“Transceiver does not have CB frequencies…”

OK, I admit it. Ham radio has a PR problem. Most people know more about its more free-wheeling cousin, CB. And others tend to mix the two up or think they’re one and the same. However, it’s one thing for someone not to have heard too much about ham radio. It’s another thing altogether for someone to lodge a review about a ham radio, with his review showing to the world just how utterly clueless he is about it.

Malcolm (KH6MSH) forwarded a review to the EARC net control station list written by one Brad Boutan. It was for a Yaesu FT-7900R mobile dual band radio. (I have its older cousin, the FT-7800R – it was my primary radio until my FT-857; it’s now part of my go-kit.) I have to admit, I had a pretty good laugh at first. But reading it again, some of the stuff is just plain false. It basically showed a fundamental lack of knowledge about what ham radio is. So, in case you happen on across this review, I hope this sets the record straight. Let’s address his bullet points one by one:

First the bad news. 1. Transcever [sic] does not have CB frequencies. I was under the false impression that it did…

I have more bad news for you, dude. CB is CB, ham is ham, and on the airwaves, never the twain shall meet…legally, that is. CB has its own FCC band (11 meters), and although it’s a close neighbor to the ham radio 10-meter band, if a ham radio transceiver is legal in the U.S., it cannot include 11 meters. Nor can a type-compliant CB radio transmit on 10 meters. So if you’re looking for a radio that can transmit on CB, look elsewhere. Like, an actual CB radio. Next.

2. Documentation inadequate for proper sellection [sic] of antenna, and power supply.

The documentation for a ham radio presupposes that you have a license. And having a license implies that you passed the Technician class exam, which covers the basics of antennas and DC power in some length. True, some of this stuff comes from learning from other hams, but even then, if you went through the Technician exam, you have the basic knowledge to understand what antenna you need – you’ll have the basics of SWR (and why it’s a bad thing); you’ll understand why your quarter-wave vertical mobile antenna needs a pizza pan to work, and so on. You can even make your own. And you’ll know that you need 12V to run it. So, if you need to be told what kind of an antenna you need – you need to pass the exam first.

3. Inadequate public notice of requirement for U.S. government license.

Oh, come on. Hams put their callsigns on display for the world to see – especially on their cars. Not all radio users have government issued callsigns, which implies that it’s something special, and maybe (gulp) needs government approval? I’ve known for a while that hams needed licenses, and getting one was on my bucket list for a while until I finally got it in 2007.

Now, this criticism could apply to some radio services, such as the General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS). You wouldn’t know, on reading the packaging on those two-way radios in your local Best Buy or Wal-Mart or what have you, that you need a license. I’m talking about those radios that boast about a 10-15 mile range. (Which, by the way, is only true under ideal conditions – that is, true line of sight or flat ground. Add mountains, obstructions, or buildings, and you’re lucky to get 2 miles at most.) You can use the radio out of the box on the Family Radio Service channels at the FRS power limit of half a watt, but to legally use the full power, you need to apply to the FCC and pay a little-more-than-nominal fee of about $80. (For comparison, with some time and effort, you can get your ham license for as little as the typical exam fee of $14. And if you’re really adventurous, you could run the table, go from zero to Extra in one sitting, and pay as little was $42.)

But ham radio is not one of those. It’s not a secret that hams need licenses. And if it’s news to you…well, what can I say?

4. Again inadequate documentation for proper user friendly operation of all features of Transcever [sic].

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