The Maestro from FlexRadio Systems that debuted a few days ago at Hamvention remains firmly stuck in my head. It’s a hardware front-end for their 6000 series transceivers. A touchy-feely front panel for a radio that exists almost exclusively in silicon and software. Portable, lightweight, and with an option for wireless operation, I imagine carrying it outside to a table on the deck when days are too nice to sit inside a radio shack to be bliss.
Another part of the attraction for me is that I can finally get real knobs and buttons on a radio from Flex. But what has me most excited is that it removes the necessity for a PC. I’ve said it before but it’s worth saying again, I’ll never own a radio that requires me to stare into a computer monitor like a zombie. It’s why I’ve avoided SDR’s like the plague.
My idea of radio adventure doesn’t include endlessly trying to work out Windows driver issues, I/O conflicts, hard drive faults, incompatible screen resolutions, OS updates that break things, and all the joys that attend being an unpaid IT support and software beta tester for SDR equipment manufacturers.
It’s like my wife says about the self-checkout lines at the grocery — “I’ll start using them when they start paying me to ring the goods up and sack them”.
As I look at the Maestro interface, I must assume this is the way the designers at Flex imagined the front of their 6000 transceivers would look, had they been designed with a traditional front panel. No more, no less. A workable utility that no doubt will evolve over time to include new and useful features.
Thinking about how that design might be modified, I got inspired. And then I got a little crazy. Turn your imagination on and consider this nutty notion…
Suppose someday Flex licensed the technology required to remotely communicate and control their transceivers to third party manufacturers. And suppose those manufacturers designed their own front-end interfaces for those transceivers.
Now suppose someone made one that looked a lot like the front-panel of a Collins KWM-2 or a Drake TR-4 or a HeathKit SB-104 — or even some old WWII radio equipment.
For that matter, any other classic radio design that the market would bear. The front panel is just plastic and could be made to look like almost anything I suppose. It wouldn’t even have to look like any radio front panel we’ve ever seen before.
Steampunk ham radio!
So long as the cosmetic front-end can communicate and control the transceiver, 3rd-party designers could go crazy and offer up a plethora of designs that run the gamut from nostalgic to futuristic and no doubt delighting a lot of ham radio enthusiasts in the process.
I’ve got to quit thinking so much about the Maestro.