One of the reasons Ten Tec radios enjoy such a wide following, besides the
QSK, good receiver, and good service, are that most of the later ones have
been functional in the control panels. The controls have been suited to the
perceptions and the expectations of the operator. There has been a logical
grouping of knobs, switches and readouts in the tradition of "clean" radio
panel layout. There are not too many bells and whistles buttons to confuse
the eye of the first time user.
For example, the Scout has a meter and beside it the frequency display, both
above the the central Tuning knob, which is the logical arrangement if you
tune and watch frequency and signal strength/SWR or power output.
In contrast to the above reasonable design, the no longer made Index
Laboratories Radio had a boxey square cabinet, with a single foot to elevate
its viewing angle to the user. However, viewing the meter was obscured by the
other controls because it was lower on the panel than the frequency display.
Apparently, this was dictated by their desire to use a square rather than low
and wider case.
There are Yaecomwood radios with little to ease the user task of finding
controls among a myriad of buttons, and even among a given manufacturer, the
RF gain may move around the front panel from model to model. These variations
do little to endear a brand to users who might like a front panel that is
intuitive to use, or has controls of like function such as gain controls
Perhaps even more glaring are the issues that confront the left handed radio
user. He must rewire his keyer paddles in many cases, and may be tasked with
using a less familiar hand on certain controls if the radio was laid out from
a right handed point of view. Another issue that comes up among those who
build their own radios, is providing for control layout such that one may
still tune and adjust radio functions, while writing notes on a scratch pad.
Future radio designs will need to present controls in user friendly ways that
may not emulate computer screen adjustment methods of today such as the scroll
bar, or point and click virtual buttons.
Another point of taste is whether one prefers a bargraph to an analog meter
function. There are clearly certain radio tune up operations such as SWR
monitoring while adjusting an antenna matching unit that are more easily seen
with an analog pointer dipping to a minimum than a sequence of digits flashing
and finding the minimum. One approach to this delimma is the use of automatic
matching circuits that find the peak or null on their own. However, many
antennas exist which may tax the automatic or manual methods of finding the
A good way to evaluate a radio's ease of use is to use it in a multi operator,
contest environment like Field Day. The shortcomings of home rigs really
stands out at such an event. Recently, a Field Day group posted that its
solution to confusing rigs at Field Day was to buy an older Ten Tec which had
simple to use and understand control layout.
The recent K2 kit radio by Elecraft has done a decent job on a small front
panel of providing multiple functions without too many buttons. Transition to
alternate functions uses a good combination of color marking and groupings.
This radio has many options that the user can program for filter responses,
and other functions. Even the lighting of displays can be varied to suit
conditions of use. Let us hope Ten Tec also continues to offer thoughtful
solutions to front panel designs.
They have done a good job with the kits such as the SWR and Power Meter that
uses a rugged and heavy enough steel cabinet that insures the meter stays on
the operating desk, despite both HF and VHF coax cables being connected to the
two different RF pickup sections within the meter. This was a welcome feature
after small SWR meters being dragged off the desk by RG 8 type cables.
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