FT-817 Buddy: FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions

Where can I buy one?

You can’t, this is a DIY project but it should be within reach of most radio amateurs who know which end of a soldering iron to hold (if it smells like chicken, you’re holding it wrong). 

Detailed instructions on how to order the PCBs & parts, build the hardware and load the software are provided in the Build Instructions.  The list of parts and example costs is in the Bill Of Materials. If you really can’t bear to build things perhaps you can persuade some other radio amateurs you know to do a group build and one of them will take care of you.

Seriously, why don’t you sell this?

Lots of reasons, have a read of this page to understand where I’m coming from.

How much does it cost to build?

Bear in mind this wasn’t designed for minimum cost.  Minimum Order Quantities (MOQs) on PCBs and components make this most suitable for group builds, solo players are encouraged to find some friends to build with or for!

At this time, early 2021, in the UK, I’ve roughly added up the costs as follows…

  • Single board approx. £87 (don’t do it like this!)
  • Batch of five boards works out at approximately £195… about £39 each
  • Batch of ten boards works out at approximately £350… about £35 each

How much current does it pull from the FT-817?

Less than 50mA. Measurements from Rev3:

  • Idle (Arduino running, polling Freq/Mode), backlight off – 43mA
  • Idle (Arduino running, polling Freq/Mode), backlight on – 46mA
  • Keying, buzzing, backlight on – 49mA

Writing to the FT-817 EEPROM?  Isn’t that dangerous?

There are some risks and the EEPROM functionality is not supported by Yaesu.

  • There is a risk of an EEPROM write error wiping your radio…
    • …but you will take a note of the 76 soft-calibration settings so you can restore your radio to its original state if this happens
  • There is a risk of wearing out the EEPROM…
    • …but the code I’ve written minimises EEPROM interactions to be driven by manual button pushes so there should be no more wear than using your FT-817 normally.  If you modify the code you will of course bear this in mind!

Make no mistake, this project comes with no warranty or liability and you accept the risks that come from using amateur code… and you will have to accept this risk before my code, as provided on GitHub, will do anything.

However, this is open source and you are free to inspect, modify, ignore the functions that write to the EEPROM (these are noted by comments in the code) and if you can see a better way of doing things you can contribute improvements back to the project for the good of everyone.

Will it work with my FT-818?

The CAT commands will all be the same but I read somewhere that the EEPROM went obsolete and the FT-818s don’t have an equivalent interface for the undocumented commands, to be confirmed? So, yes and no.

Will it work with my FT-857D?

The hardware should be fine but the FT-857D uses some different CAT commands and I have no idea about EEPROM access so you will have to adapt the software to suit.

Will it work with any other radio?

Maybe.  You can probably adapt the hardware (change the cable wiring to suit your radio’s serial accessory port if that port works at 5V logic levels) but you’ll need to re-write the software to suit your radio’s interface.

Can you make it do…?

Maybe.  But you know if I can, so can you!  Why don’t you have a go at implementing your idea using the excellent KA7OEI serial interface description and use the existing code we have as a springboard for your idea?  Not everyone wants the same functions so expect some customisation for your own use and preferences.  If you need some pointers or want to share your idea, head over to the Discussions on GitHub 

Did you know, there’s a better way of doing…?

Great!  Have a read of my Design Notes and you may see I had a good reason for making some of the choices presented in my design.  If you want to provide some feedback and get involved, head over to the project Discussions on GitHub.

I’m not a CW operator, can I build one without the K16 keyer?

Yes, just leave out the K16 chip, the 3.5mm jacks and the sidetone buzzer/LED, the Buddy will still work without them.  But the keyer is pretty cool.

Could you use an ePaper or OLED display instead?

I tried and thought about some other options but settled on this Nokia-style LCD as a good balance of low power consumption, fast refresh, daylight readability and cost, see Design Notes.  You can always take this design and modify it as you wish.