Most automobiles don’t provide a lot of room for mounting ham radio transceivers. (Obviously, their design priorities are wrong!) Because of this, many ham transceivers have removable control panels that can be mounted on the dashboard and the main radio is installed somewhere else, such as under a seat.
Midland radio is doing some interesting things with micro-sized radios for the General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS). The MXT275 MicroMobile® Two-Way Radio puts all of the radio controls and the display in the handheld microphone.
This radio reminded me of an old Yaesu radio, the FT-8500, which had almost all of the controls crammed onto the microphone. (Someone named the microphone “Mr. Potatohead” which seems appropriate, but I did not name it.) This radio had the display on the radio body, which seems like a limitation. At any rate, this rig was not very popular. I do not know anyone that owned one.
So the FT-8500 was not a big hit but maybe it is time for another go at a microphone-centric transceiver. I am thinking a basic 2m/70 cm FM radio could use this approach to ease the mobile installation challenge.
Simplicity in Design
You may be thinking that a GMRS radio is fundamentally simpler than a typical VHF/UHF ham transceiver. This is true…a typical GMRS radio has 22 channels that might have options such as CTCSS tones and repeater offset. A typical ham transceiver has more frequencies, more features, and lots of settings required.
However, if you consider the typical FM transceiver setup and usage, most people set up the memories for the repeater and simplex channels they use, usually via programming software. After that, operating the radio is 99% just selecting the desired memory channel. This kind of usage lends itself to having a simpler set of controls that can be incorporated into the microphone. This approach will require a good understanding of user needs and some careful design work to create a radio that works well.
This type of radio design will probably not work for everyone. There will be hams that want every feature available all of the time. That’s just fine. However, the microphone-centric approach may be a good fit for installation in the “other car” that doesn’t get used quite so much. Or in the case where a family member objects to having a Real Radio cluttering up the dashboard.
Using this type of radio will be a lot like using a handheld transceiver, with the addition of a microphone cable, but no batteries or antenna cable drooping down. The Midland radio has the speaker in the radio unit but it may be better to put it in the microphone (with the option of plugging in an external speaker.)
I think this idea would well for some number of mobile radio installations. What do you think?
73 Bob K0NR