Author Topic: Rig Control - bring that 20+ year old rig into the 21st century  (Read 4648 times)

Offline Smurf Hunter

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Rig Control - bring that 20+ year old rig into the 21st century
« on: October 06, 2015, 10:48:32 PM »
I'm assuming you are already interested in rig control, or at least know what it is.  In a nutshell you can control basic RX/TX/mode/tuning functions from your PC and sometimes vice versa.  This is handy with digital modes where you are dealing with a waterfall like PSK31, or want to automatically try different HF Winmor stations for Winlink email. 

Almost a year ago I got my first HF transceiver.  It's an older Icom IC-737.  It's 100 watts, has a built-in tuner and accessory jacks.
I believe this model was in production during the mid 1990s. 

The back panel has a 1/8" jack labeled "remote".  In a PDF copy of the manual, this was intended to remote control another Icom transceiver or with an additional "converter" could be wired up to a PC from that era.

Fast forward to 2015, and we have Chinese made chipsets available for pennies on the dollar of what the technology would have cost 20 years ago.
I bought this USB cable that connects from my radio's "remote" jack to my laptop:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00ZRNQJL4

So that's the hardware, but there's some old school computer tech. to understand.
Typically there are 3 critical items:

1) the COM port of the your USB port where the above cable is connected
2) the baud rate of your radio
3) the address of your radio

#1 may require some trial and error or digging around in device manager settings
#2 should be listed in your radio manual and may be adjustable.  For IC-737 is was 1200 baud (fast huh?)
#3 should also be in your manual.  Often it's expressed as a hexadecimal value.  For IC-737 it was ''3Ch'' or 60
digits are 0-F with F representing 15
The 'h' is not part of the value, and is a designation of the hex notation
If you can't or won't think like a computer use this chart: http://www.prepressure.com/library/technology/ascii-binary-hex

Software will vary how you enter all the above.

Here are some example screenshots.
FLDigi makes you choose your radio model, and doesn't let you specify the address.
On possible hack if your radio is not listed, is to choose a similar radio, and google what that default address is, and change your radio to match.
I got lucky and a newer version of FLDigi had my old radio, but I was prepared to fake it using a sister icom model.



RMS Express is a bit different and requires you know all the above 1-3 items.

For old school rag chewing I'm not sure rig control has a lot of value, but if you have any need for computer based contact logging it sure if handy.
For FLDigi I can either change the band/mode/freq on the PC and the radio obeys, or I can spin the VFO knob on the radio and the software reflects the change.  Though i have noticed some considerable lag in FLdigi.  Not an issue, but if you are tuning in big steps, don't expect a responsive UI on your PC  I wonder if the low 1200 baud rate is a factor.  Not a big enough problem for me to mess with.

Bonus:  You can use the waterfall on programs like FLDigi as a poor man's band scope

Offline Alan Georges

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Re: Rig Control - bring that 20+ year old rig into the 21st century
« Reply #1 on: October 07, 2015, 06:52:13 AM »
Cool.  Something like this may be in my near future.  Thanks Smurf!

Offline Smurf Hunter

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Re: Rig Control - bring that 20+ year old rig into the 21st century
« Reply #2 on: October 07, 2015, 09:00:03 AM »
Cool.  Something like this may be in my near future.  Thanks Smurf!

Thanks Alan.

Offline Carl

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Re: Rig Control - bring that 20+ year old rig into the 21st century
« Reply #3 on: October 07, 2015, 09:03:13 AM »
Looks great,now I need to find an old radio.....

Offline Smurf Hunter

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Re: Rig Control - bring that 20+ year old rig into the 21st century
« Reply #4 on: October 07, 2015, 09:20:01 AM »
Looks great,now I need to find an old radio.....

In general I'm learning that my next radio may not need as many bells and whistles, since so much can be managed by a modern PC.   

I'd rather pay for RX quality and filtering options.

Offline Carl

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Re: Rig Control - bring that 20+ year old rig into the 21st century
« Reply #5 on: October 07, 2015, 09:32:03 AM »
In general I'm learning that my next radio may not need as many bells and whistles, since so much can be managed by a modern PC.   

I'd rather pay for RX quality and filtering options.

Look at TenTec offerings and Elecraft.

Offline Smurf Hunter

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Re: Rig Control - bring that 20+ year old rig into the 21st century
« Reply #6 on: November 02, 2015, 10:33:36 AM »
UPDATE:

This is how I configured FLDigi to work with my rig control cable.  I've highlighted the parts I modified from default:



Again, you will need to determine the baud rate for your rig, and figure out what COM port maps to your USB port.
To avoid a lot of hassle, try to use the same USB port on your PC, else you'll have to tweak these settings.