A Handheld Transceiver (HT) is a convenient, compact all-in-one wireless device for FM operating on the VHF/UHF bands. HTs are sometimes referred to as a Shack On The Belt. There’s a lot to like about a transceiver that has wide frequency range, built-in antenna and power source.
The attractiveness of these devices coupled with a distinct lack of self-control on the part of some radio amateurs can lead to a condition known as Handheld Transceiver Accumulation Syndrome (HTAS). The main indicator of HTAS is that the radio amateur (the HTAS patient) accumulates a large number of HTs for no apparent reason. These radios end up sitting on the shelf or workbench at home, largely underutilized.
Coincident with the accumulation of radios, there is usually a pile of battery chargers, both drop-in and wall-wart style. These chargers are almost always proprietary designs that work with the original radio but no others.
The chargers are just the beginning of a broader accessory quagmire. The HTAS sufferer also tends to accumulate other accessories such as DC power cables, extra battery packs, speaker/microphones and aftermarket antennas. Many of these are also unique to the specific model of HT.
Psychologists that study HTAS note that there are specific buying habits that play into this harmful condition:
The Impulse Buy
HTs have always been relatively affordable with street prices of less than $200. However, the situation changed in the last decade with the introduction of cheap HTs from the Chinese manufacturers, driving the entry price down to around $30. This puts a VHF/UHF radio in the price range of a tank of gas or dinner at a local restaurant, clearly setting up an HT as an impulse buy. “Heck, its only $30, so why not buy the camo version of the Baofeng radio?”
The Mode Buy
Sometimes the HTAS patient is motivated to buy another HT to fill in a specific capability that is missing in their ham radio gear. Of course, the equipment manufacturers are complicit in this — introducing new features and modulation types to drive additional purchases. No single radio does it all, so you need multiple devices to cover a range of features, such as APRS, DMR, D-STAR and Fusion. “I need this new HT to work the other guys on DMR.”
The Special Purpose Buy
A really subtle driver of purchasing behavior is buying a radio for a specific purpose. This is similar to the Mode Buy but is driven by a specific situation. The patient conjures up specific communication needs that justify a particular radio. For example, they may think “I need a small HT that fits in my shirt pocket while doing work around the house.” Or “I need a little DMR radio just to talk to my hotspot.” Another one is “I need to keep a Baofeng in the glove compartment of the car, just in case.”
Living with HTAS
Fortunately, medical professionals that encounter HTAS report that in most cases the syndrome is not completely debilitating. Many radio amateurs are able to lead normal lives while suffering from the effects of HTAS. In severe cases, HTAS can lead to financial problems, depending on income level and the severity of the problem. HTAS is also associated with a breakdown in personal relationships, especially with married subjects. HTAS sufferers living alone report far fewer relationship problems.
If you know someone suffering from HTAS, encourage them to seek professional help. Treatment options may include psychotherapy and medication.
73 Bob K0NR