Saturday, June 06, 2009
When the major manufactures like Icom, Kenwood and Yaesu/Vertex started making their land mobile models available to the amateur market with different firmware which controlled frequency range, mostly for the transmitter, and made them field programmable and added a few bells and whistles that the commercial markets had no need for I thought it was a great move. For the most part I still feel that way but there is one glaring exception that just chaps my backside.
If you are active on the VHF/UHF bands in the FM mode I'm sure you know what I'm talking about before I explain. Since the early days of consumer grade public safety scanners channel one could be made a "priority" channel which when the function was activated would check that frequency every so many seconds and if it became active revert back to it for the duration that a signal was present. In the commercial world this also has long been a feature of mobile and portable radios. As far back as the Master series radios from GE, which were hybrid tube solid state units, one of the feature sets available was a control head that made what ever channel the selector switch was set on became the priority channel when scanning. This was important for public safety users because it allowed them to monitor other services and surrounding communities while not missing calls on their primary frequency.
Early radios especially the home scanners would miss anything from a syllable to a word as it performed this "jump back" operation to see if the priority channel was active. Over time this technology improved both on the digital and the RF side to the point that you could barely discern the fact that the priority option was active as the radio checked activity on channel one. Other improvements allowed any channel to be the priority channel with selection from the front panel of the radio. I think everyone would agree that these features were added because of good engineering by the manufacturers combined with consumer demand and competition between brands in the market place.
So having said all of that I can't understand why we get such a lame version of the priority channel on our ham rigs which I have pointed out are very similar to the companies land mobile offerings. Even if I could buy the commercial version for the same price as the ham rigs I wouldn't give up all the amenities of the amateur version just to get what I consider the proper operation of the priority channel. The commercial versions typically have a very limited number of memory channels compared to the ham rig. There also is usually no direct keyboard entry of frequency by the end user for obvious reasons. Also there is the fact that they typically cost several times there amateur counterparts. So the next time you have occasion to talk with a representative from one of the "big three" think about asking them who we should communicate our requests to at their respective companies. I'll get down off my soap box now. Thanks for reading.