Sometime during the spring of 2007, a major discussion started amongst several radio amateurs in the Amersfoort area of The Netherlands, who had just attended a presentation on D-STAR by one of their members, Gerjan Faber PA1GF- pictures of that presentation can be found here.

The topic of discussion was whether or not the D-STAR technology was mostly a vendor-invented (and, like most of those, vendor-locked) gadget, or something that would be useful regardless of the manufacturer, possibly even to home brewers. Based on what most knew at that point, D-STAR was mostly a system designed without too much publicity, and implemented only by ICOM, hence it was taken as a vendor-locked system by most.

After many, many talks, and a healthy dose of thinking it over, Dutch radio amateur Fred van Kempen (PA4YBR, also known as KA4YBR) decided to go and give it a try: designing a simple box that could be connected to an existing transceiver capable of doing digital data modes (such as 9600bps packet), and which would then implement the D-STAR system.

This project quickly evolved into a more detailed series of ideas, and it was decided that the project would be split up into a number of products, each with increased cost, complexity and functionality, to allow people to choose. The name of the project became DUTCH*Star, as a hint to both the technology (D-STAR, as well as the country of origin of the project (Dutch, as in "being from Holland".)

 

"For The Rest Of US !"

The project slogan says it all, really.. the goal of the project is to allow D-STAR to be affordable by anyone, and easy to use for anyone. To keep cost down, the products were decided to be complete kits, and not just schematics or a PCB layout file. Complete kits make it easier for people to start building, and some advice was sought from the great people at Elecraft on how to pursue this.

One of the problems with modern electronics is that many components are only available in SMT (Surface Mount Technology) variants, which are hard to solder for many hobbyists. It was therefore added to the project goals that, where possible, standard TH (Through-Hole) technology components would be selected.

 

Steps

Although the initial goal was to come up with a complete transceiver design, it quickly became apparent that since most amateurs already would have a working transceiver, most initial interest would be for some kind of set-top device which could simply be connected to such an existing transceiver, much like how one would connect a TNC for operating in packet or APRS modes.

The idea of such a "D-STAR Modem" device was received well, and so project focus was shifted to first designing such a device. Once this was done, other products could follow, as they would all use that modem as a base in their design.

 

There's modems and modems..

While working on the "D-STAR Modem" concept, others such as Satoshi Yasuda JK1ZRW were also working hard on their projects, using a similar approach, but based on a different architecture. Driven by the already growing popularity of those designs, it was decided that a second family of products would be added to the project, based on these lower-cost designs, but using a slightly different design and (where needed) using European versions of components. This family of products is now known as the Node Adapter series of products - a history of the development of this this product family can be found here. The other family, of course, remains the original DM-1 series.

Both families will be developed further as long as there is demand for them.

 

Software

The good thing about designing hardware is, that it usually also results in some fairly useful pieces of software, most often the result of a need for something to test the hardware with. This project is no different- designing the various pieces of hardware also resulted in several software modules (libraries) and programs, which can make the dealing with D-STAR systems a lot easier for the programmer. You can find this software in the Software section of this website.

 

Results and the future

At this time, development of the various products (both existing ones as well as new ones) is in full force. Although mainly a side effect from the product development, a lot of effort is also invested into writing and releasing supporting software for these products, and tight co-operation with the authors of existing D-STAR based applications to ensure compatbility.

Ideas for new products and/or software applications, or suggestions for changes are always welcomed. Please use the feedback form for letting us know your thoughts!


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