The November 2011 issue of QST contains an Op-Ed that really left me shaking my head more than normal. The author bemoans the complexity and feature sets of newer handheld radios and pines for the days of his IC-02AT. He goes on at length about the “unnecessary” receive capabilities (NOAA weather broadcasts, AM/FM radio, etc) and how he has to search for the manual every time he wants to program a repeater offset.
Well, as someone who recently upgraded from a radio just slightly newer than the IC-02AT to a “modern” HT, he’s wrong on nearly every account (except the micro-/mini-USB port, which I would wholeheartedly support for charging purposes).
- Eliminate extraneous features. Too bad we all have different definitions of this. I think scanning is a worthless feature, but like NOAA/NWS weather broadcasts. In fact, my wife is delighted that we now have a battery-powered AM/FM+NOAA/NWS radio again that I will always be able to find and will guarantee that it works. Did you hear that, guys? My non-ham wife actually likes my HT and uses it to listen to FM radio!
- Eliminate multilevel menu trees. I’m just dying to replace my cell-phone-sized VX-3r with a knob-covered brick. I’m sure you are too. It’ll look great in my shirt pocket.
- Eliminate the proprietary programming cables. Maybe I’m not a typical ham, but I only have about ten memory channels programmed into my VHF/UHF FM radios and they took about 10 minutes to program through the front panel (my bad, menus). The mini-/micro-USB port is a good idea for charging, though.
- Allow for a battery pack that uses disposable batteries. Last time I checked, most radios have this option. Did I miss something?
- Create an inter-vendor standard for user interface. What if they standardize on Icom?!?! The last Icom VHF/UHF FM radio I used received a “grade of S, for ‘stupid’” from its owner. That was in 1993. All of the Japanese manufacturers will be put out of business by the factory owned by the Chinese military that produces their products before this happens.
He should buy another IC-02AT if he liked them so much. I bet for a Jackson or two, you could have a nice one…complete with the 6x AA battery holder. Heck, buy two or three for spare parts. I think I have the Service Manual around here somewhere if I didn’t already sell it.
On a more serious note, there are lots of no-frills radios available out there, even brand new ones with factory warranties. Until recently, at least, the money in VHF FM radios was in two-way, government, and public safety, not amateur. There are a lot of amateur rigs at the “low end” of the market that share a lot in common with their commercial counterparts. And, of course, you can always buy used Motorola gear on eBay if you desire ultimate performance and ruggedness.