FrequentlyAsked Questions

1. I'd like to build the Multicontroller. How much experience do I need before I take the plunge?

Although the multicontroller is not recommended as a "beginner project," it is not difficult to build because printed circuit boards are available, as well as a custom silkscreened and pre-punched enclosure. All the circuit boards plug together, so no point-to-point wiring is required. However, you will need to recognize basic electronic components (e.g., electrolytic capacitors, diodes, integrated circuits, etc.), you will need to understand resistor color codes, and you should know how to solder small components on circuit boards. Realistically, it would be best if you have previously wired circuit boards or assembled electronic kits, such as Heathkits. (Remember those?)

2. Where can I find more information about the Multicontroller?

This website accompanies an article in the May 2004 issue of QST. The article contains a complete technical discussion and a summary of the Multicontroller's features. In addition, you can download a complete list of specifications, circuit diagrams, parts and suppliers lists, and detailed assembly instructions from this website by clicking on "Download Info" on the banner. The parts lists also contains information about alternate parts sources. The bulletin board/discussion group is a good place to find out about construction hints, parts sources, etc.

3. Can I buy a complete parts kit for the Multicontroller?

I wish I could provide a complete set of parts for builders, but since I'm not in the kit business I just don't have the capability. Maybe when I retire (sigh...). However, I have stocked a limited number of "semi-kits" that consist of bare printed circuit boards, a few specialty parts, and silkscreened and pre-punched enclosures, so the hard work has been done for you. I've also looked up the part numbers and ordering information for the other components, almost all of which are available from Mouser Electronics. All you need to do is cut and paste my list into the on-line ordering form at the Mouser Electronics website (

4. Are there any unusual or hard-to-find parts in the Multicontroller?

All the parts are in current production and are commercially available. However, the Mini-Circuits GALI-6 preamplifier IC is only sold in quantities of ten or more, so I've ordered a bunch of them from the factory and will supply one with every circuit board order. The Maxim MAX497 is also only available in quantity, with a long lead time. However, Maxim provides two free samples upon request from their website, and has assured me they will do so for Multicontroller builders. This is a very generous offer, since these chips normally sell for about $12/ea, and Maxim even pays the shipping. What a great company!

5. How do I obtain my two free sample MAX497 chips from Maxim?

(1) Go to the Maxim website at www/
(2) Click on "Samples and Literature" (on the middle right side of the page).
(3) On the "Enter Part Number box," fill in "MAX497CPE" (no quotes). Press the "Place in Cart" button
(4) Under "Your Application" enter 'W8ZR Multicontroller in QST", and enter "2" for potential yearly volume. Fill out your mailing address and you're done!

6. How much will it cost me to build the Multicontroller?

If you buy all the components new, including the four circuit boards and custom enclosure, the Multicontoller will set you back approximately $240. If you make or scrounge your own enclosure the total cost should be about $180. If you have some of the parts in your junque box, or buy them from discount suppliers (such as Jameco Electronics, All Electronics, etc.), then you could probably build it for about $140 -$150.

7. How long will it take to build the Multicontroller?

Well, from start to finish it took me about six months! But don't worry. once you've lined up all the parts, I'd estimate it will only take you about 7-10 hours to wire the circuit boards and assemble everything together. Obviously, if you make your own enclosure, it will take longer.

8. Can I buy a Multicontroller already wired and tested?

I wrote the article in QST to encourage hams to develop their homebrewing skills, so I've no plans to sell completed Multicontrollers. If you really want to buy a completed unit, you can probably persuade someone (not me!) to wire one up for you. Try posting a request on the Multicontroller bulletin board.

9. If I assemble the Multicontroller and it doesn't work, can you fix it for me?

Wish I could help, but given my job demands, I just don't have the time to give one-on-one assistance. That's why I've tried to make this website as comprehensive as possible and have written up detailed assembly instructions.On the plus side, the Multicontroller is a very reliable and straightforward circuit that has been duplicated by many people. It is about as close to a 'plug-and-play' project as you'll find, so if you're careful and take your time you shouldn't have any trouble. If you do run into difficulty, I'm sure guys on the discussion group will be happy to help you out.

10. What tools and test instruments do I need to build the Multicontroller?

The most important tool you'll need is a good small-tipped soldering iron, suitable for soldering small electronic components, and some small-diameter (e.g. 1/32 inch) resin core solder. Your project will sink or swim on the basis of your soldered connections, so investing in a quality soldering iron is definitely worthwhile.

In addition, you'll need a good set of small needle-nose pliers, small flush-cut wire-cutters, tweezers, magnifying glass, and Phillips screwdriver. Good lighting is also important. If you want to build your own enclosure, then you'll need basic metal-working tools, such as a drill press or chassis punches.

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Updated 4/2/2004