Monday, 14 August 2017

Where Amateur Radio is Going Wrong

Recently, I've been looking at 2m/70cm handheld radios for myself and my daughter to keep in contact when out and about.

This proved to be quite an enlightening experience.  I've long used simple analogue HTs, which present little obstacle to the straightforward role, never more complex than accessing a repeater, that they fulfil.

I started to wonder whether APRS and digital advancements might make things more interesting and provide important location data.

Apart from the very high price (ca. £400 for the latest digital, APRS-equipped HT), it quickly became clear that user friendliness is lagging very seriously behind the general consumer electronics scene.

Take, for example, sending texts on a HT keypad.  Compared to a smartphone software keyboard, a HT is like going back to the 1980s.  Slow, cumbersome and prone to error.  APRS is simple on a smartphone, but rather fidgety on a HT.  The bulk of a HT is also a considerable burden.

This is all-too-reminiscent of asking a computer expert how to do something simple on a PC: they will give you the most convoluted, complex way of doing it!  If we want to attract newcomers and, especially, younger members to the hobby then all transceivers, from HTs up, need to adopt the kind of user-friendliness that smartphones have used to such spectacular effect.  There is no future in making things complex for the sake of feeling superior.  If we don't all change - soon - there will be no operators to feel superior about anything!

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