Saturday, August 24, 2013

Icom demonstrates significant Q4 upgrade to 7800 firmware

Despite my expectations of nothing particularly interesting happening with the 7800, it seems I was wrong!

I was extremely happy today to learn that Icom will be delivering a significant update to the 7800 before the end of the year.  This has just been showcased at the Tokyo Ham Fair.  Here's a link to a YouTube video of a demo.  Unsurprisingly it's in Japanese, but you can get the gist of it from what's happening on the radio.

The features that are alledgedly included in this update are:

  • Waterfall screens for RF and AF (Audio Scope/FFT Scope/Oscilloscope) 
  • Mouse operation for scopes, click to select the frequency (Use USB hub to connect both of the keyboard and mouse at the same time) and other scope improvements 
  • Remote control without radio side PC by RS-BA1 (new version). Shack side PC (user operation PC) is still required. 
  • Voice recorder improvement (like the ID-31/51, IC-7100 function) 
  • USB flash drive compatibility (in addition to Compact Flash) 
  • New APF function improvement (0-6dB six steps volume adjustment) 
  • Transmit delay function (for linear amplifier) 
  • Expansion of 7MHz band (EUR version) 
  • One-hand operation for filter setting change 
  • New CI-V command additions (quasi-power-On/Off, setting/reading current status of RIT/Delta TX Freq, RIT On/Off and Delta TX On/Off)
This new love and attention that Icom are showering on the 7800 is continued commitment to their current flagship radio and of course a gift to their existing customers who have made a considerable outlay to acquire Icom's top-of-the-line HF rig.  It's great that Icom are showing continued support of their flagship in continuing to add value over a nice long product lifecycle that warrants the premium price that the product commands.  No doubt there are other commercial motives, e.g. keep the 7800 relevant in the market a little longer and competing against new products (from Kenwood in particular).  

I'm particularly gratified that with the panafall and finally practical uses for the modern hardware interfaces in the radio.  It seemed almost criminal that the radio is outfitted with ethernet and USB, yet to date on the 7800 these have been practically useless.  

The panafall should be a really nice addition, assuming bandwidth and speed are balanced nicely and it's practical rather than just a check-box feature.

Having a remote control server built into the radio and connectable over ethernet is simply awesome.  I've read lots of less-than-stellar reviews of the RS-BA1 remoting product.  Messing around with a server PC and lots of connecting cables to the radio is a nightmare.  I'm glad they've found a way to get all that hosted internally and to finally make that ethernet connectivity meaningful.

I really hope they go all the way and publish the full spec of the protocol used over the ethernet.  It's possible this is already defined and published (between the two copies of the RS-BA1 software you'd currently need to have remoting working), but I haven't stumbled over this yet.  I'd really like to leverage the possibilities this opens up for convenient rig control and remote operations by writing other client software (for me that means OS X and iOS by choice, though I also enjoy Haskell/GTK, which is cross-platform). 

So, 2013 is turning out to be a year loaded with quite a bit of excitement for me (my son getting his license, Flex 6700 delivered, 7800 being upgraded)!

Icom, if you're listening (!) a big thanks from me.  I'm looking forward to seeing this all in the flesh and discovering just how much this turns my 7800 into a 'new radio'!

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