10:18 – Yesterday, I received the Baofeng UV-82 dual-band HT that I ordered Monday from Amazon. Even ignoring the $37 price, it’s an impressive looking piece of equipment. It’s not a Yaesu or an Icom, but you can get five or ten of these for the price of one Yaesu or Icom. The Baofeng feels solid, and the case is commercial-grade, much less flimsy feeling than the cheap blister-packed FRS/GMRS radios. This UV-82 feels like a radio that was designed and engineered for heavy daily use. Coincidentally, about half an hour after it arrived I came across this article by my friend Jeff Duntemann, a long-time ham operator who also has nice things to say about it.
I haven’t even put it on the charger yet. Before I do, I need to renew my ham license, which expired in about 1971. All I need is a Technician Class license, which requires only taking a simple test on radio theory and FCC regulations. I’ll read through the ARRL materials on the Technician test and then drive up to Wilkesboro in April, which is the nearest place to take the test, both in terms of date and distance. I’m not concerned about the theory part. That hasn’t changed much since I was last licensed. What has changed is the FCC regulations. In fact, there are whole new bands available since I last operated a ham rig, with odd-sounding designations like 30, 17, and 12 meters. I understand these are the WARC bands, which were created in 1979. Since I have no intention of operating on anything longer than 2 meters, this stuff is immaterial to me other than for test taking.
As Jeff points out in his post, a lot of hams dislike these Baofeng HTs, not because there’s anything wrong with them in terms of quality or performance, but because, being software-progammable, they can be operated on any frequency they support. That’s a pretty broad range, 136-174 MHz and 400-520 MHz for the UV-82. That range covers not just the FMS, GMRS, MURS, and VHF/UHF business band frequencies, but a whole lot of others, including aircraft, marine, and public safety bands.
But the UV-82 is not type-accepted by the FCC for any of these bands, which means the only legal way to operate it is with a ham license on frequencies allocated to amateur radio. Given the popularity of these HTs on Amazon and elsewhere, I’d guess that probably 1% of them are purchased by people who are legally entitled to operate them, with 99% of them being operated illegally on FRS/GMRS, MURS, and other frequencies. I would never do that, of course.
Probably no small percentage of those operators are preppers, attracted by the low price, high quality, and extreme flexibility of these little transceivers. I have advice for anyone in that category. First, don’t get caught using it unless you have a ham license and are running on authorized amateur frequencies. The FCC will come down on you like the proverbial ton of bricks. Of course, that’s not likely to happen if you’re operating on FRS, GMRS, or MURS frequencies, or even marine-band frequencies, because it’ll be hard to pick you out of the crowd unless you’re using marine band frequencies inland. But don’t even think about operating outside those common frequencies, and particularly don’t use sensitive frequencies like the public safety band. You’ll probably be caught and end up paying a large fine.
Also, remember that these are software radios, which need to be programmed before they’ll do anything. You can program most features using the buttons on the radio, but it’s a pretty complex and time-consuming procedure. Better to download the OSS software CHIRP and program the radio from your computer. To do that, you’ll also need a special USB cable. Those are available for $5 and up, but I recommend avoiding the cheap ones. Those use firmware that requires specific drivers that are a nightmare to get installed and configured. Worse, if you’re running Windows, when you connect to the Internet Windows will update those drivers, breaking them. It’s better to use a plug-and-play cable like this one, which costs $20 but Just Works.
If you plan to buy multiple units, also buy a clone cable, which allows you to copy the programming from one transceiver to others easily. While you’re at it, you might also want to buy spare batteries, a battery eliminator with cigarette lighter plug, and a AAA battery adapter. That last is interesting. It includes a dummy AAA battery. If you’re running NiMH rechargeable AAA cells, you use six in the adapter, which provides 7.2V. If you’re running AAA alkalines, you use five in the adapter plus the dummy, for a total 7.5V. If you use six alkalines (9V), the receiver operates but the transmitter doesn’t.
14:49 – Barbara and I started watching series two of Vikings last night on Amazon streaming. Between episodes I mentioned that I’d just had an ironic thought. Here I am an honest-to-god Viking-American, and yet I hardly ever leave the house.
I will admit that from time to time I do feel an urge to head out to do some looting and pillaging, perhaps burning down a monastery or two and slaughtering some monks and sacking a convent and raping a bunch of nuns. Or, being a Viking, I suppose I could slaughter the nuns and rape the monks. But it always seems to be more trouble than it’s worth, and the urge soon passes.