Computers Invading Ham Radio: Opinion

I received an interesting comment to a previous post on programming the Baofeng radio from “Ray” about how computers are invading ham radio. Here’s his slightly edited comment followed by my reply.

So, IMHO, this really isn’t worth all of the trouble and […] that you have to go through to get it to “work”. I am sick to death of radios that require a […] computer to operate them. For crying out loud, I am interested in RADIO, not […] computers. Mixing the two is one of the worst abominations to ever befall ham radio. Ray.

Hi Ray. I have some sympathy for “pure” radios, but manufacturers stopped making those more than a decade ago. If you’re into vintage radios, they’re hardwired radio all the way. But—today everything is a computer. Your cell phone is a computer. Your car is a computer. Airplanes are computers. Even the organ I play at church is a computer.

Using a microprocessor with firmware is standard engineering practice and has been for a long time.

My TenTec Jupiter is TenTec’s old Pegasus computer-connected radio, but with a front panel added so no computer is necessary. But that doesn’t mean a computer can’t control it, in fact Ham Radio Deluxe does a mighty fine job of doing just that. These days more and more functions are being moved into software, and software-defined radio (SDR) is here to stay. You can buy mighty fine radios, such as the new Yaesu FTdx-1200, and use them without computers, but inside it’s a software-defined radio. Or, you can go with the Flex-Radio systems, where half the work is done inside your PC. Your choice.

Some people still prefer AM to SSB even though SSB has been around since the 1950s. Some people want vacuum tubes instead of transistors or ICs—I know a ham at our club who loves designing things with vacuum tubes, and I’m just starting on what promises to be a long project to restore a Collins 75A-4 radio to operating condition. How much or how little technology, or how new or how old, is entirely up to the individual.

Personally, I prefer a mix. Old radios are fun, but for my on-the-air work, nothing beats my Jupiter, an automatic (meaning microprocessor-controlled) MFJ-993B antenna tuner, my little SignaLink digital sound interface, and my laptop running HRD.

Regarding the Baofeng specifically, it is possible to program everything through the keypad interface, but I really don’t recommend it. First, the steps needed to put frequencies into the radio are obtuse at best (and certainly exceed my limited brainpower). You do NOT have to connect the Baofeng to a computer at any point in order to use it. But it’s certainly easier to set up memory frequencies if you use a computer.

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2 Responses to Computers Invading Ham Radio: Opinion

  1. Dave says:

    Nick, I’m very sorry but I’ve never explored Automatic Link Establishment (ALE). I have HRD, but to my knowledge it does not include ALE among its capabilities. The presence of the antenna tuner helps you tune the antenna to whatever frequency the radio uses. Sorry I can’t help. Perhaps another reader can give you some hints. 73, Dave

  2. Nick White says:

    Hi Dave,

    I am trying to set up an ALE connection using a Yaesu FT 847, a MFJ 993b, and HRD, both of which use the radio CAT connection..Any thoughts?


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