Don't kill me. Newb questions

OK. Honestly , I have wanted to do short wave radio since a wee youngster… I am now 40… The concept has always seemed cool to me. I went over testing materials a few years ago and I decided a month ago when I bought the kit that because I learn best hands on that I was just going to get my hands on a radio and fumble around, making the learning experience real. Ha. Now this is where I ask you to not slam me because perhaps this wasn’t the best method seeing the complexity of it (from a hands on perspective now :wink:

To comfort anyone wanting to heed great warnings to me… I know not to broadcast. I just wanted to listen and get a feel for a radio, learn from it and then test. Anyhow, I DO have some questions that I would love if anyone would answer. They are super newb questions and I appreciate any repsonse.

  1. Why don’t radios come programmed?

  2. I successfully loaded the drivers for the cable, etc and my PC sees my radio now. However I am uncertain on what the point of running the software to program it is? Meaning, Now that the software runs and I see my radio on Comm 3, I have read from radio, I still don’t hear anything scanning frequencies. After some brief searches I found a guy on youtube that was going over similar software where he input frequencies on his own. Is this the essential step that I am overlooking? Meaning the point of programming the radio from a PC is because the PC then places frequencies into the radio that allow me to tune in properly?

  3. Can a short wave radio work without being programmed in this fashion above^ (just for curiosity sake. I will continue to research what actually needs placed into the software end. I’m just curious)

  4. I have always read that short wave was ideal for “bug out” and communication when all other communication fails and am a little surprised at how dependent it is (at least the way I am going about it) to be dependent on a lot of technologies that could fail in the event of disaster. Again, I’m just curious at this point and I understand if I am saying things completely wrong. I don’t mean to offend anyone. I truly appreciate your help. I AM getting Ham radio for dummies and reading it today but hoped someone could shed some light on these thoughts I had. Thanks!

Answering your questions in order:

  1. Understand that the radios have two ways of setting up a frequency. There is the VFO or Variable Frequency Oscillator?and I’ll let you find out for yourself just exactly what that is?and memory channels. The VFO can’t be programmed but it is necessary to know how it works because it is used in hand programming. Most hams program the memory channels with frequencies for their particular locale.

Radios don’t come pre-programmed because the same radios are sold in many different states (and countries.) Every area has different repeaters on different frequencies and people use different simplex frequencies in different locals too. You wouldn’t want a radio programmed for New York City if you lived in Los Angeles, would you?

  1. Many radios require a lot of menu navigation and multiple “keystrokes” to enter a frequency and even more to program a repeater set. And the Chinese radios (like Wouxun) are worse than most. Computer software simplifies the process, especially if many different frequencies or repeaters have to be added all at once.
  1. Yes it can, in the VFO mode. But it’s inconvenient if you use the same frequency or repeater a lot. Hence the programmable memories.
  1. But here’s the good part… Once you have the radio memory channels programmed to your satisfaction, you don’t have to mess with them again unless you choose to add, delete or change something. I have several different radios, both mobile and handheld and I haven’t touched the programming in any of them for some time, yet I use them almost daily.

Another advantage to programming memories is that if you buy two radios that cover the same bands, say a handheld and a mobile, you can copy the files from one radio to another with a minimum of effort.

Ham radio for dummies is a good place to start but there are literally thousands of amateur radio resources on the internet. Some careful searching will find you a lot of good information.

Good luck and don’t forget to let us know how you’re doing.

I really appreciate you taking the time to write this. It helps me clear up a lot. Thank you for your time and knowledge.

The first question is interesting because I wrote an article for our blog on that very topic last week. It wasn’t scheduled for publication until next week, but since two questions related to the same topic of radio programmability were raised in the forums within a couple of days of each other, I decided to posted it this morning instead.

Two way radio programmability

Unless I’ve lost the plot - what radio are you using? You say Short Wave - so are we talking about HF radio? or are we talking like others think about VHF and UHF and repeaters and other stuff?

People often buy a really complex digital radio and get cross because they come empty - but nowadays, I guess everyone really does have wild different needs in a radio. I bet my radio in the van has totally different memory contents to another person with an identical one!

In a way, radios have always needed programming by the user for ever. In the past, radios didn’t have memories, but you still had to manually set the frequency you wished to be on, then use your skills to search for things, writing the frequencies down on paper. Now you have instant access to virtually anything - and computers are essential to keep track and control. You really can’t expect a manufacturer in China to know that what you really want to listen to is the local lifeguard on the beach. How on earth would this be remotely possible? Lots of people want this and can’t understand why out of the box operation is impossible - sounds simple but isn’t! When I came to the states with a radio, it took me ages to work out that 2m in the UK is not the same as 2m in the US - pretty well everything is different. Marine band is broadly the same. Business radio different, and making something universal very tricky!