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[Articles Home]  [Add Article]  

Planned Obsolescence in Ham Radio Gear?

KF6VCI (KF6VCI) on March 22, 2013
View comments about this article!

I was in the market for a VHF mobile and a H.T. As always, I began reading reviews here on eHam. There was a JETSTREAM mobile which didnít last. Then I looked at other "made in China" products and chose "made in Japan" for both.

Buy expensive and cry only once is a Chinese saying. Get that Elecraft K2 repaired? Sure! What about older TenTec gear? Of course!

I would like to invite you to comment on such planned obsolescence. Parts being no longer available? Repairs no longer offered or deemed economically viable?

TS-2000s have such faults - there was a great article here a few weeks ago. IC-7000 failures? How much does the repair cost after the warranty ran out?

My late mother's mechanical hand wound watch lasted 50 long years and only was cleaned every few years. And grandpa's tube radio lasted for decades.

Closing, I wonder if there are different specs for electronic components? Better ones for military or aerospace and other critical use? Just wondering.

73, Chris KF6VCI

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Planned Obsolescence in Ham Radio Gear?  
by WN0Y on March 22, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
I think there are a lot of factors here to consider. First, our modern radios are much more complex than the older gear. DSPs and microprocessors are in just about all new gear. Often these devices go obsolete in just a few years. Finding a replacement part for a 3 pin bipolar transistor for older gear may be easy compared with finding a replacement for a 300 pin DSP. Then there are things like environmental concerns which have made an impact. Many components and assemblies use "lead-free" processes. As a result, these components and assemblies are vulnerable to tin-whiskers which can shorten the life of these devices. Additionally there are a large number of counterfeit parts showing up everywhere. These parts are often low-grade inferior devices which also impact reliability. Many are packaged to look like the genuine parts and therefore can be hard to detect. And of course the quality control used by each manufacturer is another important aspect. These are just some of the issues we face today. Even so, there are a number of modern rigs which do seem to be built well and have proven reliable. Most of us have come accustom to having DSP filtering, huge memories, etc and probably wouldn't be satisfied with using the simpler designs of the past. Just my 2 cents....
 
RE: Planned Obsolescence in Ham Radio Gear?  
by KE3WD on March 22, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Is the "problem" caused by the manufacturers or is this really caused by the customers demanding ever lower prices for the gear?

Is this sort of "obsolescence" actually *planned* or is it more likely the function of the ways in which technology growth affects such issues? With the advent of VSLI and associated "one-chip" solutions, the service lifetime of such things is only going to be cost-effective up until the point where the original dies can no longer be used to make reliable chips. Re-tooling to be able to manufacturer such chips, which would then be older technology, is not going to prove to be cost-effective either.

Change in technologies almost always brings certain problems along with it, but the good news here is that in each and every case we've seen historically, problems get solved over time and with each iteration of improved product. Early vacuum tube gear was not as robust or as capable of performing as it eventually became.

I think it is the *transition* phase that is causing the perceptions of the consumer to once again not quite understand what really happens when any technology is not as mature as it will likely become over time.

Ham Radio has never been cheap. If you investigate the list prices of gear from the era of those solid operating boat anchors and also calculate for the current inflation rate to see what the true cost of the older gear actually was at the time, we are actually enjoying some pretty good deals by comparison.

73
 
RE: Planned Obsolescence in Ham Radio Gear?  
by AA4PB on March 22, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Yes, there are Mil-Spec parts that typically have a wider temperature range than consumer grade parts.

The biggest issue these days is that so many parts contain custom, copyrighted firmware so they can only be obtained from the original radio manufacturer. Manufacturers don't have enough profit margin to stock up on lots of extra parts to support repairs out into the future. Its not only the cost of parts inventory, but the cost to store them, the cost of paying people to manage them, and the very high cost of labor to troubleshoot and repair the equipment. In the "good old days" it was easy to just plug in a new tube. Today it takes time, skill, and special tools to properly replace many of the high pin count surface mount components.

In my day job I've designed, prototyped, and tested a device. Then I get the order for a production run and guess what? One of the "stock" components has been discontinued and I have to go back through a partial re-design in order to use a substitute component. Pretty bad when you can't even get it out the door before it becomes obsolete.
 
Planned Obsolescence in Ham Radio Gear?  
by KI5FJ on March 22, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
My experience in radio and electronics began in 1961.
During my 30 years in RADAR and test Equipment calibration / repair, I witnessed the shift from component level repair to circuit board replacement.
This technology and cost driven change forces us forward!
Even the most popular HP and Tektronics products were only supported for approximately 5 years.I think we all benefit from change.I hope I can continue to financially enjoy riding the crest of the technology wave. 73 Joe O NNNN
 
RE: Planned Obsolescence in Ham Radio Gear?  
by N3OX on March 22, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
The obsolescence in ham radio gear is tied to the rapid pace of chip innovation and the fact that no consumer stuff is repaired.

KF6VCI writes:
================
My late mother's mechanical hand wound watch lasted 50 long years and only was cleaned every few years. And grandpa's tube radio lasted for decades.

================

Something that's important here is that many of the "expensive" things we buy today are very, very cheap in terms of real income adjusted for inflation. Something purchased for $1000 in 1950 would be $9400 now.

Technological advances in electronics and manufacturing processes have really allowed a huge increase in the capabilities and a huge reduction in the prices of some things. Some of the gains because of the lowered price of manufacture COULD have been used to make higher quality electronics at the same real price, but people prefer CHEAP electronics to reliable ones.

KF6VCI writes:
======================
Closing, I wonder if there are different specs for electronic components? Better ones for military or aerospace and other critical use? Just wondering.
======================

You can get special things but I wouldn't be surprised if designing a radio for triple the lifetime would more than triple the price. That's the real issue here. "Planned obsolescence" isn't quite as sinister as it seems. It's actually just an engineering response to consumer demand.

Take a smartphone, for example. Two or three years go by and people are get itchy for a new one (some of this is marketing, some is actual advances in desirable features). People also want them to be as cheap as possible. Turns out we're really good at making engineering predictions so that we can make elecronics less expensive by using less material, cheaper components, etc. etc. There's a reliability tradeoff, but the manufacturers know exactly what their reliability target should be.

Now I do think that ham radios probably get caught in this cycle more *accidentally,* as electronic components for the rest of the electronics world evaporate and as processes to make boards full of circuits make repairs nearly impossible (or so expensive it's not worth it!) But I think if you did try to make a design that centered around high-reliability, repairable parts that would remain available for years and years, it would be a flop on the ham market because of the cost.

It's a bummer when someone's new rig dies a few years after they get it and some chip has gone obsolete but I don't think there's a way to fix that without the price going up a huge amount. Rigs today are really incredibly cheap and capable.

I would personally like to see us all become willing to pay a lot more for a lot more durable and high-quality expensive merchandise, but that's an economic sustainability concern for another forum :)
 
You don't want it to work forever.  
by K5LXP on March 22, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
It's not planned obsolescence. It's the evolution of state of the art. Ham radios are no different than automobiles, TV sets and PC's. Consider the ubiquitous cell phone- look at how that product has evolved even in the last few years.

Technology improves and requirements aren't forever. The rig you lusted for 20 or 30 years ago, even in perfect working order today, won't be all that remarkable by today's standards. Buy 'em, use 'em and when they crap out, move on. Radios have improved in huge strides over the decades and when you factor inflation they have actually gone down in price. Consider that in the 1960's a KWM-2 went for $1250. In today's dollars that's about $10K. You can get a rig worlds better than a KWM-2 today for $10K. In 1980 a Drake TR-7 cost $1500, equals about $4000 today. Numerous rigs out there today for less than $4000 that are better than a TR-7. I bought a brand new Icom 2AT in 1982 for $195, about $450 today. They didn't even come with PL back then. I have a few of them in the drawer and they work fine - but they're effectively useless because they don't do the things hams today need in an HT. So I would offer they were too good - they lasted way longer than their *useful* life. So there's little point in building radios with high reliability/long-life parts because all that will do is drive up the price to buy it, only to have that value lost when the radio gets shelved because new features modes or operational standards render it unwanted.

So before one waxes nostalgic about the "good old days" consider just what stuff costs and what it does for the money. Everything has a useful lifespan and ham radio gear is no different than anything else you buy and use in your life. I doubt the same guys lamenting the loss of heathkits and drakes are watching CRT TV's with mechanical tuners, drive cars with carburetors and points and use cell phones that come in a bag with a shoulder strap powered by a gel cell. It has reached a point now where entire radios cost as much as the batteries alone cost for radios a short time ago. When they're that inexpensive I have no trouble replacing or upgrading them on a whim - why not? I don't want to use the same radios forever, so why pay a premium for longevity.


Mark K5LXP
Albuquerque, NM
 
Planned Obsolescence in Ham Radio Gear?  
by VE6TL on March 22, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Ham radio is just another example of how the world has changed. There are two main factors that govern the longevity of a product: technology and economics. Even demand for an unheard of item can be created through clever marketing. As technology advances, it is only natural that last year's model becomes less desirable than the shiny new one with the better display, or the enhanced features. So manufacturers will make a run of this year's model, based on market studies as to how many they can sell. The last thing they want is to be stuck with inventory. They also know that a certain percentage will fail, so some of the inventory goes to replacing units, rather than repairing them.

Just think back to when you first saw the notice, "No user serviceable parts." And when did that TV repair place close its doors for good? Decades ago. Since then, technology has advanced at an incredible pace. I recall reading in popular magazines in the 1960s about TVs that would hang on the wall like a picture, wrist watches that would have TVs and two way communications built-in, ham radios that would automatically tune themselves, and so on. The price to pay for this is planned obsolescence. Just look at what happened to the old CRT computer display.

What worries me more than obsolete ham radios is obsolete cars. They only make so many of those microchips that control everything from the engine to the entry lock, and then the run is over. Suppose in 10 years you still have the same car but it needs a replacement chip that nobody has. You have to throw the car away.

I'm willing to bet that 50 years from now, many of the old vacuum tube rigs of yore (already 50+ years old) will still be running, just like the old cars in Cuba. By contrast, it will be difficult to find many of the solid state rigs made in the 1980s that haven't been relegated to the trash heap. There's something to be said for simplicity and being able to see (and understand) the actual components.
 
RE: Planned Obsolescence in Ham Radio Gear?  
by KG4RUL on March 22, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
I can't remember who made the statement but, to paraphrase it from my often faulty recollection: If automobile production technology had advanced as rapidly as electronic production technology, you could buy a car as good as a Rolls Royce for $5.00 and it would run for a year on two flashlight batteries.
 
RE: Planned Obsolescence in Ham Radio Gear?  
by AD4U on March 22, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
I guess this means we HAMs have a choice. Do we buy the newest $10,000 rig knowing that many parts will not be available in 5 years if it needs repair?

OR

Do we use 1960-1970 vintage Drake, Collins, Heathkit SB type rigs and early Yaesu, ICOM, and Kenwood rigs that continue to work well and that most any part is still available?

I have never used one of the $10,000 rigs so I cannot comment whether they are really head and shoulders better than some of the older gear.

I started hamming in the 1960's. I have QSL's confirming contacts with EVERY country available. I have worked 9 band DXCC and need only a few more on 6 meters to make it 10 band DXCC.

My point? Would I have had better success with a $10,000 rig? I honestly do not know. My newest rig is a 1985 Kenwood TS-930S. With the exception of the TS-930S all of the above mentioned contacts were made while running vintage tube gear as mentioned above.

Dick AD4U
 
RE: Planned Obsolescence in Ham Radio Gear?  
by K5LXP on March 22, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
> If automobile production technology had advanced as
> rapidly as electronic production technology, you
> could buy a car as good as a Rolls Royce for $5.00
> and it would run for a year on two flashlight batteries.

But it would require a 2-year activation plan, the batteries would be non replaceable and the extended warranty and roadside assistance would be extra. :-)


Mark K5LXP
Albuquerque, NM
 
RE: Planned Obsolescence in Ham Radio Gear?  
by K4IQT on March 22, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
The day will come when good old vacuum tubes like the ubiquitous 6BA6, 12AU7, 6L6, or 6146B will no longer be available except at outrageous prices from a few antique dealers. Right now, the prices are getting a bit outrageous but most common types are still manufactured somewhere on the planet. My old homebrew transmitter with its 829B/3E29 final is already SOL, though. And my FT-920 is better than anything I ever owned, even though it uses some semiconductors that are already irreplaceable. But it cost less in 2013 dollars than my old DX-60 and R-100 together.

Another nice thing about the tube gear, though, is that the inevitable solar super-flare or the possible ionospheric nuclear weapon blast won't permanently fry it, so the hams with that stuff will be back on the air years before the rest of the world (after some power is eventually restored).
 
Planned Obsolescence in Ham Radio Gear?  
by K8QV on March 22, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
I doubt manufacturers need to plan obsolescence since hams are inclined to buy new gear all the time whether they need it or not. We represent a very tiny niche market, yet the real cost of gear has dropped significantly over the decades. Modern technology makes things cheap to manufacture but those things can't be easily repaired, or even get parts for after a few years, so I guess it's a wash as far as overall value goes.
 
RE: Planned Obsolescence in Ham Radio Gear?  
by KK2DOG on March 22, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Speaking of planned obsolescence, I'm sure glad that my beer is dated. My wife keeps falling for my "Honey...look. I have to drink this whole 12-pack by Sunday" line. ;)


 
RE: Planned Obsolescence in Ham Radio Gear?  
by N4KC on March 22, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
First, I'm not sure this is an "article," but rather an interesting topic for one of this site's forums.

Second, I doubt there is any "planned obsolescence" involved. Hams have short memories and if their $10,000 Whizbang 6000 went south in five years and no replacement parts were available, I doubt Whizbang would sell many more radios. There is always a trade-off between cost-of-manufacture and price in marketing. Error too much either side of the line and it is quickly fatal.

On the other hand, if you buy a $60 Chinese-made HT and it goes belly-up in 5 years with no replacement part in sight, do you really worry about it?

You made quick mention of some issue with the TS-2000 to illustrate your point. I'm not aware of any major problem and I had a TS2K for quite a while. They've sold tens of thousands of them, still make them after 12 years, and by far most of them are still working. And if they do go ka-plooey--as ANY piece of electronic gear can do--there are a number of guys who fix them--for themselves or as a business--who apparently have no trouble obtaining parts.

Don N4KC
www.n4kc.com
www.donkeith.com
(Author of the new book RIDING THE SHORTWAVES:
EXPLORING THE MAGIC OF AMATEUR RADIO)



 
RE: Planned Obsolescence in Ham Radio Gear?  
by AA4PB on March 22, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
It probably depends on the part. Can you get a new LCD display for a TS2000? That's an item that is custom and expensive. Many mfgs won't provide a replacement even while they are still selling the radios, much less 5-10 years after the end of production.

 
RE: Planned Obsolescence in Ham Radio Gear?  
by KE7FD on March 22, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Let me comment in a more general sense and not limit our consideration to just radio gear/electronics.

When I was a young child I remember playing with the plastic clothes basket my mother would use when doing laundry. My imagination would find many uses for that basket. Fast forward to when I was the parent of two children and my youngest would play with that same basket much as I did decades earlier. My best guess is that red plastic basket was 50 years old and still in use. There were very few blemishes on it though it was not as crisp as it was when it was brand new. We finally wore it out but again it was probably at or over 50 years old. Since then we've gone through more than a few plastic clothes baskets which have just not lasted. My point here is that very few things are made well these days in the sole interest that manufactures can keep us coming back to buy more.

Be it parts made of silicone or silicon, it's a rare thing to find companies who are interested in building things that last.

Glen - KE7FD
 
RE: Planned Obsolescence in Ham Radio Gear?  
by KG6YV on March 22, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Rather than using the term "planned obsolescence" I prefer to call it "market dictated obsolescence".

The consumers drive the market place and the chip companies and TV/radio/GPS/Cellphone/Widget companies.

The world has evolved to this situation, it wasn't/isn't
planned by any one.....

 
RE: Planned Obsolescence in Ham Radio Gear?  
by N3OX on March 22, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
KE7FD writes:

========================
"Since then we've gone through more than a few plastic clothes baskets which have just not lasted. My point here is that very few things are made well these days in the sole interest that manufactures can keep us coming back to buy more. "
========================

It's NOT just that they want you to buy more. It's also the pressure exerted when consumers demand that a clothes basket should cost $4 and maintain that for long enough that it should cost $20 or $40.

In a lot of cases, things can be engineered to remain a constant cost instead of rising in cost over time as the dollar is worth less.

In some cases, technology will allow the product to get BETTER while it maintains constant price. I think this is true for electronics and cars and other relatively complex things (though some of those gains come at th expense of increased automation, which maybe puts downward pressure on wages)

But I think that there are plenty of things where you just have to accept lower quality if you want constant price over time. I don't think we're making huge strides in durable low-end plastics for wash baskets.




 
Planned Obsolescence in Ham Radio Gear?  
by AI2IA on March 22, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
It is not really fair or accurate to compare electronic devices made today to ones made during the vacuum tube era. These are truly distinct and separate times.

Depending what devices you purchase, many today are made with very tiny surface mount components and high density pc boards. Although many hams have good troubleshooting savvy, few have the specialized tools and work bench equipment, or the healthy vision and steady hands to work on repairs. I miss the challenge of repairing discrete component devices, so I restrict myself to board or module replacement and let things go at that. I am no spring chicken, either, and I would rather not frustrate myself attempting what I can no longer attempt.

Keeping in mind that heat is the number one enemy of modern electronics, keeping your gear cool and clean, and free of physical shocks will go a long way toward prevention, which is better than repair.

Oh, our modern gear is not so much vulnerable to becoming obsolete as it is to being neglected because of something newer with more attractive options. Sometimes with new defective gear you are best off by simply chucking it. However, real hams never want to be reduced to being mere consumers, so kit building and experimentation are needed to maintain a good self-image, some bragging rights, and just for some good old fashioned ham fun.

So, don't take this topic of "planned obsolescence" too seriously.
 
RE: Planned Obsolescence in Ham Radio Gear?  
by AD6KA on March 22, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
K5LXP said:
>So before one waxes nostalgic about the "good old
>days" consider just what stuff costs and what it
>does for the money.

Very well said Mark, I'm with you.
Ken,AD6KA
 
RE: Planned Obsolescence in Ham Radio Gear?  
by AF6AU on March 22, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
First, Military SMT components, the boards, the soldering process, the solder used, the IC's, are usually higher grade and purpose specific, and have been tested at the component level and the assembled lever under temoerature extremes and voltage extremes for many hours. Some parts are Nuke-hard to Gamma. I doubt if Anytone or Baofeng does a 500 hour hot room high limit voltage burn-in on aything except prototypes. Milspec also matches coefficient of expansion rates of soldered components, so a Fairbanks winter back to back with a Death Valley summer will not kill your Harris transceiver. Oh and I doubt you will find ROHS solder in a Milspec rig either. These rigs will take temperatures and vibration that will crack or melt an "Amateur Radio Service" HT's plastic case. In the middle quality wise is public service radios used by Police, ambulance, and fire departments. Compare Standard radios made with this purpose with Sister company Yaesu, or Icom commercial with Icom Amateur radios.

Every bug I have had so far with SMT ham gear is chips and connector legs breaking their (ROHS) solder bonds to the circuit boards. I have not had a tin whisker chip (yet). This is usually a poor factory soldering or thermal expansion issue. These are Kenwood 2 meter and 440 monoband mobiles, and a 1995 year rat shack scanner. All 3 with bad SMT joints. My old Kenwood TS820S, and Icom 720a and 735 HF rigs just need calibration every few years. I have fellow club members lose their Icom 746 Pro to a bad LSI smt chip. My kenwood, and Icoms NOT SMT rigs.

Yes, cost to manufacture has a lot to do with it. Go price a Harris, Collins, or a Racal Milspec radio. A used surplus Racal PRC6740 HT runs $850 that will work on 2 meters. About quadruple what a Yaesu monoband HT is. But drop it 20 feet, place it in a freezer, then set it in the summer 1pm sun, and let's see if the Yaesu will still work. The cost reflects the quality and robustness absolutely.

Most modern circuit board designers do Em and thermal Finite Element analysis on the boards, and yes, end of life fatigue of soldered joints can be designed-in to last a certain number of temperature cycles. This is why indoor rigs that see little temperature change outlast a rig inside a car. High temperature change, humitity, and corrosion can kill circuits as fast as vibration and shock.

Add the cost of repair labor, shipping, etc., and you see why our gear is becomming "Consumer electronics grade". Buy it, use it, toss or recycle it. If it lasts more than 8 years you are lucky. Buying a new HT? Best buy that AA or AAA cell battery adapter too, you will not find the custom rechargable batteries in as little as 5 years from now, if the HT still works...

AF6AU
 
Planned Obsolescence in Ham Radio Gear?  
by W3TTT on March 22, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
"...$1000 in 1950 would be $9400 now..."
I think it would be more like $20,000 now.
For instance, I have a portable tube AM broadcast radio receiver that can be run from a battery, from 1950. It cost $50 new in 1950. That would be $1000 today. So, for the price of a simple radio receiver then, you can buy an ICOM 718 with all the bells and whistles, now.
Do you want fries with that?

 
Planned Obsolescence in Ham Radio Gear?  
by KC8ZEV on March 22, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
If you truly want it to last, buy two. There is your spare part source. Cost effective.....perhaps, considering parts cost, repair cost, shipping over the long haul not to mention part availability. Depends on the model. Practical for most amateurs......I would say not. But if that rig is one you love and want to keep for a long time, it might make sense. Two rigs are better than one.

73
KC8ZEV
 
RE: Planned Obsolescence in Ham Radio Gear?  
by N0YXB on March 22, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
According to one of the popular online inflation calculators,

"What cost $1000 in 1950 would cost $9409.49 in 2012."

 
RE: Planned Obsolescence in Ham Radio Gear?  
by K9MHZ on March 22, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
"Planned obsolescence" is really assuming a lot, and giving credit to some obscure grand body of planners who'd design items with such things in mind. That's a real stretch. Today, things advance so quickly and competition is so fierce in every aspect of producing consumer goods, especially anything electronic, that it's all companies can do to just to keep up and stay in business.

Having some grand strategy to produce items that will need replacing at some interval is really just a way of dealing that frustrating feeling when something fails...."gotta be something behind this...."

Somebody mentioned cost....you're dead-on. Collins gear in 2013 prices would blow away anything that an earlier reply was lamenting $10K ham gear.

We want cool stuff with lots of features, and we want it cheap. That's actually what's happening.
 
RE: Planned Obsolescence in Ham Radio Gear?  
by N4JTE on March 22, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Sorry I come here for articles, not questions.
Bob
 
RE: Planned Obsolescence in Ham Radio Gear?  
by N8WL on March 22, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
This is an interesting topic, to be sure!

Nobody has mentioned the Elecraft business model yet. No planned obsolescence there! Nearly everything they ever made is still available, and so are parts and service for them. Yet their K-line and KX3 are state-of-the-art, kept up-to-date with frequent firmware improvements, mostly suggested by their users, and their customer service is tops in the industry. Have a problem? Call or email them and your needed spare part could be on your doorstep in 48 hours by Priority Mail. Need to send back that K3 for professional service? Which would you rather ship, an 8 pound rig or a 40 pound one?

I thought about this topic quite a bit when I was looking for a new rig several years ago. Like everyone else I want my investment to be state-of-the-art forever, but of course I know that can't happen. But then I looked at Elecraft's lines and saw that they still sold and supported their K2, K1, KX1, and accessories, so I thought investing in a K3 made good sense. I'm thrilled with it, I know it can be easily repaired if need be (so far it never has!), I get a "new" radio everytime I download the latest firmware, and I am gratified to see so many major DXpeditions select the K3 as their choice of transceiver. The fact that it is American-made is a real plus to me, as the gang at their HQ speaks my language and shares my interests. And since then I've bought a KX3 and KX1.

I don't mean to sound like an advertisement for Elecraft, and I have no vested interest other than being a completely satisfied customer, but I think it's very relevant to this topic. It's just the opposite of planned obsolescence when you can buy a top-notch radio with some assurance by the manufacturer's track record that you'll still be using it with great pleasure in 5-10 years.

73,

Steve N8WL
 
Planned Obsolescence in Ham Radio Gear?  
by KB6QXM on March 22, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
I have a Flex 5000a Software Defined Radio. In many terms, a modern radio. I have a love/hate relationship with my radio. I love the ability to have a clutter free ham desk and that when a new version of software is released, many times, I have new features, I never had before. I love the HUGE capability of the radio and the OUTSTANDING specifications.

What I do not like is that the interface is Firewire. I understand technically why the designers chose Firewire, but I do not like is that Firewire might be a dead interface in a few years.

Would I prefer a Ethernet interface and a FPGA that does not take so much horsepower in my computer to run the software worrying about DPC latencies and RF ingress issues? Sure. Now introducing the 6XXX series of Flex SDRs. Are they technically superior to my 5000a? Sure. Are they network based? Yes. Is the heavy lifting done by the radio now and not the computer now? Yes.

So that to me is true product life cycle planning. The Flex 5000a is technically superior to the original 1000, but the 6XXX will (at least on paper as the product is not released) be a radio so superior to the 5000a that there is no comparison. Of course much more $$$$.

I salute Flex Radio systems for having one of the greatest customer service models that I have seen in any consumer-based business. Even better than I have seen in B2B models. I do hope and do not expect that to become obsolete.

But if you did not have planned obsolescence than you would not have a functioning economy. Everybody in manufacturing does planned obsolescence. It is business 101. The next model in everything will be better, faster, cheaper-to make and sell and hopefully have higher margins (at least that is the desired result)

I would expect that in the amateur radio market that the Product Life Cycle from R&D to mature product is a longer cycle.

If you think that ham radio gear has a short Product Life Cycle, take a look at handheld devices and smartphones to name a couple.

I am a Silicon Valley guy. I live with this mindset everyday and I get it.

73
 
RE: Planned Obsolescence in Ham Radio Gear?  
by KF4HR on March 22, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
I can pretty much guarantee that parts will become unavailable for my modern ICOM transceiver well before parts become unavailable for my 1955 Collins 75A-4 receiver. Specialized IC's stop being manufactured, same with display components, and other specialized components.

This is an issue we all need to take into consideration when purchasing of a used piece of equipment, particularly an expensive used piece of equipment. Are repair parts and services even still available for it? A quick call to the manufacture should tell the tale.
 
Planned Obsolescence in Ham Radio Gear?  
by AC8DP on March 22, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Mil spec parts or not design is paramount.
It doesn't take a lot to protect a radio (especially the digital circuits) against the kind of accidents that are bound to happen sooner or later (static, PS failure, stray RF).
Yet some makers do it, and some don't.
Have a look at the schematics of Kenwood's newer rigs like TS480 or TS2000 and compare with Yaesu's FT897, 857 or 100D. Or even 450 for that matter.
When you connect a key to the Yaesu, your dash and dot lines go from the CW key connector straight to the main microprocessor. CAT signals from your accessory connector are also routed straight to the uP. The uP standby supply is nothing but a 7805 powered straight from the 12v connector on the back of the radio.
Compare that with any of the Kenwoods, where there are buffer IC's on all digital lines, staggered regulators and reverse current/overvoltage protection everywhere.
The extra parts to add this protection cost in the single digits, cents, per piece, and that's retail.
Now I know for mass produced gadgets every fraction of a cent matters, but still! keying CW straight on the CMOS inputs on the uP is pushing it too far. It's an accident waiting to happen.
Some minor glitch the kind that's bound to happen once in a while even to the most careful of operators, and - if you have a Kenwood, you need a fuse, aregulator or a cmos buffer. If you have a Yaesu, you need a new radio. Planned obsolescence by any other name.
 
Planned Obsolescence in Ham Radio Gear?  
by K1CJS on March 23, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
I really don't think it's planned obsolescence that has most of us worried, it's really the cheapening of the parts and processes the manufacturers use to increase their bottom line--while still giving us what most of us seem to want. Cheap gear. It's been said many, many times: YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR! That's why there are outcries of rejection from some of us about the box of electronic 'junk' that are the so called cheap Chinese HTS.

A great example of 'cheapening' is this: Why have the manufacturers been not using transistor sockets on power transistors that may have a higher failure rate if pushed too hard--such as on the power supplies that most of us use? So they can save a dime or so on a part that may not ever be needed by the end user to simplify repairs? NO. So they can save a dime or so to make their bottom line larger and make their manufacturing more profitable.

Face it, those companies are in business to make money, not to give us products that would last forever. If they did that they would go out of business! With that said, and with the speed technology is advancing, planned obsolescence should have a lower limit set--not just a couple of years. Failure rate projections should be made so the manufacturers keep parts on hand for a minimum number of years, say 5 years. Nobody should have to be subject to calling for parts or repairs on a two year old rig only to be told "Parts are no longer available."
 
RE: Planned Obsolescence in Ham Radio Gear?  
by WB4TJH on March 23, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Technology marches onward. But the biggest single disappointment in gear in my 43 years of amateur radio was with a brand new IC-7000 I bought last year. I loved the radio, but twice in six months I had to send it off for warranty repairs. The second time was when the driver board litterally exploded and took out the finals as well. When I got it repaired, I promptly sold it. I was told that second repair would have cost me over $500 had the radio not been in warranty. I loved the radio, but now I doubt I will ever purchase another Icom radio, out of fear.
 
RE: Planned Obsolescence in Ham Radio Gear?  
by N5RDE on March 23, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Technology marches, but I don't know whether or not it always marches 'forward.' From a marketing viewpoint, the worldwide amateur market is rather small, so the manufacturers which sell in that area must do something to encourage turnover. Sale of a million tranceivers is an accomplishment in the world of ham radio sales, but small beans in the world of consumer electronics.

Additionally, we are in the age of throw-away electronics. It is now actually more difficult and expensive to produce repairable equipment. I notice Wilderness Radio has stopped selling several popular QRP kits because QRP Bob can no longer obtain some of the parts.

I don't happen to like the trend, but I realize we are a small, somewhat anachronistic part of a larger picture. It is interesting however, that when people show interest in my operating desk (I don't have a shack), it is usually my cw keys which attract their attention. They show little interest in the radio equipment.

 
Planned Obsolescence in Ham Radio Gear?  
by KG8JF on March 23, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
I owned an FT-1000MP MKv. It failed right after Yaesu stopped making/selling/supporting them. I got it repaired and promptly sold it. I now own Tentec and Ameritron gear which is still supported by their respective manufacturers. I will will not buy rice boxes ever again. I think their policies are geared toward marketing. They do not even keep parts to assist folks who like to, "roll their own".
 
Planned Obsolescence in Ham Radio Gear?  
by KG8JF on March 23, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
I owned an FT-1000MP MKv. It failed right after Yaesu stopped making/selling/supporting them. I got it repaired and promptly sold it. I now own Tentec and Ameritron gear which is still supported by their respective manufacturers. I will will not buy rice boxes ever again. I think their policies are geared toward marketing. They do not even keep parts to assist folks who like to, "roll their own".
 
Planned Obsolescence in Ham Radio Gear?  
by WM1V on March 23, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Got my Novice license in 1963. Started with an NC-190 and an Eico 720, having built the latter. Yes, there are a lot of fancy pieces of equipment today, but I wouldn't trade my Drakes or my Collins gear for any of it.

We have had steam and diesel powered watercraft for a very long time - but a lot of people still prefer sailing, for any number of reasons..........

 
RE: Planned Obsolescence in Ham Radio Gear?  
by W8AAZ on March 23, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Made in China, surface mount construction, new ROHS specs, Chinese parts of doubtful parentage. Lowest prices, ever. I guess it lets low budget people have a chance to get on with alot of fancy radios, not old hand me downs. BUT.... I own a TenTec HF rig. And my other radios are vintage Japanese. Back when Japan made radios with metal chassis and faceplates, etc. Thinking long term. Nuff said.....
 
RE: Planned Obsolescence in Ham Radio Gear?  
by W8AAZ on March 23, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Yea, the trick used to be getting you to buy a neater radio that did more, even though your old Betsy still worked. You dutifully sent it for a trade in or sold to a young ham, etc. Now perhaps it is to get you to buy the latest due to the previous model being dead and unsalvageable? But as noted, ham radio is a fringe market for electronics so be grateful you don't have to build everything you need or convert commercial products. Sorta like in 1924.
 
Planned Obsolescence in Ham Radio Gear?  
by K6CRC on March 23, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
I do not completely understand the arguments presented here, as related to electronics. Nearly anything purchased 20 years ago is hopelessly out of date. It may work fine, but few people still want to use the device, and fewer would pay to fix it if it broke...

Planned obsolescence? Hardly. One manufacture comes out with a hot radio, within a year every other manufacture has to match it, or they will be out of business. 'Planned' implies there is some great conspiracy. More like the free market at work, competing for Ham's hobby budget.
 
RE: Planned Obsolescence in Ham Radio Gear?  
by G3RZP on March 24, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
My FT102 has a display that is probably 'unobtainium'. If needed, I have some 7 segment displays and drivers and I can do a substitution. One or two of the ICs are obsolete, and I have either spares or things that can be used as replacements with a bit of work.

But you have to be prepared to do the work, and at least, the radio is repairable. Of course it doesn't have the bells and whistles of new radios, but it does have adequate RF performance - which is what really matters.

With IC processes developing, older processes and lower levels of integration have long gone. The British Army Clansman radios designed in the 1970s used some ICs in the synthesiser made with a gold doped process to get the speed. In 1982, the process was dropped becasue gold doping can be poison for other ICs and keeping the diffusion line clean enough was problem. So there was a 'last time buy', and they stored lots of spares. Sadly, the warehouse caught fire, and the answer had to be a rapid and expensive redesign!

It's not just ham radio that suffers from obsolescence! If buying a new rig or amplifier, especially if I intended it to be a 'keeper', I'd look at getting spares for things like PA tubes or transistors.
 
RE: Planned Obsolescence in Ham Radio Gear?  
by AA4PB on March 24, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
"We have had steam and diesel powered watercraft for a very long time - but a lot of people still prefer sailing, for any number of reasons.........."

Sure in their brand new $30,000 fiberglass sailboat equipped with the latest GPS and electronics - and a back up gas engine :-) How many still sail with a stock wood boat made in the early 1900's?
 
RE: Planned Obsolescence in Ham Radio Gear?  
by WM1V on March 24, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Come up to Maine some time - will show you a lot of old style wooden boats..............and a lot of happy people sailing them.
 
Planned Obsolescence in Ham Radio Gear?  
by W8MLD on March 24, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
I've had a Kenwood TS2000 for 3 years now. I have had nothing but good things to say about it. I truly think the people that give rigs bad reviews are the ones that never open the operators manual for their rig. They pull it out of the box and start pushing buttons. You really should not do that with modern rigs. A friend of mine bought a Yaesu FT-897D and just started playing with menus without taking one glance at the manual. He ended up locking out 6 meters-70 centimeters. Of course he was quick to lay blame on Yaesu; so he called customer support, and started having a hissy fit on the phone with them. Until they asked him if he read the manual and understood the different functions it provides. Needless to say his mistake made the radio junk in his mind. Eventually the CSR figured out what menu he hit to disable VHF and UHF, and got them working again.

Point is, the new rigs have a lot of features that you need to familiarize yourself with by reading the manual prior to operating. Many times it isn't the radio that is broken or bad, but the operator jumping the gun with it before being aware what all the buttons and menus do, because they assume the manual is only for brand new ham radio operators.
 
Planned Obsolescence in Ham Radio Gear?  
by KD7HVL on March 24, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Amateur radio operators seem to never see the big picture. The big picture is, the components that are used, are not, have not and never will be made just for the amateur radio hobby. All the designers of that wizsbang radio you just bought, use available component that are used else where in some product by the thousands (most likelyl not related to amateur radio) and once that product manufacturing run is complete, is repalced with yet a newer product using newer components but of a different type. what is left of the original component manufacturing run is what is left to keep your wizbang RADIO RUNING AND ONCE THEY ARE GONE YOU ARE OUT OF LUCK.
My 2 cents
Frank
 
RE: Planned Obsolescence in Ham Radio Gear?  
by G3RZP on March 24, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
'Have not' been made for amateur radio is not strictly correct. It may be for the last 30 years or so, though.

After all, the famous BC610 WW2 US Army Signal Corps transmitter was a ruggedized version of a Hallicrafters amateur transmitter.
 
Planned Obsolescence in Ham Radio Gear?  
by N2OBM on March 24, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Anybody remember Curtis Mathis TVs? The story goes like this...they buy chassis from another manufacturer, cut out 'excess' parts (I don't remember if they ordered chassis without or actually cut them out and sold them as used?). The 'sales pitch'...put in a nice cabinet, less heat generated, reduced cost MANY LESS PARTS THAT COULD BE A POINT OF FAILURE. My mom's CM still works at 30+ years! Hmmm...However, don't try to run a ham station in the same household, or have a neighbor with a Curtis Mathis if you are the HAM! Now let us look at 'modern' amateur radio products. Could you service, let alone troubleshoot a modern day rig? Sorry, I went to DeVry Tech back in the day of discrete devices (1980)...but couldn't do anything with my 746Pro if I had to. Look at newer Alpha AMPS...glitzy LED meters...chips conducting real time assessments on the tubes...but I hope you set aside $$$ for shipping when it dies! That is why well designed older AMPs, without all of the BS, have such a high resale value. Next to last, consider the R390...lots of heat...lots of devices...great specs for a reciever...I hear alot about 'refurbishing'...but outright failure...not as much. Lastly, here is the new 'scheme'. Land mobile radios were lasting too long (Motorola, Bendix-King, GE and others); low new sales! Holy crap...what to do? Simple! Make a new law that precludes wide bandwidth radios, do not allow modification (too costly) and then produce VERY expensive digital modulation radios that also meets narrowband requirements...and the TAXPAYERS flip the BILL! And some ham radios operators are a part this fraud. Not enough spectrum my butt! Instead of selling community trunked machines...gotta sell, sell, sell! Peel back the layers and this onion stinks to high heaven! Yep...bad day here...sorry!
 
RE: Planned Obsolescence in Ham Radio Gear?  
by W8MLD on March 24, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
We are in somewhat of a catch 22 in amateur radio these days. Solid state surface mount equipment can be impossible to repair yourself. Tubes made today are not the same quality as tubes made years ago; so if you buy them untested it can be a crap shoot.

As far as components go in radios being used in other things, this isn't new. Resistors, caps, etc all have uses beside amateur radios. Even intergrated circuits have multi applications, from computers to cellphones and calculators to televisions.
 
RE: Planned Obsolescence in Ham Radio Gear?  
by K6CRC on March 24, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Come on guys, deal with reality here. Most Ham rigs are the result of land mobile, marine, or aero equipment and chips being repurposed. There are not enough HF hams in the world buying new equipment to support major manufacturers, except perhaps niche players like Elecraft and TenTec.

Commercial equipment has a finite life. Tax laws regarding depreciation control the replacement of commercial equipment. Disposable income controls consumer equipment. If you are struggling with money, then replacing ham equipment is a low priority, hence the disconnect between commercial and ham products.

One thing I really like is to play with old stuff. But, I am under no illusion that it is anywhere as good as modern rigs. Doesn't matter to me. Point is that hams cannot expect to be able to get parts or repair services past about 5 years. That is the new world of electronics. Fortunately, most tubes are available cheap, especially those used in rock amps and stereo equipment. Not sure how long the Russians and Chinese will continue to make tubes, but I have a good supply to keep me until I am a SK!
 
Planned Obsolescence in Ham Radio Gear?  
by KD0REQ on March 24, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
heat is always the cause of premature death in electronics. in tube stuff, it killed the passives, and sometimes would melt the tubes themselves and take out the glass, breaking the vacuum. in semiconductor stuff, it's the actives that go.

there are no shortages of parts to fix tube stuff, with the attics emptying as 80 and 90 year olds die we are seeing floods of 00A and 01A tubes. as well as the ones we want/need. low power stuff is almost all good, high power can be iffy.

the ubiquitous 40673 and 40801 MOSfets of the 70s dried up when ICs demanded larger wafers, the 2-inch equipment disappeared for manufacturers, and cheap-ass RCA decided not to remask for 4 inch wafers. but you can fool around a bit and make GaAs BF981s work many a time. in discrete parts, you can keep things working.

in VLSI... well, even in telco, where you have entire world-wide networks of ATM backbone equipment, the special silicon is in the third iteration, so our carrier's 4th and 5th generation equipment is basically supported by eBay and who's-he rebuilders on whatever island is above water this week. if it's out of production, your spare parts situation is like that of Kharmann Ghia fans.

so take care of your equipment, or start a savings account for regular replacement. the tube stuff that drifts a little bit, if you can scrounge, you can keep it running until power doesn't come out of the wall outlets any more.
 
RE: Planned Obsolescence in Ham Radio Gear?  
by W8MLD on March 24, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
I agree with KD0REQ, heat is the biggest enemy for any RF equipment. Dust is another that goes hand in hand with heat. A little layer of dust on an important heat sink can act like a thermal blanket, reducing its heat transfer ability by nearly 30% sometimes. Which we all know can lead to premature failure of components.

However I disagree that all amateur radio gear is made with excess land mobile, marine and aviation parts. Icom I know has their own chip factory. And a lot of the companies also supply to broadcasters with their high end equipment; for example Icom makes some professional rack receivers. I do not see parts drying up; especially with labor costs so low in countries like China, Indonesia and India. They will keep pumping out resistors, capacitors, inter grated circuits and aftermarket tubes until we quit buying them.
 
RE: Planned Obsolescence in Ham Radio Gear?  
by AA4PB on March 25, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
"heat is always the cause of premature death in electronics"

Often, but NOT **always**. I've seen plenty of solid state components fail because of over voltage.
 
RE: Planned Obsolescence in Ham Radio Gear?  
by N1DVJ on March 25, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
"heat is always the cause of premature death in electronics"

Often, but NOT **always**. I've seen plenty of solid state components fail because of over voltage.

______________________________________________________


Ok, show me one case, other than kinetic or physical deformation, that is not heat related.

Over voltage kills the part by heat. Same with reverse voltage.
 
Planned Obsolescence in Ham Radio Gear?  
by KK4RHF on March 25, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
There is a system in place to force people to upgrade their electronics all the time. If you take the digital Television signal conversion as an example. The only thing wrong with the old analog signals were that it was consumed a large frequency spectrum. We bought a new TV at that time and it does not even have a coax input, just HDMI. Luckily my tivo was already to handle that.

Every so often Microsoft comes out with a new operating system and all of the Anti-virus companies quit supporting the old operating systems. I have seven or eight computers that work perfectly fine, but my anti-virus software quit supporting the O.S. that it contains. So I just push that unit aside and buy another computer and so on. If you have to by the OS separately it cost almost as much as a new computer any way. The computer I have now is about to go the way of the dinosaurs because it won't run windows seven.
 
Planned Obsolescence in Ham Radio Gear?  
by KB2DHG on March 25, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
The long and short of it is not that simple but let me tell you about my experence with this topic... I have old and have new... The old has been with me since the early 80's of which was equipment I purchased used of the early 70's vintage. A Yaesu FT-101ee and the Drake B-line twins... I purchased my first new rig in 1987, an ICOM 745. This rig gave me years of trouble free use but one day just quit!, I then purchase a used but fairly new Kenwood TS-430S, I used this rig for about 8 years then it went KAPUT! I just purchased the Yaesu FT-950 a year ago and LOVE IT but worry about how long it will last...BUT my DRAKE B-LINES AND YAESU FT-101EE are STIL OPERATING AND ON THE AIR!
I hope this gives you the answer you are seeking...73
 
RE: Planned Obsolescence in Ham Radio Gear?  
by WA8FOZ on March 25, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
I have a crystal set that works every bit as well as it would have 70 years ago, and will likely work as well 70 years from now. I enjoy listening to it, when all I want is minimal selectivity and sensitivity. I have a similar feeling for my regenerative receiver.

I could easily keep a Model A running, and would certainly enjoy tooling around in it over secondary roads on nice days, starting, stopping, cruising, and turning very slowly.

I have owned such rigs as a DX-60, a Viking II, and several Drakes. They would all be good enough for enjoyment while using 50-year-old technology.

Get the drift? A part of me hates the disposable economy, and I reflexively dislike the idea of discarding anything; but recycling helps me deal with that. So do software defined radios, like my Flex. Otherwise, hardware only needs to last as long as the currency of its technology.
 
RE: Planned Obsolescence in Ham Radio Gear?  
by KK4RHF on March 26, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
I don't mind upgrading my equipment if there is a good reason for it. You know like the old one bites the dust. But I don't like having to upgrade just because some manager decides, "We are no longer going to carry "DVD" format because "Blue Ray looks so much better." I come from the old style frugal culture. If you can fix it, fix it! Even though most things are cheaper to throw away and buy new, as long as it works I'm keeping it.

I still have my very first CB radio,
(Johnson Messenger) my first SSB Radio Shack mobile(TRC-47) my first base station(Radio Shack TRC-459)
If it works it stays with me. I have had people offer big dollars for some of it, I still have it. I was offered $600.00 dollars for the TRC-459. Even though I don't run CB any more except on road trips I have a pretty extensive collection and I'm taking it with me! When or if I move that is.
 
Planned Obsolescence in Ham Radio Gear?  
by K5BM on March 27, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Monday, a friend from 4L land contacted me regarding the HF finals for an IC-707MKllG. They are already obsolete. ICOM changed the RF board and is using different ones. I asked "what is the cost of the board"? Surprise, the board is only available for ICOM repair technicians.
This is a big deal for amateurs who have less money to spend. As for me, I would not repair the radio since it has the noisiest front end I have experienced.
The old board can be modified to accept the newer outputs.
Yes, Yaesu and ICOM are notorious in the planned obsolesce category.
Tom, k5bm/4l2bm
 
Planned Obsolescence in Ham Radio Gear?  
by K5BM on March 27, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Monday, a friend from 4L land contacted me regarding the HF finals for an IC-706MKllG. They are already obsolete. ICOM changed the RF board and is using different ones. I asked "what is the cost of the board"? Surprise, the board is only available for ICOM repair technicians.
This is a big deal for amateurs who have less money to spend. As for me, I would not repair the radio since it has the noisiest front end I have experienced.
The old board can be modified to accept the newer outputs.
Yes, Yaesu and ICOM are notorious in the planned obsolesce category.
Tom, k5bm/4l2bm
 
Planned Obsolescence in Ham Radio Gear?  
by KE5GFS on March 27, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
As an electronics engineer working in the semiconductor industry, I can tell you that most commercial semiconductor components are designed to have roughly a 10 year life span.

Military spec parts are designed for longer lifetime, but are sold at a much higher cost. So unless you are buying military spec gear, expecting solid state gear to last for many decades with no repairs is not realistic.

So the bottom line is: yes, planned obsolescence is a given in solid state products of any kind - radios, televisions - anything with a transistor. If it lasts more than 10 years with no repairs, you are either not using it much or you are running on luck.
 
RE: Planned Obsolescence in Ham Radio Gear?  
by K9MHZ on March 28, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
This "planned obsolescence" description is really getting old. It feeds the black helicopters crowd with the idea that a sinister group of evil men are designing equipment and devices with shorter mean failure times just to keep the cash flowing. If this is indeed the case, they must be absolutely brilliant in keeping this grand conspiracy a secret.

What computer, tv, cell phone, etc do you own that's older than 10 years? Things are so advanced and technology pushing is so intense, that keeping all of those repair semiconductor devices in stock for everyone and everything is undoable.

Some of you guys need to get real or just keep burning tube filaments and wishing for the old days to return.
 
Planned Obsolescence in Ham Radio Gear?  
by K5BM on March 28, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Someone is missing the point. When a company has the parts, but refuses to sell them to an amateur is ridiculous. Yes, the ICOM parts are in stock, but only for their maintenance techs. The IC-706MKllG was on the market until late last year.
I am happy that it does not belong to me!
Tom, k5bm
 
RE: Planned Obsolescence in Ham Radio Gear?  
by K9MHZ on March 28, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Anecdotal, Tom. The overwhelming, vast majority of today's hams have neither the capability nor the education/ training to do what you're suggesting. (If you can, you're head and shoulders above most in ham radio today, and that says a lot about you, BTW). Icom has clearly made a business decision that will get very, very little pushback, so why should they go to the trouble and administrative expense? Trust me, I'm on your side though, but it is what it is.
 
RE: Planned Obsolescence in Ham Radio Gear?  
by KK4RHF on March 29, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Do you have the transistor numbers? I have a bunch of old transistors and these have never been installed.
I know of places to find them.
These are not the Chinese knock offs that blow up when you first turn it on either.
I don't know if any body has posted on counterfeit transistor, beware they are out there. They might look like MRF454's or pick any transistor number you want, but it will not stand up to the parameter testing.
 
RE: Planned Obsolescence in Ham Radio Gear?  
by VE3LYX on March 29, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
I was shocked to read this. I thought if you couldnt fix your own gear you should surrender your ticket. Pretty hard to find a tube you cant buy. And the prices are not bad either. New or NOS. In fact they are often more on Ebay then from a tube supplier. I have bought some pretty wierd ones over the last couple of years so I have learned not to think you cant find them. $10,000 for a rig? I had to sit down when I read that. I bought a KNWD TS830S new in the early 80s ($1250.00) and wasnt planning to ever replace it if possible. I have a lot of Homebrew stuff as well which is why I am in the hobby. I dont think anyone sets out to plan obsolesance. Anything can be repaired if the desire is there.
Don VE3LYX
 
RE: Planned Obsolescence in Ham Radio Gear?  
by K5BM on March 29, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Joni Keburia 4L1AN is repairing the IC-706MKllG for a ham friend. This morning on Skype he said a driver transistor was being shipped from China. I said, "good luck". His email is jk4l1an@yahoo.com. He just finished repairing a FT-100D(except for the obsolete v/u FET) which I shipped to him this morning. I purchased spares a few years back.
Tom, k5bm/4l2bm
 
RE: Planned Obsolescence in Ham Radio Gear?  
by N4KC on March 29, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Don VE3LYX:

I think we should all keep in mind that not everyone gets into the hobby to build homebrew gear, nor do they necessarily become hams because they are technically inclined or overly interested in that aspect. While ours is a hobby that does require just a bit of technical knowledge, there are many, many other reasons why people get a ticket and take up the pastime. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Ours is--or at least it should be--a very, very big and welcoming tent.

I would never suggest that someone surrender his ticket because he had no interest in working on his gear, as you did. At the same time, I would never urge you to cancel your license because you might not be interested or proficient in public service, DXing, SDRs, mobiling, contests, SSTV, county hunting, nets, fox hunting, QRP, satellites, traffic handling, moon-bounce, ragchewing, antenna building, digital modes, or any other part of our wonderful avocation.

73,

Don N4KC
www.n4kc.com
www.donkeith.com
(Author of the new book RIDING THE SHORTWAVES:
EXPLORING THE MAGIC OF AMATEUR RADIO)
 
RE: Planned Obsolescence in Ham Radio Gear?  
by K9MHZ on March 29, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Perfectly put, Don (N4KC).

And for Canadian Don....you're making a broad judgement and also "shocked" about what you're reading based upon your experience owning a very outdated Kenwood hybrid rig? Fine radio in its day no doubt, and I ran one for a while, but to base your view argument of the state of modern gear upon your ability to find replacement tubes on eBay is quite a stretch.

Tell me (Canadian) Don....how well do you do replacing SMT/SMD items? Do you use a Hakko 852 or some other method? What microscope or other magnification device do you use? Just curious, since it's all been a learning curve for me after many years of a soldering iron and big devices on big circuit boards.

I'd sure hate to have to turn in my ticket if I set the temp on the Hakko incorrectly.

 
RE: Planned Obsolescence in Ham Radio Gear?  
by K5BM on March 29, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
He may have a complete soldering station? I have a Pace setup and taught soldering for a few years. If I can find the part, it can be replaced.
Tom, k5bm
 
RE: Planned Obsolescence in Ham Radio Gear?  
by K9MHZ on March 31, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Cool, me too.

 
Planned Obsolescence in Ham Radio Gear?  
by N5WVR on April 4, 2013 Mail this to a friend!

One solution to this is to build your own gear. Avoid any highly-custom parts that are only available from a single source. It will be a very long time before you can't get the parts to keep a 2N2/40 running.

And of course you are not limited to standard designs; learn how to design and homebrew your own. That also means you'll know how to modify the design if you do need to replace a part that is no longer offered.
 
RE: Planned Obsolescence in Ham Radio Gear?  
by W8OKX on April 6, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Wow. Very interesting information, People. As an EE with an Extra ticket who has been scratch and kit building all my life, I can relate to some of the stories here. Due to limited resources, I still run an HW-101 I built when I was nineteen. To the few who made comments disparaging current technology and how the old tube rigs just keep on running, I say this: Personally, I'm not into contesting or similar activities that high tech can surely bolster. However, I'm the first to appreciate the joys of highly stable, thermally compensated MOs feeding broad drivers and solid state finals with "no-tune" technology. Also, I've a feeling roofing filters may have a tendency of making us take mind-boggling reception for granted. However, with two wonderful daughters in college, the "dream rig" will simply have to wait. BUT, I really LOVE my old still "new smelling" Heath rig. No sour grapes from this OT! On a more practical note however, owing to many of the comments from the more technologically experienced ops out there, it appears that Kenwood may have a lesser probability of premature failure and obsolescence than ICOM. Would LOVE to hear some head-to head experiences WRT top end Japanese equipment. Speaking for me, I think if I had about five grand itching a hole in my wallet, I'd spring for a loaded kit version Elecraft. Just my thoughts...
 
RE: Planned Obsolescence in Ham Radio Gear?  
by K5BM on April 6, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Tony,
I started with no Elmer and a 1955 ARRL Handbook. Built a 40 M receiver using a 117N7 with no transformer. One learns to not touch the chassis. I ordered code records from a Popular Electronics and a Novice study guide. I was ready for the test, but new no amateurs. My cousin from another rural Oklahoma town knew an 18 year old ham. I passed my Novice in 1960 and used a Knight Kit T-50 harmonic generator I assembled. I traded for a SX-28 and was in business. I met fellow amateurs and passed my Technician class and built a HB rack mounted 6 M rig and used a HB converter for 50 Megacycle receive using the SX-28. I had a 5763 driving a 2E26 driving a pair of 4-65A's. The audio was a pair of 6146's Class B.
The General test was given biannually in Oklahoma City. I caught a ride and passed my General at age 13.
I then added to my rack system by building a 80-10M amplifier from the 1955 handbook. I used a pair of 813's instead on one and modified the modulator to a pair of 811A's. My revenue came from trading .22 rifles and repairing about anything that would turn a buck. My father saw my enthusiasm and purchased me a 2 element tribander to go on the power pole I had mounted at the apex of the old house for my three element homebrew 6M beam.
I remember that I did not want a z or x in my call. I was issued KN5ZXE. A week later and I would have received a reissued W5 call.
I wish the time was available to take-on such projects nowadays. I have converted a Harris and Larcan analog amplifiers to 50MHz for EME in 4L land in the last two years. I have HF, 50, 144, 432, 222, and 1296 capabilities with power, but no tower at the present QTH.
When I get my son through law school, I will concentrate on the world above!
It's been a hoot and as far as obsolescence, I am the victim.
73, Tom, K5BM
 
RE: Planned Obsolescence in Ham Radio Gear?  
by W8OKX on April 7, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Thank you for your very thoughtful response, Tom. Ah yes, those beautiful RCA 813's with the Carbon Anodes...! My first rig was also a 5763, configured as a Colpits Oscilator feeding a Pi network directly. It had about 15 watts input to the plate and got me around for a few months until I could afford a used but well cared for Eico 720 [which I still own]. My first receiver was a used Hallicrafters SX-115. Mint physical condition, accurate as a frequency counter. Stable as a battleship but not terribly sensitive. After over two years of ownership, the original owner "admitted" he'd had an accident with a Dow-Key relay between his 'Linear and the RX and momentarily fed a killowatt into the receiver's front end. (Ouch...!) Rather than fix it, I traded it in for a mint HQ-180AC which I still own, use and love. Less stable. Less precise, but sensitive and FUN to use on both Ham bands and International SW. No matter what kind of gear I may one day be able to afford, I'll always treasure my "vacuum tube memories" and will keep my current equipment as a reminder of more humble beginnings as well as the efficacy of yesteryear's technology.
 
RE: Planned Obsolescence in Ham Radio Gear?  
by WO7R on April 8, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
This has been an issue in electronics for years and not just in Ham Radio. Even in the high margin, high priced world of servers, it's an issue.

There has been a slow, but easily discernible march in repairs. It used to be, you replaced components. That's long gone. Then, you replaced whole boards, and then eventually (especially for smaller ones) whole products.

It turns out that NOBODY in the electronics world wants to deal with individual parts replacement anymore. Seriously, we hams may want to solder surface mount parts individually, but we're the only ones that ever did.

And, as for LCD displays and other specialty parts, the way the world has worked for some time is that you (as a mom and pop repair tech) gather up old and broken machines (let's say in this case TS 2000, since we talk about that one here) and replace whole boards via mix and match.

That will keep such rigs alive for many years past the end of life of their electronics.

Which, by and large, is only expected to be about five years for just about any electronic part at any price (though many individual boards live much longer -- hence the mom and pop mix-and-match).

You may not like it, but welcome to your own world. It's worked this way since at least the mid-90s in every other market. Anyone who does better is doing you real service.
 
RE: Planned Obsolescence in Ham Radio Gear?  
by N1DVJ on April 8, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
That's pretty much on the nail.

While some can argue they would feel ok replacing some surface mount, like larger 08xx stuff, few would tackle smaller stuff. And trying to take a 112 pin flat pack off a board would just mean the board is destroyed. I have the tools and capability to do it, I've even pulled one of those 112 pin parts off one board to place it on another. Successfully. But I don't want to. Ever again. It was an act of desperation.

These parts are the way things are going, and working with them will pretty much be delegated to designers and developers, so people had better get used to it.

In actual fact, circuits today are both simpler and more complex. What used to be under a hundred components now consists of upwards of hundreds of thousands. Only they are 'packaged' into blocks that make a device really simple to work on. IF you know how and IF you have the tools, expertise, AND the parts. All of those requirements pretty much mean no more servicing at the component level.

Heck, the manufacturing is so critical now. Circuits are built where the connections are built as transmission lines, and the SWR spiking the voltage is actually what causes the data to be transferred. You're going to work on that with your Ungar iron from Radio Shack? And understanding the circuit... Please don't take this the wrong way, but the tricks and custom stuff used in some products can curl your toes. And you REALLY need a good understanding of what is going on to do any kind of component repair. Just consider, how many hams even understand how a dual-modulus prescaler works? And yet they insist they are qualified to dive into modern gear.

Of course they could. In some areas. Like blown finals. But really, could most hams tackle the way some modern rigs are controlled? You really do have to divide and counquer, know what you know, and figure out what you have a chance of fixing first, then analyze the situation to see if the problem overlaps what you understand.

And the problem, and the complaints about it is only going to get worse, as equipment gets more and more miniturized and compact.
 
RE: Planned Obsolescence in Ham Radio Gear?  
by N1DVJ on April 8, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
K5BM wrote:
"Someone is missing the point. When a company has the parts, but refuses to sell them to an amateur is ridiculous. Yes, the ICOM parts are in stock, but only for their maintenance techs"

It's not necessarily as nefarious as you make it sound. A lot of companies treat their repair depots as separate entities. Once material/inventory is transferred to them it is considered sold to the host company. Now, some companies, like Radio Shack, used to let customers buy from their parts depot, in that case called National Parts. But once the parts were transferred to a lower level, the actual repair centers, the parts were administratively gone. In some cases, there were repair centers that a part and other that didn't. And yes, there was a thriving 'traders market' between repair centers in some cases for hard to find parts.

So don't blame ICOM corporate for the parts issue. Yeah, it would be nice if they would keep all spare parts for an extended time, say 7 years, after the last unit was made. And I'm sure they would have, and raised the price to cover the cost of inventory over that time.

But remember... Every old unit fixed potentially means a new unit not sold. So where do you draw the line? And I don't mean you specifically, I mean a company that wants to stay in business and sell more product instead of keeping a cheap ham supplied with parts for an antique that will actually hurt current sales.
 
Planned Obsolescence in Ham Radio Gear?  
by K1HIF on April 10, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Timely post for me. IC 706 in for repair and seems some parts no longer available, thus perhaps not cost effective to chase or retrofit parts and attempt repair -- so -- on shelf for parts.

I use an IC 746 and now understand some parts may not be available for this radio.

To me, this repair and parts issue would be a major concern in purchasing a high dollar radio. Perhaps this is an issue the manufacture will need to address keeping a good supply of parts available. I would not like to trash a $5000 radio in five years because of no parts.
 
RE: Planned Obsolescence in Ham Radio Gear?  
by N4ZAW on April 11, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Planned obsolescence can be a beautiful thing if, for no other reason, than to supply the very "repair what is broken" mindset. BTW, I enjoy repairing old boatanchors more than any other direction my hobby has taken me, so I'm not knocking that segment of the hobby at all.
Of course, I'm speaking of entire industries germinated and thriving on the market-model of supplying old tubes, RF parts (sounds familiar, right?), or other obsolete components or devices, when NOBODY ELSE IS!
Much like my bullet-hoarding coworker, or my brother and his escapades on E-trade and his pursuit of gain thru the prices of gold and commodities, I've taken the approach to try to PREDICT the next semiconductor to be taken out of production. while weighing it's intended and discovered applications in the field. I currently own over 500 2sc2999's and over forty MRF477's to name a couple,my collection is growing and goes on and on -- and NO, not one piece is for sale by me, so do not ask. Ask my kids when I'm SK.
Let these manufacturers keep plodding-forward like luxury liners in an ice field... I have a game plan... Like, the SS devices in my collection are in a grounded metal tool shed in grounded ammo boxes. Maybe I'm insane. Maybe I am just one more "Titanic" in a sea of ships. And perhaps I wont make it-- but maybe my kids will survive somehow, given this stategic "treasure trove".
 
Planned Obsolescence in Ham Radio Gear?  
by K2IY on April 12, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
I think your point is well taken. If buying your gear in the second hand market, the old Heathkit where you can buy replacement parts from Mouser is more practical than some of the later out of production DSP gear that has no replacement parts.

 
RE: Planned Obsolescence in Ham Radio Gear?  
by K9MHZ on April 14, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
The only problem with that is that old Heathkits suck.
 
RE: Planned Obsolescence in Ham Radio Gear?  
by K9MHZ on April 14, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
N1DVJ...."So don't blame ICOM corporate for the parts issue. Yeah, it would be nice if they would keep all spare parts for an extended time, say 7 years, after the last unit was made. And I'm sure they would have, and raised the price to cover the cost of inventory over that time."


I think that nailed it. It's just the way things are today. None of us would defend the waste of our throwaway society, but it's just evolved into exactly that. Rigs today are just plain awesome, but stocking zillions of parts and also maintaining an ability to repair anything and everything at any time would be so expensive and cumbersome that a rig's cost would be out of the reach of most people, so they wouldn't get developed in the first place.

Many people on eHam love to outdo each other describing their indignation over the sticker shocks they encounter, as if they've got some higher understanding of the true costs of these items and are certain the man is out to screw them. I'd encourage those same folks to sample the acquisition costs of biz band gear, avionics, commercial broadcasting gear, etc. Our gear is a BARGAIN.
 
RE: Planned Obsolescence in Ham Radio Gear?  
by W8OKX on April 14, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
The root cause for this "obsolescence vortec" is equipment improvements are being made at the chip level rather than the board or even discrete medium-scale integration level. The same is true of the PC industry. However, unlike the communications industry, PC chips and even motherboards have some semblance of standardization. This is because computers enjoy a much larger market than say a ham transceiver. Since the ham market is small, but dominated by people who are willing to spend big bucks for big radios that may have a useful lifetime of less than ten years, the ICOMS of the world get away with keeping a small stock of service parts. It's all about markets, People. In a free market economy, I guarantee you, if people stopped throwing their money at a new rig OF THE SAME BRAND as their mint-condition but irrepairable radio, such a company would clean up their act or go out of business. BECAUSE we're willing to be suckers, obsolescence is not YET a "point of competition" among the ICOMs, Kenwoods and YAESUs of the world. I can guarantee you this: If a company advertised that their service componentry stock would give their rigs a twenty-plus year lifetime, I'd happily pay a premium to purchase a radio that's serviceable long-term. Such an innovative company could focus on STANDARDIZATION of DSP and micro-Controller architectures and use "long product life-cycle" as a niche market competitive edge. Remember, People: The market will provide all the crap we're WILLING to buy. It's up to US.
 
RE: Planned Obsolescence in Ham Radio Gear?  
by K9MHZ on April 14, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
You've got to be kidding. Every single time I go to the local Fry's, a new, improved batch of the latest in motherboards gets put on display, and a whole group of the most current boards from only a year ago gets put on clearance and disappears It hasn't been that long since the "i" series or Intel processors came onto the scene, but try today to find a motherboard that will accommodate a Core 2 dual or quad core processor. Too....try and use your DDR2 memory sticks in a new board.

Computers are probably the WORST example of standardization or consistency. That world moves along at a blistering pace compared to the development and marketing of ham gear. My Icom-7700 is now 4 years old, and you couldn't find ANYTHING in the computer world that's 4 years old and still currently sold.

It's just ridiculous how people think that we're all such suckers for buying new gear. The upper mid-to-top-tier radios all price in the mid $2K range, for FABULOUS radios. Do a present dollars comparison against a new Collins S Line from back in the day. I'll bet they'd end up costing more than the IC-7800, TS-990S, etc of today.



 
RE: Planned Obsolescence in Ham Radio Gear?  
by W8OKX on April 14, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
No need to get upset, Brad. Your point is well taken. My point is that you can purchase a hard drive, memory or even a motherboard for an older PC without having to resort to eBay, that's all. Owed to the size of the "market audience", manufacturers of accessory boards for PCs make SOME kind of effort to make their products work on a specific version of a PCI bus for example. I'd say that's WAY more standardization than you'll find between ICOM components and Kenwood components. To close out my point with a couple examples, purchasing a product to work in a Fast Wide SCSI or [fast forward] a SATA bus drive or say, a video card for PCI Express, is metaphorically equivalent to needing a 6AL5 or 12AU7 for an older rig, regardless of brand. I'd be hard pressed to find interchangeable "anything" across high end rig manufacturers except for the most basic parts such as final TRXs.
 
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