HamPod Icom Reader

 

    The HamPod Icom Reader provides speech output and accessibility for blind and vision-impaired amateurs who use an Icom radio. The Icom Reader is the same physical device as the original K3 Reader, but with different firmware. It provides access to the most commonly used functions of a number of Icom transceivers without requiring a connection to personal computer.

HamPod Station Accessories

From the Icom Reader manual:

   "The HamPod series of amateur radio station accessories are stand-alone, micro-processor based text-to-speech devices designed to provide speech output and accessibility to common station equipment such as transceivers, antenna controllers and rotor controllers, SWR/Power meters, and other equipment capable of serial data exchange...The voice synthesizer utilizes the popular Double Talk voice synthesizer and is customizable to your personal preferences."

   A HamPod (Figure 1) is 5.3" x 4.0" and about 1.9" high, including the attached 16 button keypad and enclosed speaker.

Figure 1. HamPod.                                        hampod.com

    The Reader communicates with a transceiver via a user-supplied serial (CI-V) cable. There are two male DB9 serial ports on the back for connecting to radios or other devices and for updating the firmware.

HamPod Icom Reader

   The functions that are accessible depend on your radio. A list of supported models is on the HamPod site. Support for the IC-7100, IC-7300, and IC-9100 models was recently added, including D-STAR mode support. I tested an Icom Reader (firmware v. 0.18) with an IC-746PRO transceiver. All of the functions listed in the Icom Reader User Manual are accessible with the exception of two commands for D-STAR, which is not included in the radio. Contact Rob Santello, K6DQ, for details about using a HamPod with other Icom models.

   A USB-to-DB9 serial cable and a null-modem adapter are provided with each HamPod for updating the firmware using a Windows computer. Downloads include a screen reader-accessible flashing application that automates the process.

Operation

   Key presses query the radio and change settings. As the manual explains, "[Each key can be] operated with both a standard push or an extended longer push and hold action.” There are also two keys that increase the number of operations for a single key—the SHIFT key [A] and SET key [B]. Keys are always pressed in sequence—never two at the same time.

   For example, pressing the [1] key selects VFO A and reads the frequency. Holding the [1] key down for 0.5 seconds or longer selects VFO B and reads the frequency. The HamPod can also report the frequency automatically after you tune the radio.

   Press [*] to read the S-meter.
   Press [*], Hold to read the RF Power Meter. 
   Press [SHIFT], then [*], Hold to read the ALC Meter.

   A list of functions of all the keys is in the User Manual. Accessible readouts include the mode, mic gain level, power setting, filter width, preamp and attenuation status, as well as the status and settings for PL, CTCSS, and DTCS tones.

Changing Settings

   The SET key [B] and the ENTER key [#] enable you to change settings in the radio, some of which are menu-controlled, depending on the radio.

   For example, to set the power level to 50%:
      Press [SET], [9], Hold, [5], [0], [ENTER].
      HamPod says, “Set Power Level 50%." 

   To set the Compression level to 10:
      Press [SET], [SHIFT], [9], [1], [0], [ENTER].
      HamPod says, “Set Compression 10.”

   Other examples of accessible settings include mic Gain, keyer speed, duplex On/Off, frequency entry, and save/recall a frequency.  You can also set, enable, and disable all the previously mentioned FM Tone functions.

Summary

   The HamPod Icom Reader is a convenient, well-designed accessory that provides speech output and accessibility for the most commonly used functions in a number of Icom radios.

 

Acknowledgment

   Thanks to Rob Santello, K6DQ, for information about HamPod operation.

Author Information

   Peter DeNeef, AE7PD, is an Extra class amateur radio operator in the U.S.  Email:  HamRadioAndVision "at" gmail "dot" com.

 

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 rev. 5/26/2017