The Icom series of radios from the IC-746 Pro on to the latest 7800 radios have a 4 memory digital voice and CW keyer built into the radio. These may be accessed by using the menu to access the keyer, make your recording and using the front panel “F” keys to trigger the individual memories. Sadly, the procedure becomes tedious and rather uncomfortable during a 48 hour contest where you might press the various “F” keys hundreds of times by having to reach across your keyboard, paddle and operating desk. The back section of every Icom manual shows the circuitry for an external keypad. The circuit is consisting of 4 resistors and 4 SPST pushbutton switches and a short 2 wire connection into your microphone plug. Finding a suitable box for the switches is a problem and while looking at an old Apple mouse on the shelf the idea came to me that it’s smooth ergonomic design would be great to have my hand on for long durations of time.
The Apple mouse disassembled with switch holes drilled in upper shell. Lower shell still has circuit board and USB cable attached (All to be removed)
The APPLE Corporation under CEO Steve Jobs were designing some beautiful computer gear years ago and this old mouse was a product of that era.
It was easy to use a small thin bladed screwdriver to lever a few tabs and the mouse fell apart in pieces. Discard the circuit board and USB cable which leaves you with a shell and a base. Find 4 suitable tactile easy to push SPST switch push buttons. The electronics parts suppliers have many types to choose from. The red button is for memory No.1 The quality of the plastic is very good and is not prone to splitting. Start the holes with a small drill bit and slowly increase the size as required. Mount the switches in place and solder the 4 resistors in place. Connect the cable with a 3.5mm plug on the end. Any old old audio cable with the plug attached cut to length will do. I secured the cable in place with a dap of glue from a hot melt glue gun. The inside of the top shell is shown below.
Upper shell with switches, resistors and new cable in place.
The upper and lower shell halves should be mated together again. A little super glue will hold them in place if you the tabs don’t align as they should. The finished iKeyPad is shown below.
The completed iKeyPad ready to use.
The next thing you must do is connect a small lead from inside your microphone plug to a female 3.5mm socket so that you can plug the iKeyPad into it. Pin 3 is the resistor nework and Pin 7 is the ground for most Icom radios. The only thing left to do is go into the menu system in your Icom radio and allow the keypad feature to work instead of the microphone scan feature. Another menu item will allow the iKeyPad to operate the 4 memories on both CW and SSB modes. The original Icom circuit of the external keypad is below.
Icom Keying circuit
Operation is a pleasure. Accessing memories from a keypad is so much easier than pushing buttons on the front panel. The inbuilt Icom digital voice and CW keyer is a pleasure to use. The Icom voice keyer sounds absolutely natural and all audio level parameters are adjustable. Make sure the compressor control is off when you do your recordings. The cost of the iKeyPad is nearly nothing if you can find an old Apple mouse. Of course, any mouse of any brand will also work fine if the housing is suitable and comfortable.
73, Lee ZL2AL
The is no magic silver bullet which will engage newcomers to our hobby. There never has been. Ham radio is not a hobby which is easily advertised and marketed. How did all of us become hams? The odds are that you knew someone that was already a ham and followed it up because of your own interest. That is the key to engaging newcomers into our hobby.
Every radio club should have a policy of “welcome”. That doesn’t mean a policy of waiting for them to walk through the front door and saying “welcome” It means that if anyone in your club hears or is aware of anyone interested in ham radio, then contact should be quickly made and the pathway should be made as easy and welcoming as possible. Every club should have a designated “mentor/greeter/information person with a great personality to make the secondary contact and help the newcomer through the initial stages to sitting the exam. The newly licensed ham should continue to be mentored and helped to actually get on the air. That second part of the process is vital to the growth of a new ham. The process should be informal and fun.
There are so many ways that first contacts can be put off forever entering our hobby. Among them are: Don’t care members, boring club meetings, emphasis on the exam requirements and costs etc. Most of these prospects wouldn’t have a clue what a “National Association” is and what it does. There is plenty of time later to get into that. They don’t know what we do and whey we do it. They don’t know our traditions. they don’t know why we love our our hobby and it’s up to us to teach them.
Newcomers and prospects should experience a planned “one step at a time” entrance and every step must be a fun experience as they naturally want to become members of our exclusive club; our brotherhood and our passion.
Our area in Hawke’s Bay has a local ham population of about 175 and we have licensed about 80 new hams in the past 8 years. Most of our new hams have come from individuals that knew someone in our two clubs. Members of both clubs go out of their way to make sure that newcomers are mentored and helped and watched to make sure they don’t drop out of the process before they sit their exam. There is nothing like encouragement and success to keep someone on the right track.
Our new hams are of all ages from 17 to old fellas and have come from all walks of life. Virtually all of them came into the hobby as friends of friends. The importance of mentoring, helping and teaching cannot be under emphasized. If your club is dying or stagnating and you are not getting new members, there’s a reason. If they are not continuing membership in your club, there’s a reason. If they don’t renew their membership in your national association, there’s a reason.
Those of us in the hobby that we love so much must look to ourselves and our club structures if we want the hobby to grow and want new members in our clubs.
73, Lee ZL2AL