-four hoijrs flaihng away at my ten-year-otd Accu Keyer; by hour six, each dit and dah required a supreme effort of will! ft was in that quiet, ringing-head time after the contest that I remembered those twitching fingers and broad smites and swore to myself that, come next test, I, too, would have a reason to smile—my Keyer arrived a week later.
The Kansas City Keyer comes in an attractive twchtone tan box which is about four and a half inches wide and seven inches deep. There are two LEDst a green one for power and a red one marked "Status," which monitors the machine's reaction to what you are trying to do. To the right of the LEDs is a rotary pot that serves both as an on-off switch and an analog speed control The rest of the front panel is taken up by a sixteen-button touchpad (0-9. A-0, ", and p\ which you use to access ihe KeyerTs functions.
The rear panel is home to two RCA jacks, used for either positive or negative keying voltage, a momentary-contact Reset button, a DIN jack for connecting the Keyer to your paddles, and a miniature phone jack for power (8 to 18 volts dc).
The true beauty of the KC Keyer is evident when you pop the cover. What you get in there is a powerful microprocessor dedicated to one job—managing your CW The micro is a Rockwell 6502, a very popular and flexible chip found in many single-board computers (including the successful Apple II). Three chips are used in support ing roles; a 6522 Peripheral Interface Adapter, a 4K EPROM for program storage, and a 6116 2K SRAM for on-line memory. A handful of discrete components and SSI chips completes the hardware. The PC board is plated* double-sided, and obviously iaid out by a professional.
Is there any advantage to using a general-purpose microprocessor for this sort of job instead of gates and clocks? Yes! Two advantages, in fact. The first is a reduced parts count—all of the gates and timers found in the last generation's keyers can be implemented in software. Of course, the program to do this may be quite long, but memory is so cheap today that program size can be discounted as long as the coding is efficient.
The second advantage is that a keyer in software can do anything that you want it to! Want automatic serial numbers? Fine, just write a few program lines. Need translation from Morse to International code? No problem, just add a lookup table. You get the idea. An additional plus is that upgrades are as easy as swapping a single EPROM. Power On!
Now we know what the KC Keyer looks like and what's inside it, but what can it do? When Ihe power is turned on, the Keyer will be in its default configuration: speed at about 15 wpm, standard weighting, and automatic character spacing. The fourteen message buffers will be empty and the automatic serial number will be set to zero.
Programming is accomplished via the sixteen-button keypad. Each pushbotton has an assigned function which is assessed by pressing the " key. For example, pressing the sequence ' Speed 2 5 wili set the speed to 25 wpm. Speed is above the 2 on the keypad, A short beep is output through the internal speaker to confirm each keypress.
One small gripe about the speaker There is no provision to disable the sidetone from the keypad. The beep is handy to have during the programming steps, but after about ten minutes of CW it becomes annoying, I ended up permanently disabling the side-tone by clipping the wire off the speaker It would have been better, I think, to have used the rotary pot as a volume control rather than an analog speed control
What really sets the Kansas City Keyer apart from other memory keyers on the market is the way the message buffers are set up. There are fourteen of them, 0-9 and A-D, and you can partition the 1500-character memory among the buffers any way you like. Text is entered by sending CW to the keyer after specifying which buffer is to hold the information. An "editor"' of sorts is available in this mode; if you make a mistake, a string of eight dits will erase the current word and play back the word before it. Perfect word spacing rs as simple as watching the red Status LED: At the end of each word, wait for the light to flash before entering the next code group
Now for the really good stuff! You can at any time during text entry add aWait command. When the command is encountered during transmission, the keyer will stop sending until a character or word is sent manually from the paddle Say you have buffer A configured like this: TEST DE KWlO (WAIT) TU 5NN NH K, When message is selected, the Keyer will send TEST DE KW10 and stop. Now send the call of the responding station on your paddle: KM1C. After the C, the KC Keyer will continue with the message in buffer A: TU 5NN NH K,
You also can chain buffers together, Let's put TEST DE KW10 (WAIT) (B) in buffer A and TU 5NN NH K (WAIT) (A) in buffer B. Selecting message A will put the Keyer into a loop of calls and answers; if no one responds to your CQ, just select A again.
Automatic serial numbers are available, too Add a pound sign (¿0 to your message for this option, I use one buffer for answering the inevitable requests for repeat—it DECrements the serial number and sends the exchange again. The number can be set at any time directly from the keyboard. and pressing the pound sign by itself will cause the Keyer to send the current serial number (be aware that doing this will also increment the number).
Any one of the features Tve mentioned so tar would have convinced me that the KC Keyer was in a class by itself, but Lance Johnson was on a roll! They decided that it would be neat if four of the message buffers were avail able remotely. What they designed was a little bracket made to attach to a Bencher paddle that brings out buttons A. B. C, and D. (1 also tried it out on a set of Nye paddles—it fit without modification,)
This means that you can program buffers A-D with the appropriate information and operate an entire contest by pushing little buttons on your paddles! I do this with my left hand; my right hand is free to tog and dupe. There's plenty of time for paperwork as the Keyer is busy sending the exchange.
The Keyer has a provision for battery backup. At first I thought tha! was odd. but \ soon found it indispensable. 1 happened to have a couple of students who were learning Morse code. It was very easy for me to rattle off ten or fifteen minute1 s worth of practice into a buffer at 30 wpm at home, then take the Kever to class and play back the material at 5 wp n. The Rate function let me set the character speed at 13 wpm, a method used by most instructors.
Obviously, I like the Kansas City Keyer. I think you will, too. tt is expensive—about $200—but what you get is a flexible CW com* puter that does things you can only dream abou! with your present machine. The manual is very good, and a newsletter comes out now and then which features programming tips and modifications.
If you are serious about CW, get in touch with Lance Johnson Engineering, PO Box 7363Kansas City MO 64116.
Peny Donham KW10 Rindge NH
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