Are knobs and buttons toast? – KB6NU’s Ham Radio Blog

Are knobs and buttons toast?

october 23, 2014 by dan kb6nu 1 comment

In a recent column on EETimes, an old colleague of mine, Martin Rowe, says, “Knobs and buttons are slowly on their way out. Get used to it.” He’s referring to the controls on oscilloscopes, but if he were a ham, he might just as well be talking about amateur radio transceivers, too.

We already see this happening in amateur radio. FlexRadio, and a couple of other companies, already make transceivers with no front panel controls. You must use them in conjunction with a computer to use them.

Will computer screens like this to control amateur radio transceivers become the norm rather than the exception?

Might we even start to see this with handheld and portable equipment? For example, how much cheaper could they make a Baofeng if to use it, you had to also have an Android or iPhone app to act as the human interface?

To be honest, I haven’t really thought about this much myself. I’m enough of a dinosaur to still prefer buttons and knobs, I guess. Rowe claims, however, that “as the old-timers retire (or in our case as older operators become SKs), younger engineers (or hams) will expect every user interface to function like a phone or tablet. Don’t believe me? Just wait.”

What do  you think?

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KJ6ZZD says:

October 24, 2014 at 5:29 pm

I’m a younger ham, perfectly comfortable with my iPhone and iPad. Right now, it’s still cheaper to use a keypad like we see on most of our HTs than a touchscreen. I don’t expect we’ll see a transceiver that will require a separate device to operate, but we will see touchscreen transceivers once the price of the screens comes down far enough.

However, I don’t see a killer app for touchscreen radios. You can’t do much more through a touchscreen than you can do with the existing knobs and buttons. If you think about an iPhone, it’s not really a phone anymore, it’s a pocket internet device that happens to make phone calls. I don’t see a similar change taking place in the HT market*.

At the same time, knobs perform some tasks better than a screen can. Knobs provide some tactile feedback that a screen just can’t. This is a big reason why you’ll still see volume and tune knobs in cars that have a touchscreen infotainment center (even the iPhone has real buttons for volume control). I expect that base station and mobile radios will continue to have tuning and volume knobs even after they’ve incorporated touchscreens for most other functions.

* There might be an awesome product idea here for a handheld radio that basically lets you do packet radio from your pocket. Add in GPS for APRS and wifi for Broadband-Hamnet, and it’s be a pretty awesome device.


via Are knobs and buttons toast? – KB6NU’s Ham Radio Blog.


Interesting article by Dan Romanchik (KB6NU).  It seems as if more computer-controlled transceivers are entering the amateur radio market this year.  Will the shift to computer-assisted rigs mean the end of the “knobs and buttons” we’ve used for decades to control our transceivers?  I tend to agree with the comment posted by KJ6ZZD, who believes the old adjustment buttons will stick around for a while because “knobs rovide some tactile feedback that screens cannot.”  Perhaps the real market for this shift in operating control will lie in HTs controlled by an app in your iPhone or Android smartphone/tablet. KJ6ZZD feels that “There might be an awesome product idea here for a handheld radio that basically lets you do packet radio from your pocket.  Add in GPS and ARPS and wi-fi for Broadband- Hamnet, and it’s a pretty awesome device.”  Fascinating concept.

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Aloha es 73 de Russ (KH6JRM).

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