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Lego CW Iambic Paddle

Lego CW Paddle
Lego CW Paddle
As I read the April 2011 edition of QST, they featured a picture of a CW key made of Legos on page 20. I thought to myself that this was the kind of project I was up to. Rather than a straight key like N1LF made, I decided to go with an iambic paddle. You might be asking yourself, why would Vernon make a lego paddle when he has a cool CW touch keyer that he finished 2 months ago? Two reasons: 1) because I am a tinkerer, and 2) the touch keyer is way to sensitive and lacks the tactile feedback (I think) I want. The capacitive touch sensors I used don't seem to be very adjustible, which is unfortunate, because when I finally assembled it in the box, the key sensitivity went way up. It can sense my finger about 1/16th inch away, which means it is transmitting dits and dahs before my brain gets the tactile feedback from touching the cold aluminum. Let's see what Legos can do for me.

When I was a kid, I got some Legos Technics and loved them. I spent hours building things. I even went as far as rigging up a motor to work with them (since my set didn't have one). I kept them all those years and pulled them out this morning an whipped up a iambic paddle before work. Nathan was impressed with my skills and was happy to find that I used MY Legos and not HIS Legos. The design is all original and was mostly constrained by the variety of pieces that I had on hand. But it seems to be well built and not too wobbly. In other words, you can use it just fine, but you can't really slap it around. The only non-Lego parts are the bolt and washers for paddle adjustment, the rubber band for paddle return, and the aluminum foil for the contacts. I found an old stereo 1/8 inch plug and cord in my junk drawer and wired it all up at lunch time. It works like a champ. Maybe not so smooth as a Begali Magnetic Pro paddle that I am dreaming of, but maybe it will get me there until I can save my Euros to buy one.

AVR junkie paradise

The Teensy
The Teensy
I have been pining for some shiny tiny hardware that would look good in the CW (Morse code) paddle that I am making. Arduino had been a first choice for several days. I was on the verge of buying a couple of boards when I came across PJRC's Teensy. It really is teensy. But it incorporates a little bit of hardware that I had not seen in a proto-board before: Atmel's 8-bit MCU with USB support. The Teensy has the Mega32U4 processor at its core, which has 32kB of flash, 2.5kB SRAM, and 1kB EEPROM, support for up to 6 USB full-speed functions, and lots more of the standard AtMega goodies. I think one of the coolest things about this board is that once you have a bootloader in place, you can flash the system over the USB connection that is already has. No need for an extra programmer and more cables. And even if you screw up your application, the bootloader is safe, because it is protected by separate lock bits.

To make a short story even shorter, I ordered two Teensy boards over the weekend and they arrived today. Fast shipping. (It helps that PJRC is less than 20 miles away.)

I am in Atmel junkie paradise.