The Future of Ham Radio Deluxe

Several amateur radio bloggers have already blogged about this news and the forum thread over at QRZ as all but gone viral.  I realize I’m late to the party, but until today, until this very hour I was of two minds if I would blog about this news.  I’m really not the type of person (and blogger) who wants to report the news.  I say this because 1. it’s already been reported and B. I’m really not sure I want my blog to be about that. 

I made this decision regarding my amateur radio podcast as well.  Meaning, I didn’t want to report the news.  In the example of the podcast, there are already very good amateur radio news based podcasts available.  The goal for my podcast was simple.  I wanted the content and the knowledge shared to be relevant not only at the time of release, but also very much so a year from now, two years from now and beyond.  I’m very much humbled when I receive an email from a new listener who informs me  they have just discovered my podcast and they are in the process of listening to all the previous episodes.  By the way, the Practical Amateur Radio Podcast is up to episode 46 and is in its fourth season. 

Regarding blogging, I just simply don’t have the time to stay current on all the amateur radio news.  Also, like with podcasting….there’s already a lot of “current news” type of blogs out there.  Since I try to mix in both my own personal amateur radio activities along with educational content, I would like to keep my blog posts as valuable a year or two from now as they might be to someone today.

I discovered Ham Radio Deluxe back in the late summer, early fall timeframe of 2007.  I had just earned my ticket and a colleague of mine had been using it for a few months and said you gotta get this software.  It does all this really cool rig control and has digital mode software for PSK and RTTY built in.  He told me about the logbook features and then said….it’s Free!  I hadn’t been a ham very long, but it didn’t take a lot of time to learn the value of it’s Free!

I downloaded and installed the software and got my Yaesu FT-897D connected without any issues.  It was this software which I used to log my very first ham radio contact into as well as what I used for those incredible digital modes like PSK-31.  I seem to remember many software updates were made available and each time things always seemed to get better and better.

The upgrade to version 5 (the current version) came with much improved functionality around the logbook and a few other bells and whistles that I currently don’t use.  Starting sometime in 2008, I would make the occasional donation to the developer of HRD.  While I don’t have the exact dollar amount etched into my memory, I would say between 2008 and present time I’ve done my share to help support the software. 

I’ll be honest and state for the record, that I’ve only tried and/or researched a few other types of rig control software.  I do use other logging software titles for specific contests and then import the contacts afterwards into my HRD logbook.  But when I’ve looked into other full-function types of products they either didn’t do everything I was accustomed to from HRD or were priced a little higher than I wanted to spend.  It’s not that I’m against paying for software, but when I did a “nuts to bolts” comparison…I simply couldn’t justify replacing Ham Radio Deluxe. 

I learned of the news about HRD from the QRZ forums on 12 September.  I’ve been visiting QRZ a lot in recent weeks checking on my extra upgrade.  I use the FCC link in my QRZ callsign record to quickly view the ULS record.  Yes, it still hasn’t been approved.  Anyway, while visiting QRZ I will read some of the news items on the main page.  I dare not go any deeper into the depths of the QRZ forums for risk of being pulled into the dark side.  Ha ha  But for the most part the news items are safe as long as you view them while the news is fresh.  Otherwise, you might read a lot of negativity as our fellow hams begin to comment on what ever the news item is about.

Basically what caught my eye in that article was the subject line which stated “Development to continue on HRD”.  Initial thoughts were “that’s cool” as I hadn’t seen an update since early 2011 timeframe.  I drilled into the thread to learn while development would continue on HRD, it would be done by different individuals and that Simon had sold the rights to HRD to those individuals.  At this time the thread only had about 3 pages of comments.  Today I believe there are over 10 pages.

What we know at the present time is more of less what is covered in the first few pages of the thread.  Ham Radio Deluxe was sold and it will continue to be developed and supported.  The rest really is speculation and the only thing I’ll say is I’m under the impression (since a financial transaction of an undetermined amount took place) Ham Radio Deluxe will shift from a donationware model to a payware model.  But this really is only my impression.

As I said, there’s a lot of emotion taking place in the QRZ thread and I’m only to assume that this emotion is being played out in other ham radio forums.  Like many, I’m somewhat sad to see this happening….but I also enter it with a degree of optimism.  First the sad feeling.  I’m sad from the standpoint that something I always appreciated viewing on the HRD website was the following statement “Keep Amateur Radio Free”.  This spirit is what makes the hobby so special.  The free-flow of knowledge shared from one to another is exactly the character of amateur radio.  While we can’t expect everything in amateur radio to be free, when someone has a talent and develops something like HRD, it truly is a gift to the hobby.  This is exactly the same and shares the same value (in my opinion) as someone who shares their knowledge with others in the form of Elmering or someone who donates their time to become a VE. 

My optimism?  Well, since HRD is already a product which I know and use, I’m optimistic the continued development will not only match, but surpass the standard of quality we have come to know of Ham Radio Deluxe.  While it might be hard to imagine HRD getting any better than it is now, I’m sure there are many enhancements that could be made to an already great product to truly make it better.

Donationware versus payware?  As I have stated, I donated what I believed was a fair amount over the course of the last 3-4 years.  How much I donated is between me and my conscience, and of course what I perceive is both the value of the product and all the enhancements made since I’ve been using it.  While I believe I’ve contributed enough to cover what currently is HRD, I’ll certainly evaluate any future enhancements the new owners make and balance that to what HRD is as of today.  I may feel any new enhancements made is something I can or can’t live without. 

While it has been discussed once or twice (and with a lot of passion) in those ten pages over at QRZ, I doubt the new owners will issue any sort of cease and desist order to either pay for the new HRD or stop using the old.  While I work in the software and hard industry, I’m not an attorney, I don’t play one on TV and I also didn’t sleep in a Holiday Inn Express last night, So I can’t and won’t pretend to know what I’m talking about.  But I certainly can’t see where the new owners will have any ground to stand on in attempting that maneuver when HRD has been and was certainly always intended to be free as the current version stands today.

I would just like to close by saying a sincere THANK YOU to Simon Brown and all the many individuals who donated their time and efforts and made available a wonderful product.  If you haven’t tried Ham Radio Deluxe, I certainly recommend it.  For now, the HRD website is operational and the current version 5 is available for download.   Also, at present time the link still takes you to Simon’s website where the download is 100% free.  As you might expect in a few days, a few weeks, next month…certainly sometime in the near future the URL may redirect to another website where you’ll find HRD is now payware. 

Until next time,

73 de KD0BIK

Jerry Taylor, KD0BIK, is a regular contributor to and writes from Colorado, USA. He is the host of the Practical Amateur Radio Podcast. Contact him at [email protected].

4 Responses to “The Future of Ham Radio Deluxe”

  • Fred W0FMS:


    For free it’s a great piece of software. For much more than a few dollars it’s a bloated pig that tried to to way too much.

    I still appreciate Simon’s efforts but if the new buyers think it will be a cash cow they will be greatly disappointed. The flaws of HRD Deluxe are very easy to overlook at this point because it’s not a commercial product, they might still be easy to overlook if the cost is little and it’s not a buy a new version every three month deal…

    Fred W0FMS

  • GB KC5GB:

    To me, HRD was/is a beautiful set of screens which promises much, but for me provided to little in the way fast and reliable functionality. Perhaps the new developers will provide the substance that has always been vaporware before.


  • Ernest Gregoire, AA1IK:

    I suppose it was inevitable. Simon has to eat too. I have been using HRD and DM870 for years. It certainly is a fantastic piece of software. My interests are mainly CW and PSK. It does both superbly. The logging part of the program has more features than you can shake a stick at. For instance as you finish a qso, it is not only logged in a personal log of your choosing, it is also archived, then compacted in a zip archive. The qso is then sent to either E-QSL and posted or LOTW. All of this must be set up by the user of course.

    There have been bugs, but they have been fixed. I’m just scratching the surface of the number of modes, and features and rigs this software supports. It is reliable as they come. The interfaces are smooth and seamless and slick. A good modem/keyer is required for the more advanced features. Microham’s microkeyer II for example is one that supports CW, PSK, RTTY and has many nice features of its own.

  • W2JEM:

    It’s a natural progression – don’t take it personally. Nothing is stopping another ham from creating a new product to replace it, so what the heck are you ll waiting for?!! Did you complain that you “don’t know how” when it was time to build you own radio? How about: NO!!!

    Always remember this life lesson: Time, and everything caught up in it, moves forward, so try not to fight it, if you can help it. You can’t win.


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