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Open letter to manufacturers

Nov 4th 2011, 13:55


Joined: Apr 4th 1998, 00:00
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Total Posts: 0
An open letter to all Amateur Radio manufacturers

In this day and age there is NO acceptable reason for any Amateur Radio transceiver not to come from the factory with a standard USB connection for programming and rig control. One of the two standard USB connectors used for computers and printers should be used. That way, standard USB to USB or USB to printer cables would be used for programming and rig control. Programming and rig control software should be provided for free with the purchase of the radio, as should the standard USB cable.

All Amateur Radio transceivers should have the capability to be programmed and controlled via free software and standard USB cable. All HF Amateur Radio transceivers should also be able to easily back up their settings to a standard USB flash drive plugged into the standard USB connector, and firmware upgrades should be able to be applied in the same fashion. All Amateur Radio transceivers also need to be easily programmable from the front panel, with all functions and settings easily accessible. And speaking of accessibility, Speech needs to be able to be used to completely program the radio from the front panel.

I think that most Amateurs would agree that they are tired of paying extra for things that should be included with the purchase of the transceiver. Transceivers are still being produced that use a serial interface even though few (if any) new computers have a serial port. Thus the purchaser of the transceiver is forced to buy a vastly overpriced serial to USB adapter cable, and in some cases expensive software if they want to use a computer to program their transceiver.

Many electronic devices today are provided with free software to access/program the device, and a free USB cable, though the connectors are not always standard on the device. The only way that Amateur Radio transceivers should be different is to use standard USB connectors. I can see no reason that the above functionality should not be incorporated into today's Amateur Radio transceivers.

All of today's Amateur Radio transceivers need to be designed with adequate cooling and heat sinks for 100% transmit duty cycle (full power in CW/FM/ mode) without overheating, and without excessive fan noise at any time. Maximum fan noise should be just barely noticeable in a completely quiet room.

Everything that I have talked about here is just good design practice, and giving the customer good value for their hard-earned money.
Nov 7th 2011, 20:42


Joined: Apr 4th 1998, 00:00
Total Topics: 0
Total Posts: 0
This topic has come up several times during the year plus that I have been subscribed to the Elecraft mailing list. A number of reasons for including an RS-232 standard port on the K3, P3, and other offerings have been discussed from every conceivable angle.

Defense of the RS-232 port is that the technology is known and all current operating systems include support for RS-232 even if the hardware the OS is running on lacks RS-232 hardware. Also cited is noise generation and it is thought that RS-232 is quiet or at least requires modest shielding.

Proponents of other port architectures cite the RS-232 as old technology. Others, myself included, see Ethernet as a more enduring standard than USB.

Those opposed to other architectures worry than when the PC industry moves on from USB that such USB connected devices will become orphaned. There is also a fear of broken USB drivers in some operating systems and others worry that RF noise will be higher for a USB or Ethernet port than with RS-232.

I tend to agree that today's PC "standard" may not be tomorrow's standard or even in the support plan. I see Ethernet as a more entrenched standard that extends beyond the PC realm and like RS-232 is known (read, old) technology and is widely supported. Some express fear of a network connected radio being exposed to the Internet and susceptible to cracking attempts and cite the development of various network protocols as distracting to the K3 development team.

As for supplying various accessories for "free", do keep in mind that their price will still be figured into the cost of a radio. Not everyone will need a USB to RS-232 adapter and will complain of paying for something they don't want. Then there will be the very vocal minority that don't want their rig to have USB either.

One thing is certain, it's impossible to please everyone!

73, de Nate >>
Nov 8th 2011, 02:43


Joined: Apr 4th 1998, 00:00
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Total Posts: 0
Quote by N0NB
... Others, myself included, see Ethernet as a more enduring standard than USB. ...

I think this is a very good observation. Ethernet is a little like the 555 timer: it's been around for a long time and doesn't look it's going away anytime soon.

Every PC has an RJ-45 connector, and extra LAN cards are cheap.

OTOH, I have some USB 1.0 stuff that's almost worthless because it's already starting to become obsolete.

73, Mike
Nov 9th 2011, 01:45


Super Moderator

Joined: Apr 4th 1998, 00:00
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Total Posts: 0
I'd like to move this one to the Technical Discussions area. Anyone mind? Normally, I just move posts to better forum areas, but in this case, I didn't want anyone to assume that it was deleted because the letter is somewhat critical of manufacturers. :-)

I'll move it when the original poster says it's okay. I think it will get more attention there.

Ed Hare, W1RFI
Nov 11th 2011, 04:50


Joined: Apr 4th 1998, 00:00
Total Topics: 0
Total Posts: 0
We really believe in standards; that's why we have so many.

There is no interface that is future-proof. Both USB and Ethernet have very wide acceptance. Ethernet supports long runs (100 M to transcontinental) and it does not require special hardware drivers, for the most part. However, it does require some infrastructure (a switch or router) and generally you have to configure the network parameters.

USB is inexpensive and useful for shorter runs. It does not require any infrastructure, but it may require custom hardware driver software making it harder to install and making for possible incompatibilities with Linux-like systems.

Firewire is pretty good too, supporting high speed isochronous data. See the Flex radios. Now we have Thunderbolt coming along!

I would probably choose Ethernet for most ham applications, but many people running Windows would probably have a better "plug and play" experience with USB. De gustibus non disputandum est.

73, Martin AA6E
ARRL Technical Advisor

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