HF Transceiver Ergonomics

Today I ran into a very interesting article on Eham.net (link), where Mike W5MGC complains about the user interface and ergonomics of modern day HF transceivers.

Mike says: “It appears that the big 3 radio manufacturers, and the others, are going to take us kicking and screaming into the next decade, with two radio choices: (1) small boxes without buttons, but with a USB interface and a software CD, or (2) an all in one small box with a 1 inch LCD screen, 1 knob and 4 buttons behind which will be 450 functions reachable via a menu driven system that will require a manual the size of a New York phone book to understand (and that will be the Nifty Guide version!). Change Mode from LSB to USB: Press Menu for 1.75 seconds; Rotate knob to Item 66; Press FNC for 4.13 seconds; Rotate knob to USB; Confirm Choice By Pressing ALT for 1.78 seconds; If ERR message, Reboot System and re-enter Time/Date settings; Send Notice of ERR Message to Microsoft; Press Menu 3 times within 5 milliseconds to Return to Main Menu…”

He has a point, of course. When I really really really needed to replace my Yaesu FT-480R, an ancient all-mode VHF transceiver, I soon found out that this breed of transceivers didn’t exist anymore. Simple all-mode VHF / UHF transceivers were a thing of the past. In the end, I settled for a Yaesu FT-897D.

Although I’m quite happy with its performance, getting to know the FT-897D took at least a day or two. Menus and submenus, buttons with two or three functions, it’s all in the game. You get used to it after a while, but user friendly it isn’t. When (for whatever reason) the microprocessor resets itself, you’ll have to dig up the manual again.

On the other hand, transceivers such as the FT-897D are little miracles. They covers all bands, have small footprints, deliver enough output power and can be purchased at very modest prices. It’s just how you look at it.