SKCC 5123T----- FISTS 14979----- Flying Pigs 2331----- NAQCC 3610-----QRP ARCI 14176-----Polar Bear 257

Monday, July 15, 2013

QRPWorks Ham Central Terminal (HCT) for KX3 Portable Ops

The Elecraft KX3 is capable of decoding and transmitting CW, PSK and RTTY without a computer. The KX3 modes that achieve this are PSK-D and FSK-D. Eliminating the computer is an advantage to portable operation. There are some caveats to be aware of. The success on decoding CW varies with the sender but is still useful. The display of decoded signals is on a short scrolling display. You don't have a waterfall display on PSK. But this does not mean you can have fun with these modes. The input for PSK-D and FSK-D is via the paddle inputs. For me, I have yet to fully master the paddles.

Perhaps a portable computer such as a laptop, tablet or smart phone could be used for more capability. My issue with that is I can't see the display in direct sunlight. So this is where the Ham Central Terminal (HCT) comes in. This is a new product from QRPworks. It has a sunlight readable display and works at night as well. The display can provide 80 characters at a time with scrolling memory. It will accept a PS/2 computer keyboard so paddle inputs are not required. The other value added is it will capture frequency and mode from the KX3 to allow keeping a log of up to 1200 QSOs. The capabilities are well described on the web site.

I have a HCT and the good news is with a mini keyboard it fits in my backpack with the KX3, Alexloop and external battery. The keyboard and display make PSK a bit more user friendly and I enjoy the logger. It has some limitations in fields but the essentials are there including the time of day which is available if you install a CR type cell internal to the HCT. I have been making PSK QSOs but for me perhaps the logging is my favorite feature. 

The unit has ten memories for messages usable for CW, PSK and RTTY. They are easy to edit and do not require any additional software. You access them with one press of a function key. This is better than the two presses required on the KX3. You can also stack the memory messages not just the same message but combinations. I don't think the KX3 will let you stack mixed memory messages yet but it is on Wayne's list. It will also substitute a call or serial number in the messages. I am not a big time contester but I could see the memory capabilities as very handy for Field Day.

I am impressed with the job QRPWorks has done with the HCT. I prefer a firmware approach over the mix and match of software and interfaces. I have not covered every detail but I am having fun with mine. So check it out.