ad: jbsims

Hams are typically early adopters of technology

Discussion in 'Discussions, Opinions & Editorials' started by KC0VNY, Jan 6, 2013.

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
ad: L-HROutlet
ad: L-rfparts
ad: l-gcopper
ad: l-rl
ad: l-Waters
ad: l-innov
  1. KC0VNY

    KC0VNY Ham Member QRZ Page

    Just an opinion on computer interfacing. Serial ports came about in the late 1980s. Shortly after RS-232 was implemented for a somewhat serial communication standardization USB and FireWire came about. USB and FireWire sport more power and and way higher data transfer rates than serial ports do. My question is why have ham radios been stuck with serial ports for the past 10-15 years?

    Part two to my inquiry deals with something similar in interfacing. Bluetooth has been around since the late 1990s and has been quickly adopted in the mobile industry. Until recently (in the past year,) radios whether software defined or not, have been lacking this capability and crippling them in my opinion. Perhaps this is a matter of interference, but cellphones figured it out early on while ham radio got left in the dust.

    So why is this radio community? I know I'm not the only one with this on my mind and with upcoming technologies such as D-Star, WIRES, and Echolink...why did this get left in the dust? How would you like to have memory channels accessible from a iOS/Android device? What about SSTV with a Bluetooth camera? WiFi access?

    Back to my original statement, traditionally radio amateurs are early adopters of technology. With this we embrace and challenge the status quo of what can and can't be done with what we have. We also practice and get familiar with many means of communication because "when all else fails...amateur radio." Thoughts appreciated.

  2. N4XTS

    N4XTS Ham Member QRZ Page

    I think the answer to both your quandaries is that the "big three" Japanese radio manufacturers aren't devoting their R&D into the amateur product lines like they were 20-30 years ago. From their standpoint, they are more interested in their other divisions (LMR, marine, aviation, etc) and put their brains and brawn there.

    Kenwood, for example, was a pioneer in the 1980's with technology way ahead of their time, like DCL, which was a form of trunking, albeit primitive by today's standards, but used FSK signaling to ID a radio and get other radios in your "group" to switch automatically to a clear channel. Digital selective calling was also built in. This was before LMR radios had this capability, and trunking was fairly new.

    Icom had the famous IC-900/901 rigs which used fiber optic cabling, digital control- and this was in the 1980's, well before any USB or even Ethernet became common!

    Yaesu had the first dual band HT in 1986, long before Motorola, Harris and EF Johnson thought about multi-band portable radios.

    Back in those days, ham gear manufacturer's product lines spanned several pages, with two dozen models.

    Fast forward to 2013, most commerically produced ham gear is based on designs over a decade old. The Yaesu FT-8800/8900 first came out over a decade ago. Same with the FT-60, VX-6, VX-7. These are also their best selling radios. The Kenwood TH-F6A came out in 2001. It's still being sold today. None of those radios even feature flash memory for firmware updates, which has been the standard on LMR radios since the early 1990's, let alone USB or Bluetooth.

    The average ham catalog is thinner and slimmer, with few new products being introduced every year. Their priority seems to be LMR/digital LMR a la P25, Nexedge/iDAS, and DMR/MotoTRBO. Ham radio isn't as profitable from a business standpoint, not just because there are only a small number of customers, but the average sale is much less. A single band LMR HT (digital) retails for $450-600 a piece, and are ordered in dozens at a time- and are being replaced every 3-5 years. The average ham HT (analog) sells for under $200 and is sold one at a time and gets replaced every 10 years.

    you tell me why they aren't spending big money building new radios. Especially software defined ones. Software and firmware engineers don't come cheap. Not to mention the support costs. I'd say look to the Chinese who have no problem ripping off other people's intellectual property to come out with cheap radios with these features. They already have digital LMR radios for under $200 showing up on Alibaba. People are snapping up the $40 Baofeng radios by the dozens.
  3. WA4OTD

    WA4OTD XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    In general hams are not early adopters as you see. Military and commercial are driving technology now and have been for years. More and more, hams are becoming "users" of technology instead of creating it.
  4. KO6WB

    KO6WB Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    The manufacturers of amateur equipment took the time and resources to see what amateurs like and don't like. What they like is stuff that works. What they don't like is spending money on something that's just the latest incarnation of the same stuff but works just a bit better. Amateurs get something that works they usually leave well enough alone. So, way too many amateurs are still running desktops loaded with Windows 98 and the RS-232 serial port, the parallel printer port and a trackball. That's why almost all amateur programs offered are still compatible with Windows 95 and up. We upgrade our computers when they tragically fail. That takes a load of time.
    Me, I had a Windows XP machine with the mixture of USB and RS-232. XP is a very good operating system compared to some of the other stuff Microsoft plopped out there. The XP machine died and so I upgraded to a Windows 7. Now I can't run any of the old but very usable DOS programs that XP had no problems with. Yes, I have DOSBOX and that works but when downloading a DOS program that stupid Windows 7 thinks it's an application and until I manage to cover it from that the DOSBOX won't run it. Now they have Windows 8. Some have made the plunge with varied results.
    Okay, so my newest rig has a USB port and an audio codec. It still has a RS-232 port, go figure. If they quit supporting programs all the way back to DOS then why bother supporting RS-232 any longer? The computer doesn't have a RS-232 port so you have to use a converter. Don't run USB and RS-232 together and I don't run that over to the rig either. I do use USB on my rig but it's 20 feet away from the computer. Ever try to run a cable for USB 20 feet? Can't be done with a normal USB cable. You have to buy one that has drivers in it to go that distance. With RS-232 it was just a matter of making the cable and terminating it properly. It could cover much greater distances then USB. USB is much faster. Chicken/egg thing.
    Have fun
  5. N0AZZ

    N0AZZ Ham Member QRZ Page

    I upgrade computers every few years none have had RS-232 for many years now, what is behind are radios not having USB ports same for accessories not enough USB yet. Win7/64 was huge leap forward in OS's and for software programs the amount of new and better software that was written was amazing and ham programs leaped forward from the old 32 and DOS based mode's. The problem was lack of support for those old mostly "Free" programs that one one to rewrite because of so few features by the standards of that date even.

    You ask why are some still running the old OS's that's easy they don't want to buy a new computer or software one or the other. Because Win7 is the most stable OS we have ever had since it's inception and some refuse to try anything new to them or want to learn new software/OS, but support for Win 64 is about to run out very shortly then no more for it.

    I for one am glad that DOS based programs bit the dust I switched to windows with version 3.1 in 1992 and never looked back. Can you imagine running some of our newest digital modes with DOS.
  6. W5INC

    W5INC Ham Member QRZ Page

    I am thinking you hit the nail square on the head with that perception there OTD. Most Amateurs OPs of today are analog men/woman, living in today's digital World. :)
  7. KT1F

    KT1F Ham Member QRZ Page

    I think putting a serial port in a radio rather than USB does give the user maximum flexbility to interface to whatever they want.

    The K3 has a serial / RS232 port but of course nearly everyone uses a USB to serial convertor to connect it to a computer. I think if they put a USB port on the radio, all they'd do is put one of those FTDI chips inside the radio. The processor in the radio would still be using serial. So ... I guess the way they do it makes it more "decoupled" so you can use it however you like.

    Admittedly, there probably comes a point were almost nobody really uses serial directly so ... they might as well put the converter chip in the radio. It would probably cost very little in the total cost of the radio and it would save everyone having to spend $30 for a convertor cable. I think the TS590 has a USB port.
  8. KD2AKG

    KD2AKG Ham Member QRZ Page

    I have seen Bluetooth technology on CB radios lately.
  9. WB2WIK

    WB2WIK Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Most "new" HF rigs (finally) use USB. Flex Radio has used Firewire for many years.

    No reason to not start supporting the Thunderbolt interface. Even Mac laptops do, and new generation Intel-type motherboards do. It's way higher bandwidth than USB or FW800, and could allow PCIe bus expansion into accessories like transceivers. Think how slick it would be to plug in one skinny cable and support 2-3 extra PCIe slots right inside your rig for peripherals.

    It should be coming, but I won't bet on when.
  10. KA5ROW

    KA5ROW Ham Member QRZ Page

    I wonder why Icom did not put a RS232 or USB on there Pro series radios. When they went to the Pro II the RS232 would have been nice, the Pro III would have been an opportunity to go with USB
  11. KV6O

    KV6O Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    I disagree that hams are typically early adopters, as others have said. Maybe 50 years ago, but other than some pretty specific areas, hams are utilizing old technology and the argument always seems to be why change when what we have works. A ham with an HT, repeater and phone patch 20-30 years ago was pretty high tech stuff! iPhones, HDTV, P25 etc. - the world has evolved and hams are for the most part still using "what works" from 20-30 years ago.

  12. W6UV

    W6UV Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Hams also have a history of having groups of die-hards who hold out with older technology long after something better comes along. Two examples that come to mind are the "spark forever" guys in the 1920s and the AM guys in the 1960s.
  13. N2EY

    N2EY Ham Member QRZ Page

    You forgot about the money.

    I don't know if I'm typical, but I have at least two computers I think of as "mine". One is the "everyday" computer, that does email, websurfing, bill paying, etc. It is fairly up-to-date. It's on most of the time.

    The other is the "shack" computer - it does just ham radio (N3FJP and some other things). It's an old 98SE box that I built from parts of other computers. Not on the internet, in fact it's only turned on a couple hours a month. Cost me nothing but time.

    Many if not most hams cannot justify expenditures the way businesses or even home budgets can. So they use things until they wear out or just can't do the job any more.

    73 de Jim, N2EY
  14. KC2SIZ

    KC2SIZ Ham Member QRZ Page

    Hams often look at technology from an engineer's perspective, not from a consumer's perspective, and from an engineer's perspective newer technology is often less interesting (has less of a "wow" factor) than old technology. I do think this is changing, though, and a few decades from now hams might just be a consumer group that's indistinguishable from any other.
  15. MI0OIM

    MI0OIM Ham Member QRZ Page

    i've owned a 1974 Yaesu FT101B for nearly 3 months.

    it is my main radio

    does that make me an early adopter?
  16. N8MSA

    N8MSA Ham Member QRZ Page

    Didn't you mean to say that "new" has "more" of a "'wow' factor"? Almost every engineer I know, including myself, doesn't want to do the same thing all of the time and doesn't want to use "yesterday's" solution for today's (and tomorrow's) needs. Most of the engineers I know would think I was nuts if I asked them to put RS232 into a current product. It's easier, both in software and hardware to simply use a "native" USB stack (as opposed to UART emulation).
  17. KC2SIZ

    KC2SIZ Ham Member QRZ Page

    Sometimes "new" has a great "wow" factor and sometimes it doesn't. Probably nothing in ham radio has a greater wow factor than simply being able to complete a QSO with someone on another continent with a simple rig and wire antenna, but that's certainly old technology. I agree with you though that there's not much "wow" in RS232.
  18. G4SKO

    G4SKO XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    I think we were early adopters, certainly with regard to PC interfacing in my own case. 3.5 inch floppy drives were a revelation after the days of loading Basic programs via tape onto and old BBC or ZX81. These were cutting edge at the time.

    These days there seems to be a generation of PnP operators coming along, ready for a quick out of box solution and what's wrong with that? Nothing really, the ground work and the nuts and bolts technology behind the latest rig has been explored by others, many of whom are hams. I might suggest we've done the hard graft and todays legacy is what we are now witnessing. The modern ham doesn't need to be a technology up-taker. Good luck to them I say albeit with a tinge of sadness, operators of my vintage and those older and much,much wiser are a dying breed but the legacy is sound.
  19. N8MSA

    N8MSA Ham Member QRZ Page

    Oh yeah...I still have a lot of fun communicating with people without infrastructure...just me and my radio. But I like to try to do it in different ways, with different equipment and in differing environments.

    I understand that many, and maybe even most, hams "like it the way it is"...but this is stifling innovation and making the hobby less attractive to newcomers every day. This is precisely what is turning this hobby into the technological equivalent of collecting old cars...
  20. K6OK

    K6OK Ham Member QRZ Page

    I don't know but I sure liked my Kenwood TS-590 in yesterday's RTTY Roundup contest. The implementation of USB is really good. It was nice to have only one cable between the radio and my Win 7 laptop. Very uncluttered and clean. No audio cables, no USB-to-serial converters, no Signalink. Clever move by Kenwood to put an internal sound card in the radio, thus eliminating the need for an audio interface.

    Here's what I had to do to fire up RTTY:

    1. Turn on radio, boot up laptop. Connect USB cable between them.
    2. Launch N1MM and FLDIGI. Make sure the USB port is selected in the software as the source and target for audio.
    3. Test audio levels into a dummy load to ensure proper modulation levels (AFSK).
    4. Make sure Windows system sounds are turned off (no mouse dings on the air please).


    The bugaboo of USB is latency. I used a buad rate of 57600 and did not notice latency. When I hit one of my F keys to fire a macro, the PTT fired and the info was sent right away. Seemed snappy enough to me. Anyway, I welcome this PC-radio integration and I'm not looking back. Next thing I'd like to see is wide adoption of ethernet ports on rigs, giving us the option of networking them, including wirelessly, for easy remote operation around the house or anywhere. 73 Jim
Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.

Share This Page