Arduino Iambic Keyer 2016 – Part 2: Software


The 2016 version keyer hardware has four additions that require software support; more memory buttons, stand alone battery operation, Real Time Clock, and the biggest change a 16 character 2 line Liquid Crystal Display.

Additional memory buttons need:

  • Expansion of button scanning while in operation
  • Expansion of button programming
  • Addition to default messages
  • Consideration of potential uses while not in operation

Battery and associated (PowerBoost 500c) charger/converter need:

  • Charge status monitoring
  • Discharge status monitoring and alarm
  • Work out how to turn the unit off while charging

The Teensy3.2 built in Real Time Clock will need:

  • Ability to read hardware clock and convert to display friendly form
  • Ability to set hardware clock when in stand alone mode
  • Display GMT and Local time and date
  • Desirable: sync hardware clock over serial from PC

Stand alone operation requires all information displayed on the LCD as well as the serial port.
This will require:

  • Battery charge/discharge status
  • Keyer parameters, speed and side tone frequency
  • Time and date
  • Desirable: manage the LCD backlight

A link to my sketch is at the end of this article.

Following is a description of some things I learned writing this code.

Event Loops

When I first looked at KC4IFB’s Iambic code I couldn’t see how it worked. But after a fair amount of study and experimentation (see my instrumented version) I now understand and use event loops often, avoiding delay() whenever possible.  In an Arduino sketch loop() is an event loop. It just spins forever waiting for something to do. Code entered within loop() is repeatedly executed, like scanning an input pin for a button press which sends in a ground.

Why avoid delay()? Because it stops all sketch processing until it times out. Better to use the timer to trigger an event asynchronously at the current time plus a delay interval. Let loop() continue to spin, watching over the rest of your code. An example might be:

unsigned long trigger1k;
unsigned long trigger5k;
unsigned long currentTime;
void setup() {}
void loop() {
currentTime = millis();
if (currentTime > trigger1k) {
   < do stuff every second >
   trigger1k =trigger1k + 1000;
if (currentTime > trigger5k ) {
   < do stuff every five seconds >
   trigger5k = trigger5k + 5000;

This would not work well with delay(1000) and delay(5000) in place of the time triggers.

You can roll your own event loops. I’m doing this often in the keyer sketch. Just set up your own infinite spinner:

while (true) {
  < code executed until a break; is seen >

The C statement break: exits the while loop. You can make event loops inside of event loops but more than two levels gets very difficult to debug.


Stupid Switch Tricks

I used the “C” switch statement a lot in this years update and thought I would document some of the ideas.

Leading Zeros

This is a function to print 2-4 digit numbers with leading zeros. It can also be used to right justify a number by changing “0” to ” “. Note there are no break statements in the switch, it is entered at a point determined by “digits” then falls through all succeeding statements.

 Just to get leading zeros on up to four digit integer
 arg k is variable to print
 arg digits is # places to use
 void lcdPz(int k, int digits) {
 switch (digits) {
   case 4:
     if (k < 1000 ) lcd.print("0");
   case 3:
     if (k < 100  ) lcd.print("0");
   case 2:
     if (k < 10   ) lcd.print("0");


Building a Menu with Switch

I gave a lot of thought and time to how I could do stand alone update menu system.  The menu loop is entered if the “FUNCTON” button is down when the processor boots up. Teensy3.2 does not provide easy access to the reset pin so my workaround is just switching power off and on.

In this bit of pseudocode, the switch statement just displays menu options. Pressing the “ENTER” button while a specific item is on the LCD selects that menu item for updating. I use a separate function to actually implement specific item updates but that could be done in line.

while (true) {             // Event loop
  Mtime = millis();
  if (MTime > nextMenuTime) {
  nextMenuTime = MTime + 1500; // New menu item trigger  whichMenu = (whichMenu + 1) % 8; // Counts 0 to 7
  switch (whichMenu) {
    case 0:
      < display first menu item >
    case 1:
      < display second menu item >
etc. etc.
    case 7:
      < display seventh menu >
  }        // End of switch statement
if ( < SELECT button is pressed > ) {
 < menu item# whichMenu is selected,
    do something about it  >
}           // End of while() loop


Selecting Columns to Update

One particular problem was how to update the clock time and date. Time is displayed on the LCD as HH:MM:SS so how to click through that and change individual digits? I decided to only increment or decrement the ones digits so the second “H”, the second “M”, and second “S” digits are the only targets. I can skip everything else. Two buttons were designated as “up” and “down” and I wrote a function that returns 1 if “up” is pressed, -1 if “down” is pressed, zero if neither.

Using switch() to select the appropriate digits on the LCD easily allows skipping over columns.

case 3:                            // Set GMT time

 Ltime = now();                    // System time snapshot
 // Convert snapshot into simpler variables for display
 Lhour = hour(Ltime);              // Need the date as well
 Lmin = minute(Ltime);
 Lsec = second(Ltime);
 cursorPos = 0;                    // Start at first position
 lcd.cursor();                     // So you can see where you are
 lcd.setCursor(0, 1);
// Walk the cursor down the displayed time
 while (true) {                    // Start event loop

   Action = upDown();              // Up or Down pressed?
   if (Action != 0) {
     delay(150);                   // limit speed of change
     Changed = true;               // Flag something was changed
switch (cursorPos) {
   case 0:                       // Hours tens digit
     cursorPos += 1;
   case 1:                       // Hours ones digit
     Lhour = (Lhour + Action) % 24;
   case 2:                       // Ignore the colon
     cursorPos += 1;
   case 3:                       // Skip Minutes tens digit
     cursorPos += 1;
   case 4:                       // Minutes ones digit
     Lmin = (Lmin + Action) % 60;
   case 5:                       // Ignore the colon
     cursorPos += 1;
   case 6:                       // Skip Seconds tens digit
     cursorPos += 1;
   case 7:                       // Seconds ones digit
     Lsec = (Lsec + Action) % 60;
 }                               // End of switch
if ( < ENTER button pressed > ) { 
   cursorPos = (cursorPos + 1) % 7;//  Move to next digit
if ( < EXIT button pressed> ) {
  < Write changed time to the system clock >
  break;                         // Jump out
  <  redisplay the time on LCD >
 break;                        // Exit the while()

Revision History

February 25, 2016      MemoryKeyerTeensy3.2_V1.0  Initial software
March 9, 2016            MemoryKeyerTeensy3.2_v1.1.0 Rework battery alarm logic, bug fixes
March 16, 2016           MemoryKeyerTeensy3.2 V1.1.1   Workaround fix LCD does not have backslash in its font.

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