The CC-20 Lives

I'll admit there were times when I thought I might never get this thing working, but dogged persistence in the face of frustration will sometimes get the job done. Failure to accept the mushy and hum-ridden audio finally led me to crack the tough nut.

11 - 1
Today, I finally slew the new CC-20 beta dragon. Without getting into a long, drawn-out rant about what went wrong, I'll just say that transcription errors and schematic capture screw-ups did me in. I believe that at least 5 separate problems with this PCB turn were discovered in the end. All of the errors kind of "stacked up" on each other. Solving one would lead to a marginal, but not final improvement. The big problem is that a couple of those were very subtle errors to troubleshoot.

The big one that finally restored the receiver to the glory that it deserves was a missing decoupling resistor in the IF amplifier. That one little change took the audio from minimally functional, low sensitivity, and full of DDS spurs to the clean, sensitive, and spur-free receiver that I knew the prototype to be. Even after I identified the problem, I almost missed the fix because of some kind of strange routing that I did with the VCC line. But enough banging my head against the bench, and I managed to beat some sense into my brain and fix the problems once and for all.

A bit more tweaking finally got the radio ready to go on the air for its first QSO today. Repeatedly calling CQ on 14.060 MHz resulted in no answers, forcing me to wonder if I screwed something else up, like the carrier oscillator alignment. But I heard a strong station a few kHz down and thought I would try to give them a call instead. It turned out to be KD0V in Minnesota, who was blasting in at a strong 599. He gave me a 559 in return and commented that the transmitted note sounded good to him. Due to my frazzled nerves, I kept the QSO fairly short and called it a day after the exchange of the usual information.

So it looks like the beta kit is finally in a state where I can package it and send it out. Many people will be happy with this news; first and foremost being my wife and the long-suffering beta testers. Let's hope for the best during the beta test and maybe I can get out of this without a permanent nervous condition.

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2 thoughts on “The CC-20 Lives”

  1. Jennifer must be ecstatic. She's probably been wondering where her husband's been! I am, of course, very happy, and not just because I need a 20M rig 🙂

    Although I can't even begin to compare what I do to what you have been going through, it has given me a small taste of how these projects can completely take over your life at times - even if you are a balanced kind of person. Putting the CC-20 on the back-burner would have given you a break and some relief, but not without the pain of having to admit defeat, at least temporarily. Once you're in these things, there's no easy way out.

    It's made me think of all the products I've ever been interested in - the wait between initial announcement, and all the wondering along the lines of "What the hell are these guys doing? Are they just sitting twiddling their thumbs? Don't they know I really want to buy the new Acme Flange-Sprocket Machine? Geez!"

    I'll never think those kinds of thoughts again, because now I know that behind every product is a person or people who are sweating long hours in order to create - and every detail has to be completely mastered and wrestled into submission before the product can be released.

    Creating anything new is a long, drawn out and messy process. Congratulations on getting your hands dirty Jason!

    Oh good lord - I hope I don't screw up the beta test........... 🙂

  2. @Dave Richards AA7EE
    Ecstatic is probably not the correct word. Cautiously relieved might be a better phrase. We were both questioning whether it was wise to continue this endeavor, so it makes me feel better that she didn't misplace her trust in me when I convinced her to let me give it one more chance. You are correct giving up would mean admitting defeat; something neither I nor my wife will do lightly.

    My letting the world get a peek into my development process does give a bit of insight into the insanity of creating a new product, doesn't it. God knows I've learned a lot and have been humbled greatly. And as you stated, since this product has to be reliably duplicated and perform well, the "good enough" attitude of most of my previous creations won't cut it. Makes one more sympathetic towards Elecraft, doesn't it? 🙂

    Thank you again for the morale booster. The Mouser order will be here on Friday. Get ready for some interesting times during the beta test!

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