Multi Band Qrp Transceiver

The tiny kit that does it all!

Robart S, Capon W3DX (formerly WA3ULH) 107 Cavalier Drive Charlottesville VA 22901

If membership in the three-year-

old Northern California QRP Club (NorCal) ean be used as an indicator, interest in QRP kit-building is making a strong comeback. This year NorCal membership quietly zoomed past members.

One of the key reasons for this enthusiasm in NorCal is the scries ot innovative QRP kits designed by Wayne Burdick N6KR, made available to club members by NorCal and to the general puhlic by Wilderness Radio, These kits have included the NorCal 40, a 40 meter transceiver that draws only 17 mA, and the Sierra, a multi-band QRP transceiver with band modules, featured on the cover of the 1996 MtRL Handbook.

Way ne's latest kit is the KC2, a unique multi-function transceiver accessory, The KC2 combines a memory keyer, 4-digit LCD frequency counter bargraph S-meter. and a digital wattmeter in a package that draws a meager 7 mA and measures 11" x 2.9" x 0.8". This combination makes the KC2 an ideal accessory for QRP transceivers.

Three KC2 innovations

The KC2 employs a number of innovations to address the common problems traditionally associated with QRP frequency counters: size, current consumption, and noise.

To achieve its small size, the KC2 uses two printed circuit boards that are stacked like a sandwich, and held together by nylon nuts, bolls and spacers. Further, the two largest components arc mounted piggyback.

To reduce current consumption, N6KR employs carefully chosen power efficient CMOS components, and uses an LCD display. The KC2's current consumption of only 7 mA compares to 100200 mA for comparable frequency counters. As a result, my Sierra QRP transceiver draws a total of only 40 mA, including the KC2 frequency counter and keyer!

Perhaps the most novel innovation employed within the KC2 is in the area of noise reduction. Most frequency

"My Sierra QRP transceiver draws a total of only 40 mA, including the KC2 frequency counter and keyer!"

counters must be mounted in an external enclosure because of microprocessor noise leaking into the radio's receiver. N6KR discovered that he could eliminate noise by running the kt'2\ 4-MH/ microprocessor at a sluggish 100 kHz. As a result, the KC2 can be mounted inside a transceiver w ithout the need for any special shielding.

Frequency counter

The KC2 display default is the frequency count en The counter is a four-digit LCD display with OJ-kHz resolution. The display numerals are approximately 035-inch in height. A hysteresis technique is used to eliminate flicker of the last digit.

The counter will read VFOs in the range of 300 kHz to 6.400 Mll/n making the KC2 usable for most QRP rigs. But be sure to check the user s guide on your QRP rig to make sure thai the VFO falls within this range,

ITic KC2 features four programmable offsets stored in nonvolatile metnorv to work with multiband. multi-offset radios. This should prove to be overkill for most QRP rigs. The Sierra eight band radio has the most complex assortment of V FO offsets < three) of any rig in my collection. The Oak Hills OHR-400 four-band rig uses the same offset for all four bands.

Programming the KC2 is a snap! To program it, you set your rig to a convenient frequency as measured by your main station transceiver, scroll the KC2 display to match the frequency, and exit set-up mode to accept the frequency. That s it,

Kever m

The KC2 is a respectable memory ke>er, but lacks the da/zling array of keying features (like automatic sequencing of serial numbers) found in the CMOS Logikeyer III. which is still my favorite high performance memory kever.

However, the KC2 does include a 50-character kever memory with a useful repeat word function and multiple memory partitions. Keyer memories are stored in nonvolatile memory; however, memories do not have separate buttons lor each partition. For example, to access memory partition number three, the user presses the keyer button three times.

Qrp Multiband Transceiver
Photo -1. The KC2 installed in the Sierra. The board measures only 1J \ 2.91 t 0.8".

Other KC2 features include emulation for Curtis mode A. CMOS Super Keyer II, and Curtis mode B, The speed range is eight to 50 WPM in two-WPM steps using push-buttons supplied with the kit, rather than a knob. The KC2 also features a weight control with eight selectable keying weight levels.

S-meter

The KC2 includes a niftv S-meter bar graph, along with built-in S-meter circuitry. To access the S-meter, the user pushes a button to toggle between the S-meter and the frequency counter.

The input requirements are an audio signal, in the range of DC to 20 kHz, with any rig that uses audio-derived AGG

Wattmeter

The KC2 also includes a digital RF wattmeter that measures power in the range of zero to 9.9 \\ in 0.1-watt increments, To access the wattmeter, the user presses the Speed-up and Speed-down push-buttons at the same time, which holds the key-down in a tune function, and measures the power.

The wattmeter is a little more difficult to use with rigs other than the Sierra, because the builder has io put together a Miiall RF detector circuit w ith five components (these components are already built into the Sierra),

Construction

The kit comes with onl\ 51 components, and can he assembled in one to two hours by an experienced builder interfacing it to your QRP kit is very easy, because you have only a few inputs: 12 Volts, ground, dot, dash, VFO. key, S-merer, RF power.

Mounting the KC2 is also ver\ easy-The unit has four momentary NFS switches that mount on the board, and are used to mount the unit behind the front panel of your rig. The user's guide includes a handy template to locate the mounting holes, which are very easy to locale and to drill* The rectangular opening is much trickier. I cut the rectangle by using a Radio ShackIN! nibbling tool to nibble the approximate opening, and care-fully filed the opening to the exact dimensions.

As of the w riting of this article. Wilderness Radio was gathering user comments from many of the popular QRP kits, and furnishing interlace instructions with the kit. Wilderness Radio has also developed an optional front panel for the Sierra, which is custom punched and silk-screened for the KC2.

On the air

On the air the KC2 is a pleasure to use. It s real3> fun to operate my QRP rigs with digital readout. I've especially enjoyed using the R1T feature in my Sierra with digital readout to work split frequency QRP DX with more precision.

The KC2 s unique combination of memory keyer, 4-digii LCD frequency counter, bar-graph 5-meter. and a digital wattmeter makes it the ideal multi-function transceiver accessory for most QRP rigs. Its low power consumption and small size mean that it can lit in a ver\ small enclosure, bringing ihe power of digital frequency readout and a memory ke\er to field applications like backpacking trips and Field Day.

For more information, contact Northern California QRP Club (NorCal), c/o Jim Cates WA6GER, 3241 Eastwood Road, Sacramento CA 95821, (916) 487-3580. To order ($75 plus S3 shipping & handling), contact Wilderness Radio, P.O. Box 734. Los Altos CA 94023-0734, (415) 494-3806. 2

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Photo ft, The author's highly modified Sierra and Oak Hills Research OHR-IOO with KC2. 34 73 Amateur Radio Today * March 1997

ARRL Code Survey

Should code be kept as a license requirement?

Alex Haynes AC5HU Rt. 2, Box 87-C Eureka Springs AR 72632

11 might be news to many of you who are not members of the ARRL, bul they are doing an opinion survey about keeping the fast code requirement for earning a ham license.

It may just be my dislike of code showing throughj but it seems to me we are long overdue in reassessing the demand that fast code be a requirement for a U.S. amateur radio license.

While code was a necessity for communication in the very early days of radio, it was overtaken long ago by superior technology. And although it is a wonderfully nostalgic way to communicate in this day and age there is no longer a technical justification for requiring a code proficiency for an amateur liccnse. Sure, I've heard all the arguments over the last 50 years. Some used to make sense, some never did, and a few shouldn't even be mentioned in polite company—so let's leave those until last.

As 1 tinders l and iu the most important reason code came into use in the early days of electrical communication was the compatibility with the needs of a simple wire-type telegraph system. An on-off signal was the only way to send information, and it worked well. Along came radio and simply turning the carrier wave on and off became the ac-copied way of transmitting intelligence, just as it had on the telegraph system. Soon, equipment was developed to modulate the RF carricr with sound and AM radio was born. Then FM, single sideband, digital encoding and many other ways were developed to impress intelligence on an RF carrier, My point is, there are many different ways of electronic ally transferring intelligence and each has its own advantages and disadvantages. Why then should one of them be singled out as the only one necessary to master, at a specific speed yet, in order to ohtain an amateur license? Code isn't even a technology; it's .a psychomotor skill. Thank goodness we don't have an ARRL-like organization

Maybe it*s time for the ARRL to adopt a new name more in fitting with their quaint position on code — how about the Antique Radio Relay League?"

controlling our computer hobby, for we all might have to prove we could type 20 wpm 011 a mechanical computer just because "that's the way Babbage did it." Maybe it's time for the ARRL to adopt a new name more in fitting with their quaint position on code—how about the Antique Radio Relay League? A bit harsh? Perhaps, but at least it would clear the way for a new organization that could speak from a wider perspective, reflecting the views of the vast majority of hams who have chosen not to join the ARRL,

Bul let's try to understand the logic for keeping a code requirement for ham radio. One claim is that it's a more efficient use of radio spectrum. Something like a 500-Hz bandvvidih compared to a 2.5-kHz for SSB; True enough, but since people talk 5 to 10 times faster than they can send code, the real-time bandwidth requirement is comparable for both code and phone. And for digital transmissions, the efficiency of data transfer is many times that of manual CW or phone. But the real hypocrisy of this CW efficiency claim becomes obvious by simply looking at ihc portions of the 15, 20, 40 and 80 meter bands the code advocates have set aside for themselves. Of course those frequencies are shared with RTTY/DATA, but certainly a "more efficient mode" should not require half of ihe available spectrum.

WeEl then, how about communication range: CW is much better, right? Sure, you can often get through with Code when you can't on phone and if DXing is your hag, then use the best way available (including digital packet, spread spectrum or whatever) if you want. Hut why should this justify requiring a code proficiency in order to be granted an amateur license? Why should we even want to force a particular mode of communication on hams? In a free marketplace of ideas, if CW is the best way, wouldn't it come out on top anyway?

All right then, how about "national emergency" communications? Isn't I hat one of the main justifications for allocating RF spectrum to the Amateur Radio Service? That may have been an 73 Amateur Radio Today * March 1997 35

important consideration at one time— long ago. But even our Armed Forces, the Coast Guard and ships at sea have decidcd lo drop code. About the only other people you could communicate with using code would he other hams. Besides, wouldn't the larger number of hams entering the hobby in the ah&eticc of a code barrier be a much greater communications asset in an emergency?

Let's face it for communicating on the go, ham radio has been left in the dust. Most people who want to communicate from cars use cellular telephones. This oughi to suggest something 10 us about where ham radio is headed and just how secure our current frequency allocations might he in the future. Either we increase ihc size of our lobby or we risk losing our hobby.

How about international treaty requirements? Well, yes, there is an imer-national requirement to send and receive code manually—but there is no speed requirement. The 5, 13 and 20 wpm requirements are arbitrar} < and capricious, I believe). They arc being forced on the amateur community by a small minority of old fogies in the ARRL and a few dupes at the FCC The main effect of the codc requirement is to reduce (he number tit licensed amateurs in the U.S.

And now conies the time to discuss what we shouldn't have to discuss, I'd hale to count the times I have heard the sentiment "Í had to learn code and so should every one else who wants to be a ham—besides, ii cuts down clutter on the bands." A shameful attitude, in say the least. And, of course, readilj denied on every official level. Look, the ARRL will say. we sponsor an extensive amateur licensing program intended to increase our ranks. But who. nowadavs,

■p really doesn't understand the concepts of hidden agendas, countervailing policies and just plain old-fashioned doublethink 7 ii strikes me that many hams have abandoned most intellectual arguments for code, but still cling to this selfish " 1 got mine ihc hard way and so should you" attitude. Many bright young potential hams reject the notion of being forced to master a skill they see as irrelevant they just don't have time lor this nonsense,

Without this unnecessary barrier, how many more hams could we have liad by now to build, experiment, innovate, manufacture and huy equipment? Take a look at all the domestic parts and equipment manufacturers that have folded over the last several decades. Then look at some of the Asian countries with minimal code requirements and lar^e ham communities—the ones that produce most all of our new ham equipment.

I certainly don't want to leave the impression 1 am totally anti-ARRL. because I am not. Bui h just seems so obvious the ARRL is on the wrong side of the code issue, and the) have been for so long, it is difficult to give them the credit they deserve for all ihe other good lhey do-

The ARRL s intransigence on the code requirement has caused the unfair exclusion of a significant portion of ihc public from equitable access to a public resource, and for lhis the ARRL should be held accountable: it is why 1 dropped ray ARRL membership more than 20 years ago, ^or this and a variety of other reasons manv hams refuse to support the

"A 'more efficient mode1 should not require half of the available spectrum"

ARRL (only about a quarter of all licensed hams arc members) and their claim to represent a consensus of opinion among hams needs to be closely scrutinized. We should not forget the ARRL is a private organization and is answerable only to its members, virtually all of whom are licensed amateur radio operators. So how is the voice of the rest of the American public and the other 75f7 of hams represented in this equation? Well. supposedly through the FCC. Bui wait a minute, who does the FCC depend on to isc them in setting public policy for amateur radio? Who else but the ARRL?

Most hams (and non-hams) have very iiltle direct voice in selling public policy for amateur radio, except for the occasional congressman who might take an interest in a specific issue (but who probably is also a ham) or a manufacturer with a proprietary imerest. So, because of this typical incestuous relationship in which the "public regulator" (in this instance the FCC) becomes a pawn of the supposed "rcgulatcc" (amateur radio special interests), many aspects of public interest issues are never fully explored. If code is so important, why is there no requirement for periodic testing to prove continued proficiency? After all, high speed code is a skill of the use-it-or-lose-it type. It is not the kind of logical intelligence that is learned once and retained for a long time. Fast code must be routine I v excr-

■r cised or is rapidly losi. And this leads to perhaps our dirtiest little secret.

My guess would be that aL least half ot U.S. amateurs \ probably far more) currently are unable to copy code at the speed required by their license class. I doubt the ARRL could prove otherwise. I would go even further and claim most hams don't use any code at all and have lost virtually all ability to send and receive code. So, are we in violation of the intent oi "international treaty"? Does it matter? Docs anyone care?

Surely the FCC must know the vast majority of licensed hams can't effectively communicate using code. So how can our government continue to bend to the hypocritical demands of the ARRL? The simple answer is they should not and in the long run. they cannot! 1 would hate to be the bureaucrat assigned to defend the code requirement in court if it ever comes to that. There is no sigiuii-cant data to support the continued need for code, no logical justification based on current technology and, quite to the contrary, a strong ease can be made that the code requirement is clearly discriminatory against certain categories of protected individuals.

Don't get me wrong here—1 in all for an incentive licensing system based on technical merit as it relates io the real needs of our hobby—but I do take issue with the requirement to master a long-irrelevant psycho-motor skill which unfairly excludes otherwise fully qualified and capable people from the hobby.

The survey

So now the ARRL has decided to fund a study of our current opinions ahout retaining the fast code licence requirement in preparation for the upcoming World Radio Conference, WRC-99,

Although I have not been solicited to respond to the survey by their contractor (the READEX Company) and am apparently excluded also from replying to their request in QST for input from members (presumably ARRL members.

which I am not), 1 would like to take this opportunity to express my thoughts on the issue.

My initial impression upon reading through the survey form was that several of the questions are so poorly worded as to be misleading and likely will be misinterpreted by many of the respondents. Other questions have multiple premises which offer the possibility of at least four conditions, the responses to which will be impossible to accurately interpret. Many of the other questions seem to be asking virtually the same thing over and over, with most of the possible answers indicating a preference for at least some level of code speed proficiency—not a very good way to get unbiased results.

The likely results of such a survey are rather predictable—ARRL members who have already passed their code test will favor its retention and nonmembers who aspire to upgrade will tend to vote in the opposite direction. Unfortunately, the voice of the vast majority of technically qualified but as yet unlicensed individuals will be virtually unrepresented in the results of the survey. And it is among this last group that we suffer our greatest loss, for it includes many of our newly trained scientists, engineers and technicians, who could contribute greatly to the hobby but who are excluded by the outdated, outmoded and just plain foolish code speed requirements.

The ARRL survey has three sections covering the international requirement for Morse code, U.S. licensing requirements and personal data, The questions are repeated below, along with my comments,

PART I. Morse Code

1, Which of the following two statements is closer to your opinion with regard to a possible change in the international regulations?

A. The Morse code requirement for Amateur Radio licensing is no longer relevant, or soon will not be relevant, in the international regulations. Comment; This option requires the respondent to make a conclusion about the current position and future action of an international body—a speculation which is beyond his reasonable knowledge. The question is confusing and does not give him a real opportunity to simply select his position, thus likely biasing the overall result.

B. For the foreseeable future, it is important to retain the Morse code requirement in the international regulations. Comment: This option, in comparison to the previous one, gives the respondent a simpie and direct way to state his Opinion —in favor of code.

2. Please SUPPORT the reasons for your position by indicating your agreement or disagreement with each of the following statements:

A, Each country should be able to make up its own mind whether to have a Morse code requirement, or not. Comment: Presumably this refers to each country that is a party to the agreement. Since not all countries are, and all countries have a sovereign right to do what they want about requiring code anyway, it seems like sort of an odd issue to pose to U.S. amateurs, Since it is a truism, most U.S. amateurs would probably agree we should not attempt to tell other countries whether or not they should have a code requirement. The real issue is, should the FCC (at the ARRLs urging) require US. citizens to learn code at a specific speed of up to 20 wpm? Since the FCC has been requiring this for many decades without any international requirement to back them up, can we now expect the FCC and ARRL to be preparing the way to continue a code requirement in the U.S. even if it is dropped elsewhere around the world? This of course would be really dumb, but it also would be in line with the ARRL's long-standing preference for fast code.

B. The Morse code is still important because it helps amateurs to communicate across language barriers. Comment; While it is undoubtedly true that code is "stilT* used, the issue is one of "importance." Computers and other types of digital communications are far more efficient in this regard, To cling to a requirement for a manual capability to communicate in code for this reasont to the exclusion of other far better methods, is misguided.

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