Projects you can build - By: Mike Maynard, K4ICY
The K4ICY Minty-Kool Keyer
A 3-IC Fully-Iambic Electronic Keyer with Dot/Dash Memory and Progressive Element Weighting
Suitable for both single and dual lever paddles with dual contacts
Includes These Features:
• Self-Completing Dots and Dashes at a 3:1 ratio.
• 6-60 WPM Speed Adjust, Lighter Weighting Increases with Speed
• Fully "Iambic Squeeze-Keying" operation.
• Dot-Dash Memory ("Curtis A")
• 5-15 Volt DC (9 V Battery) Operation, No Need for On/Off Switch, Battery Last for a Year.
• Intended to Key Modern Rigs, Especially QRP Portables. (up to 30v)
• Uses Commonly Sourced Components. (4000 series CMOS IC's)
[NEW] The K4ICY Mint Deluxe Keyer (Read Below)
A Fully-Iambic Electronic Keyer with Dot/Dash Memory and 5-Step Digital Element Weighting
Also suitable for both single and dual lever paddles with dual contacts
Includes These Features:
• Self-Completing Dots and Dashes (3:1 at Normal Weighting)
• 5-77 WPM Speed Adjust
• Adjustable Digital Element Weighting (Mark:Space 1:5, 2:5, 3:5, 4:5, 1:1)
• Fully "Iambic Squeeze-Keying" operation.
• Dot-Dash Memory ("Curtis A")
• 5-15 Volt DC (9 V Battery) Operation, Low Power Consumption.
• Will Key Most Rigs: (Up to 1000v / 2 amps) Grid Block Keying (-V),
Cathode Keyed Tube Transmitters (+V) and Modern Rigs with electrical and RF isolation.
As Presented in The Printed Circuit, Newsletter of the Tallahassee Amateur Radio Society (TARS):
February 2015 - Page 18 Click Here for an index of Electronics Projects
October 2015 - Page 14 https://k4tlh.net/tars-newsletter/
Revised September 2015, January 2018...
When I was a kid, integrated circuits (ICs) containing standard
"discrete" logic building-blocks were the rage. Logic, you
is the language of computers – “1’s” and “0’s.” My dad's
generation embraced transistors but the basic electronics we learned up
through the 1980’s were based on these primary components and practical
arrangements. Kids these days, and I mean kids, are using fancier
computer-like devices such as Arduinos and "shields" in their
classrooms. They are bypassing basic electronics training and focusing
more on programming and automation skills.
What happens to this perfect square wave signal? U1d is the lifeguard on a killer slide at a water park, so to speak. The guard allows each patron a specific instance to proceed so that each one makes it safely to the bottom with good timing. Pin 11 or U1d is essentially the output signal source of the entire circuit, so keep this one in mind. If pin 10, the output of U1c sits at any state for throughout time, when pin 12 of U1d receives the oscillator's "clock" signal, once checked against pin 13, pin 11 will either match or oppose the clock. The result, if continued, will be a series of "dits," alternating single units for marks and spaces at the output. U11's signal is ultimately routed through R14 to activate the two MOSFET solid-state switches (2N7000) which will complete the key circuit on your rig sending Morse code. More on U1c's role in a bit…
PDF Scematic Available: http://k4icy.com/K4ICY_Minty-Kool_Keyer_04p.pdf
Well, let’s step back a bit. To tell U1a to allow for oscillation, otherwise it will stand still in waiting, we have to get a positive voltage signal through D1 and/or D2 – the paddle inputs. With either a dual-paddle or single-paddle keyer connected to J1, Q1 and/or Q2, any standard PNP transistor (your garden variety 2N3906,) will go into full saturation, shunting positive current through the emitter/base junction and through R3 (or R5) 56k resistors to ground via your key's contacts. Since it’s standard practice to wire keys with the common tied to ground, to get a high signal for our circuit to represent when a paddle is making contact, the PNP switch circuits essentially invert the key's ground potential. R2 and R6 allow the transistors to be completely "shut off" when not in use, and C3/C4 help to both "debounce" the key contacts as they may often make multiple mini-contacts as eventual closure is made at the microscopic level. Bouncing would introduce extra signals to the logic. The capacitors also help shunt away RF introduced by the rig.
Take a look at the Truth Table: When J is low and K is also low, then on a positive edge-trigger of the clock, nothing will happen to the current state of Q - it will just stay put with no change. The following looks straight forward if you think about it: If J is high and K is low, then at a clock signal Q will be high... obviously matching the input "J" to its left on the schematic diagram. When J is high and K is low, then Q is low (Not-Q) being the same as K. Seems redundant at first glance, but it does mean at least J and K, if made high and low respectively, or in the reverse arrangement, then the output at Q can be made high or low to reflect the choice. Finally, we call into play, the special feature of the Flip Flop, and that is, if we apply a high signal to BOTH J and K, whenever a positive-edge clock signal is applied, Q and Not-Q will swap states - or toggle!
Let's take a look at U3b. Pins 10 and 11 are tied to the paddle inputs and work independently representing any condition when one of the paddles on your key makes contact. We can use this information to tell the Not-Q or U3b, pin 14, to change states based on whether just the "dit" paddle is in contact (low) or the "dah" paddle is in contact (high.) The Flip Flop is at the same time told to change to the appropriate state because of a new clock signal sent from pin 11 of U1d which is itself initiated by the key signals to the oscillator. With both paddles contacting, causing the J and K inputs to go high, a constant clock signal will cause the Flip Flop U3b to switch Not-Q back and forth between high and low... Ah ha - iambic action!
So say the Not-Q of U3b is now at high because the "dah" paddle is
contacted (and the "dit" paddle is not.) Then the inputs of
are now "high, high." Shouldn't that cause a low signal to be
sent to pin 13 of U1d? Well, on the same clock instance, U3a
Flop has highs at both J and K and its Not-Q will toggle; sending a
low. The states on the inputs of U1c are now reversed, but
really doesn't mean much on the first clock pulse. The Morse
"Dah" by standard is three times the length of a "dit." If we
look at this one from a “logic” perspective, a "Dah" would be sent
sequentially as "1110." To contrast, two "Dits" in succession
would be "1010." Ah. So if the second mark was kept high and
four steps were allowed to be produced, we would have a perfect Morse
"Dah" element at the output of the keyer. Consequently, U3a
become a "divide by 2" logic component when the "Dah" signal (U3b
Not-Q) is active, so for every two clock signals of the oscillator
applied to U3a, a single clock signal is outputted at Not-Q at half the
Though convenient, this can get tricky. Most modern keyers,
whether on chip or featured on a rig, use "Curtis A" + dot/dash memory
as default. In the simplified Mode A elements are only created
when queued but when a memory is introduced the
keyer simply polls the opposite paddle of the one the keyer is in the
middle of producing an element for basically to see if something is
being asked for while it’s busy. [It should be noted that ifferent
products and circuits use other schemes.] It then inserts the opposite
element after the current one is done - or just a basic memory
latch. I was really not happy with the Mode A keying the 2-IC
version of this circuit produced so I added an extra NAND gate and a
few steering diodes. I simply poll the outputs of the U3b
Flop and the incoming paddle contacts. With the U2b NAND, if
5 sees a high on the Q of U3b Flip Flop and pin 6 sees that the "Dah"
paddle is active, then it goes low at the U2b pin 4 output which is
inverted by U2a. This means that if the Flip Flop is
"dits" and a "dah" is asked for, then pin 3 of U2a is high.
high signal is sent to the oscillator clock to keep it going until its
associated counter element is completed. The high signal also
keeps a high on the "dah" line of the Flip Flop so that the circuit
essentially latches and all you have to do is quickly tap the "dah"
paddle to ask for a "dah" to be made after the keyer is finished making
a "dit." This is essentially a “bit” of memory. U2c
together do the same thing except for opposite conditions.
the addition of this feature, this "simple" keyer is now on par with
the basic function of commercial keyers!
Download the clean vector PDF: http://k4icy.com/K4ICY_Minty-Kool_Keyer_04p_Perfboard_Guide_01e.pdf
Room for improvement: A predecessor of this keyer has been coined "A Simple Keyer" because of its Spartan operation. It lacked basic features taken for granted on modern versions internal to modern rigs such as Dot/Dash Memory which allows for leeway from human error by making the timing of your finger movements less critical to keyer operation, and it lacked "weighting" (the relative timing between an element's mark and space) which is important to many hams dealing with older rigs as well as the increased need for more staccotic elements is crucial to faster sending speed. Yet, the original circuit core used three ICs as well! The simpler "Simple Keyer" iteration of this keyer's core design uses only two ICs - It's elegant, but you get what you pay for. Many hams have trouble sending in "Mode-A." There are countless keyer circuit devised over the years that employ memory for canned macros and allow for the adjustment of each elements as well as weighting. And some of these circuits use way more logic than is required to do the job. But with all that said, Amateur Radio homebrewing is all about improvising and innovation. Each ham is free to do what they desire in the name of fun and education. If I had any more improvements to make to this simple circuit it would be to add control for [full] element weighting, [SEE BELOW for implementation] element scaling (dot/dash ratio) and maybe an addition of couple of other modes such as "Ultimatic" and "Bug."
So there are 1-chip keyers out there to be had for a few bucks, why not just use one of those in your QRP rig? That's obvious to many hams! If you're going to homebrew your own QRP rig or build one from a kit, then why not homebrew your own accessories. How many hams can say that they built a functional "Mode B" iambic keyer from off-the-shelf components that just so happens to fit in an Altoids® mint tin? BOOM! A Minty-Kool Keyer. It's a 'work in progress' and I still have testing to do on different rigs, but at least I know I don't have to rely on one ordered online existing only as a program on some mystery chip.
Weight Control with the Mints Diet - Adding Element Weighting to the K4ICY Minty-Kool Keyer for Improved QRQ.
A Forward to the Weekend Radio article printed in The Printed Circuit, February 2015 - Published October 2015
It never fails! The solution to a problem often only comes to mind AFTER you publish the article it was concerned with - oh well. The K4ICY Minty-Kool Keyer was my take at a 47 year old circuit, and though, many hams had tried their hands at it over the years, I not only wanted to perfect the keyer circuit but stuff it into a mint tin as well. There were always two features often noted as being left out when other hams built their versions; dot and dash memory and “weighting.” Dot and Dash memory was my first improvement, and now I provide a solution for element weighting. Confused? Just check out my previous article in the February 2015 Printed Circuit:
Weighting is the relationship in time-duration (or ratio) between a single Morse ‘dit’ element (called a “bit” or a “mark”) and its associated silence (called a “space”) following the element. This attribute can affect not only the way the code sounds but the ease at which it can be copied, as well as its performance as sent via transmitter. Well-sent code is said to have 1:1 weighting where each ‘dit’ is equal to 1 bit, each inter-element space is equal to 1 bit as well, a ‘dah’ holds out for three bits with three bits for inter-letter spacing and seven bits between words. The word “PARIS” is said to contain 50 bits and represents an “average” English word.
1:1 code sounds proper at slow speeds but ramp up the pace, to say, over 40 WPM and (most) human ears begin to have trouble deciphering code. It would then not be surprising to know that many seasoned CW ops prefer a “light” code weight where the marks are shorter than the spaces yielding a staccato quality to the sound, making fast code actually easier to copy. To learn more about code weighting, check out this YouTube video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oidlVnChVAQ Take note that ‘light’-weighted slow-code doesn’t sound particularly very well to most ears – a reprieve to a limitation we’ll discuss later.
An issue that also arises with faster code has to do with the way that a transmitter sends the code itself. If you cut a CW transmitter on and off instantly according to when your key contacts close, you would most likely be producing a lot of clipped and hard-terminated waves, or essentially square waves. Square waves contain harmonics of course and a CW transmission sent in this manner would splatter all up and down the band, producing clicks and pops too. To avoid this, your transmitter eases the CW signal up and down in power-amplitude making sure that only pure sine waves are produced completely. So this ‘envelope’ encapsulating the CW signal has pre-determined rise and decay ramps taking a certain amount of time to complete. As the sender’s code speed increases, the decay time may reach and surpass the amount of space time left in between elements until ultimately, the code becomes muddled. Shortening the code element mark time gives more leeway to the CW envelope so that distinguishable code can be still sent.
An example of Morse code Weighting Duty-Cycle
Implementation of weighting was a tricky task indeed; how would I change the ratio of mark and space timing, otherwise known as the ‘duty cycle’, while giving the operator a good speed range to choose from? I thought of three solutions, and not surprising, my first thought ended up being the best. One solution was to use a NE555 timer IC to add a starting delay to the output element, clipping the signal but this would have been hard to tune across the chosen speed range and would have introduced a sluggish feel to keying. Another was to speed up the logic oscillator by a factor of 10 using a 4017 Decade Counter to break down the ratio in 10 precise steps. I still like this idea, but each would have added more ICs. Ultimately I came to my senses (after publishing the article of course) and chose to apply a Pulse-Width Modulation scheme to the logic oscillator. For a description and example of PWM check out my article in the May 2013 Printed Circuit:
Referring to the schematic, take note of the logic oscillator circuit (center-top) comprised of (4011) U1a, U1b, R9-12 and C6; you can see that this section has been revised from the schematic in my original article. This is a basic NAND gate logic oscillator circuit where a bi-polarity capacitor is charged via a resistor(s) in an RC circuit which upon charging and discharging at a rate determined by the values of R and C cause the gates to flip high/low states generating a square wave. If the charging resistor(s) was one value (as arranged in the original circuit) the timing at U1’s pin 3 (and inverted at pin 4) should yield equal timing of both mark and space.
A PWM scheme is used in this schematic to present two separate timings, one for charge and the other for discharge. Routing diodes D8 and 9 present separate paths for capacitor (C6) to charge at a rate determined by one resistance value and then discharge at another. Notice the value of R11 (22k) compared to R12 (33k) as they form a representative ratio. They join into the separate sides of R13, a 100k potentiometer. R11 determines mark timing in this circuit and R12 governs the space. R13 gives you the ability to adjust the ratio amount of charge timing to determine weighting. Here, I’ve slanted the tendency for “light” weighting. R10, as before, gives you a dynamic code speed range between 6 and 60 WPM. You should try to use a reverse log taper potentiometer or it will seem like all of your control will be on the slow code end, but the choice of taper is not crucial to operation. Essentially, the whole network of resistors represents a combined set of resistance for generating a complete PWM mark+space timing cycle.
Here’s the catch! When the keyer is generating code at the insane speed of 60 WPM, R10 would be set to zero Ohms and C6 only has to charge through R11 + part of R13 and discharge through the other part of R13 + R12 (I’m not sure which was really charge and discharge.) The difference in charge time is drastic between these two paths at such low resistance, potentially a 6:1 ratio! You can really get some super-light weighting with that. But, at the slow end of the scale with R10 turned to a max of 1 mega-Ohms, R11-13 appear relatively small! In fact, you get only a resistance ratio of 1.1:1, so no discernible weighting there for sure. Any good marketing person will make lemonade from lemons simply by adding a positive descriptor – I chose “progressive!” This is a case where an inadequacy turned out to be an okay thing because we really only need the lighter weighting at the higher speeds and not at the slower speeds. In fact this actually works out, as in my build I’ve omitted R13 and tied the ends of two fixed values together that gives me a good 4:1 ratio at 60 WPM, 2:1 at 30 WPM and 1.5:1 at 20 WPM. I derived these numbers from a simple QB64 BASIC program I wrote which was roughly backed up by testing. For this result, omit R13 and make R11 22k and R12 a 33k + 100k (in series.)
Now if you’re building this keyer, you could easily plug in your own resistance values or even a resistor network configuration to get a good weighting ratio at the larger 1 M-ohms area. To figure the charge+discharge times for yourself (And you Extras should know this,) multiply the Capacitance times the Resistance: (well, decimal places will kill ya) Capacitance in μF x Resistance in Kilo-Ohms = Time in milliseconds. Multiply by 0.001 to convert that to Seconds. To find the “universally accepted” WPM, add your charge and discharge times together and divide by two (for an average,) then divide that into 1.2 for your WPM speed. The 1.2 has something to do with the 50 bits in “PARIS,” as in milliseconds, figured into a minute. For example: if we find 1 M-ohms (1,000k) for our resistance (averaged for both directions) and find the total charge/discharge time for the 0.22 μF cap we get 220 msec. (1,000 x 0.22 x 0.001 = 0.22 seconds) for a combined mark and space ‘dit’ element cycle. To find for the speed: (1.2 ÷ 0.22 seconds = 5.4 WPM)
So the K4ICY Minty-Kool Keyer is “nearly” perfect. I was able to make the changes to my mint tin build and confirmed my results with a program called SoundForge on my PC. Audio was sampled via Yaesu FT-857d (into laptop) reading ultra-low-level RF leaked from my Kenwood TS-130SE fed into a 50 Ohm dummy load at a very low wattage. I was able to analyze the waveforms and measure the millisecond timing of code produced through the keyer’s available speed-adjustment range. The standard niceties of a keyer are there, minus canned messages: adjustable ‘iambic’ ‘squeeze’-keying, dot and dash memories, progressive weighting and rig control.
It's a simple question of weight ratios! - Adding Perfect Element Weighting (and other goodies) to the K4ICY Minty-Kool Keyer
This Section Published February 2018
Bridgekeeper: What... is the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow?
King Arthur: What do you mean? An African or European swallow?
Bridgekeeper: Huh? I... I don't know that. [he is thrown over]
...some in-depth discussion on birds...
Soldier: "It's not a question of where he grips it! It's a simple question of weight ratios! A five ounce bird could not carry a one pound coconut."
- Monty Python and the Holy Grail  http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0071853/?ref_=ttqt_qt_tt
The Minty-Kool Keyer is perfect for the QRP enthusiast who dabbles in hombrewing. This is due to its small size, being able to fit in a mint tin, ultra-low power consumption and crisp sound and actuation for high-speed users, and there's no real need to improve upon it for that application. Many homebrewers happen to be proud owners of 'boat anchors', or older transceivers using tubes and transistors. These are often amplified which means a good chance for some RF interference with the keyer, either from the keyer, or worse, uncontrolled RF radiation working through the key itself. Larger wattage antenna systems are trickier for this. Older rigs also have slower rise and decay times on their CW signals (CW shaping envelope) which means that normally weighted code elements tend to sound more muddled, or worse, at QRQ they may actually run together. Keying is even more complicated by the odd power/switching requirements of these rigs. I set out to address a few of these issues, and thus I now have a "Mark II" version called the "Mint Deluxe."
NOTICE ::: THIS CIRCUIT HAS NOT BEEN PROTOTYPED! The details of the Mint Deluxe schematic/circuit exist only on paper and should be attempted only at the risk of the builder - K4ICY holds no liability! And suggestions, error troubleshooting and corrections will be gladly accepted.
As I mentioned earlier, I thought of using the 4017 Decade Counter / Divider which is a CMOS Johnson counter for some kind of method to produced the code elements. Each output or set of outputs would have represented either a dot or dash. That was a bust since it would have required more extra logic to make it work, but I did have an idea on how to create weighting by using the outputs of the counter to form the ratio structure of each element. Here is what I came up with:
You will notice the addition of U4 and U5 on the (Mint Deluxe) schematic above. U5 is a 4017 decade counter and U4 is a pair of J/K Flip Flops that are configured as Set/Reset Latches. The logic ("rectangular") oscillator has been detached and sped up by a factor of 10 for use in the weight ratio creating process. The oscillator now serves to run the decade counter through its paces. Diodes D1-D5 along with C5 and R9 serve as a DRL (Diode Resistor Logic) 5-input OR gate, their output, at U4a pin 7 was the old "keying" line that used to start up the oscillator. The U4a J/K Flip Flop is a simple S/R latch that waits for the keying line at pin 7 to go high where it causes Q at pin 1 to go high which activates the oscillator at pin 2 of U1a. As long as pin 7 of U4a remains high, so shall Q at pin 1 which keeps the oscillator running, producing element sections until you stop with the key stroke. One the key contact is broken and pin 7 (Set) goes low, Q at pin 1 should remain latched at high. The 4017's clock is fed directly from the oscillator. It should start at Q0 (pin 3). and as the clock receives transitions from low to high, each subsequent pin, Q1 through Q9 should take their individual turn with a high output. Once the counter rolls over, Q0 at pin 3 will go high again sending a signal to U4a's Reset at pin 4. Not-Q at pin 2 will go high but if the key line is still high at Set then nothing will happen and the 4017 will run its course again. If Set is low then Q will go low when Not-Q goes high and the oscillator will stop.
U4b is another S/R latch whose job it is to act in the place of the oscillator (alternating high logic pulses and inverted pulses) used in the ("Mark I") Minty-Kool Keyer circuit. I could have also used two sets of NAND gates but the logic here would have required inverter buffers on the R and S inputs so it was a better option to use a single dedicated 4027 IC. That's about it... the 4017 and the other gates act as a way of dividing up the Mark and Space elements, but in a controlled way. Q1 at pin 2 of U5 4017 causes U4b to make Q at pin 15 go high which flips the cycle into the keyer just as the old standalone oscillator did. U5's Q1 immediately signals once you apply a stroke at one of the key paddles. Q2 through Q9 and even Q0 (which actually signifies 90% in the count cycle, are used to tell U4b when to flip the cycle from Mark to Space. The entire count cycle of the 4017 represents the combined Mark and Space cycle. Please note S2 which in my example is a 5-position rotary switch. You get five settings: on one side the Mark and Space get 5 steps each and represents a 1:1 element weight timing. On the other end you only get 1/10th of a Mark relationship and is most likely too light for any rig as it does take a little time to build up a CW signal envelope. Choose anywhere in between to suit your ears and rig timing for the most intelligibility of your CW signal.
You do not have to use the 5-pos rotary switch. You can wire pin 12 of U4b directly to your chosen timing spot and make the weighting permanent. You can also just use a two or three position switch to pick your own selection. Q6 (Pin 5) of the 4017 is where you will get a 1:1 weighting, at any output step above that (Q7 - Q9, and Q0) you will get "heavy" weighting where the Mark is longer than the Space which will not be very useful in CW telegraphy... unless you so desire. This part of the circuit has uses outside of the keyer and can give you a way to produce a Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) signal at any given frequency (up to the response of the 4017 counter). This may be useful for other circuits, like audio creation and LED dimming. You'll only have 8 steps of gradation (10 including on and off) to choose from. You can extend the resolution by daisy-chaining more 4017's, using their Clock Enable and Carry Out pins to give you more division outputs and multiplying the speed of the oscillator in relation to the added counter banks, but that is beyond the scope of this project.
We've now increased the oscillator speed by a factor of 10 which means that the discrete components were changed. R13, the potentiometer was reduced to 50k ohms, which is a more common part and C6, the tank capacitor was increased to 0.47 μF. You can also parallel two 0.22 μF caps. We've added two more IC's as well and now we have perfect and proportionate CW weighting control over and entire range of code speed from 5 to 77 WPM (that's what worked out). This is great, but lighter weighting is really more useful for old-timey rigs rather than modern QRP'rs. We need the ability to actually key the big guns and rigs with odd tube designs. Yes, I admit I "borrowed" this rig controller circuit (U6, Q3, Q4, R15, C9) but we needed to key practically all rigs and this was a great solution. Q3 and Q4 are TO-220 packages which are IRF-BG30 MOSFET's. They have an operating Drain-to-Gate voltage of up to 2,500 volts at 4 amps. The reverse max is at 2 amps so that is our range. Under the the host rig's own power, once activated by U6 a TLP591B Photo-Voltaic Device, you can key up nearly any type of rig including negative voltage ones (grid block keying,) positive voltage rigs (cathode keyed tube transmitters) and of course, conventional 13.8V powered solid-state rigs.
You can substitute the MOSFET's for any that suit your requirements and the Opto-isolator can be substituted as long as the operating parameters are sufficient for your rig. If and AC signal is used you should consider the real Vrms power value. This part is the means to completely separating the keyer and your key from the rig's power and any RF issues usually resulting from shared (bonded) ground or signal line connections. You can ground the keyer if you must, but you might want to keep the MOSFET outputs isolated from the keyer. CMOS IC's are extremely sensitive to RF and power source fluctuations. If your rig is not a beast, simple use the configuration in the first keyer using the 1N7000's. PLEASE NOTE RESISTORS R14 and R15: R14 at 510 ohms was calculated to restrict current to U6's LED at a keyer supplied voltage of 9 volts. Some calculation should be considered in using the right resistor for your supply voltage. R15 at 100k ohms should fine as a current shunt but you may need alter the resistance if the rig keys on constantly or doesn't at all. All wiring in the rig keying circuit should be of a gauge and physical spacing suitable for high-voltage operation. BEWARE OF HIGH VOLTAGE!!! The keying voltages present in this circuit, when used on some rigs can kill you!
These two upgrades should make for a very nice homebrew project and may even make you sound a bit better on the air. But just for kicks I threw in another toy! S1 is a Double-Pole-Triple-Throw slide switch that when set to "b" will disable Dash keying for that "Bug" keying feel. Dits are manual but you have to make your own Dashes. Setting "c" disables both Dot and Dash which can turn your single-lever dual-contact paddle into a "Sideswiper!" More importantly, in this mode, your keyer can be used as a keying buffer for your HV rigs. If you wish to use a straight key this way you will have to re-wire the cable to use a stereo connector. The tip and/or collar of the stereo connector will be the key line and the sleeve will be ground. A mono connector cannot be used since the sleeve resides where the stereo collar is. When S1 is in the "a" position the keyer is in normal operation. Any type of switch can be used if a DPTT cannot be obtained. You can simply use two SPDT or rotary. When disabled the output from the collector is bypassed directly to the rig-keying output line via blocking diodes.
Other goodies can be added according to your imagination. I would like to implement a Flash-based MACRO memory keying bank which would be separately adjunct to the keyer, and lastly, perhaps adding some acceptable variant of Accu-Keyer B element creation and character space addition. However, it is most likely better to actually build the Accu-Keyer instead. The aforementioned article by Karl Fischer, DJ5IL, details the result of a survey given to seasoned CW telegraphers who seem to overwhelmingly prefer using Accu-Keyer Mode B. The plausible reasoning given to this fact is due to the fact that the Accu-Keyer became a very popular product back when the majority of these hams were becoming proficient at sending. Even though the Mode B action was a product of a logic error, it's what the operators learned and it's apparently very hard to switch after you've mastered something.
Why seek to improve an obsolete design with half-a-century-old technology when so many simpler and novel methods exist today? Nearly all modern rigs come with on-board CW keying and what modern ham wouldn’t rather dabble in the newest microprocessor or microcomputer? Sure, you should try everything once, so build an Arduino keyer too sometime in your ham career
– check this out: http://blog.radioartisan.com/arduino-cw-keyer/
but be prepared to learn some programming. Well, even the single-IC Curtis chip existed in 1969 (http://namham.phpbb8.de/general-topics-f18/history-the-curtis-keyer-t50.html) with the EK-39 but the reason for “rolling your own” was the same then as it is now: the draw to building a piece of equipment from more fundamental parts boils down to the homebrewer’s sense of ‘roughing it’ – bringing a wonder to life with your bare hands – especially a device you understand the inner-workings of. Now, more than ever, there is a modern movement amongst hams in homebrewing or kit-building their own gear, especially gear you can take on the trail.
I cannot take complete credit for The K4ICY Minty-Kool Keyer. (Moreso for the Mint Deluxe) The keyer’s genesis was conceived by Richard P. Halverson, W0ZHN, and Ronald A. Stordahl, K0UXQ, for their article “An Integrated-Circuit Electronic Keyer,” [pg. 22, QST, April, 1968]. It was also a 3-IC circuit and had dot/dash generation using a single-lever paddle, but no iambic (“squeeze”) keying. Urs Hadorn, HB9ABO of Oberglatt, Switzerland modified the keyer for his article “Simple CMOS Keyer,” [pg. 70, Ham Radio Magazine, January 1979.] His circuit was just about the same as the one presented in the QST article but with only slight improvement, however he reduced the chip count to two, provided several rig-interfacing schemes and actually built a few keys to go with it.
Three years later, Oh Hoekstra, PA2OHH, from the Netherlands made his first “Simple Iambic Keyer” circuit and in 1999 posted a revised model online at: http://www.qsl.net/pa2ohh/iambic.htm. Not only did he revise the HB9ABO circuit, adding iambic dot/dash coordination which allowed for use of a dual-lever paddle, but improved the key and rig interfacing. Even with his offer, there were still some features missing that all the builders mentioned here made note of; features that proficient CW operators often desire for comfortable sending: dot/dash memory and weighting. Dot/Dash memory allows for extra opposite elements to be generated upon command even if the keyer was busy; so if you are in the middle of making a dash, tapping on the dot paddle would put a dot in queue to be made once the dash was completed. This makes for sure and comfortable ‘squeeze’-keying. Weighting was the obvious additional creature comfort.
One search on Google for "keyer circuits" will show you that many folks have come up with many solutions (some simple, some not) to a seemingly small niche within a niche or the Amateur Radio hobby. There was a day when analog rigs based on tubes and later transistors required either the skilled manual 'fist' of the operator to transmit intelligence or a mechanical and ultimately an electronic solution. Modern rigs have this feature built in, but hams like to keep the old 'boat anchors' running and many modern QRP and kit-based rigs which have been quite popular as of late still require keying for those who won't be using straight keys or sideswipers. It's interesting to analyze the circuit strategy of each keyer design offered. This writeup by Gary, ZL1AN, in Auckland, New Zealand, http://www.qsl.net/zl1an/Circuits/circuits.html shows an interesting chronology, one design in particular; the ever so popular ACCUKeyer (73 Magazine, August 1975, pg. 58) of its time is an example of design using perhaps way too many parts for what it did (http://www.survivorlibrary.com/library/73_magazine_1975_08_august.pdf#page=60). It's easy to pick apart one design, comparing it to the virtues of another, such as declaring that an 8-pin SMD PIC microprocessor is 'better', but really that would be unfair to say and un-ham-like at that. Any circuit solution, is a solution. If it works then the builder has at least succeeded in their goal.
Any ham who can truly call themselves a "ham" has at least attempted to build their own equipment and can show that they truly understand at least some aspect of what goes on "under the hood." More than just an "appliance" operate, a ham that has built is closer to being a "complete" ham. Take it from Frank Harris, K0IYE... NO REALLY, you can take his wisdom for FREE on the homebrewing spirit of our hobby, just visit http://www.qsl.net/k0iye/ to read his book. If you so choose, I hope you enjoy building the Minty-Kool Keyer as much as I have. It certainly performs well enough.
Feel free to ask me questions or submit comments.
73! DE Mike, K4ICY email@example.com