The Amateur Amateur: Can You Hear Me Now?
By Gary Hoffman, KB0H
radio was definitely in weird mode. I had no idea what it was doing.
I just knew that it was no longer transmitting or receiving.
January 23, 2006
I thought it was over. I really did. Having replaced the mobile
transceivers in both my car and my wife Nancy's car, I foolishly
believed that we'd seen the last of our problems with car-to-car
communications. I couldn't have been more wrong.
I may have damaged the dashboard cosmetically, but this control head
is now firmly attached.
When the white marks point up, the volume is properly set.
A case of not knowing what the right hand is doing. In this picture,
it is inadvertently reprogramming the transceiver.
The year-end holidays are a complicated time for us. We typically visit
Nancy's family in central Missouri, and, this year, circumstances
dictated that we drive separately. If we are on the road at the same
time, we pass the long miles chatting with each other on the ham
bands. We weren't during the outbound trip, but were
during the trip home.
These trips usually tell me when something is amiss with one of our mobile transceivers. We've experienced dead radios, speaker plugs coming
loose and even antennas gone airborne, but I wasn't expecting any
problems this time because all of our equipment was fairly new. So, I
was very surprised when Nancy didn't respond to my initial calls.
could be wrong with her transceiver. Perhaps she simply hadn't turned
That wasn't very likely. So, our trip barely begun, I pulled off the
road and waited for Nancy to do the same. She did, and I hopped into
her car to see what was wrong.
had indeed turned on her transceiver. She just hadn't heard my
transmissions. The volume knob on her radio was turned all the way
happens a lot. There is just something about mobile transceiver
control heads that attracts stray fingers, palms, wrists, arms,
coats, gloves, purses, elbows, and everything else in the car that
might be in motion. Nancy told me that visitors to her car always
reach for the control head and say, "What's this thing?" as
they jab away at the buttons. I had partially solved the
drifting-volume-control problem on my own transceiver by setting the
knobs where I wanted them, then using typewriter correction fluid to
paint little white marks on them. A quick glance tells me if a knob
isn't set where I expect it to be.
turned up Nancy's volume control and promised to make white marks on
transceiver knobs as soon as we got home. I returned to my own car,
and we resumed our trip.
later Nancy called and said, "The control head just fell off of
This just wasn't our day.
I had tried
not to make any visible marks on Nancy's car when I installed her new
transceiver (see my October 2005 column "Don't
Hurt My Car!"
The control head was held in place with a combination of screws,
shims, duct tape, and hope. It appeared
to be stable, but it frequently came loose when there was tension on
the microphone cord. I usually fixed it by adding thicker shims and
more duct tape.
try to put it back," I answered. "I'll fix it when we get
nothing worse happened to Nancy's radio. She was still able to
communicate with me, even with the radio's control head dangling by a
my own transceiver's control head was much more firmly secured, I
scrupulously avoided putting my hands anywhere near it. I knew how
easy it was to unintentionally press a button. So I was caught
completely off guard when the radio made a beep-beep
called Nancy and said, "My radio just made a funny sound."
was no reply.
shook my head in disbelief. I hazarded a quick look at the control
head display to confirm what I already knew. Yep. The radio was
definitely in weird
I had no idea what it was doing. I just knew that it was no longer
transmitting or receiving.
couldn't understand what had happened. I knew that I had not touched
the control head. The only thing I had touched was the microphone's
PTT button. Sudden comprehension dawned on me. I looked down.
microphone was still tightly clutched in my right hand, with several
of its buttons mashed firmly against the steering wheel.
had put my transceiver into weird mode remotely
from the microphone keypad.
seemed to be an infinite number of ways to mess up this radio.
experimented some with the microphone buttons and was able to get my
radio working correctly. I called Nancy and said, "Can you hear
what's wrong?" she replied.
took a deep breath, sorted my thoughts. "Never mind. I'll tell
got home without further misadventures. The next day I put white
marks on Nancy's volume control knobs as promised, and--with many
apologies and assurances that we could easily replace it--I firmly
bolted the control head of her transceiver to a blank panel on her
for preventing the transceivers from going into weird
again, I just don't know. Perhaps I could epoxy some of the buttons.
Editor's note: ARRL member Gary Hoffman, KB0H, lives in Florissant,
Missouri. He's been a ham since 1995. Hoffman says his column's name
-- "The Amateur Amateur" -- suggests the explorations of a
rank amateur, not those of an experienced or knowledgeable ham. His
wife, Nancy, is N0NJ. Hoffman has a ham-related
Readers are invited to contact the author via e-mail,
© 2006 American Radio Relay League