Ham Radio Gets Brain Transplant

Old radios didn’t have much in the way of smarts. But as digital synthesis became more common, radios often had as much digital electronics in them as RF circuits. The problem is that digital electronics get better and better every year, so what looked like high-tech one year is quaint the next. [IMSAI Guy] had an Icom IC-245 and decided to replace the digital electronics inside with — among other things — an Arduino.

He spends a good bit of the first part of the video that you can see below explaining what the design needs to do. An Arduino Nano fits and he uses a few additional parts to get shift registers, a 0-1V digital to analog converter, and an interface to an OLED display.

Unless you have this exact radio, you probably won’t be able to directly apply this project. Still, it is great to look over someone’s shoulder while they design something like this, especially when they explain their reasoning as they go.

The PCB, of course, has to be exactly the same size as the board it replaces, including mounting holes and interface connectors. It looks like he got it right the first time which isn’t always easy. Does it work? We don’t know by the end of the first video. You’ll have to watch the next one (also below) where he actually populates the PCB and tests everything out.

7 thoughts on “Ham Radio Gets Brain Transplant

  1. Interesting project. Looking forward to the final result. Using some of the ideas shown here, I wonder if it would be possible to put a brain inside a boat anchor radio so as to give it some of the digital circuitry it lacks and newer radios have by default. For example, I have a Kenwood TS-830s, a fine hybrid radio, but it cannot be used with digital modes because it lacks a USB interface. I therefore plan to add a SignaLink box to give it some of that capability, but I still won’t be able to control the radio from the computer without a USB or Aux port.

  2. His hand movements in the video gave me flash backs to the “Swedish chef”

    But other than that those old radios have a lot of good analog circuitry in it and its frequency generation that is letting them down – so great idea to stretch some life out of an solid old rig

    1. My IC-245 has the notorious Icom ground corrosion problem. That’s why the frequency synthesizer (display) is wonky. Going through the entire radio resoldering ground connections to the chassis and on the pc board has helped. But it has not reached perfection yet. Still, it’s a classic rig and is worth some TLC.

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