|G3VGR||Winkey CW Keyer|
I like to use my PC as a keyer because it handles messages better than a normal memory keyer. Whilst this works fine with DOS programs like TR, it is not so easy to get a Windows program to send good consistent morse when running Windows 2000.
My favourite logging program is YPLog, which implements a memory keyer using either the LPT port or an audio derived keyed output from the soundcard. Using the parallel port to provide the keyed output is normally fine for contesting or working dxpeditions, though it doesn't key consistently when I use it for ragchew type QSOs. This is hardly surprising as many other processes are running on my PC at the same time under Windows 2000 Professional and CW generation has degraded further since the addition of a broadband internet connection. My Ham Radio dedicated laptop runs Windows98 which provides trouble-free CW from the parallel port. I needed an alternative method to generate better morse from the main shack computer.
I have used Steve, K1EL's keyer ICs (K8, K9 and K10+) in various projects in the past and have been very pleased with them, so when Steve announced his Winkey project, I just had to try it, as it seemed the complete solution to sending CW from a NT system. The Winkey IC is a hardware keyer which can be used either standalone or controlled from a PC via a serial port. Memory messages from the PC's serial port are buffered. Normal keying from the paddle is implemented 100% in hardware, so consistent timing is guaranteed.
It is possible to purchase either an IC or complete keyer kit over the web and pay with Paypal, which really simplifies buying products from the USA. I ordered the kit as well as an IC because I wanted to try the product as quick as possible. The package arrived within a week and the kit was quick to assemble - I was sending CW within an hour of opening the package from a small PCB & rat's nest of wires on the desk. No PSU is required, because power is derived from the RS232 port. To control the keyer, I used the freeware memory keyer program from G3WGV. After I finished playing with the keyer, it was time to tidy it up and I've installed the PCB in a cut-down Bud aluminium box.
Verdict? I'm generally quite pleased with the Winkey. It sends consistent CW, which is more than can be said about the user. As the kit is powered from the RS232 port, naturally it is unusable if the PC is powered off. The spare Winkey IC, along with FTDI's FT2232C USB/Serial Converter, has been used in another project which interfaces the Winkey IC direct to the Computer USB bus and uses a virtual ComPort driver.
Neither program was really what I wanted, so I wrote my own simple memory keyer program in Visual Basic 6. As a hardware guy, I hate programming and, although the last VB program I wrote was about 6 years ago, I found it wasn't too difficult to write a program using the MSComm32 Control that fulfilled my requirements. I'm generally quite pleased with it, although it's currently restricted to messages of 32 characters because I haven't yet got around to writing code to handle Winkey's flow control. As 32 character messages are sufficient for my usage (mainly for pileups), it's unlikely I will ever work up enough enthusiasm to implement the required changes.
It's called "QD Keyer" (Quick 'n Dirty Keyer). I hadn't originally intended releasing the program, not wanting the hassle of either supporting it or rejecting requests for enhancements, but was later persuaded to do so. If you want to give QD Keyer a try, it can be downloaded here or from K1EL's website.
Recently, Bob Furzer, K4CY added Winkey support to his excellent Logger32 program, so I now only use my own program with YPLog.
|The completed PCB after less than 2 hours||The finished kit looking very professional|