Using CHIRP to Interface a Mac with a Kenwood TH-K2

For several years the VHF handheld radio in the shack has been the no-frills Kenwood TH-K2 (2-meter band only). It has followed in the tracks of the venerable TH-G71A, a model long discontinued.

The TH-K2 can be programmed using the Kenwood proprietary MCP-1A software, whose version 3.11 still can be downloaded from the Kenwood website (http://www.kenwood.com/i/products/info/amateur/mcp1a_e.html).

The only other accessory required to interface the TH-K2 with a computer is the also Kenwood proprietary PC interface cable PG-4Y (which has been in the shack since the times of the TH-G71A).

A problem is that the TH-K2 model also has been discontinued, and that the MCP-1A software, last updated by Kenwood in November 2013, is no longer supported. In addition, this software would have only operated in a MicroSoft Windows environment, and I wanted to interface the radio with a MacBook Pro.

To the rescue comes CHIRP: “a free, open-source tool for programming your amateur radio” available for several operating systems (http://chirp.danplanet.com/projects/chirp/wiki/Home).

First I had to download and install the KK7DS Python runtime for Mac OS X, which was done by clicking the appropriate link in the following page: http://chirp.danplanet.com/projects/chirp/wiki/Download.

Then I downloaded and installed the CHIRP.app (i.e., the …app.zip file) from http://trac.chirp.danplanet.com/chirp_daily/LATEST/

A window appeared indicating that CHIRP comes in a signed package and that Mac OS X users should disable signed package checking for the CHIRP.app, something easily done by accessing Security & Privacy in the System Preferences of the Mac. The CHIRP app was then transferred to the Applications folder.

With the radio OFF I connected the PG-4Y cable (i.e., it must never be connected to the radio with the radio ON). To it I then connected the USA-19HS Keyspan USB-serial cable, which in turn was plugged to one of the USB ports in the MacBook Pro (i.e., the Keyspan driver had long been installed). Then I switched the radio ON, and chose PC ON in its Menu 31 (i.e., to enable it to interface with the computer).

Then I went to Beginners Guide in the CHIRP page (http://chirp.danplanet.com/projects/chirp/wiki/Beginners_Guide) and found out that CHIRP modifies radio memories either in Clone (requiring an upload to the radio after changes have been made on the scree) or Live mode (the changes are immediately reflected in the memories of the radio).

From the Applications folder I clicked on the CHIRP app. As instructed in the Beginners Guide, I clicked the Radio menu and chose Download from Radio. The program asked to select the Port (which in this case was named /dev/cu.USA19H141P1.1), and to enter the Vendor (Kenwood) and the Model (TH-K2). Then a window appeared informing that CHIRP deals with the TH-K2 in Live mode and that hence any changes on the screen would be immediately reflected in the memories of the transceiver, implying that a back-up in either .csv or .chirp format would be the way to preserve the original values. Once that was done the screen was ready for manually refreshing the data of the local repeaters.

Upon switching the radio OFF, disconnecting the cables and bringing the TH-K2 back ON, everything looked in good order, and before I could say CQ the TH-K2 was already CHIRPing happily into several of the repeaters.

 

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2 thoughts on “Using CHIRP to Interface a Mac with a Kenwood TH-K2

  1. Got down to, “Then a window appeared informing that CHIRP deals with the TH-K2…” Never did see a window. It just sat there. Glad it worked for you

    Like

  2. Hello Doug,

    Thank you for your comment in my blog, which gave me a good reason to get reacquainted with the TH-K2 and spend a few minutes playing with it in the shack.

    But first I had to find it… (it was in the garage , in storage for the Winter, amidst other handheld paraphernalia I take to my small sailboat in the Summer). Then I had to look for the TH-K2 charger (found it inside a box on the shelves of the shack with other “VHF” stuff). Then I also needed the unique and very old TH-K2-to-Serial cable: the “PG-4Y” (found in another box in the shack). And one last thing was needed: the Keyspan USA-19HS USB-Serial adapter. First I could not find it but then I remembered… it interfaces the old IBM Thinkpad (which does have USB ports) with the the ICOM CT-17 CI-V Level Converter, which is only Serial… After I plugged all items in place I was ready to CHIRP… Or so I thought, because I had forgotten the setting in the TH-K2 that enables it to talk to the computer. I searched tor the TH-K2 manual in the computer… found it! Search the manual for “PG-4Y” and bingo!

    “You must configure the SP/MIC jack function prior to using the software”:
    1 Press [MENU].
    2 Turn the Tuning control to select Menu No. 31 (PC).
    3 Press [MENU].
    4 Turn the Tuning control to select “ON”.
    5 Press [MENU] to store the setting or press [PTT] to cancel.
    6 Press any key other than [LAMP], [MONI/SQL] and [MENU] to exit Menu Mode.

    Done… Now let’s go to CHIRP…
    The version I have in the MAC is CHIRP daily-20160531 (the one I used for the posting in the blog). But the MAC OSX has been upgraded since, so I decided to check for today’s version of CHIRP which happens to be CHIRP daily-20171228. Downloaded it and transfer the app to the Applications folder.
    Will I need to dowload the KK7DS Python runtime? Let’s try without it…
    Running CHIRP daily-20171228…
    CHIRP displayed a blank square window …The menu at the top reads:
    CHIRP FILE EDIT VIEW RADIO HELP
    Clicked on RADIO
    First option is “Download from Radio”
    Clicked on that
    The Port, Vendor and Model were displayed…
    I had to correct the Port. The correct one in my setting is “/dev/cu.KeySerial1”
    Clicked OK
    CHIRP downloaded to the screen the entire content in the TH-K2 memories plus it added an overlaid window indicating that the TH-K2 operates in “live mode” and that any changes are immediately sent to the radio (i.e., no need to Upload to Radio).

    I then made a couple of changes since I knew that some of the nearby repeaters had changed their tone. Then I exited and repeated the operation to confirm that the changes had been made. They were. Hence, on my side all seems well and everything seems to work. I suspect that the problem you had may have been with either in the choice of Serial Port, the setting of menu 31 in the TH-K2, or an incompatibility with the MAC OSX (I am currently using a MacBook Pro (Retina, Late 2013) running MAC OS High Sierra 10.13.2),

    Hope any of this helps you to make CHIRP work also for you.
    73 Jose VA3PCJ.

    Liked by 1 person

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