On the Air in Kentuckiana
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73,

Louisville Ham Radio

DIY

Build a Portable Universal Radio Programmer

What is it?

Many amateur radio transceivers allow users to set up memory channels to store their favorite simplex frequencies or repeater information including frequency (such as repeater name, frequncy, offset, tones and more).

Programming memory channels using the radio’s keypad can often be incredibly cumbersome and time consuming.

Using factory or homebrew programming cables can speed up the process but often introduces other issues (on top of the cost of having to purchase a programming cable for each radio).  Topping the list of those issues are usually driver problems that prevent the computer from being able to use the cable.  This method also means either having to take your radios to a computer or bringing the computer to your radios.

The project outlined in the document below will describe how to make a portable “universal” ham radio transceiver programmer.  The total cost of the project is around $40-50 (much less if you use parts you already have) and will yield a programmer that is approximately the size of a deck of cards, weighs only a few ounces and includes the computer and the cables you need to program your radio.  This programmer (perfect for travelers, emergencies and more) will connect to any display with HDMI or RCA video inputs and is powered by a standard USB power outlet, computer port or cell phone charger.

Build one today and keep it with your ham radio gear so you can program your radios on the go!

What You’ll Need

To build the programmer, you’ll need:

  • A set up Raspberry Pi computer (buy Raspberry Pi here)
  • Connectors for your specific radio
  • Soldering iron, solder and other items commensurate with building cables
  • About an hour of free time

To set up and use the programmer, you’ll need:

  • Standard computer interface devices (USB keyboard/mouse, HDMI/RCA display)
  • Micro USB power supply (cell phone charger, USB cable, etc.)
  • Radio

Build the Programmer

Convert a Computer Power Supply for Bench Use

What is it?

This one is pretty simple and the idea has been around for a while (see the “St. Louis Switcher”).  The idea is to take an ATX form factor power supply (available for free from dead computers everywhere), hack off some wires, add about $5 worth of parts from the electronics store (like MCM Electronics) or the junk bin and end up with a bench power supply that has enough power to run many mobile transceivers as base stations.

What You’ll Need

To build the power supply, you’ll need:

  • An ATX power supply with enough power for your job
  • An SPST (on/off) switch
  • A power resistor
  • Your favorite power connectors (Power Pole, binding posts, etc.)
  • Soldering iron, solder, wire cutters & strippers, heat shrink
  • Half an hour of free time

Build the Power Supply

At a recent hamfest, Chris KK4RZH gave us some info on a handy gadget to make an ATX PSU conversion even easier: A breakout board that plugs directly to the motherboard header pigtail to eliminate the need to all of the cutting, soldering, etc.  It should be noted that these breakout boards likely will not supply the current needed to operate a mobile ham radio transceiver.  However, they should work fine to charge batteries, operate QRP or other applications which use lower current.  Check out the breakout board here.

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