The evolution of the remote ham – How I finally made it

HamShack Remote Control Concept

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Picture: The missing link (mic+speaker)

It all started some time ago…

Some time ago I wrote about my experiments in remote controlling the HamShack. This has been an ongoing quest of mine for a long time for couple of reasons 1) it is fun experiment and 2) as you might know my HamShack is located in the separate building and this remote controlling might increase my activity and utilize those quick moments I have to operate every now and then.

The first version of my remote control was based on only to listening the bands via Skype and for some digital modes working. After a while I did some experiments with some help from the G4ZLP (thank you for that!!) to route Skype output (my voice) to radio via the digital interface I have. There were couple of problems: 1) powerline mains brumm (due potential difference between hamshack general mains and powerline mains) and 2) audiolevels adjustment. It just was too tricky to configure, especially considering the limited time. I preferred operating instead of configuring on that time, so I needed to figure out something else.

Then came the idea

As you might guess/know/remember my limited time to operate is due the sweet little baby girl we have in our family. This same happy reason actually led me into the development of the next version of my remote shack.

Couple of days ago I bought two pairs of Sony wireless headphones to watch TV with my wife when the baby is sleeping. Those headphones operate on 800MHz band and both pairs have their own transmitter unit along with the headset. When configuring those headphones to my TV setup I noticed that both phones can actually listen one transmitter (ofcourse, silly me). Then I realized that I had one extra transmitter…which said it can transmit all the way to 100 meters…hmm.. HEUREKA! I figured that with this transmitter I can actually broadcast my Ham radio audio from the Hamshack all the way basically everywhere in my house and my yard.

I rushed into my shack, connected the transmitter to my rig and BOOM! Suddenly I was walking around the yard and the house with those headphones on and listening the HAM band all the way. I was jumping when I ran into my laptop to control the radio via the earlier established remote setup. It worked like a charm.

Not too many seconds after that I started thinking of how to transmit my voice and key the radio there in the shack. Then it came to me: I have couple of VHF/UHF HT’s laying around. Yet another rush into the shack (those headphones still on by the way) and connecting my HamShack VHF/UHF radio (Yaesu FT-7900) to an external speaker. By then I had figured out that I need to use VOX to operate via speaker + mic combination. Then rush back to the house and testing-testing-1-2-3. Yet again the setup worked like a charm!

By then I had also alerted my Geek/HAM friend Tuomas (OH8JGQ) for some more testing of this setup. Even it was late night Tuomas too rushed into his Hamshack (in the basement of his house) and after a while we made a contact on HF.

There I was standing outside on my yard, Sony headphones on and talking to my Yaesu VX-8 and Baofeng (yes I was testing both, and yes it was late at night and yes it is winter and it was -20 degrees celsius, but hey..we are HAMs 🙂

I was so glad about this experiment and so was Tuomas (as he is also interested on this remote system for his own setup). I was ready to go to bed, but something bugged me. Need to develop this further. And then…BOOM…(yes yet another serious Steve Jobs BOOM -moment if you know what I mean). I was saying to my self “Am I stupid or what!?!”. Ofcourse this will work without the Sony headphones and the VHF/UHF link…I can utilize the already existing Skype listening setup and JUST ADD ANOTHER SOUNDCARD TO MY SETUP for skype speaker usage. Side note: This 2nd sound card is needed because the 1st card is used for digimodes (however the audio from the radio is coming to Skype listening via the sound card 1 .. see picture above).

Eventhough my dear wife thught Im grazy, I rushed yet again (in my pyjamas) tough the winter into my shack to do this third experiment. What can you do, when you have this moment of enlightment..oh man what can you do.. 🙂

Born of The HamShack Remote Control Concept

There I was. In the middle of the night talking to my Laptop skype and listening my voice from the speaker on the Hamshack table (hooked up on the Hamshack computer and skype). After some McGyver moves with rubberband and all, I was able to key my radio via VOX on this setup. Before I went to sleep I already figured out that I can actually key the radio manually too (via remote setup and Ham Radio has TX-button you know..silly me :-)).

It was late, but I was soooooo happy! I finally made it. Day after that night of rushing back and forth to hamshack, I had some nice QSO with some finnish HAM’s on 80 meters. I was actually sitting some 20 km away from my hamshack, in my office, and babbling away with them. The audio reports were good. They said they won’t notice I’m on remote.

As simple as that. No brumm, no hassle. Just works. 😀