The Amateur Amateur: Chinese Puzzle Box, Part 1
By Gary Ross Hoffman, KB0H
I'm not exactly sure what motivated me. I certainly didn't need any more
hand held transceivers. After all, how many of those things can you
hang on your belt before your pants fall down? But for whatever
reason, I decided to get one of those new Chinese imports.
We've all heard the stories. They don't work. They do
work but you can't program them. They sound terrible. They sound
fine. Some people love them. Others can't stand the sight of them. In
the end I figured I'd find out for myself. I was curious, they were
cheap, and there was a dual band model that featured 2 meters and
1.25 meters. So I ordered one.
Perhaps the only photo you'll ever see of an actual KG-UVD1P/2
I almost didn't, though. The model I just described was a KG-UVD1P,
manufactured by Wouxun (pronounced O-shing, according to blurbs on
the Internet). But every place I looked indicated that was also
the model number of the 2 meter / 70 centimeter version, and
regardless of which version was being sold, the accompanying photo
was always of the latter. Photos of the box gave no indication either way.
Oh yeah, the fun had just begun.
Eventually I found that there was
a difference in the model numbers, the 70 cm version being a
KG-UVD1P/4 and the 1.25 m version being a KG-UVD1P/2. The same box
was used for both of them, with only a small sticker plastered on
that, hopefully, told you which version was inside.
A few years back a confused new ham asked me to help her program her
Wouxun. She handed me the radio and a flimsy set of instructions. I
tried, but couldn't figure out how to do anything with the unit. The
buttons were non-intuitive (which is to say, they weren't like the
buttons on Japanese radios) and the instructions seemed to be missing
a lot of key information. Right then I pretty much decided never to
touch one of those things again.
Obviously I changed my mind. That's because while perusing vendor sites I
noticed that Universal Radio included both the software and the
programming cable for free if you bought a KG-UVD1P from them. I
figured that if I couldn't work out how to program the radio
manually, I could always do it through a computer. That turned out
not to be as easy as I thought, but more on that later.
When my unit arrived the first thing I did was to verify that it was the 2
m / 1.25 m version. It was, much to my relief. I then did a quick
read of the instruction manual. It seemed
okay. The only thing
that puzzled me was that it said that the radio was FCC Part 90
compliant, not Part 97. But I figured that the Chinese were still new
to the American transceiver market so they had just made a typo. No
big deal. (I'll get into that in Part 2.)
I put the battery and antenna on the unit and turned it on.
It gave a few beeps, and then what sounded like a tiny Chinese woman
said, “Frequency mode”.
I blinked in surprise. None of my radios had ever talked to me before.
Playing around some more, I found that the radio said something just
about every time I hit a button.
The box.. no indication of which version of the transceiver is inside
other than the misleading photo
I could see where that might come in handy.. or become annoying after a
while. From the manual I knew that I could turn off the voice feature
if I wanted, but I decided to leave it alone for the time being. It
was clear that English wasn't the microchip's first language, but it
was still easy enough to understand, and I found its accent kind of
Getting down to business, I read the manual more carefully. I wanted to know
how to enter a frequency, put in a repeater offset, and encode a
I remembered what had perplexed me back when I'd first
handled a Wouxun transceiver. The terminology used by the Chinese
wasn't the same as the terminology used by the Japanese. Moreover,
the Wouxun instruction manual didn't define anything. I figured out
that “frequency mode” was the same as VFO mode and
“channel mode” was memory mode, but “standby mode”
was a complete mystery. It still is.
There were a few other curiosities, such as built-in single-LED flashlight,
but by and large the transceiver didn't seem all that alien. And
while the manual completely lacked a What-Does-This-Mean? section,
the How-Do-You-Do-It? section was clear enough. About the only thing
that caused my brow to furrow was that the dual-band/single-band
button was labeled “TDR”. I cannot for the life of me
figure out why.
Moving right along, I was able to program a repeater frequency into the
radio, along with the offset, direction, and tones. It transmitted
okay and received okay, so the next step was to get it all into a
I'll pause here and mention that the KG-UVD1P has 128 memory slots, no
separate memory for the different bands, and no memory banks. But
remember that the radio only costs $111, so obviously it's not going
to have a full brass, woodwind, and percussion section.
Anyway, I had to read the instructions very carefully, but I did successfully
program a memory channel. Getting the display to show me what was in
that memory channel was another matter, but I eventually figure how
to do that as well.
The manual.. no What-Does-It-Mean? section
Which disk contains what?
Having triumphantly navigated the radio's features (those I was interested
in, anyway), I was ready to load up the memory channels. I definitely
wasn't going to do this manually, so I took the programming CD
supplied by the vendor and put it in my computer.
Actually, there were two mini-CDs, and no real guidance on which did what. One
turned out to hold the driver for the data cable, and the other
contained the programming software for the radio. And you had
to get them installed in the right order.
I think I spent more time trying to get the software loaded than I did
exploring the radio. I had to install, un-install, connect,
disconnect, extract, and then do it all over again countless times. I
also rebooted the computer several times, and you all know what
Looking back over my notes, it seems that I installed the driver for the
cable that was on the mini-CD and
I installed a driver that I downloaded from the Internet. I really
don't know which was the proper version, if they were the same, or if
somehow a melding of the two got the job done. But once that
task was done, I got another nasty shock. The programming software
Let me repeat that.
The. Software. Did. Not. Work.
Well. No wonder it was free.
I'm sure that I could have ordered fully-functional software from RT
Systems, but I was determined to get free
software, and to get it right then.
I'm nothing if not tenacious. (Women: That's man-talk for
Astonishingly enough, I succeeded. I found a number of sites that had the
programming software, and eventually found a version that worked.
Not so astonishingly, it only works half the time. It will get stuck,
either uploading the radio's memory to the computer or vice versa,
but if you persevere, it will eventually do the job. If I'd known
what I was getting into, though, I'd have bought the RT Systems
version for sure.
All in all the KG-UVD1P is a nice radio, but if you're new to ham radio
I'd recommend starting with Japanese cuisine.
Next month: Another
Chinese Puzzle Box