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is an informative, cynical and sometimes humorous look at what is happening in the world of amateur radio.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Perfectly Portable PSK Present

I have yet to really get a grip on the datamodes side of amateur radio. Most of my attempts at PSK and RTTY have been mini disasters and apart from that I cannot type fast enough. I set up macros and then cannot remember which function key to press, so when I have made a contact I usually fail to get a reply out before the other station has QSYed. So it comes as no surprise I have never given much thought to portable datamodes.

It would be easy to see how I could try as I own a small netbook, a Yaesu FT-817 and the cables needed to do any number of datamodes. If I was all that enamored with that side of the hobby I would probably have tried it by now, but it has never been a high priority for me. The only issue I can see is operating in the open seeing the screen is a bit of an issue. I know this from trying to read emails while out on hills because there was no mobile broadband coverage in the places I was staying.

Last night when we met up with Mads LA1TPA and his friends my wife Helen was fascinated by the NUE-PSK Digital Modem that Halvard LA1DNA was using to do PSK from the summits. The NUE-PSK digital modem could easily be used in the shack but is perfect for field portable operations. According to the website; The NUE-PSK is a small 7" x 4" x 1" standalone, battery-operated digital modem using a graphic display for transmit and receive text data, as well as for showing band spectrum and tuning. Just plug in a standard PS2 keyboard and connect to an SSB-capable transceiver like the FT-817 or the PSK-xx transceivers from Small Wonder Labs, and you'll have an effective digital mode station that goes absolutely anywhere.

It seems to me that teaming the NUE-PSK up with the similarly sized PSK-20, 30 or 40 from Small Wonder Labs would be an excellent idea and make for a neat and very compact portable station, ideal for SOTA and other portable operations.

Up until recently the way Helen and I operated on our SOTA adventures was that I did HF SSB and Helen GW7AAU did VHF FM, but since Caroline 2W0YLO and Adam 2W0DPI got licenced there is room for a change of plan. From time to time we have had to share bands or even contacts but Helen has been itching to branch out and do something different. For a while now she has suggested she could learn morse code and operate CW leaving SSB for me and VHF for the youngsters. Seeing the NUE-PSK got it in to her head that she could do datamodes if she had one, I am quite happy with that, however what I am not sure she understands is that the datamodem comes as a kit.

Oh well that is her Christmas presents sorted out; One NUE-PSK kit, One Small Wonder Labs PSK-30, a soldering iron and some solder, that should make a change from the bath salts and perfume!


  1. Now there is a thought. how many ham.s out there have xyl,s that are licensed....
    This brings a whole new meaning to the Phrase
    "Darling I was just looking at a nice rock the other day" say,s the xyl,would you still have your head on your shoulders, or the concussion subsided by boxing day after she opens the neatly wrapped present with a big bow on the top of the box on the pillow next to her on Xmas morning , only to find a NSU-PSK kit & a wonderlabs PSK-30 instead of the other type of "rock"
    Either you have a very tolerant xyl or
    now where did those life insurance policies go too ...... !

  2. Hello Steve, nice piece of equipment. I hope she doesn't read your blog, otherwise surprise would be gone. 73 Paul

  3. I've looked at that NUE PSK modem a number of times but the conclusion I always came to was that it was more expensive and larger (once you included a keyboard) than my Eee PC which could run Fldigi and do a lot more modes.

    If you really want a compact portable digimode solution take a look at Pocket Digi which will run on a Windows CE device (I think Maplin was selling one off recently) or a Windows Mobile smartphone.

  4. Julian, I think if we do try it it will be using the netbook to be honest. The big advantage of the NUE PSK modem is you can see the screen easier than on the laptop. I would be a bit concerned of sitting alone on a hill with a coat over my head so as to see the screen, but when we are in a group it is not so much of an issue. It would open up say 30m to us, which might yield some different contacts than usual.

    Paul, I am expecting Helen to read the blog of course. I want to see her reaction. Will it be what I expect or will she take up the challenge of kit building? I think the main fun of these things is the building and then the thrill of a contact when it works.

  5. Hiya Steve

    I've got an NUE-PSK, in fact I got mine as soon as I read the QST review in March 2008...Mine's still a V1 model (no USB etc at the moment) - but I think its a brilliant device, even just to RX PSK..And the real selling point is the software upgradeability..

    I have used it portable, although the first road test was using a standard PC keyboard...so it was quite a bit to carry!..hi hi..and as a whole, the NUE-PSK has come a long way since that first release..and there are plans to build an SDR into the case, so all you would need is an antenna and a keyboard!

    I'd put the order in now, mine took about 2 months, but it was one of the initial run!

    Oh yeah..putting the batteries in is a bit of a juggling act :)

  6. Well I could not let this go, why does everyone think because I am female I could not build a kit?

    There are a couple of points to be said here:
    1: You can purchase an External Battery Harness- choice of two
    2: You can buy this ready made
    3: This very light piece of kit and a keyboard would not add too much weight to my SOTA kit. I have been known to carry a full size laptop up the hills.

    Keep reading I hope you will see Steve post that we have completed out 1st 30m PSK qualification of a SOTA summit, The main problem will be my typing and spelling abilities.

    As for waiting; I have a birthday a couple of months after Christmas so if it misses Santa's Sleigh it would be no problem

    Helen - GW7AAU the understanding (well sometimes) XYL of Stephen GW7AAV. Or should that be long suffering? hmm not sure will have to think about that