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[Articles Home]  [Add Article]  

Operating Instructions

from SM0JHF on December 11, 2008
View comments about this article!


Manuals, Instruction Booklets, Operating Guides, Reference Books

I feel a little envy every time a motion picture hero, like James Bond, drops into a hostile submarine, an aircraft or a secret factory and without reading any inscriptions, knows which switch must be turned on or off, which lever has to be pulled up or down to activate the function he needs just then. Each time I am confronted with one of these modern cameras or electronic gadgets, I am puzzled by the symbols and abbreviations. I feel inferior and second-rate having to reach for the instructions book.

No matter what they are called, the manuals nowadays give very little help and assistance to the customer. Every time I purchase something I get upset by the lack of suitable product information. This is a general problem whether it is a digital camera, a software or an Amateur Radio transceiver. The impression, that the language loses its primary and original function, is overwhelming in many spheres of human activity; for example the TV news, politics, economics or the 20-meter SSB sub-band.

Contesters are often confronted with the need of learning quickly how to use a radio they have no previous experience of. It may be a multi-operator event, a guest-operator stint or when the regular rig fails in the middle of the race.

I have recently aquired a nice and handy transceiver for portable use - one Yaesu Vertex model FT-450/AT. It seemed to me that I would not need having my glasses on in order to read the display and the legends on the front panel. It seemed to me that I would not have to keep the booklet beside the rig all the time and browse it every time I wanted to change any settings. My previous portable radio was a very shrewd and brainy Yaesu Vertex FT-857D. After one year, I sold it because I could not use it without eyeglasses, and the tiny booklet was worn-out. Using this radio was burden not fun.

My first impression with the FT-450 was positive - the display is easy to read and the controls pretty large and understandable. The booklet, that comes with it, is large, illustrated and has 100 pages. It starts with the following: "Congratulations on the purchase of your Yaesu transceiver! Whether this is your first rig, or if Yaesu equipment is already the backbone of your station, rest assured that your transceiver will provide many hours of operating pleasure for years to come." Well, maybe. Time will show, but trying to read the booklet and understand the principles of operation has been so far a lot of pain in the neck.

The language used in FT-450 Operation Manual is so amusing that the late George Carlin could have made a whole standup show reading it. Literarily each sentence is either laughable or ambiguous. Some examples: page 6 Meter While receiving, the received signal strength is displayed. page 7 ANT: Indicates the antenna status. When the antenna system became abnormality, this indicator will blink. R.FLT: Indicates the 10 kHz Roofing Filter status. This is always turned on. page 14 Easy Operation 2. Connect the after-market DC power supply. What is an after-market power supply ? page 20 The microphone holder is affixed to the place where is contacted to the ground (for example, the chassis of your car), and the microphone is hooked on the microphone holder, the [FST] function becomes "ON". We recommend that not to contact the microphone holder to the ground, nor set menu item "P M-FST" to "N/A". page 25 Receiver Operation (Front End Block Diagram) The FT-450┬┤s interference-fighting circuitry begins in its "RF" stages, and continues throughout the entire receiver section. And so on....

The number of abbreviations and acronyms that appear in the booklet is very high. No explanations to most of them are to be found anywhere. I have been more or less interested in Amateur Radio for 50 years now and have used tens of different receivers, transmitters and transceivers. The early operating manuals used to explain the abbreviations - what they stand for and the functions. Not any more. If you have bought this radio you are supposed to know the abbreviations and their meaning. I still don't know what these letters, used in this very manual, stand for : CAT RTS, D DISP, PNL-C.S., IPO, LNK-50, M-type connector. Just a handful of cryptic shorthand terms used in the manual book. If this is your first rig, you are totally lost. You will need many hours of guidance and explanations from an expert. Not easy to find one in most cases.

The author of this manual was probably paid per word without any respect as to what the words mean. So some paragraphs are repeated over and over again without much sense. The following information box is printed on pages 14, 19, 34, 44, 52 without any relation to the information on these pages.

Notice Regarding of the [DSP/SEL] knob The [DSP/SEL] knob is used for operating various functions depending on the situation. If you cannot change the frequency/memory channel by tuning the [DSP/SEL] knob, the [DSP/SEL] knob is selected to operate of one of the DSP functions. In this case, press the [DSP] button several times until the ">" icon disappears from the DSP Graphic Display. Why ?

The following text is printed on pages 17, 22, 23, 36, 39, 46 up, 46 down, 50 left, 50 right, 53, 54, 57, 60, 61, 64, 67, 70, 71.

1. Press and hold the [F] button for one second to enter the Menu Mode. The "MENU" icon will appear on the display.

2. Rotate the [DSP/SEL] knob to select the Menu Item "EXT MNU"

3. Press the [DSP/SEL] knob to enable adjustment of this menu item. The "MENU" icon will be blinking.

4. Rotate the [DSP/SEL] knob to select "ON" to expand the menu item.

5. Press the [DSP/SEL] knob. The "MENU" icon returns to appear continuously.

6. Press and hold the [F] button for one second to save the new setting and return to normal operation.

Repeated at least 18 times.

As you might have guessed by now, I have tried to read and grasp the contents of this booklet. The contents is fragmented, fractured and chaotic. It is written by a lunatic so I am giving up - I will write my own manual for this radio.

The contemporary radios are excellent, packed with features and niceties. The engineers are skillful and adept. But the manuals are worthless, confusing and often incorrect. This is a global trend. Is it because the consumers - in this case Amateur Radio operators - do not complain to the manufacturers ? I have written a few times to ICOM and Yaesu before but never got any response.

My experience shows that the vast majority of users of modern Amateur Radio transceivers do not understand and do not know how to properly and thoroughly make use of these technical marvels. I belong to this silent majority but I am not silent and I urge others, who are dissatisfied, to speak up. Write a letter or e-mail to the manufacturer or your local agent and point out what is wrong.

Amateur Radio has always been about learning and understanding. We are capable of mastering much more than an average appliance-operator is, but we must be given a chance. Sure, one can search the web and find answers to many questions but getting comprehendible instructions with a product you pay hundreds or thousands of dollars for is mandatory, it is our right.

I have learned much more about this radio from a review by Mark, K1RO in December 2007 QST than from the 100-page booklet that comes with the radio. This is obvious that it is possible to write intelligibly about technical issues. I have sporadically read other QST articles by Steve, WB8IMY and Mark, K1RO and always benefited from those items.

Henryk Kotowski, SM0JHF

ęDecember 2008

Footnotes

QST - the official journal of the American Radio Relay League Inc.

English is not my native language and I am self-taught; please excuse any imperfection.


Member Comments: Add A Comment
Operating Instructions Reply
by wd5jnc on December 20, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
I totaly agree that the manuals need serious improvement. Ths is Not limited to Yaesu, But is true for Icom and Kenwood. The Manual for the Ft 2000 is a monster and the one for the Icom 706mk2g is worse Kenwood I have no personal experance with, but a good friend of mine has lamented many times about his TS-2000 Operaters Manual.
I have seen adverts for "Quick referance cards " for several rigs and wonder if they are written more clearly than the OEM manuals. if so they would be worth the money.
 
RE: Operating Instructions Reply
by kf7cg on December 24, 2008 Mail this to a friend!
The manual for the FT-950 is fairly well written and th instructions are quite usable, but the complexity of the available function, and the sheer number of nearly identical but different functions gives the rig a long learning curve.

An instance of semi-redundant functions, there is a microphone equalizer with settings for both the speech processor and non-speech processor transmit modes. The settings of the two follow the same pattern but but must be set separately. You can't just set microphone equalization. I am glad to have both but it would be nice to clone one to another.

The same is true of many other options as described in the radio.

The manual is thick and complex because the radio is so multi-featured with little way of copying from one band/area to another.

KF7CG
 
RE: Operating Instructions Reply
by KT8K on January 6, 2009 Mail this to a friend!
Unfortunately, beyond simple language barriers, engineers are often not particularly good communicators, either because they sought this career because they liked dealing with designs and objects more than with people, because they spend the majority of their time with machines and concepts rather than communicating with people, or because the typical engineering education does not emphasize or build communications skills as well as it might. In spite of business trends in recent decades toward optimizing the customer's experience, engineers still have far too little contact with their end-use customers, and manual writers are often given only a specification describing technical details of a product, itself designed only to please the engineers who designed it. The alternative of having engineers work closely with customers, manual writers, and others who can truly optimize the product experience is rarely understood, let alone achieved. This is an unfortunate fact of life that does more harm to products and companies than a lot of more obvious factors.

Personally, I like my Tentec rigs, especially my old Tentec Argosy 515 and Argonaut 509. The controls are minimal and the functions are basic, but it's really hard to get lost operating them. The manuals are pretty good, too, from a user standpoint, but are rarely needed because the design was intuitive _from_the_user's_perspective_, something rarely seen today. My worst experiences have been with the small, Japanese-made, all-in-one rigs like the FT-857 (even when my eyes were better than they are now), but big boxes covered in multi-function knobs and buttons are little better.

There is certainly much room for improvement in radio controls and documentation design these days, and I have especially deep sympathies for non-English/non-Japanese speakers.
Best of luck & 73 de kt8k - Tim
(BTW, I am an award-winning technical writer and an experienced engineer, and am available to consult with any manufacturer who wants to outdo their competition in the important areas of product design and documentation.)
 
Operating Instructions Reply
by K7NSW on May 25, 2011 Mail this to a friend!
This article reminds me of why I bought a TenTec Omni 7 hf transceiver. In my experience and opinion TenTec products blow all of these described rigs 100% away on all issues raised in the article. Buy American and get the best. I do not know much about Elecraft rigs but I suspect I would be saying the same thing about them if I owned one. Buy American and get the best.
 
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