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Re: [TowerTalk] steppIR

Subject: Re: [TowerTalk] steppIR
From: Rob Frohne <>
Date: Thu, 6 May 2004 07:48:34 -0700
List-post: <>
Hi Jim,

I'd like to disagree.  :)
On May 5, 2004, at 2:09 PM, Jim Jarvis wrote:


In brainstorming how to 'make a steppIR cheaper''re
misleading yourselves.
Maybe, maybe not. You don't know until you've tried.

First of all, the IDEA of the steppIR is not revolutionary. There's a design in one of my notebooks dated 1979. And I'm sure I wasn't the first to think of it.
A lot of us have wanted a remotely adjustable antenna. The closest I came to it was a remote S meter up my tower, and an adjustable capacitor and tuning stub on my two element quad. Of course, in those days I was a teenager, and climbing the tower was nothing, and I had very little to spend on antennas and used pretty much what I was able to scrounge. I used to be up and down the tower several times an evening adjusting things.

The problem was availability of materials, and inexpensive
microcontroller chipsets, allowing convenient programming.
Yes, but it isn't now. One of the advantages of having a programmable adjustable antenna of my own design is that I can get in and tweak with the micro-controller code. I once bought a nifty little device from AEA for operating your station as a remote base. For me, it was an exercise in frustration, because there were little things that it did (some would call them bugs) that I couldn't fix. I tried to get AEA to fix them, to no avail. An open source design would allow us to tinker to our hearts content. (I must admit that I haven't played with the Steppir software or hardware, so I don't know if I'd have the same experience, but being a tinkerer, I suspect I would be using their antenna in a way they didn't anticipate, and then I'd be frustrated.)

Fluidmotion buys in quantity, manufactures in batches, and has quality control.
I had some correspondence with them, and they admitted that their production was expensive because of all their custom machined parts.

They also were persuaded to sell me just parts (which turned out to be more expensive than I could justify). I really appreciated their willingness though!

The Experience Curve says you can't beat 'em at their own game.
Maybe, maybe not. The total experience here on the list with antennas and things mechanical in general is pretty large. Perhaps we could come up with a different and in some ways better idea to achieve the same goals.

All you can do is create another prototype...and prototypes always cost more than manufactured equivalents, one way or another.

Usually, but often the cost is in terms of time, enjoyable time, perhaps for some of us more enjoyable time than that spent operating a brand new Steppir. If nobody creates new prototypes, then the state of the art never advances. It all depends on what you enjoy and what your goals are. Some hams like operating, some like experimenting.

Jim Jarvis, N2EA

Thanks for your comments. Why don't you share with us your drawings from 1979? Maybe they would spark some good discussion and ideas!


Rob Frohne, Ph.D., P.E.
E.F. Cross School of Engineering
Walla Walla College


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