Insight: Newbies vs radio snobbery

I’m writing this in the general category as the essence is pretty universal to all radio usage groups.

Now, not all newbies can afford to blank cheque buy their dream affordable radio, so often it’s going to be an affordable try-out option at best, where permitted a commercial unit reprogrammed/converted (much like a lot of hams did for getting on 2m/70cms reliably and afford ably back in the day, as did later became the case with lo-band vhf commercials being conversion donors for 4m and 6m usage).

Alternatively, you may have a long-term loaner rig to practice with or maybe inherited a rig somewhere down the line. ■■■■, maybe that loaner may end up being yours if the owner wants you to eventually take it over. But unless it’s a spare, relatively unused recent set, often it’ll be one of a generation or two back.

Well, if you can legally use it and it’s in good working order - ■■■■ well go for it.

There’s way too much old gear (especially wirh what were entry level versions of mid/high end rigs) snobbery and ‘■■■■ on you from on high’ derision about the fact you’ll buy it because it suits your pocket or because it came to you for free essentially.

Sure, I’m very anti CB gear these days, but it’s not out of CB hatred (did some good stuff on there back in the day), but in all honestly, after you’ve worked with even the cheapest low-rung ham gear or nodded commercial stuff, you’d become intimately familiar with how cruddy the CB gear actually was. Now I wouldn’t recommend using one as a mod basis for 10m or even (and few rigs would even be close to viable low-grade donors) an extreme 6m example to use with transverters for other bands, since there’s a glut of stuff way better for the job, but if it’s your best hope/starting point, go hack/mod/use but realise the reality of it’s limits - if nothing else, learning on rotten gear actually opens your eyes to appreciating seriously good stuff so much.

My early HF swl stuff was via an aged Lafayette transistorized receiver that shared use of an ATU and long wire with my ‘junker’ 11m set. Yes, I consider my wrists slapped, but it was a good setup and tx was always 0.4W via a good LPF and BPF setup so I doubt garbage emissions were an issue beyond that of a CB rig normally. But if someone had given me those, 11m for getting comfortable with being on-air and a ragged ■■■ old timer Rx for listening to the world, I’d have defended the gesture with my last dying breath (and still would). So likewise, in the ham world, I still see the same value in inherited/donated/afforadble old gear that gets you in the game. I’ve a few oldies I bought and got given along with my first new-bought DJ-191 2m handy and very early Baofeng dual-band handies. I’ve even got some 70s era early PLL and pre PLL vfo controlled 2m stuff I still use and have a lot of sentiment for.

But my favourite, where the IC-211E was my all rounder fav old school 2m set, is an old FT-747GX with factory fitted sharper filters and FM board. You’d be suprised to hear that such a beast is looked on as a CB grade set and derised hideously these days, but ■■■■ I still love listening on it, don’t mind having the odd QSO on it and it’s spare to use as a monitor when I rarely contest operate on more modern HF gear and SDR TxCR sets.

So run what you brung and what fate landed in your lap, enjoy and you’ll get a better idea of what you can expect to improve with when you’re in a position to splurge on modern kit.

And I’ll bet you’ll still have a least one of your start-up rigs around decades later as much out of sentiment as enjoyment of reliving old times on-air today.

It’s much easier to be an armchair gear snob than be someone starting out, so I’m hardly surprised at the radio snobbery that infests the world, but at the same time shocked at how easily people forget they were once newbies with awful gear and cloud 9 ambitions…

I’ll never forget those times, and will carry on making the odd sentimental trip back to old gear territory when I can or it feels right/necessary.

So in short, good luck newbies and ■■■■ the snobs to a slow torture hellish existence they deserve.

Correction - it’s an IC-251E, not an IC-211. Always get them mixed up, as I used to spend serious hours listening on a 251 on 2M at home using the other senior family ham ops stuff, and likewise in peace on Saturday afternoons at the local radio club where I was trusted to use the club shack unsupervised to listen on HF on the 211.

In fact they were so compatible operating wise, you could almost rely on having read the manual for one and be firing on all cylinders with either. In fact, if you could figure out the controls and settings on either, you could figure out almost any multi mode or dual vfo radio with a complex array of controls.

That’s something you can’t easily transpose these days with modern menu driven gear with half of the front panel buried within a multi-level menu and multifunction soft keys.

I miss those days of physical controls, then again I also miss the old unsterile harshness of the audio that’s been lost with DSP’s tweaking everything.

So definitely don’t be put off of your oldie loaner or inherited gear - it’ll be an education at worse, an education and adventure best case, but you not regret the journey.