The original question was whether or not two way radios in general are becoming too complicated, and although the question of whether or not users are adequately prepared to use them is different, the two are related. The second question is one aspect of the debate.
Based on comments from users of many types of radios, the overall consensus on the podcast was the additions of new technologies and advancements over the years have made radios more complicated for some users.
Remember, this is a generalization. For many users across the radio spectrum, the radio is a tool for communication needed to accomplish a task, not the primary focus of their endeavour. As such, the knowledge and training is going to be limited to the basic use of those tools to communicate successfully. If you’re piloting aircraft, or navigating a vessel on the water, or driving a truck, or working in a warehouse, that’s your focus. The radio is just something to pick up and use, as it should be. And yes, for some folks, the extra buttons and features may be getting a little too confusing or distracting, potentially turning their attention to the operation of the radio and away from what they need to accomplish.
For amateurs, the question has a different meaning. It’s a hobby, a pastime, so the radios are the endeavour. The perspective is different. However, it doesn’t really change my overall position on the topic. Here’s why.
Hobbies should really be for those with an aptitude for it. Now we subscribe to the notion that anyone should be able to do anything, and suggesting this isn’t correct is elitist!
While I understand the argument, I respectfully disagree on the notion that if you aren’t already pre-disposed to success with a hobby, you shouldn’t try it. Hobbies are supposed to be recreational pastimes, something to do for fun. If what you say is true, then one should not take up any hobby that one isn’t going to be particularly good at, even if one enjoys doing it.
A prime example of this is the bad golfer. He or she wants to play golf, and spends hundreds or even thousands on clubs, lessons, greens fees, and of course, lost balls. No matter how much they practice or how hard they try, they just don’t quite “get” the skills they need to even break 150, much less 100. But they keep playing. Why? Because they like the hobby. They’re still having fun. Does that mean they should stop golfing? Of course not! Who cares, as long as they enjoy the hobby. The time to leave it is when it stops being fun, because then it is no longer a hobby, it’s a chore.
To subscribe to the notion that anyone should be able to do anything isn’t elitist, but to say that someone should not be allowed to try something they like, but don’t have a particular penchant for, isn’t fair. If painting is your passion, but your fruit bowl looks like a rorschach card, who am I to say you are not allowed to paint? As long as I’m not paying you to paint my portrait, or even my house, if it keeps you happy or keeps you sane, I say get some paint and enjoy your hobby.
As an amateur operator, you need to be able to use your equipment properly. That’s one of the responsibilities of getting the license.
I do agree with this. The problem is there is a chicken and egg factor here. To use the equipment properly, one has to learn how. To learn how, one must train on the equipment. To train on the equipment, one must get a license.
Of course, that’s what Elmers (mentors) are for. What complicates things is many mentors aren’t up on some of this new fangled technology either, so they are learning it as well. For some old-timers, it isn’t as easy as it sounds. I talk to a number hams with nearly half a century of knowledge and experience who come to me frustrated because they can’t program a frequency and offset into a Baofeng to hit their local repeater, either through the keypad or through programming software.
Is it their fault? No. They have decades of experience with CW and adjusting squelch with a knob on an old tube powered HF rig. Now they are holding all that and more on a little chip in the palm of their hand and they now have to navigate a menu in short text and acronyms to find where the squelch setting is.
Unfortunately, too many licensed amateurs, especially those that have been licensed for a long time, expect new hams to be conversant in all aspects of the hobby from the very beginning.
This is, unfortunately, quite true of some hams, but not all. The club I belong to embraces Elmering. Both my son and I have learned a lot from them since we got our tickets and joined. As an example of my previous point, some of them have struggled with some of these new handhelds and the requirements for programming them, even with a manual. Again, it’s not their fault.
If you could go back in time with a radio of today and set it in front of a ham of the 1940’s or 50’s, how would he react? A mobile radio that was once large and heavy enough to require a backpack can now be carried at your hip without pulling down at your belt. The technology we have today is amazing, and the radios have the capabilities in a tiny package that hams fifty or sixty years ago didn’t even dream about. Are we all now supposed to inherently know how it all works just because we were born in this age? It’s all learned, and it’s a lifelong process. To complicate it further, the technology is constantly in a state of flux, with new concepts and new ways of doing things always leaving a patent office and on their way to market.
What is squelch? I am happy to answer that as many times as needed, because it means that someone wants to really know. Sure, it’s a simple, basic question, one that those of us who learned it in Radio 101 already know. But it’s not a given. It wasn’t pre-programmed into any of us at birth. There was a time when you and I didn’t know what squelch is or how to adjust its setting on a radio. And someday, one day very soon, this knowledge won’t matter anymore, at least not to the average operator, and the question will no longer be asked, because auto squelch will be so embedded into every radio everywhere, managed by an integrated function on a tiny chip made of carbon nanotubes, that no one will need to know such a thing as squelch even exists.
Don’t laugh. We already have driverless cars.