Wednesday, March 28, 2012

All it took was the right cable...

It's been something I've been playing with for the last week or so, but tonight all the pieces finally fell into place.

The shack today

I started by downloading a few different computer control apps for my Yaesu FT-874 and playing with them. The one I liked the most is Ham Radio Deluxe or HRD. It's got a great interface, lots of customization, a built in logger, etc. All the features I think I want (only time in this hobby will teach me what I really want or need). The first problem arose though with the CAT port on the radio and the antenna tuner.

I purchased the used Yaesu FT-847 with the matching Yaesu FC-20 auto tuner. These two units were originally sold together and in some cases the tuner was offered as a freebie bonus from Yaesu when you bought the FT-847. The FC-20 is not a great antenna tuner, but it's better than nothing (from what I've read). There is a dedicated tuner port on the back of the radio with an 8-pin DIN control cable that allows the radio to talk to the tuner, but as the original manual mentions you can't use the tuner port and the CAT port at the same time, they share some common connections inside the radio and your limited to using one or the other. I've read that their might have been firmware updates available in late models of the radio, but I had problems with both being connected at the same time. So... I had a choice, operate the radio with a tuner and no remote control software (HRD)... OR... operate the radio with HRD, and without a tuner, well you can see that doesn't work very well.
(top row left) Yaesu FT-847 Transceiver and matching FC-20 Antenna Tuner

I found a solution in the YT-847 antenna tuner from LDG Electronics. This tuner was built specifically for the FT-847 and solved the CAT port problem by not using the tuner port and offering a CAT pass through port on the back of the tuner. So you had a much better tuner, with an extra CAT port that allowed you to connect the PC to the tuner, then the tuner to the radio.

This was an unexpected expense, but I figured it was worth it to solve the problem in a manor that felt correct and not a mickey mouse solution.

The YT-847 was ordered online and arrived a few days ago. I wired everything together and encountered a problem. The remote software (HRD) would not connect to the radio? All the same cables and ports were being used, but nothing was working. I dug into the deepest corners of my office and scrounged up every serial cable I could find. Nothing worked? If I removed the new tuner HRD would connect to the radio, if I placed it back into the middle, HRD was dead?

The Yaesu FT-847 with the new LDG YT-847 antenna tuner
Digging deeper into the LDG owners manual for the YT-847 I noticed that they mentioned needing a 'straight through' serial cable from the tuner to the PC. The Yaesu manual for the FT-847 mentions needing a 'null modem' serial cable from the radio to the PC. For whatever reason, LDG uses a 'null modem' connection from the radio to the tuner, but then converts the outbound port to the PC into a 'straight through' type?

So for two days I kept trying every cable that I owned (or borrowed) and they all must have been 'null modem' cables. Correct for just the radio, but incorrect when the tuner is added. I found a 'straight through' cable online and ordered it yesterday. Today it arrived, tonight I rushed in the door and plugged it in....

POW.... YAP.... WHAM!!!!

It's all working.  

Ham Radio Deluxe controlling my Yaesu FT-847 Radio and LDG YT-847 Tuner

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