This was written in response to a number of Correspondence letters
from hams in QST in mid-late 2010.
I'd like to give a different opinion about the "simple radio."
Understand that I am a technofile, I have a BS & MA in physics and have
worked in technical fields since my graduation with a BS in Physics from
Elizabethtown College in PA. I worked as a repair technician, audio, radio,
and TV, to work my way through college and graduate school.
I pulled apart my first TV at age 4, literally, removing every tube &
replacing them all, but in the wrong sockets. Hay, I was only 4!
I "fixed" my first TV at age 13 and used logic & what little I knew about
electronics as a Sophomore at E-town college to repair my little portable TV
by coming up with a modification to stabilize the horizontal hold which the
TV technicians at the repair shop could not "fix" properly by replacing every
cap in the circuit.
I cut-my-teeth on the very complex consumer-electronics user-controls of the
day, an On/Off switch, A Volume Control, (the next advancement made these
into one control, an On-Off/Volume control) and a Tuning control. Boy, those
were the days!
Last, I've been a ham since June of 1992.
Ok, enough of my "credentials" - In my humble opinion VHF & UHF radios,
especially handhelds, are far too menu complex today, period!
I own a number of different VHF/UHF radios. The most complex are the quad
and,dual-band mobile rigs, as well as the
two dual band HTs. With one of the HTs I'm always pressing some strange
button combination which throws the HT into a strange mode. The first time
this happened I didn't know if it was me or a defect in the radio. The second
time it happened I knew it was my fat clumsy fingers (my fingers are neither
fat nor clumsy I play finger style guitar very well thank-you) so this time I
again did the research through the manual and this time I hi-lighted the
section to fix the problem and wrote the page number on the front cover. I
now keep a copy of this part of the manual with me at all times when using
this radio, just-in-case. It has happened a number of times since I took this
precaution and I am always thankful for my foresight to include the "fix"
information with the radio go-kit when it happens.
With five different radios from at least three different manufacturers I need
to keep the manuals with each radio at all times just-in-case I hit some snag
I do not remember how to "fix."
You might say that I should have bought all the same kind of mobile and HT,
and if I were rich that's exactly what I'd do, but I bought all but one of
these units well used. I've had to replace the 2m finals, yes I did the work,
in two of them before they worked properly and still I saved money. The
radios were acquired over 5 years so I didn't go out & drop mucho money all
The bottom line is that it should NOT take an hour with the manual of ANY rig
just to put the thing on the air doing the basic things. It was confirmed by
the other more advanced users, and my own experience, that this is all too
often the case with all new rigs, except perhaps QRP CW one-band only rigs.
I agree with the non-ham ham and have written such articles for our local
club & ARES/RACES group. I want all HTs and preferably all radios, especially
those we're going to use for emergency service, to have either a basic radio
mode/button (it MUST be easy to locate and activate without a manual), or the
rig should have the basic "functions" readily available in easy to see
locations and easy to understand by anyone picking the rig up for the first
time. This can and does happen if you loan your rig to another ARES member
during an emergency. This is a VERY real case scenario and the "new", but we
hope well experienced, user of this radio has no time to sit with the manual
for an hour JUST TO GET STARTED
so s/he can help out during the emergency!
Anyone who thinks this is an acceptable situation is sorely mistaken. Or
hasn't been on the receiving end of a rig loan during an emergency situation.
I'm sorry, but IMHO this is NOT an acceptable situation! The radio
manufacturers need to understand that some of us will be using these rigs
during emergencies and that their rigs MUST
be easy to understand and use WITHOUT
the manual for reference and especially without having to spend an
hour or more with the manual just
to become familiar enough with the radio to put it on the air.
As a former EC of Carroll County MD, and as a professed technofile I do try
to put the time into knowing my radios, yet still, there are times that, without
the manual at hand, it takes me far more than three tries to get the right
button combination to get the rig where I need it to be.
"Badly done Alinco, ICOM, Kenwood, Yaesu! Badly done indeed!"
Don't stop giving us the feature rich radios and menus but give us the basics
up front where they belong, can be found, and understood without a manual or
an Elmer beside us!
73 de ke3fl
ORS, OES, VE, ARRL Life Member
AEC Carroll County MD