Posts Tagged ‘computing’

Marrying the TI-85 and the DJ-580T

The May issue of QST arrived in the mail today and an article about building a “fox” for hidden-transmitter hunting was included.  That brought back memories of a teenage project of mine that I had once thought of writing up for QST, but now just makes a good story for the blog.

The first (and only) handheld radio I’ve owned is an Alinco DJ-580T.  Like most HTs of a certain age, it has provision for an external (“speaker”) microphone.  The microphone input is a sub-miniature (3/32-inch, “2.5 mm”) stereo phone plug.  As a high school student, one of my passions was tinkering with a graphing calculator—the venerable Texas Instruments TI-85—do kids these days even use this stuff or have they gone the way of slide rules and nomograms?  The TI-85 offered the provision to link to a computer or another calculator through a similar sub-miniature stereo phone plug.

Well, one afternoon in probably 1997, I was sitting with the DJ-580T in one hand and the TI-85 in the other…and it hit me…I wonder if I can use the the TI-85 to drive the DJ-580T microphone input?

A few preliminaries are now in order.  Thanks to a helpful (and still operational, albeit now with a CMS and the attendant spam) web site called, a few friends and I had learned to load our TI-85s with third-party binary machine code programs with considerably faster execution times than the built-in scripting language.  This allowed us to play relatively powerful video games surreptitiously on a school-sanctioned platform…a tactic that worked well until the English teacher wisened up to the fact that the five students with their calculators out were not typing essays on them.  Not satisfied to just play games—although I did set a very high score in Tetris during Spanish class—I sought to harness the power of the Z80 microprocessor in the TI-85 for myself.  Recall that this was before widely-available and inexpensive microcontroller development systems like the PIC, Arduino, and AVR.

I gathered the tools and eventually managed to write some fairly sophisticated (given my utter lack of formal training in computing) software in Z80 assembly language, including a crude clone of Space Invaders and a crude adventure game I called “Kashmir.”  Maybe some screenshots or stories about them will come later.

But, for the story at hand, I learned how to manipulate the link port.  Fortunately, the sleeve was ground on both the TI-85 and the DJ-580T.  So, it was just a matter of tip and ring—one was audio and the other was PTT on the radio, and both were settable on the TI-85 for some kind of two-wire communication link.  So, I reasoned that I could write up a bit of assembly code that would key the PTT by pulling it low, then toggle the audio line back and forth at 500 Hz or so to generate a rough audio tone.  It worked!

This was an expensive, although trivially so since I had the hardware, way to build a hidden transmitter.  So, I modified the software to send my callsign in Morse code (using a look-up table) and stuffed the whole thing in a cigar box.  It was good fun for a few of us teenage boys.

And, for the interested, I found the original source code, which is sadly not well commented or dated.  But, it does have my old callsign (AA8UP) listed by the lookup table.

Great Idea: Light Painting WiFi

Saw this in my Google Reader at work and had to post.  Apply to work, ham radio, …?  It’s clearly an artist’s take and not an engineer’s.

LoTW tools

I have assembled some of my tools for massaging logs for upload to the ARRL’s Logbook of the World (LoTW).  They’re written in perl and should run with just about any modern perl distribution, including that found on Macs and GNU/Linux distributions.


The principal features are:  conversion from TRLog log.dat and mangled Cabrillo files to ADIF and fixing hour offsets.

Odds and Ends

Yesterday, I revisited this post listing on-going projects from December 2009.  Some things have changed, some remain the same.

The computer stuff has all been crossed-off the list, except that the home server is off-line with a dead power supply (or motherboard).  I’m somewhat loathe to spend any money on it, but I should be able to pick something up.

While it would probably have been cheaper to buy one of the HF/VHF/UHF combo radios, I’ve set off stupidly down the trail of building (and interfacing) transverters.  I am just three amplifier stages away from having 3-5 watts on 50 MHz!  …plus the interfacing.  I’ve decided that interfacing transverters to radios is more difficult than actually designing and building the transverters themselves.  I built the 903-MHz W1GHZ transverter during the Winter, but haven’t tried it on the air just yet.  W8ISS announced recently that he had some leftovers from the group buy of W1GHZ transverter parts, including boards for 2304 and 3456 as well as some G6Y relay kits.  I bought the lot.  I have enough MMICs and chip caps in the shop to build these and since I’ll need to order a couple of mixers for the other transverters, I can hit the Mini-Circuits minimum order.  Sometime.  Microwaves may all get pushed off to Fall and Winter.

Through a strange coincidence, my wife and I independently decided that it would be a good idea to move my ham shack.  The new location is closer to the center of activity in the house, which means I’ll operate more radio and be more accessible to her while I’m doing it.  But, the feedline and rotator cable no longer reach my 144-MHz Yagi.  Fortunately, I’ll be able to raid the K8GU coax stash shortly.  In the mean time, I’ve been missing what appear from the Hepburn maps to be epic tropo conditions.  Stuff happens.

QSLing, notably my favorite QSL topic—bureau cards.  All bureau requests for KP4/K8GU have been processed.  I ran out of CE/K8GU cards with 10 to go.  I will run some more of these from a photo printer in the next couple of days.  Piles of PJ2/K8GU, K8GU, and (go figure) AA8UP cards remain.  I will get the PJ2 cards done this weekend since I have a box of cards on-hand.  K8GU and AA8UP cards are awaiting a redesign.

Although it sounds like a lot, relatively little is getting done on any of these things thanks to an outdoor project at home.  More on this in the future.

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