3 March 2016

In the beginning

Welcome to my Flex radio controller Blog.

There's a lot of interest these days in Software Defined Radios (SDR). To a certain extent pretty well all modern radios are software defined, so we'd better get some sort of starting point established here. For the purposes of this Blog, I define a SDR as one where the radio signal is converted directly to/from baseband. The technical term is Direct Down Conversion for Rx/Direct Up Conversion for Tx (DDC/DUC). The Flex 6000 series are examples of DDC/DUC transceivers.

I dabbled briefly in the SDR world about 20 years ago when such things were in their infancy. The radio was a Ten Tec Pegasus and, in many ways it was quite revolutionary. It suffered from the lack of processing power in that era but it was still not a bad radio by any means. The experience of controlling a radio via mouse and keyboard wasn't particularly satisfying and in the end the Pegasus and I parted company.

The Pegasus, in common with most SDRs is just a black box with a few connectors - no panel controls at all. And here we come up against a rather strange piece of received wisdom, namely that SDRs just don't - and by implication can't - have traditional control panels. The implication is that one can have a hybrid (mixed analogue and DSP radio) with a panel or a SDR without a panel. This apparent "fact" is, in part, perpetuated by SDR aficionados who perceive some sort of unique selling point in the very idea that an SDR should indeed not have a physical control panel.

That's all well and good but, to my mind at least, with some 50+ years of knob twiddling amateur radio to my name, it is wrong. The agility in pileups and contests that is provided by separate VFO-A and VFO-B knobs, instant access to bandwidth, notch, noise blanker and volume controls cannot be matched when your sole input device is a mouse.

And so I continued with "traditional" radios, convinced in my own mind that SDR was ergonomically a bad thing. Until recently...

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