|First attempt at the physical panel layout|
I am taking it as a given that I want VFO-A and VFO-B knobs. I also like the idea of a large colour display screen that can be used to show any radio parameters I like, including panadapter/waterfall displays. So with those as a given, the task at hand is to fit the other controls around them in an ergonomically sound fashion.
So what do I really need to be able to do quickly? Well certainly VFO tuning, audio level, filter settings and assignment of Tx/Rx functions to each VFO (split operation, etc.). That accounts for the big knobs, a few rotary encoders and a few push buttons. And the display, of course.
To the right of the display is a keypad of 12 buttons. No prizes for guessing what they are intended for - they are the band select buttons. They use up quite a bit of panel real estate. How often do I change bands? Well quite often actually, but frequently that's under the control of my logging program, as a result of clicking on a spot. Other times I might be chasing some DX (or an FOC member in the Marathon) up the bands, so reasonably quick QSYs are a good thing. But does it need a field of physical buttons?
|The proposed display unit|
My chosen display, currently on the slow boat from Hong Kong, is a 5" (diagonal) touch screen. Perhaps a better option would be to have a single band select button that brings up a touch pad on the screen? One physical button instead of 12. And, importantly, the ability to easily add more touch pad buttons should, for example, a new band materialise one day.
Another thing to consider is that the physical panel is one part of a project that will let me try out various virtual panel layouts, simply by changing the software. That tends to argue for fewer, more critical, physical controls and greater use of the touch screen for other functions. It might also argue for a bigger touch screen.
Getting the balance right between ease of use/ergonomically sound layout and the temptation to replicate an entire FT5000 panel in hardware is going to be a bit of a challenge!