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Author Topic: Can't they build a cheaper radio?  (Read 7710 times)
KF5EGM
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Posts: 52




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« on: May 25, 2010, 10:18:14 PM »

Radios cost too much these days. I truly see it as a crippling force in our hobby, and clubs and radio makers need to hear this. Many of us young people are hit hard by the economy and just getting started in life is not so easy. 700 is simply unachievable to some of us. The radio companies must realize that those who carry this hobby to the next generation must be able to afford it. Without that we are just another gmrs service. I for one don't want that. The radio companies should think about making bargain radios with less bells and whistles and maybe cheaper yesteryear technology. Don't stop with the dr who tartus of a ham rig... Just make something for the rest of us. I am sure it's possible. Is there the will to do it though? A 50 or 100 watt BASIC cw rig or 10 meter ssb? Why not get our guys into real ham radio instead of giving them another less capable phone?
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K9KJM
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« Reply #1 on: May 25, 2010, 11:48:42 PM »

Radios have NEVER BEEN CHEAPER than they are today.
When you adjust the dollar (Or most other currencies) for the effects of inflation, You will find that 50 years ago, Radios cost a LOT more of the average persons wages than they do today. Plus, Overall, Radio performance has gone up from the olden days.
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N3OX
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« Reply #2 on: May 26, 2010, 12:09:30 AM »

Manufacturers sell a tiny number of ham radios compared to other electronics, and they have a lot of special parts in them.   Economies of scale don't work out well for ham radios.

For example, most human beings cannot legally operate a 100W transmitter of any kind.  Furthermore, not all 100W transmitters need linear amplifiers.   So a pair of final transistors for a 100W radio's linear SSB amplifier never sell very well.  Compare this to the laser and the mechanical stuff in a DVD player.  Those are complicated objects that would be REALLY expensive initially, but you'll sell millions and millions of DVD players. 

There are all kinds of ways to get into ham radio for less than $700.  Careful shopping for a used HF rig is one.  Homebrew from a kit or straight from parts is another.  KD1JV's MMR-40 and W6JL's 50W amp, both winners of the ARRL homebrew contests, could get you on 40m CW/SSB at the 50W level for under $100, theoretically.  But you've got to build them, and you get a single band.

I think the profit margins for ham radios are already quite thin.  If you're looking for manufacturers to put out a basic, brand new radio that's priced like a TV or DVD player, it's not going to happen.

I also think that brand new radios in 2010 may be cheaper in terms of real income,  as a fraction of the average earnings, than they ever have been.    A lot of the "modern technology" has made electronics cheaper.  Surface mount components save having to drill millions and millions of holes over the production run of a radio.   Digital signal processing saves an enormous amount of special analog parts. 

The technology of "yesteryear" would probably be several times more expensive if you insisted on it today.

And the "bells and whistles," at least a lot of them, are going to be more or less free.  You want six hundred memories?  that costs nothing.  Alphanumeric display?    Band scope?    With a DSP rig, you want continuously variable bandpass tuning?   Auto-notch filter?  It's all just a little bit of programming and costs very little in the grand scheme of things.

There has to be a microprocessor in there anyway.   It would be incredibly expensive to build a full featured HF rig without lots of microprocessors.    Bells and whistles get people to buy radios that have incredibly thin profit margins and probably wouldn't be made cheaper by getting rid of the bells and whistles.

Anyway, ham radios aren't going to be getting much less expensive than they already are, at least not all of a sudden, just gradually over time.  Smart shopping for used radios, homebrew, or taking a good long look at the realities of personal finances and finding a place to  free up a few dollars a day for a year or a year and a half might all be good options.


73
Dan
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73,
Dan
http://www.n3ox.net

Monkey/silicon cyborg, beeping at rocks since 1995.
K1MMI
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Posts: 58




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« Reply #3 on: May 26, 2010, 12:53:46 AM »

I was just checking some used rigs. TS-520SE $175; TS-440S/AT $425.
I used my 40 year old backup rig in January for 10 days and it worked great. It has a used value of about $250.
I have worked stations using Receivers and Transmitters that are 50 years old and they sounded as good as a new rig.

Find an Elmer to help you find a good used rig. For $500 to $600 you should be able to put a pretty good station together - That includes a Transceiver, Power Supply, antenna, key and mike.

An old used car may be junk but Radio Gear 20, 30 or even 40 years old can still work great and provide all sorts of fun and enjoyment in Ham Radio.
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K1MMI
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« Reply #4 on: May 26, 2010, 01:08:38 AM »

Check www.wb2jkj.org. It's possible they may have a used rig that might even be free.

I suspect there are many older Hams in your area that may have old equipment collecting dust and would be happy to let you borrow them until you have the necessary cash to buy a rig of your choice.

Recently, a friend of mine had an old rig collecting dust and put an ad on Craig's list and gave it away for free.
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N2EY
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Posts: 3926




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« Reply #5 on: May 26, 2010, 03:10:15 AM »

Radios cost too much these days. I truly see it as a crippling force in our hobby, and clubs and radio makers need to hear this. Many of us young people are hit hard by the economy and just getting started in life is not so easy. 700 is simply unachievable to some of us. The radio companies must realize that those who carry this hobby to the next generation must be able to afford it.

"They" can't make new rigs cheaper. The reasons have been clearly stated by others: specialized parts and relatively low sales volume.

There's also the fact that a ham rig has a much longer useful life than a lot of other electronics. How much is a 5 year old computer worth?

The radio companies should think about making bargain radios with less bells and whistles and maybe cheaper yesteryear technology. Don't stop with the dr who tartus of a ham rig... Just make something for the rest of us. I am sure it's possible. Is there the will to do it though? A 50 or 100 watt BASIC cw rig or 10 meter ssb? Why not get our guys into real ham radio instead of giving them another less capable phone?

The bells and whistles aren't what drive up the price. RF power transistors and the associated circuitry are the problem. That's why QRP rigs cost so much less.

Remember too that the manufacturers are in the game to make money. There's the cost of the parts, the cost of assembly, the cost of engineering and the costs of advertising and distribution.

Hams without a lot of cash have dealt with the situation in several ways:

1) Used rigs
2) Homebrew
3) Conversion of military and other surplus

73 de Jim, N2EY


Hams have
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K9NW
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Posts: 457




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« Reply #6 on: May 26, 2010, 04:42:24 AM »

"Expense" in a hobby is all relative.  I recently talked with a non-ham friend about a $3K+ radio I was thinking of buying (which I can use 365 days/year) and of course he thought I was nuts.  He then went on to talk about the new jet ski he just bought for $9K (which he only uses about 12 weekends/year.)  Another friend also thinks I'm nuts talking about $3K radios but thinks nothing of throwing down a few kilobucks for the latest 60" flatscreen TV.

For whatever reason spending (investing) in ham radio as a hobby is often seen as silly by some people - even some hams, yet spending decent money in almost any other hobby is seen by the same people as acceptable.
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AA4PB
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« Reply #7 on: May 26, 2010, 05:03:11 AM »

You can purchase a 5W CW only kit for $50 to $100. That seems cheap enough to me. Connected to a reasonably installed wire dipole antenna on 20M you can work the world with it. Cost goes up considerably when you want a 100W, all-band, all-mode transceiver.

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WX7G
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« Reply #8 on: May 26, 2010, 06:09:14 AM »

Ham radio rigs are almost being given away these days. An entry level novice rig in 1970 consisted of a Drake 2C and a 2NT. Together they cost $400. In 2010 dollars that is $2200.

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AG6WT
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Posts: 477




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« Reply #9 on: May 26, 2010, 07:26:56 AM »

Actually, when you look at the price of consumer electronics, your tranceiver is a a relatively cheap piece of equipment when you consider the total cost over it's life time.

For example, people generally don't have a problem spending $500 for computer but then you still have to buy software which can be hundreds more. And don't forget your monthly DSL bill. Then the computer will be obsolete in 5 years or less.

Or you can buy a mid-size flat screen TV for $400, a home theater DVD player for $200, and HD cable for $100/month. In less than a year you've spent enough to pay for a nice rig.

Or you could spend $700 for an entry level rig that doesn't cost anything to operate and could last a lifetime.

So for most people, the equipment cost of getting into ham radio is not prohibitive. It's just a matter of priorities (or your XYL's priorities  Shocked ).
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N3OX
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« Reply #10 on: May 26, 2010, 09:23:16 AM »

  I recently talked with a non-ham friend about a $3K+ radio I was thinking of buying (which I can use 365 days/year) and of course he thought I was nuts.

I'm sure there are plenty of people who would consider you nuts for buying a $3000 radio who think nothing of dropping an extra $3000 every two years for the privilege of having an iPhone (or other smartphone) instead of a dumb simple cell phone. 

and HD cable for $100/month. In less than a year you've spent enough to pay for a nice rig.

Yeah, I wonder how many people who want ham rigs to be cheaper have cable or satellite TV? The recurring costs really get you. 

There are some people who are in a real tough spot and who are already really frugal and have stripped out all the extra stuff.  If you've ditched the cable or satellite, ditched all but the cheapest internet , and you use a pre-paid cell phone  and you're still living paycheck to paycheck, $700 could seem like a LOT of money at a pop.

But I think if finances are that tight you need to try to separate the idea of $700 from the actual accumulation and spending of $700.   You can accumulate $700 by putting a dollar a day  or $14 a paycheck aside for a couple of years.   

And if you still have a regular contract cell phone (or even multiple in your family!) and you still have cable or satellite, I'm sure you've already got more than a thousand bucks a year that you could free up if you wanted to. 

When I was growing up all my friends, including the ones who were more strapped for cash than my family was, had cable.  My parents thought it was INSANE. They were satisfied with a few over the air stations.  When I was 12 or 13 and had enough money saved up to buy a television and was allowed to put one in my room, I got myself a cheap TV antenna and installed it on the porch roof on a pipe mast so I could watch as many channels as I could find.

My parents' house was about 6 miles from lake Erie with a clear view to the lake.  There's a lot of tropo around there in the summer.  So with an outdoor TV antenna and my location I was able to watch all sorts of Canadian TV stations, and even got Detroit sometimes.  Eventually I saved another hundred bucks for a stereo and good stereo antenna, and listened to all sorts of stations out of Toronto that played stuff I couldn't get at home.  In the summer I had access to dozens and dozens of TV and radio stations that I liked.  In the winter I lost a lot of them but not all.

Now that I think of it,  I'm pretty sure that my parents refusal to have cable, in addition to saving them a lot of money, has a lot to do with my interest in radio propagation.  :-) 

73
Dan



 

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73,
Dan
http://www.n3ox.net

Monkey/silicon cyborg, beeping at rocks since 1995.
AA4PB
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Posts: 13032




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« Reply #11 on: May 26, 2010, 10:05:46 AM »

Since he stated he was a "young person", I assume (which may be incorrect) that he is in school. In that case, he may not have big bucks to drop on a ham rig. Mom and dad pay for cable for the family and maybe he has a line on the family cell service.

Bottom line is that I can build a station for $100, including a dipole antenna and have a lot of fun woking around the country and DX. You just have to be willing to work CW and run low power.

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KE4DRN
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« Reply #12 on: May 26, 2010, 04:07:40 PM »

hi Colby,

you don't need to spend big money to get on the air and in on the action!

Many kenwood TS-520, 530 as well as other hybrid
(vacuum tube driver and pair of amplifier tubes) with
built in power supply and a nice dipole will get you on the air.

These are easy to find $200 range, sometimes even less or on
loan from fellow club members, many who have been there,
done that, on lot less money during tougher economic times.

73 james
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N2EY
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« Reply #13 on: May 26, 2010, 05:24:24 PM »

An entry level novice rig in 1970 consisted of a Drake 2C and a 2NT. Together they cost $400. In 2010 dollars that is $2200.

I would hardly call the 2C/2NT combo "entry level". That was top-level stuff to a 1970 Novice!

A more common Novice setup in those days was a Heath HW-16 ($100 as a kit, 3 bands, CW only) or DX-60/HR-10 ($160 as kits, 5 bands, CW and AM phone). Which works out to $550 and $880, respectively. For rigs that have far fewer features and performance than today's.

And whether it was a 2C/2NT (5 bands, CW only) or something much less expensive, the prices did not include crystals, key, speaker, etc.

73 de Jim, N2EY



73 de Jim, N2EY
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N3OX
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« Reply #14 on: May 26, 2010, 05:46:38 PM »

Since he stated he was a "young person", I assume (which may be incorrect) that he is in school.

I assumed "young adult starting a family" which I think is much more tightly constrained and tricky.

When I was in high school and got started, I didn't have a job.  I was focusing on studying and my parents encouraged that.  A lot of people had part-time jobs that took MOST of their time, and what they didn't spend on the car to get them to that job they spent on beer, weed, and impressing the opposite sex.  I didn't have any money for that  Grin  But people around me encouraged me to not worry about that stuff... sometimes somewhat indirectly.

I spent most of my savings (trickled in from odd jobs and birthday checks from Grandma, that kind of stuff) on my first HF rig, but my uncle (N3QCQ) kicked in money to help me get more than I could get by myself.   Local hams gave me things like aluminum tubing from busted tribanders.  A family friend had an old tubular crankup (dunno why) that he gave to me.  It needed a new winch and cable but it was OK.  A ham I still haven't met in person but who I know fairly well from the internet wanted to encourage me to push through my 20WPM exam and get my Extra, so he told me he'd give me a tribander if I passed.  When the box showed up, not only did it have a used Cushcraft A3S in it, but he threw in an old rotor he had too!  My parents, of course, let me turn their yard into a mess of wires and tubing.

If I  got to know a young ham who would prefer to spend their summer evenings slinging wire like I did, I would be happy to let them walk out the door of my shack with my backup rig for as long as they needed it, and maybe permanently at a significant discount (or for some kind of non-money goal like what I "earned" my tribander with).  It would be the least I could do out of respect for the hams, family, and friends who encouraged me to work at being a mechanically and electrically inclined nerd.   It's a big  investment in ham radio to give stuff away for free or cheap to young student hams who have a serious interest.  There is no way I can, in good conscience, have an eventually high paying successful career in science and build a big ham radio station without helping out a few young people with a serious interest like people helped me.

That's not to say I wouldn't let a young adult with a new family and a low-paying job borrow my rig or other gear while they were saving for their own.  It's a nice thing to do, it's good ham radio fraternalism, but might not be expected have such big impact over time.  

Anyway, long story short, I think if you're a teenager with a sincere, serious interest and the local hams come to know you as a curious, responsible person, they'll probably just give you stuff.  Unfortunately, I doubt they'll be quite as forthcoming for young adults who are just having a tough time economically.  

73
Dan  
« Last Edit: May 26, 2010, 08:16:02 PM by Dan » Logged

73,
Dan
http://www.n3ox.net

Monkey/silicon cyborg, beeping at rocks since 1995.
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