The first affordable, FT8 receiver with an open source RF chip designed and fabricated using open source chip tools

Nov 10, 2022

Project update 2 of 7

The Maverick-603 Story

by Colby Gilbert

The First Steps

Before creating the Maverick-603, we had the goal to design a chip using open source tools, a process much easier said than done. After extensive open source silicon research; the community, support network, and opportunities that eFabless had for open source silicon immediately stood out.

eFabless is a company that gives the resources and tools for anyone to design their own open source chip and then lets them make their chip for free with their MPW Program (funded by Google). This opportunity was the first of its kind and gave us a launchpad to make our chip a reality.

Connecting Ham Radio and Open Silicon

As we were beginning to work through the chip design process, we were also experimenting with creating a cheap and easy FT8 receiver system. After some tinkering and final component selections, we successfully set up a receiver system that was receiving signals from all over the world. However, although it was the cheapest (relatively) and easiest to use, it was still a bulky setup and an expensive system to build.

To those with ham radio experience, building this system was a tedious, but relatively straightforward task. However, for some of our team members with little amateur radio experience, setting up and operating this receiver was an almost impossible task. Seeing this technical knowledge barrier preventing users from trying ham radio revealed an opportunity for us to connect Ham Radio and Open Silicon. An affordable and compact FT8 receiver would be a perfect fit as the focus of our open source chip project. With a clear idea and the necessary resources in place, the Maverick project officially began.

Crowd Supply and Our Launch

As the chip and PCB designs were finalized, our next goal was figuring out how to get the Maverick into the hands of users. With its huge reach, focus on open source hardware, and past successes; Crowd Supply was our first choice as the platform to launch our Maverick-603. Our acceptance into the Crowd Supply program was a huge achievement for us, and gave us access to the Crowd Supply Team and support network that worked with us every step along the way to launching the Maverick-603.

Where does the Maverick-603 get its name?

Aside from being Tom Cruise’s character in Top Gun, a “Maverick” also refers to an animal that should have a brand (like cattle) but does not have one and roams wild. A great analogy for the open source community.

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