Controllers. I had controllers. All shapes, sizes and purposes. They all connect to something, usually a number of somethings. Radios, antennas, filters, rotator controllers, filters, whatever. And, of course, they connect to whatever they connect to with - you guessed it - wires.
Wires, I had wires. How ever neat they would start out, they always turned into a rat's nest. Here's a graphic of the back of my operating desk. Click it to enlarge it, at your own risk.
The two largest changes in my approach are (1) Using a Flex radio which handles a lot of the functions and interfaces previously done by external hardware, and (2) where possible, use software interfaces as the interfaces between the Flex 6700 and other software programs.
I use N1MM Logger+ as my contest logging program. It has a gateway that transfers QSO information to elements of the DXLab software suite. I use DXLabnon-contest logging, and award and LoTW management and content.
N1MM Logger+ also communicates with PST Rotator, a software program, to interface between my radio, logging program, rotators for my two beam antennas, and the SteppIR antennas themselves. N1MM Logger+ interfaces directly with the Flex Radio. PST Rotator controls the rotors for my two beams. I can rotate the antenna to the desired heading directly from the keyboard to keep my hands on the keyboard and save time when contesting.
Both of my HF rotary antennas are SteppIRs, a DB-16E and a 3 Element. Their controllers are interfaced with my Flex 6700 with serial-USB adapters. Each Slice (think radio) of the Flex 6700 tells the assigned SteppIR antenna what frequency to tune to, untouched by human hands.
Any SO2R station needs band pass filters to protect the front end of each radio (or, in the case of the Flex, slices of the single radio) and some other high power filters. These filters sit between the transceiver and power amplifiers (Alpha 87a and SPE Expert 1,3K-FA). These are FilterMax units (W3NQN filters) sold by Array Solutions. To get more protection and harmonic reduction I also use coaxial cable filter stubs at the output of the two amplifiers and the antennas. Both the FilterMax units and coax filter stubs need to be switched to the appropriate band for each radio.
I use Antenna Genius, a two by eight antenna switch to select the correct antenna for each band for each radio (or "slice" as it is known the the Flex Radio world). The antenna Genius is built by 4O3A and marketed through Vibroplex, the maker and sellers of Virboplex keys and paddles and the distributor for 4O3A products in the USA found at https://www.vibroplex.com. The Antenna Genius connects directly to my radio shack network and reads each slice's frequency from the Flex Radio
So, where does the radio stop and the computer begin? In my shack - nowhere. They operate as a single entity for true station automation.
Bill Axelrod 12 April 2017
A few months went by. I upgraded my radio to a Flex 6700 which does SO2R in one radio. Also, I re-engineered my controls and station automation. In the process I was able to get rid of a lot of boxes and especially wires. Here's the back of my operating desk now.