[CQ-Contest] SDR's have knobs too!

Gerry Hull gerry at yccc.org
Sat May 10 13:21:22 EDT 2014

I have to jump on this thread, because I want to express an opinion and
clear up some things.

The user interface of a radio has NOTHING to do with how radio signals are
detected and created.   You could build an SDR that has a completely
traditional user interface, with hard knobs for everything -- analog
meters, etc. So please don't confuse the user interface design of a radio
with the underlying technology.

The advent of SDRs has lead to the use of newer kinds of user interfaces...
like the clickable panadapter and the waterfall.  These interfaces provide
visual queues and provide a visual augment to the aural interface of the

You will get strong arguments from two camps -- those who love the
traditional knob and aural interface, and those who prefer look and click.

Ed prefers to discover signals by tuning the band and listening.  He's a
low-power single-op contester (and world class, at that).  So, he's not
receiving regular or RBN spots, and must do all the station discovery on
his own.  His preference is probably due to the fact that he's been doing
it that way a long time.  And I agree, it's becoming a lost art.

The Flex/SDR crowd, usually newer hams (but a lot of OTs as well), prefer
the look and click metaphor.  I don't think that is any worse or better,
just different.   However, my personal taste is to use aural cues rather
that visual.   You can hear just how weak someone is, or how busy the
pileup is, just by listening.  You might even tell how good the operator is
on the other end by listening.   Looking at a panadapter is not going to
tell you that, IMHO.

The Japanese, in their latest radio incarnations, include all the analog
audio you want, along with panadapter displays.. so, you get the best of
both worlds.  Elecraft has the P3, which gives you (almost) the same

Probably the biggest dichotomy between modern SDR/computer-based
transceivers such as Flex radios and stand-alone transceivers from Elecraft
and the YIK crowd is that it seems the SDR/computer folks have a
computer-centric user interface focus, while the others are focused more on
traditional user interactions.

BTW, my holly grail of a visual user interface would be a panadapter
display with a horizontal spotting bandmap overlaid on top of it -- this
way, if somebody is spotted, you get an immediate visual cue of weather or
not you can possibly hear the station...  and then tune to frequency so
that you hear what is going on.    I think we are close to something like

Food for thought.

73, Gerry W1VE

On Fri, May 9, 2014 at 1:29 PM, Stu Phillips <stu at k6tu.net> wrote:

> Ed,
> Software Defined Radios have knobs - and if you want, more than one!
> So let¹s debunk this myth once and for all:
> 1. Software Defined Radios can and do have knobs
> 2. Don¹t let knob-itism get in the way of appreciating the better
> capabilities
>    offered by software defined radios.
> I respect folks who like their knob based radios - and indeed, I use knobs
> with my SDR based station and wouldn¹t be without it.
> But I would never go back to a non-SDR radio - the experience and the
> advantages are simply too compelling.
> Stu K6TU
> On 5/9/14, 9:49 AM, "Edward Sawyer" <SawyerEd at Earthlink.net> wrote:
> >There might be an app for sex too - but that doesn't mean its better or
> >more
> >enjoyable than the real thing.
> >
> >
> >
> >A lot of us like turning the big knob.  And as SO2R ops know - 2 big knobs
> >are better than 1 big knob ;-).
> >
> >
> >
> >Just because its possible - doesn't make it better.
> >
> >
> >
> >Ed  N1UR
> >
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