Many of our loyal compiler customers may not be aware that 10 years ago, CCS bought another company that now operates out of our same location. West Mountain Radio ("WMR") manufactures accessories for the Amateur (HAM) radio and DC power markets. We know many of our customers are Electrical Engineers and most EE's seem to at least be knowledgeable about HAM radio even if they do not indulge themselves. Since the beginning, HAM's have been on the cutting edge of RF technologies, electronic design, computers and software. While the rest of the world is downloading apps, HAMs have been using DSP's to replace most analog components in radios. Software defined radios do tuning, bandwidth control, modulation, demodulation and much more all in software. Digital transmissions are used not only for voice, but modes similar to texting, and e-mail, as well has hybrid communications systems using both RF and the internet. HAMs were experimenting with phone line patches to radios before we had cell phones. HAM radio was truly made for tinkerers.
CCS bought WMR to help smooth out the income stream as the PIC market fluctuates. The company had innovative products and is well respected in the market. What CCS could bring to the table was microcontrollers. Many of the products were crying out for microcontrollers to bring the product line to the next level. This is something our CCS engineers can do in their sleep (or spare time between projects). It also helps to keep our guys on top of the development tool needs for real world applications. As a simple example, WMR has a line of DC power strips. CCS was able to add Ethernet and WiFi to some of these power strips so the voltage and current can be monitored and controlled from any web browser. This is a huge help for unmanned radio stations on a mountain top or for those operating a home station remotely from work.
Many of the traditional WMR products that had clever analog circuits have been upgraded to a small micro. This reduced the number of parts, increased the accuracy and reduced the need for calibration and eliminated drift. On some products, we also put in a small internal USB port so the user could change trip points or just monitor the device status.
We have been a little surprised to find many of our long term customers were also a WMR customer or simply HAM operators. We expect to be showcasing more compiler projects that have HAM radio applications. A new development board is also on the drawing table. Educational package offerings normally reserved for students and schools are being extended to licensed HAM operators.
The HAM radio community is very social. Clubs can be found in any medium to large size city in the US. It is even more popular in other countries. These local clubs will usually sponsor a get together called a HAMFEST. This is an event that has educational seminars, a flea market, license testing and much more. Even if you are not a HAM operator these events are a great place to buy vintage computer equipment, electronics of all types or just have a good high tech conversation with like minded people. WMR sets up a booth at approximately 10 of these shows a year. Sometimes we put out a demo and information on our development kits and compiler. We are considering trying a microcontroller seminar to see what the interest is.
Many of the WMR products have applications well beyond HAM radio. For example, the product line includes sophisticated battery testing, DSP based audio processing for noise reduction, and many DC power related products. The DC power products are special because of the high current they can handle. All the products can deal with at least 40A. A licensed HAM can transmit up to 1500W so high current is important. Beyond HAM radio however, our battery testers can be set up to simulate a specific load pattern to figure out how long a battery will last under a certain scenario. They can also be used just as an electronic load to test a power supply, connectors or just traces on a PCB. If you have some high current designs coming up consider WMR for some of your test equipment.
Let us know if you want to learn more about HAM radio, connect with a local club or just meet us at a show.
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CCS is a leading worldwide supplier of embedded software development tools that enable companies to develop premium products based on Microchip PIC® MCU and dsPIC® DSC devices. Complete proven tool chains from CCS include a code optimizing C compiler, application specific hardware platforms and software development kits. CCS' products accelerate development of energy saving industrial automation, wireless and wired communication, automotive, medical device and consumer product applications. Established in 1992, CCS is a Microchip Premier 3rd Party Partner. For more information, please visit https://www.ccsinfo.com.
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