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Re: [TenTec] My take on how to "fix" the Orion.

To: gsm@mendelson.com,"Discussion of Ten-Tec Equipment" <tentec@contesting.com>
Subject: Re: [TenTec] My take on how to "fix" the Orion.
From: "Douglas Shock" <douglas.shock@gmail.com>
Reply-to: Discussion of Ten-Tec Equipment <tentec@contesting.com>
Date: Wed, 12 Jul 2006 11:17:51 -0600
List-post: <mailto:tentec@contesting.com>
very nice!

On 7/12/06, Geoffrey S. Mendelson <gsm@mendelson.com> wrote:
> Posted to my blog: http://geoffstechno.livejournal.com/
> The following is my take on how to "fix" the Orion. Feel free to comment,
> but unless it is unprintable, post it to the list. :-)
> For those that are not ham radio operators, the only manufacturer of
> amateur radio transmitters from "the old days" left in the U.S. is a
> company called Ten-Tec. They produced wonderful radios almost 30 years
> ago. I have two of them in my "shack". An Argonaut 509 and Triton IV
> digital. Both are over 20 years old and except for a loose dial cord on
> the Argo, they both work well. They lack lots of modern features, but
> they communicate quite well.
> Ten-Tec's current offering is a radio called the Orion. It is now in
> it's second generation called the Orion II. The Orion is a software
> defined radio. It looks like a radio, complete with lots of knobs to
> tweak, it acts like a radio but inside all of the control functions and
> low level signal processing is done by a computer.
> There's the rub. Ten-Tec's software genius left the company, and they
> have not been able to replace him. I'm not surprised, they are in the
> middle of the U.S. Southeast (in Tennessee) which IMHO is even more
> remote to what's happening than Jerusalem. The cost of living is low and
> so are the salaries. If a genius embedded software designer and
> programmer were to make $100,000 a year, which is an enormous salary in
> Tennessee, now they would be paid $300,000-$40,000 in silly valley, the
> demand is so high.
> The other issue is of course, working for a well established company
> with little or no growth potential. Ten-Tec is a solid business, it will
> be around in a year, or five, or ten. Most start-ups won't. BUT... If
> you are good enough to run a design/programing team, you can write your
> own ticket. Any job for a startup will either leave you on the street or
> a millionaire (or both) in a year or two. So what if you take a job for
> a company that goes bust. Save your money, work for another startup and
> if it hits, it will hit big and you can buy all the radios you want and
> retire. If the second startup fails, go to a third and so on. Eventually
> you will hit it big or burn out and take a job for Intel. :-)
> A development team must be put together that is both productive and easy
> to support.
> So how does one make the Orion work? Here's my take on it:
> 1. Replace the CPU. Get rid of the DragonBall, a rehashed 1980's
> processor from Motorola and replace it with something more powerful. In
> a $4300 100 watt output radio the difference between a $10 processor
> that uses less than a watt, or $40 processor that's hundreds of times
> more powerful, uses six watts and has a more common instruction set
> (larger pool of programing talent) is trivial. If you want to separate
> the processing into three separate processors along with their own
> memory and control chips, it would raise the retail price to about
> $5,000. Not a very big jump. It probably would be less because digital
> signal processing chips would no longer be necessary and they run very
> expensive commercial (paid for) code.
> The processor I have in mind is made by AMD, and Intel has similar
> chips. VIA claims to, but their claims often exceed the actual hardware
> by miles. Transmeta chips would have done well too, but they never were
> able to sell enough to keep in business and went under.
> The processors use the X86 instruction set, the same as in any PC. PC
> programers are easy to find. Really good ones are hard to find, but
> nowhere as hard as finding ones that program DragonBalls.
> 2. Split the code.
> Use one processor to control the radio functions. This code, by it's
> very nature has to be kept proprietary.
> Use the second processor to run the digital signal processing. There is
> lots of public domain DSP code out there, so development cost is lower.
> Not only that, since it really does not control the actual radio, it can
> be released under the GPL or a BSD artistic license and the world
> becomes your extended development and testing group.
> Use a third processor to run the user interface and display. The Orion
> has a nice full color display, but even the latest version has trouble
> keeping up. With a 1gHz x86 processor, it will nicely run the display,
> talk to a users computer and poll the various knobs and switches and
> transfer their settings when they change to the processor that runs the
> radio.
> It could even have an ethernet interface for both remote control of the
> radio itself, and a digital data in/out.
> Since the radio would have modular (in pieces) code, each piece can
> easily be developed on it's own and then integrated after it's tested.
> Since it runs on CompUSA type cheap PCs, it can be tested by a small
> army of quality assurance (QA) testers long before it ends up inside a
> radio. The testers can be signal processing and programing technicians,
> not obscure DSP chip programmers or ham radio operators. You could hire
> them out of the local technical college not have to woo them away from
> the big companies.
> In conclusion, what the Orion needs is not only a redesign and
> reprogramming, but a rethink on how to develop it.
> Geoff.
> --
> Geoffrey S. Mendelson, Jerusalem, Israel gsm@mendelson.com  N3OWJ/4X1GM
> IL Voice: (07)-7424-1667  IL Fax: 972-2-648-1443 U.S. Voice:
> 1-215-821-1838
> Visit my 'blog at http://geoffstechno.livejournal.com/
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