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Disposable radio?

Cell phones can be had as a ‘free’ incentive for buying $20 of airtime. Why hasn’t cheap RF invaded amateur radio?

It is getting there. The BaoFeng UV-5R 136-174/400-480 MHz Dual-Band DTMF CTCSS DCS FM Ham Two Way Radio is an example. $31.50 shipped from Amazon including a battery charger for the lithium battery. You not only get a 2 band radio but also an FM broadcast receiver and an LED flashlight.

The reviews for this radio are interesting in themselves. The major complaint seems to be about the difficulty in programming the radio. That’s pretty much a consequence of its small form factor, its being licensed for both commercial and amateur use, and the many options to be set.

The radio is based on 2 IC’s. Hacking the Baofeng takes it apart to take a look and see what can be done. “The first one is RDA1846 which does all the radio communications, and the other is an EM78P568 microcontroller which controls the RDA1846, LCD, keypad, etc.” That puts the radio operation squarely into the software category and that is what KK6BWA investigates.

The PC interface and speaker and mic connections are the same as for Kenwood radios. Rather than go through the cumbersome process of programming a list of repeaters into the radio memory, a program like that supplied with the BaoFeng cable or the FOSS Chirp can be used.

One way to keep cost down is through volume. Being both amateur and commercial broadens the market. The price and capability also makes it attractive to the survivalist and prepper community for their bug-out bags. Like many reviewers say, though, is that you get what you pay for – although this one seems to be a very good value for the price.

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