Just like you, I enjoy amateur radio. Since I got my license at 15, I have enjoyed many years of tinkering with different products and designs. As you know, it takes a great deal of effort creating the station you want. It takes time and money as well. After several years of saving and many equipment upgrades, I finally have a system that truly works to my satisfaction. But I still had a big problem. Although my 4 element beam got out great and I had a brand new radio, it only worked when I was sitting in front of it. I would go on vacation and sit poolside and wonder "It would be nice to surf for some DX..." or "I usually sign in to the net about now...". Other times I would be waiting for my wife shopping or simply taking a long drive and thinking the same thing "I need a product that would allow me to utilize my system the second I walked out the front door". Well, the only equipment that I was walking out the door with was my cell phone...
Cellular coverage is tremendous across the US and its only getting better. DTMF signaling is available on all phones. This would be a great forum for remote control and the reliability of being able to stay on a QSO for extended periods without interruption is quite good. I could grab my phone at a moments notice and go on the air. I needed to be able to switch to any frequency of my choice. I wanted to be able to scan the band, store memories and apply filters just like I did at home. I needed the ability to rotate my beam and switch antennas. The interface had to be 100% reliable, take only a few seconds to access and provide an intuitive user interface with voice confirmation on all commands. I wanted a device that had all the bells and whistles for the experienced, but was simple to connect and easy to configure for the novice. So I decided to create a specialized interconnect to get the job done. I set my goals and these were some of the requirements:
- A solid, plug-and-play hardware solution designed for a particular radio that would work right out of the box with very little or zero configuration required by the user.
- Redundant link control inputs- If one input goes down for any reason, having a backup input is very valuable if you want to be sure to get on the air, gain control or reset your primary link.
-Link #1, Link to control station via host computer w/internet connection using standard microphone and headphone interface- This link would allow connection to the control station via a host computer over the internet using a VOIP application such as Skype. In this fashion, a Skype client for the PC, Macintosh, IPhone, Windows Mobile, Droid or Java enabled Skype client can be used free of charge via WIFI, 3G or 4G. This would provide multiple avenues of access depending on availability while on the go. A SkypeIn option would further increase connectivity. Link control would be DTMF signaling with voice feedback using any of the above client applications mentioned. This interface could also be used to interface to a repeater.
-Link #2, Link to control station via TELCO or VOIP via a standard RJ-11 telephone line interface -In addition to making digital calls as described above, the unit would support analog interface to the control station via a standard telephone line interface for VOIP services such as MagicJack, AT&T U-verse, Vonage etc..
-Control of a rotor and antenna switch was to be on-board.
-No additional equipment required on the go- With the exception of your cell phone, the user had to be free of carrying any additional equipment on the go.
-Compliance with FCC Rules 97.21b. The unit must incorporate provisions for a 3 minute TX timeout built into the hardware. However, to further comply with FCC rules the unit would incorporate an alternate input link to control the remote should the primary input link fail.
Well, after many months of design and troubleshooting, I made my first remote contact while on vacation to a guy in Texas. I was at a hotel floating in an inter tube on the lazy river, in Orlando, Fl. He told me that I was his first "inter tube mobile" contact. We had a great laugh.
I hope you find as much enjoyment from our remote base controller as I do.