Topics

"QCX mini" got me thinking...

ian liston-smith
 

The debate around a  "QCX mini" got me thinking...

Hans has contributed immensely to the amateur radio field. But whatever he does, someone will want something else...

I still run one of Hans's first kits - the QRSS 10 MHz transmitter which gently introduced me to computers and digital audio precessing in connection with amateur radio. I wrote up my introduction to QRSS via QRPLabs in Feb 2014 Practical Wireless.  I went on to purchase various other kits from QRPLabs, including two QCX transceivers. (One of which works perfectly, the other has a problem with the semi break-in.)

For the price, the QCX is a remarkable little rig, packed full of features. But after using it for a few days, I decided to use my well tweaked and slightly modified HW-9. It pains me to say it, but by comparison the HW-9 was a joy to use. A real tuning knob, relatively few controls - all doing exactly what I'd expect. OK, it has poor RF performance even for a rig of its time, plus a receiver that with a few simple mods is greatly improved. But its simplicity and ease of use was refreshing.

I guess Hans has done his market research and found that a feature packed, under $50 rig is what many hams want. But I have a suggestion; some radio amateurs just might want something a bit less complex - although not necessarily cheaper.

Basic features:
A bigger tuning knob with a real tuning feel. Maybe dual speed, but perhaps that's unnecessary for the CW sections of the bands if the turns/kHz is carefully chosen.
At least 5W output at 12 volts.
A bigger board layout like the QSX+. Preferably single sided for ease of component removal.
A reasonably accurate S-meter.
A facility for a separate rx antenna for those of us who can locate a small active antenna way from noise.

Nice to have:
A couple of filter bandwidths.
A handful of tx/rx memory channels.
A basic memory keyer that is easy to program - and hard to accidentally erase! (But cheap memory keyers are widely available.)
Maybe twin VFOs, but is that essential for a QRP rig?

Such a transceiver will have hardly any software requiring regular updating!

I'd prefer to avoid using surface mount components, but they might be a necessity as traditional components become harder to source.

That's probably about it.

I've been licenced since 1980. Perhaps I'm way out of touch with what people want these days. Perhaps even QRP rigs require multiple features which the more competitive nature of the bands now demand. Maybe Hans has heard this before, and it just isn't cost effective.

Nevertheless, is there a market for a basic CW only transceiver? Possibly not, but I thought it is a question worth asking.

73,

Ian, G4JQT

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Ed Kwik
 

I think you are describing a Elecraft K2

Ed

AB8DF

 

I fear your nostalgic view for the charming old and simple is not the predominant view these days. I know you're not alone, though; those venerable old rigs still command a good price; but today is indisputably the digital age, where software provides more features at a vastly lower cost than hardware could ever hope to do, and where we want all those fancy features in our pockets, half way up a mountain. The gap between a base rig and a portable has narrowed to the point where the only real distinction is the available power.

In support of your view, though... I have been musing about the human interface, actually... The QCX+ is a natural and welcome evolution of the QCX classic (I'm not sure if I should be capitalizing "classic" - that might be seen as a presumptuous call for the re-release of it in that name, and I don't want to go there; I mean it only in a descriptive sense) and its format, coupled with the CAT capability opens up a Pandora's box of opportunity. I was ... no, I AM... thinking about a nice big touchscreen interface to the QCX+, written in something like Processing (even though I hate Java) that communicates with the QCX using the CAT interface. I want to put my QCXs up in my unheated/uncooled shed/shack, and couple them with a remote digital interface with true audio streaming down to my office.
It would be nice, in contrast, to produce a real, physical interface instead of a touch screen one, with mechanical controls instead of touchscreen ones. It would cost money for those controls, but one would only do it if one appreciated the value, so it's a "you get out what you put in" kind of thing. I love tinkering with Arduino, and that would be a perfect interface unit for real knobs and switches to "demodalize" some of the more frequently used settings (as many or as few as the individual would want), and eliminate the menus that many people dislike, and an enhanced output-only display.
Hans has given us plenty of opportunity to do such things with QCX+ and CAT, and the possibilities are limited only by the base capability of the rig and our own imagination.

Thoughts?
--
Julian, N4JO.

 

Yeah, but the price... eeek!
--
Julian, N4JO.

 

Sorry, the price of the Elecraft, that is; I forget this forum isn't hierarchically threaded.
--
Julian, N4JO.

ian liston-smith
 

Thanks Ed. Yes, I have one but it's not really a basic transceiver. It still has plenty of bells and whistles. And a price tag of nearly $900!

73,

Ian


From: QRPLabs@groups.io <QRPLabs@groups.io> on behalf of Ed Kwik via groups.io <ekwik@...>
Sent: 05 June 2020 17:05
To: QRPLabs@groups.io <QRPLabs@groups.io>
Subject: Re: [QRPLabs] "QCX mini" got me thinking...
 
I think you are describing a Elecraft K2

Ed

AB8DF





Virus-free. www.avast.com

ian liston-smith
 




From: QRPLabs@groups.io <QRPLabs@groups.io> on behalf of Julian Opificius <n4jo@...>
Sent: 05 June 2020 17:17
To: QRPLabs@groups.io <QRPLabs@groups.io>
Subject: Re: [QRPLabs] "QCX mini" got me thinking...
 
I fear your nostalgic view for the charming old and simple is not the predominant view these days. I know you're not alone, though; those venerable old rigs still command a good price; but today is indisputably the digital age, where software provides more features at a vastly lower cost than hardware could ever hope to do, and where we want all those fancy features in our pockets, half way up a mountain. The gap between a base rig and a portable has narrowed to the point where the only real distinction is the available power.

In support of your view, though... I have been musing about the human interface, actually... The QCX+ is a natural and welcome evolution of the QCX classic (I'm not sure if I should be capitalizing "classic" - that might be seen as a presumptuous call for the re-release of it in that name, and I don't want to go there; I mean it only in a descriptive sense) and its format, coupled with the CAT capability opens up a Pandora's box of opportunity. I was ... no, I AM... thinking about a nice big touchscreen interface to the QCX+, written in something like Processing (even though I hate Java) that communicates with the QCX using the CAT interface. I want to put my QCXs up in my unheated/uncooled shed/shack, and couple them with a remote digital interface with true audio streaming down to my office.
It would be nice, in contrast, to produce a real, physical interface instead of a touch screen one, with mechanical controls instead of touchscreen ones. It would cost money for those controls, but one would only do it if one appreciated the value, so it's a "you get out what you put in" kind of thing. I love tinkering with Arduino, and that would be a perfect interface unit for real knobs and switches to "demodalize" some of the more frequently used settings (as many or as few as the individual would want), and eliminate the menus that many people dislike, and an enhanced output-only display.
Hans has given us plenty of opportunity to do such things with QCX+ and CAT, and the possibilities are limited only by the base capability of the rig and our own imagination.

Thoughts?
--
Julian, N4JO.

====================


Thanks for your thoughts Julian. Yes, you've likely hit the nail on the head; it's a nostalgia thing. Not fashionable! 🙂

The old QRP rigs can't always compete with modern rigs, especially if you have a less-than-optimum antenna. But they are so easy to use! Talking with other amateurs of my generation, I get the feeling some of us think suppliers of equipment have taken they eye off the ball in the race to supply more and more features simply because they can, at no extra cost. I know we don't have to use all the bells and whistles, but navigating around features you don't need simply adds to the complexity of use!

There are any number of basic CW only kits - and maybe that's why Hans chose the route he did - but as far as I know none have the excellent RF performance of the QCX. I was tempted by the idea of the QCX+ and if I didn't already have a couple of QCXs, I'd probably go for it. Easier to build for us oldies, a nice case, but still that menu system and awkward tuning - well I find it awkward while trying to navigate across the band. But anything else would significantly increase the price - I appreciate that. I know - get used to it, it only cost $50!

I have an SDRplay RSPdx, and I fully accept your point that software provides more features at a vastly lower cost than hardware ever could. But oh, to be able to grab a tuning knob or press a button rather than messing with mouse clicks, cursors, and a keyboard just to change the tuning rate! (There are matching hardware controllers, but they cost more than the SDRs!)

I also have a couple of perfectly working HW-8s - another very basic CW rig from the past - and they a joy to use. I wrote a piece in Practical Wireless about the HW-8 and how a few minor mods can improve them, and ended it with: "..if a warehouse full of unassembled Heathkit HW-8s were to be discovered, I’m pretty sure they’d all sell."

So I am very likely in a minority. It doubtless depends how long you've been a ham and what you grew up with. I guess it's an age thing - but as most hams are over 50, that might be significant...

Again, thanks for your thoughts.

73,

Ian, G4JQT

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jjpurdum
 

Ian:

I think a lot of hams agree with you. Indeed, if hams didn't like fiddling with knobs, one is hard-pressed to explain the advent of the Flex Maestro. However, if you read Hans' latest CAT release, all of the menu items can now be controlled by the CAT interface. I'm working with that so I can take a small (3.5" TFT color) display to the field and replace the need for a PC/laptop/tablet. I have controls for tuning, 3 NO push button switches to send "canned" CW messages, plus the ability to change almost everything with a few switches and one encoder. (There is a second encoder for tuning.) I plan on using Hans' volume control and will bring that out to the front, too.

My point is, what I've cobbled together probably costs under $30, and $20 of that was for a Teensy 4.0. I selected it because it has a lot of memory resources plus a clock speed that can probably do an SDR spectrum display. I fell behind when a shelf collapsed on my QCX, but have replaced it and just got it back up and running.

What would I like to see done? I'd really like to lock Hans up in a room with 2 engineers of his choice, 100 cases of Jolt cola, and daily deliveries of pizza and vegan meals and shut off his internet connection. I promise to let him out when he has the first 5000 QSX's ready for delivery. When I asked him about this, he said "No"...sigh...

Anyway, there is a lot you can do with the CAT interface if you wish to do so.

Jack, W8TEE

On Friday, June 5, 2020, 1:11:30 PM EDT, ian liston-smith <ian.ls@...> wrote:





From: QRPLabs@groups.io <QRPLabs@groups.io> on behalf of Julian Opificius <n4jo@...>
Sent: 05 June 2020 17:17
To: QRPLabs@groups.io <QRPLabs@groups.io>
Subject: Re: [QRPLabs] "QCX mini" got me thinking...
 
I fear your nostalgic view for the charming old and simple is not the predominant view these days. I know you're not alone, though; those venerable old rigs still command a good price; but today is indisputably the digital age, where software provides more features at a vastly lower cost than hardware could ever hope to do, and where we want all those fancy features in our pockets, half way up a mountain. The gap between a base rig and a portable has narrowed to the point where the only real distinction is the available power.

In support of your view, though... I have been musing about the human interface, actually... The QCX+ is a natural and welcome evolution of the QCX classic (I'm not sure if I should be capitalizing "classic" - that might be seen as a presumptuous call for the re-release of it in that name, and I don't want to go there; I mean it only in a descriptive sense) and its format, coupled with the CAT capability opens up a Pandora's box of opportunity. I was ... no, I AM... thinking about a nice big touchscreen interface to the QCX+, written in something like Processing (even though I hate Java) that communicates with the QCX using the CAT interface. I want to put my QCXs up in my unheated/uncooled shed/shack, and couple them with a remote digital interface with true audio streaming down to my office.
It would be nice, in contrast, to produce a real, physical interface instead of a touch screen one, with mechanical controls instead of touchscreen ones. It would cost money for those controls, but one would only do it if one appreciated the value, so it's a "you get out what you put in" kind of thing. I love tinkering with Arduino, and that would be a perfect interface unit for real knobs and switches to "demodalize" some of the more frequently used settings (as many or as few as the individual would want), and eliminate the menus that many people dislike, and an enhanced output-only display.
Hans has given us plenty of opportunity to do such things with QCX+ and CAT, and the possibilities are limited only by the base capability of the rig and our own imagination.

Thoughts?
--
Julian, N4JO.

====================


Thanks for your thoughts Julian. Yes, you've likely hit the nail on the head; it's a nostalgia thing. Not fashionable! 🙂

The old QRP rigs can't always compete with modern rigs, especially if you have a less-than-optimum antenna. But they are so easy to use! Talking with other amateurs of my generation, I get the feeling some of us think suppliers of equipment have taken they eye off the ball in the race to supply more and more features simply because they can, at no extra cost. I know we don't have to use all the bells and whistles, but navigating around features you don't need simply adds to the complexity of use!

There are any number of basic CW only kits - and maybe that's why Hans chose the route he did - but as far as I know none have the excellent RF performance of the QCX. I was tempted by the idea of the QCX+ and if I didn't already have a couple of QCXs, I'd probably go for it. Easier to build for us oldies, a nice case, but still that menu system and awkward tuning - well I find it awkward while trying to navigate across the band. But anything else would significantly increase the price - I appreciate that. I know - get used to it, it only cost $50!

I have an SDRplay RSPdx, and I fully accept your point that software provides more features at a vastly lower cost than hardware ever could. But oh, to be able to grab a tuning knob or press a button rather than messing with mouse clicks, cursors, and a keyboard just to change the tuning rate! (There are matching hardware controllers, but they cost more than the SDRs!)

I also have a couple of perfectly working HW-8s - another very basic CW rig from the past - and they a joy to use. I wrote a piece in Practical Wireless about the HW-8 and how a few minor mods can improve them, and ended it with: "..if a warehouse full of unassembled Heathkit HW-8s were to be discovered, I’m pretty sure they’d all sell."

So I am very likely in a minority. It doubtless depends how long you've been a ham and what you grew up with. I guess it's an age thing - but as most hams are over 50, that might be significant...

Again, thanks for your thoughts.

73,

Ian, G4JQT

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Hans Summers
 

Hi Ian

I like to understand what people want. All feedback is important and I know you intended it as constructive and it is taken that way. Then after understanding the wishes, I have to consider whether it is likely to be mainstream enough wishes, to be worthwhile to incorporate into the product line. But this time I got confused by your posting. 

Surely QCX actually IS a basic CW-only transceiver, with excellent performance. You said you wanted a basic transciever and made a comparison with the HW-9 which has relatively fewer controls. 

Being unfamiliar with the HW-9, I googled and looked at some pictures. I see one slide switch and 5 knobs, of which one is the tuning knob, one is a rotary switch (band) and the other three are potentiometers. The QCX has two rotary controls and two buttons. By my mathematics that means the HW-9 has relatively more controls not less. What did I miss? 

You then went on to talk about adding a keyer and some memory channels. So you added a processor and a display. Which brings you basically back to what the QCX is!

QCX has some advanced features but also is a very easy to use basic transceiver. At the minimum all you need to do is turn the timing knob big adjust the volume, and key when you want to talk to someone. You only need use the menu to set it up which believe me is a fraction the effort of aligning a superhet all analog radio. All the built-in test and alignment tools make QCX easy to set up. 

Yes there are dual VFOs and Split, frequency memories, message memories, keyer adjustments, CW decoder, clock, beacon, WSPR transmitter, test equipment and more. But you don't have to USE all that stuff! Not just because it's there! Use it if you want, ignore it if you want! Me, I'm too dumb to use Split and multiple VFOs and half the other stuff. I just turn it on, tune around with the tuning knob, and talk! What could be easier, I don't know. 

I do get it about the discrete tuning steps but totally frankly I find this a convenience not a chore. In my (limited) experience the bands are sort of channelized by themselves. Most operators have synthesized accurate radios (just as the QCX does!) and you find them mostly operating on whole kHz boundaries and half kHz. My habit is setting the steps to 500Hz and away I go. If I hear someone who isn't near 700Hz audio I tap the tuning knob to go to 100Hz steps and dial them in more accurately. Have the QSO. Then the next thing I do before moving on to the next QSO is tune back to a 500Hz multiple then press the button to get the tuning steps back to 500Hz, then tune around to find another CQ. Because I know that 80% of the CQs I hear are likely to be on the kHz boundary. The fact the radio facilities operation in the most common way the band is used, and permits finer steps in the rarer cases when you need them, seems to me only an advantage! I know not everyone will agree with me on this but then again you can easily spend as much on a finer resolution rotary encoder than the whole cost of the QCX. 

What I like most about QCX is that the performance is high so you have the best chance without fighting deficiencies in the radio itself; secondly it provides very easy operation for dumb-sters like me, yet facilities many more advanced features for the more experienced operators. 

73 Hans G0UPL 


On Fri, Jun 5, 2020, 17:13 ian liston-smith <ian.ls@...> wrote:
The debate around a  "QCX mini" got me thinking...

Hans has contributed immensely to the amateur radio field. But whatever he does, someone will want something else...

I still run one of Hans's first kits - the QRSS 10 MHz transmitter which gently introduced me to computers and digital audio precessing in connection with amateur radio. I wrote up my introduction to QRSS via QRPLabs in Feb 2014 Practical Wireless.  I went on to purchase various other kits from QRPLabs, including two QCX transceivers. (One of which works perfectly, the other has a problem with the semi break-in.)

For the price, the QCX is a remarkable little rig, packed full of features. But after using it for a few days, I decided to use my well tweaked and slightly modified HW-9. It pains me to say it, but by comparison the HW-9 was a joy to use. A real tuning knob, relatively few controls - all doing exactly what I'd expect. OK, it has poor RF performance even for a rig of its time, plus a receiver that with a few simple mods is greatly improved. But its simplicity and ease of use was refreshing.

I guess Hans has done his market research and found that a feature packed, under $50 rig is what many hams want. But I have a suggestion; some radio amateurs just might want something a bit less complex - although not necessarily cheaper.

Basic features:
A bigger tuning knob with a real tuning feel. Maybe dual speed, but perhaps that's unnecessary for the CW sections of the bands if the turns/kHz is carefully chosen.
At least 5W output at 12 volts.
A bigger board layout like the QSX+. Preferably single sided for ease of component removal.
A reasonably accurate S-meter.
A facility for a separate rx antenna for those of us who can locate a small active antenna way from noise.

Nice to have:
A couple of filter bandwidths.
A handful of tx/rx memory channels.
A basic memory keyer that is easy to program - and hard to accidentally erase! (But cheap memory keyers are widely available.)
Maybe twin VFOs, but is that essential for a QRP rig?

Such a transceiver will have hardly any software requiring regular updating!

I'd prefer to avoid using surface mount components, but they might be a necessity as traditional components become harder to source.

That's probably about it.

I've been licenced since 1980. Perhaps I'm way out of touch with what people want these days. Perhaps even QRP rigs require multiple features which the more competitive nature of the bands now demand. Maybe Hans has heard this before, and it just isn't cost effective.

Nevertheless, is there a market for a basic CW only transceiver? Possibly not, but I thought it is a question worth asking.

73,

Ian, G4JQT

Virus-free. www.avast.com

ajparent1/KB1GMX
 

Ian,

Nostalgia is nice and interesting but often over sold....

Going single sided is against the technical grain or better or even good
performance.  A larger board is what QCX+ is.  seems people ignore what
is real now and can be bought.  As to repairable without burning the
board, one much t learn to solder and desolder, that reduces that
issue greatly with out cost to every future purchaser.

Knobs and tuning, for a compact radio there is conflict  round user interface.
For  CW only in the CW bands.

Some of the other features are better addressed as you don't want a QCX.
Your asking for SDR features and things rarely seen in the compact class.

Comes down to it must be inexpensive, prick a number..
Can that number fit a meter, ana accurate meter (whatever that is).
CW only?
Variable bandwidth (means MPU with much more power, consumes more too)
5w any band, maybe not class E, power cost more expensive finals.
Memory channels MPU again,
Twin VFOs or RIT. must have MPU,
Memory keyer, MPU again.
Size?  Tiny, medium, large...  Tiny would be factory assembled only (0603 SMT).
Repairable?  See tiny!
How many?

Allison
-------------------------------
Please reply on list so we can share.
No private email, it goes to a bit bucket due address harvesting

Gary Bernard
 

Hello all, I just sold my HW-8 which functioned as a "new radio" Sure the knobs were great, fun to tune and more like a 'real radio from years ago" The performance was also like a real radio from years ago. Simply no comparison to the QCX. Putting my order in soon for the QCX plus.
73, Gary W0CKI, since 1954


-----Original Message-----
From: Hans Summers <hans.summers@...>
To: QRPLabs@groups.io
Sent: Fri, Jun 5, 2020 11:36 am
Subject: Re: [QRPLabs] "QCX mini" got me thinking...

Hi Ian

I like to understand what people want. All feedback is important and I know you intended it as constructive and it is taken that way. Then after understanding the wishes, I have to consider whether it is likely to be mainstream enough wishes, to be worthwhile to incorporate into the product line. But this time I got confused by your posting. 

Surely QCX actually IS a basic CW-only transceiver, with excellent performance. You said you wanted a basic transciever and made a comparison with the HW-9 which has relatively fewer controls. 

Being unfamiliar with the HW-9, I googled and looked at some pictures. I see one slide switch and 5 knobs, of which one is the tuning knob, one is a rotary switch (band) and the other three are potentiometers. The QCX has two rotary controls and two buttons. By my mathematics that means the HW-9 has relatively more controls not less. What did I miss? 

You then went on to talk about adding a keyer and some memory channels. So you added a processor and a display. Which brings you basically back to what the QCX is!

QCX has some advanced features but also is a very easy to use basic transceiver. At the minimum all you need to do is turn the timing knob big adjust the volume, and key when you want to talk to someone. You only need use the menu to set it up which believe me is a fraction the effort of aligning a superhet all analog radio. All the built-in test and alignment tools make QCX easy to set up. 

Yes there are dual VFOs and Split, frequency memories, message memories, keyer adjustments, CW decoder, clock, beacon, WSPR transmitter, test equipment and more. But you don't have to USE all that stuff! Not just because it's there! Use it if you want, ignore it if you want! Me, I'm too dumb to use Split and multiple VFOs and half the other stuff. I just turn it on, tune around with the tuning knob, and talk! What could be easier, I don't know. 

I do get it about the discrete tuning steps but totally frankly I find this a convenience not a chore. In my (limited) experience the bands are sort of channelized by themselves. Most operators have synthesized accurate radios (just as the QCX does!) and you find them mostly operating on whole kHz boundaries and half kHz. My habit is setting the steps to 500Hz and away I go. If I hear someone who isn't near 700Hz audio I tap the tuning knob to go to 100Hz steps and dial them in more accurately. Have the QSO. Then the next thing I do before moving on to the next QSO is tune back to a 500Hz multiple then press the button to get the tuning steps back to 500Hz, then tune around to find another CQ. Because I know that 80% of the CQs I hear are likely to be on the kHz boundary. The fact the radio facilities operation in the most common way the band is used, and permits finer steps in the rarer cases when you need them, seems to me only an advantage! I know not everyone will agree with me on this but then again you can easily spend as much on a finer resolution rotary encoder than the whole cost of the QCX. 

What I like most about QCX is that the performance is high so you have the best chance without fighting deficiencies in the radio itself; secondly it provides very easy operation for dumb-sters like me, yet facilities many more advanced features for the more experienced operators. 

73 Hans G0UPL 


On Fri, Jun 5, 2020, 17:13 ian liston-smith <ian.ls@...> wrote:
The debate around a  "QCX mini" got me thinking...

Hans has contributed immensely to the amateur radio field. But whatever he does, someone will want something else...

I still run one of Hans's first kits - the QRSS 10 MHz transmitter which gently introduced me to computers and digital audio precessing in connection with amateur radio. I wrote up my introduction to QRSS via QRPLabs in Feb 2014 Practical Wireless.  I went on to purchase various other kits from QRPLabs, including two QCX transceivers. (One of which works perfectly, the other has a problem with the semi break-in.)

For the price, the QCX is a remarkable little rig, packed full of features. But after using it for a few days, I decided to use my well tweaked and slightly modified HW-9. It pains me to say it, but by comparison the HW-9 was a joy to use. A real tuning knob, relatively few controls - all doing exactly what I'd expect. OK, it has poor RF performance even for a rig of its time, plus a receiver that with a few simple mods is greatly improved. But its simplicity and ease of use was refreshing.

I guess Hans has done his market research and found that a feature packed, under $50 rig is what many hams want. But I have a suggestion; some radio amateurs just might want something a bit less complex - although not necessarily cheaper.

Basic features:
A bigger tuning knob with a real tuning feel. Maybe dual speed, but perhaps that's unnecessary for the CW sections of the bands if the turns/kHz is carefully chosen.
At least 5W output at 12 volts.
A bigger board layout like the QSX+. Preferably single sided for ease of component removal.
A reasonably accurate S-meter.
A facility for a separate rx antenna for those of us who can locate a small active antenna way from noise.

Nice to have:
A couple of filter bandwidths.
A handful of tx/rx memory channels.
A basic memory keyer that is easy to program - and hard to accidentally erase! (But cheap memory keyers are widely available.)
Maybe twin VFOs, but is that essential for a QRP rig?

Such a transceiver will have hardly any software requiring regular updating!

I'd prefer to avoid using surface mount components, but they might be a necessity as traditional components become harder to source.

That's probably about it.

I've been licenced since 1980. Perhaps I'm way out of touch with what people want these days. Perhaps even QRP rigs require multiple features which the more competitive nature of the bands now demand. Maybe Hans has heard this before, and it just isn't cost effective.

Nevertheless, is there a market for a basic CW only transceiver? Possibly not, but I thought it is a question worth asking.

73,

Ian, G4JQT

Virus-free. www.avast.com

Tony McUmber
 

I bought my QCX 40 in 2018, got it on air in time for FD in June.  I had been off air for many years, decided to get back in.  My KW TS-520 is/was a wonderful rig and a powerhouse, but needed its own house.  I seldom used SSB, and only had the means to erect one antenna before I could get started again.  I wanted cheap and needed compact.  To me the QCX is wonderful.  I can do basic CW on 1 band (coming up 2 when my QCX+ arrives) with simple controls and unparalleled customer support.  Ideal for me, plus I get extra features to play with if I want to.  Go Hans!

Tony N0BPA

R. Tyson
 

>>For the price, the QCX is a remarkable little rig, packed full of features. But after using it for a few days, I decided to use my well tweaked and slightly modified HW-9. It pains me to say it, but by comparison the HW-9 was a joy to use. A real tuning knob, relatively few controls - all doing exactly what I'd expect. OK, it has poor RF performance even for a rig of its time, plus a receiver that with a few simple mods is greatly improved. But its simplicity and ease of use was refreshing.<<

I think you are comparing apples with fish.
Having owned and used a HW8 I reckon that the QCX has it beaten every which way. I too was licenced around 1980 and having had various types of equipment, including home brew I think the QCX rigs are exceedingly good and there is even a series of RF amps to go with them if you want more power.

A real tuning knob is easy... remove the tiny ball bearing from inside the rotary encoder - that gets rid of the clicking. Find a suitably large tuning knob and, if you want, fit some sort of weighted washer to it to give a flywheel effect. The rotary encoder can be gently opened up and re-assembled. They are very cheap on Ebay.
Alternatively buy a more expensive optical version to replace the kit one.

Construction is one of the best parts of amateur radio. It allows you to create projects that reflect your needs. If you buy a kit then adapt it to suit your ideal - you don't have to slavishly follow the herd.

Operating the QCX is not difficult, in fact it is very easy. There are options that can be used for different things but you don't have to use them. You can just use it as a simple and straightforward rig with a far better performance than the old HW series.
Old cars were what was available way back when....  they do not compare favourably to new cars and I can't imagine why anyone wants to preserve and drive one.

Reg                   G4NFR

Shirley Dulcey KE1L
 

One charm of classic radios like the HW-9 is that each control does exactly one thing. It's easy to see at a glance exactly what capabilities are present and which are not. All you have to do is reach for the right knob or button to do anything the radio can do.

But we ask for more capabilities in most of our radios now, and the challenge is balancing out the demands for ease of operation and flexibility. One reason I love my K2 (personally built 20 years ago) is that Elecraft did a good job with that; all of the things you do repeatedly during operation are right there on the front panel, but the panel also doesn't overwhelm you. But these days I mostly find myself leaving the K2 at home and taking smaller radios into the field.

The QCX isn't quite at that level of ease of use, largely because it is so much smaller. I occasionally find myself at a loss for "how do I do this?", though I expect that will get better with additional experience with the rig. The volume and tuning controls are right there and the CW speed control is a button press away; that covers the most important things. But figuring out things like the CW memories is a bit more challenging. (The configuration menus are complex, but so are the ones in the K2; I don't consider that a negative because you will not normally use those in the field.)

I'm not a big fan of the detented tuning knob; I find myself longing for the smooth feel of a traditional VFO or a good emulation of one. The problem is that to do it right you need an optical encoder, and those things are EXPENSIVE; they start at nearly $20 and go up from there. (Many of them are also large, heavy, and power-hungry.) It's just not feasible to put an optical encoder into a rig at the price point of the QCX, at least not the ones that are readily available for the public to buy.

On Fri, Jun 5, 2020 at 1:36 PM Hans Summers <hans.summers@...> wrote:
Hi Ian

I like to understand what people want. All feedback is important and I know you intended it as constructive and it is taken that way. Then after understanding the wishes, I have to consider whether it is likely to be mainstream enough wishes, to be worthwhile to incorporate into the product line. But this time I got confused by your posting. 

Surely QCX actually IS a basic CW-only transceiver, with excellent performance. You said you wanted a basic transciever and made a comparison with the HW-9 which has relatively fewer controls. 

Being unfamiliar with the HW-9, I googled and looked at some pictures. I see one slide switch and 5 knobs, of which one is the tuning knob, one is a rotary switch (band) and the other three are potentiometers. The QCX has two rotary controls and two buttons. By my mathematics that means the HW-9 has relatively more controls not less. What did I miss? 

You then went on to talk about adding a keyer and some memory channels. So you added a processor and a display. Which brings you basically back to what the QCX is!

QCX has some advanced features but also is a very easy to use basic transceiver. At the minimum all you need to do is turn the timing knob big adjust the volume, and key when you want to talk to someone. You only need use the menu to set it up which believe me is a fraction the effort of aligning a superhet all analog radio. All the built-in test and alignment tools make QCX easy to set up. 

Yes there are dual VFOs and Split, frequency memories, message memories, keyer adjustments, CW decoder, clock, beacon, WSPR transmitter, test equipment and more. But you don't have to USE all that stuff! Not just because it's there! Use it if you want, ignore it if you want! Me, I'm too dumb to use Split and multiple VFOs and half the other stuff. I just turn it on, tune around with the tuning knob, and talk! What could be easier, I don't know. 

I do get it about the discrete tuning steps but totally frankly I find this a convenience not a chore. In my (limited) experience the bands are sort of channelized by themselves. Most operators have synthesized accurate radios (just as the QCX does!) and you find them mostly operating on whole kHz boundaries and half kHz. My habit is setting the steps to 500Hz and away I go. If I hear someone who isn't near 700Hz audio I tap the tuning knob to go to 100Hz steps and dial them in more accurately. Have the QSO. Then the next thing I do before moving on to the next QSO is tune back to a 500Hz multiple then press the button to get the tuning steps back to 500Hz, then tune around to find another CQ. Because I know that 80% of the CQs I hear are likely to be on the kHz boundary. The fact the radio facilities operation in the most common way the band is used, and permits finer steps in the rarer cases when you need them, seems to me only an advantage! I know not everyone will agree with me on this but then again you can easily spend as much on a finer resolution rotary encoder than the whole cost of the QCX. 

What I like most about QCX is that the performance is high so you have the best chance without fighting deficiencies in the radio itself; secondly it provides very easy operation for dumb-sters like me, yet facilities many more advanced features for the more experienced operators. 

73 Hans G0UPL 


On Fri, Jun 5, 2020, 17:13 ian liston-smith <ian.ls@...> wrote:
The debate around a  "QCX mini" got me thinking...

Hans has contributed immensely to the amateur radio field. But whatever he does, someone will want something else...

I still run one of Hans's first kits - the QRSS 10 MHz transmitter which gently introduced me to computers and digital audio precessing in connection with amateur radio. I wrote up my introduction to QRSS via QRPLabs in Feb 2014 Practical Wireless.  I went on to purchase various other kits from QRPLabs, including two QCX transceivers. (One of which works perfectly, the other has a problem with the semi break-in.)

For the price, the QCX is a remarkable little rig, packed full of features. But after using it for a few days, I decided to use my well tweaked and slightly modified HW-9. It pains me to say it, but by comparison the HW-9 was a joy to use. A real tuning knob, relatively few controls - all doing exactly what I'd expect. OK, it has poor RF performance even for a rig of its time, plus a receiver that with a few simple mods is greatly improved. But its simplicity and ease of use was refreshing.

I guess Hans has done his market research and found that a feature packed, under $50 rig is what many hams want. But I have a suggestion; some radio amateurs just might want something a bit less complex - although not necessarily cheaper.

Basic features:
A bigger tuning knob with a real tuning feel. Maybe dual speed, but perhaps that's unnecessary for the CW sections of the bands if the turns/kHz is carefully chosen.
At least 5W output at 12 volts.
A bigger board layout like the QSX+. Preferably single sided for ease of component removal.
A reasonably accurate S-meter.
A facility for a separate rx antenna for those of us who can locate a small active antenna way from noise.

Nice to have:
A couple of filter bandwidths.
A handful of tx/rx memory channels.
A basic memory keyer that is easy to program - and hard to accidentally erase! (But cheap memory keyers are widely available.)
Maybe twin VFOs, but is that essential for a QRP rig?

Such a transceiver will have hardly any software requiring regular updating!

I'd prefer to avoid using surface mount components, but they might be a necessity as traditional components become harder to source.

That's probably about it.

I've been licenced since 1980. Perhaps I'm way out of touch with what people want these days. Perhaps even QRP rigs require multiple features which the more competitive nature of the bands now demand. Maybe Hans has heard this before, and it just isn't cost effective.

Nevertheless, is there a market for a basic CW only transceiver? Possibly not, but I thought it is a question worth asking.

73,

Ian, G4JQT

Virus-free. www.avast.com

 

I agree with you, Shirley.
Interesting, isn't it, that the reverence we have for the tuning knob is almost as much as the reverence we have for straight keys and bugs. We are happy spending three figure for those, it seems. They are human interface devices, like manual gear shifts in cars, crafts-person's tools, paint brushes, caligrapher's pens. The quality of what comes out is the product of the quality of the tool and the skill of the operator.
When we look back at HW-9's and icons like that, I think it is that connection to operational mastery and tactile nuance permitted - even invited - by that equipment that we miss, and which is antithetical to the (perfectly defensible) maximum feature/cost ratio model of the sparse, digitally enhanced interface.

I'll say it again, but the QCX+ and CAT make that mechanical interface feasible again.
I am going to try to find the time to continue working on a CAT-to-discrete interface that one could connect to the QCX or the QCX+, and add any discretes (buttons and switches) one wishes. If I do it, it will probably use an Arduino Mega, because of the large number of IO pins. If I complete it, the design will be open source. My ultimate goal, as I've declared here before, is to be able to stream the real audio and real time control interface across a network link, but we'll see if I get that far :-)
--
Julian, N4JO.

@CurtisM
 

Ian

Well you can add the larger tuning knob yourself, and pretend its outputting 5 watts as barely a difference to 3 watts. I confess I rarely adjust my receive bandwidth from around 300 Hz when doing CW. You can create your own operator comforts, meanwhile qcx offers an excellent receiver with nice qsk. Enjoy it and refine it.

Curt wb8yyy

Arv Evans
 

Jack, and others...

There are many ham radio tools available for your cell phone system, 
including multiple versions of the CAT control interface.  This may be 
adequate to replace a laptop during portable operation.

This gets me to something I have been wondering about for some time.
We usually design a radio first and then write a CAT interface and rig
libraries for that radio.  Is this the most efficient way to do it?  Maybe 
we should be making the CAT interface and personality modules first?
That would suffice as a features list that we could then design hardware 
for.  Much of the features and functions might be performed in an Arduino 
or other rig based control system, leaving only a few basic functions to 
be supported by actual hardware. 

Earlier posts on this thread talked about some ancient hardware from 
Heath, and others.  It might be noted that most of these older rigs do not 
meet today's FCC requirements for harmonic and other spurious radiation.
This group, and the BITX20 group devoted a lot of time and energy toward 
making QCX, and uBITX rigs FCC compliant, but not much was said or 
done to make the older commercial and kit rigs meet the same requirements.

Arv
_._

On Fri, Jun 5, 2020 at 11:29 AM jjpurdum via groups.io <jjpurdum=yahoo.com@groups.io> wrote:
Ian:

I think a lot of hams agree with you. Indeed, if hams didn't like fiddling with knobs, one is hard-pressed to explain the advent of the Flex Maestro. However, if you read Hans' latest CAT release, all of the menu items can now be controlled by the CAT interface. I'm working with that so I can take a small (3.5" TFT color) display to the field and replace the need for a PC/laptop/tablet. I have controls for tuning, 3 NO push button switches to send "canned" CW messages, plus the ability to change almost everything with a few switches and one encoder. (There is a second encoder for tuning.) I plan on using Hans' volume control and will bring that out to the front, too.

My point is, what I've cobbled together probably costs under $30, and $20 of that was for a Teensy 4.0. I selected it because it has a lot of memory resources plus a clock speed that can probably do an SDR spectrum display. I fell behind when a shelf collapsed on my QCX, but have replaced it and just got it back up and running.

What would I like to see done? I'd really like to lock Hans up in a room with 2 engineers of his choice, 100 cases of Jolt cola, and daily deliveries of pizza and vegan meals and shut off his internet connection. I promise to let him out when he has the first 5000 QSX's ready for delivery. When I asked him about this, he said "No"...sigh...

Anyway, there is a lot you can do with the CAT interface if you wish to do so.

Jack, W8TEE

On Friday, June 5, 2020, 1:11:30 PM EDT, ian liston-smith <ian.ls@...> wrote:





From: QRPLabs@groups.io <QRPLabs@groups.io> on behalf of Julian Opificius <n4jo@...>
Sent: 05 June 2020 17:17
To: QRPLabs@groups.io <QRPLabs@groups.io>
Subject: Re: [QRPLabs] "QCX mini" got me thinking...
 
I fear your nostalgic view for the charming old and simple is not the predominant view these days. I know you're not alone, though; those venerable old rigs still command a good price; but today is indisputably the digital age, where software provides more features at a vastly lower cost than hardware could ever hope to do, and where we want all those fancy features in our pockets, half way up a mountain. The gap between a base rig and a portable has narrowed to the point where the only real distinction is the available power.

In support of your view, though... I have been musing about the human interface, actually... The QCX+ is a natural and welcome evolution of the QCX classic (I'm not sure if I should be capitalizing "classic" - that might be seen as a presumptuous call for the re-release of it in that name, and I don't want to go there; I mean it only in a descriptive sense) and its format, coupled with the CAT capability opens up a Pandora's box of opportunity. I was ... no, I AM... thinking about a nice big touchscreen interface to the QCX+, written in something like Processing (even though I hate Java) that communicates with the QCX using the CAT interface. I want to put my QCXs up in my unheated/uncooled shed/shack, and couple them with a remote digital interface with true audio streaming down to my office.
It would be nice, in contrast, to produce a real, physical interface instead of a touch screen one, with mechanical controls instead of touchscreen ones. It would cost money for those controls, but one would only do it if one appreciated the value, so it's a "you get out what you put in" kind of thing. I love tinkering with Arduino, and that would be a perfect interface unit for real knobs and switches to "demodalize" some of the more frequently used settings (as many or as few as the individual would want), and eliminate the menus that many people dislike, and an enhanced output-only display.
Hans has given us plenty of opportunity to do such things with QCX+ and CAT, and the possibilities are limited only by the base capability of the rig and our own imagination.

Thoughts?
--
Julian, N4JO.

====================


Thanks for your thoughts Julian. Yes, you've likely hit the nail on the head; it's a nostalgia thing. Not fashionable! 🙂

The old QRP rigs can't always compete with modern rigs, especially if you have a less-than-optimum antenna. But they are so easy to use! Talking with other amateurs of my generation, I get the feeling some of us think suppliers of equipment have taken they eye off the ball in the race to supply more and more features simply because they can, at no extra cost. I know we don't have to use all the bells and whistles, but navigating around features you don't need simply adds to the complexity of use!

There are any number of basic CW only kits - and maybe that's why Hans chose the route he did - but as far as I know none have the excellent RF performance of the QCX. I was tempted by the idea of the QCX+ and if I didn't already have a couple of QCXs, I'd probably go for it. Easier to build for us oldies, a nice case, but still that menu system and awkward tuning - well I find it awkward while trying to navigate across the band. But anything else would significantly increase the price - I appreciate that. I know - get used to it, it only cost $50!

I have an SDRplay RSPdx, and I fully accept your point that software provides more features at a vastly lower cost than hardware ever could. But oh, to be able to grab a tuning knob or press a button rather than messing with mouse clicks, cursors, and a keyboard just to change the tuning rate! (There are matching hardware controllers, but they cost more than the SDRs!)

I also have a couple of perfectly working HW-8s - another very basic CW rig from the past - and they a joy to use. I wrote a piece in Practical Wireless about the HW-8 and how a few minor mods can improve them, and ended it with: "..if a warehouse full of unassembled Heathkit HW-8s were to be discovered, I’m pretty sure they’d all sell."

So I am very likely in a minority. It doubtless depends how long you've been a ham and what you grew up with. I guess it's an age thing - but as most hams are over 50, that might be significant...

Again, thanks for your thoughts.

73,

Ian, G4JQT

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Hans Summers
 

Hi Curt

FYI - the assembled QCX kits that we ship out here for 20, 30 or 40m produce more than 4W at 12V supply and more than 5W at 13.8V supply. 80m is harder, it often needs 15V or more to produce 5W output. 

73 Hans G0UPL
http://qrp-labs.com

On Fri, Jun 5, 2020 at 10:24 PM wb8yyy via groups.io <wb8yyy=yahoo.com@groups.io> wrote:
Ian

Well you can add the larger tuning knob yourself, and pretend its outputting 5 watts as barely a difference to 3 watts. I confess I rarely adjust my receive bandwidth from around 300 Hz when doing CW. You can create your own operator comforts, meanwhile qcx offers an excellent receiver with nice qsk. Enjoy it and refine it.

Curt wb8yyy

Arv Evans
 

With some CAT software you can even have your own virtual "big round knob"
but you turn it with the mouse instead of your left foot!

_._




On Fri, Jun 5, 2020 at 1:24 PM wb8yyy via groups.io <wb8yyy=yahoo.com@groups.io> wrote:
Ian

Well you can add the larger tuning knob yourself, and pretend its outputting 5 watts as barely a difference to 3 watts. I confess I rarely adjust my receive bandwidth from around 300 Hz when doing CW. You can create your own operator comforts, meanwhile qcx offers an excellent receiver with nice qsk. Enjoy it and refine it.

Curt wb8yyy

Hans Summers
 

Hi Arv
 
This group, and the BITX20 group devoted a lot of time and energy toward 
making QCX, and uBITX rigs FCC compliant, but not much was said or 
done to make the older commercial and kit rigs meet the same requirements.

No. The QCX has always been compliant with FCC regulations and those of other jurisdictions. 

73 Hans G0UPL
http://qrp-labs.com