Non-Ham / Non-Radio Enthusiast Wants Simple 2m Radio (Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?)

That should have been the title of a letter to the editor in QST this month, which was instead entitled Simplicity Gained.  The reader wrote:

"I'm part of an emergency response communictions team in my retirement community.  After I got my ticket, I went looking to buy a 2 meter band radio.  A note: I am not a "ham" or a "radio amateur" or "enthusiast"; the only time I would get on the air would be in an emergency.
The reader goes on to talk about the complexity of "feature rich radios" and how a recent QST radio review touched upon the issue of "technology bloat" and how this affects usability which struck a chord with the reader.  He goes on:
"I would want a radio that can be operated out of the box by anybody within seconds, not after reading the fine print of a manual...... This begs the question: Why don't they make a simple 2 meter radio for people like me who use their radios only for emergency use?"
Admittedly I'm not a big fan of emcomm, but as I've mentioned before I respect its place in amateur radio when it's actually beneficial and not merely a way to play radio and pretend we're important, but this letter flabbergasted me.  If you're not a "ham" or a "radio enthusiast" (despite being an FCC licensed radio amateur) and all you want is a simple push-to-talk radio to communicate, why do you need a ham license or a ham radio in the first place?  Just get a set of business radios and file the FCC forms for a Part 90 or Part whatever license, send in your check for the nominal fee and be done with it?  One of the purposes of amateur radio can be emcomm, but it's not intended to be yet another way to get a batch of handie-talkies that mindless drones can operate.  That's why there are several tests and there are technical proficiency questions in these tests.  Furthermore, ignoring the technical skillset that is germane to amateur radio for a moment, is it unreasonable to expect emergency response communications team participants to actually read a radio manual and understand the basic functions of the radios regardless of complexity before an emcomm event occurs?

I'm sure the reader has good intentions, however there is clearly a mismatch here between the nature of amateur radio and this emcomm application .
Anthony Good, K3NG, is a regular contributor to and writes from Pennsylvania, USA. Contact him at [email protected].

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