User Hostile! Radios that you love to hate!

Three band HT Radio, 2 Meters, 70 CM and 6 Meters

Three band HT Radio, 2 Meters, 70 CM and 6 Meters

“I hate this radio”

Have you ever said this?

I certainly have. Some radios are a joy to use. They are intuitive, easy to use and you don’t ‘NEED THE MANUAL’ every time you want to change something!

HT’s seem to be the most ‘user hostile’ radios available to hams. I know! All HT radios should have certain things, VFO, on off knob/button, volume control and keypad, and in my opinion, they should not be so difficult to use that you need to read the manual every time you want to do, what should be a simple task; change CTCSS tone of a repeater, for example!

When HT’s were reduced in size, they became more complicated to use. Menu systems were instituted. They were further reduced in size and menus were multi-layered! How many times have I yelled at my HT after holding button a for 1 second, then within 4 seconds, tried to press button 2, for 1 second but no more than 2.5 seconds, while doing 3 pirouette turns on my left foot, only then, can I use my radio. That same button has 3 functions now a days. Press it once for one thing, press it again within a specified number of seconds and you get another function. Press and hold it and you get yet another option.

Enter the English Translation, manual! Poorly translated from Japanese, but at least its in English!  (With many pertinent things omitted!)

Why do manuals go to great lengths to tell you in great detail everything that you ‘don’t want to know’ and will most likely never use or use very seldom?

But tell you want you NEED TO KNOW, naw!  Tell you how to ‘undo’ something? That would make it too easy!

Actually, I really like this VX5-R HT from Yaesu. It’s a love/hate relationship, however! So very handy, it fits in the palm of my hand, has lots of memories, and many many nice features. Accessing those features is not always easy, especially without the manual right in front of you. If you ever push the wrong button, and send it into ‘never-never-land’, its hard to un-do what you just did! One thing that was left out of the VX 5 is a memory clear feature!  That omission makes life with this radio difficult at best!

You cannot return a designated memory channel to its ‘no data’ state. The only thing you can do from the radio itself is to overwrite that particular memory with another frequency!


2 Meter IC V8000

2 Meter IC V8000

I’m not picking only on Yaesu!

This Icom V 8000 is the most ‘User Hostile’ radio that I have ever owned.

Not only is it difficult to use, but it has problems as well. The mic is notorious for a mechanical problem with the PTT button, and the external speaker jack does not work well. Unfortunately, the external speaker jack is where you have to plug the programming cable in to program the radio. The Icom program for doing this is also ‘user hostile’ BTW!

Editing and Cloning Software RT Systems I bought software and cable from RT systems to program and manage the Icom T 70-A. The HT and its programming software arrived yesterday.


IC T 70 programming software and cable

IC T 70 programming software and cable

Icom T70 A with spare battery, left, drop in charger, and speaker mic

Icom T70 A with spare battery, left, drop in charger, and speaker mic

 The Icom T-70-A, is the replacement radio for the Yaesu VX 5

It will replace the VX5 as my ‘go to’ HT. Just last night, I picked up the Yaesu VX5 the wrong way, mashed some buttons on its face and sent it into never-never-land!  Try as I may, I could not undo it with normal button press. Since the radio has an RT Systems program and cable on its way, I went nuclear, and reset the processor. Finally, the radio was operational once more. It needs programming of course but the display is no longer stuck!

It programmed the Icom T 70-A radio to my specifications with only a cursory reading of the manual. The radio is intuitive, easy to use and has some great features. RT Systems Programming Software and Cable


IC 7100 and Touch Paddles

IC 7100 with Touch Paddles

Funny, I just installed an Icom 7100 mobile HF/VHF/UHF/MF radio in my truck. That radio was ‘done right’ by the manufacturer! Its easy to program and use, so there is no need to keep the manual handy for simple tasks. I run mobile CW/SSB and VHF repeaters with it. If there were any UHF in the area, I’d have that programmed in there too. Its a joy to use!

This photo shows the IC 7100 on a modified clip board held in place with bungee cords. So far, I have not seen the need for programming software. That said, there is an SD card on board this radio. It can save the settings to the SD card. I have not explored this avenue yet. It would be nice to keep a copy of the settings on an SD card and on my laptop for future use. Something unexpected can happen. Spare radio data would come in very handy then. Replacing all the settings would be very easy with the programming/clone software. RT systems sells that one too.

Do you have a radio that you love to hate? 

Ernest Gregoire, AA1IK, is a regular contributor to and writes from Florida, USA. Contact him at [email protected].

12 Responses to “User Hostile! Radios that you love to hate!”

  • Good article, Ernest! I’m not sure I’ve met an HT yet that I don’t love to hate!

    About 25 years ago I had an HT where each of the frequency digits were tuned with a wheel (like a combination lock). I can’t remember the model. Now THAT was brain-dead easy to program.

    Of course, it had no memories, or PL, or… anything — just a VFO… 🙂

  • Ernest AA1IK:

    I’ve seen ‘that radio’ Matt! So simple, even a caveman can use it!

    de AA1IK


  • jeff n1kdo:


    As far as the VX5R goes, I like the radio, but I had to make up a cheat-sheet for it:

    The free (as in beer) and open source Chirp software can program the VX5R. I believe it can erase memory locations.

    My problem with most mobile radio is that the buttons are too small, the knobs are too small, and the printed labels are too small. If you look at every other control in your car, the controls are pretty big, and the markings are pretty big. I’d love to see a mobile radio with a remote-able front panel with big buttons and big knobs, something that would be safe to use while driving the car.

  • Ernest AA1IK:

    Thank you for the ‘cheat sheet’! Even though this is a great tool to have with you. Some day I’ll be trying to use the VX5 and I won’t have it with me. LOL

    Good comment, tnx

    73 de AA1IK

  • Harry K4BAD:

    Great article. You’re right on the money regarding HT’s. GRRRRR!

  • Larry W2LJ:

    The first synthesized HT with the thumbwheels was the Tempo S1. That was my first HT back in 1979.

  • Scotty Freile, KE5TO:

    I really thought it was just me. After 45 years as a Ham, I was ready to.toss all my VHF/UHF gear in the gulf. I can’t see the damn control labels (also true on ny icom 756pro), can’t manage to avoid hitting the catstrophic wrong button, all while trying to remember the unique lingo and rule on the upper world. Since I am in good company Maybe I will try again. By the way,are those cheap Chinese HTs even workable?
    scotty ke5to

  • WD8CYV:

    wish they would make it simple to temporary change a subtone that’s in a memory
    location then when your done a 1 button reset for back to the original..
    i use my hand held in 4 different cities with a 146.970 repeater each has a different
    tone it would be wonderful to leave the laptop at home

  • WD8CYV:

    the Chinese HTs are doing ok for me …make sure the chirp software supports
    it and always save both a CSV AND IMG file
    download from radio then import CSV do any editing then upload

    IMG files can scramble things if uploaded to the wrong radio same brand radio but different firmware in radio is bad news

  • Tom Kb3hg:

    I use Icoms V8000 software. It seems to work ok. Now the IC-U82 is a little clumsy but after playng with those 2 the Chinese software was a piece of cake. Wouxun that is. I have the Jetstream dual band but have not played withit much yet.

    The buttons are getting smaller I agree with you.

  • Chris KQ2RP:

    I have/love/hate my VX-5R as well. Built like a brick…and easy to brick? 🙂 Seriously solid HT, but can be tough to program in the field.

  • Mike Smith N0WDM:

    The VX5R is still up there. Mine got stuck in memory mode and only an obscure internet reference unblocked it for me

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