HF Transceivers Old VS. New Questions

Paul <lovenhim@...>

Hello everyone. I am new to HF and have been on the air for a few days now. I have a Kenwood TS120S transceiver. I like it just fine. I realize that I am limited to voice and CW with a unit like this. Now fast forward into a modern radio. Lets stick to a modern but basic unit. Call it entry level if you like. I realize that the radio waves do not know nor care if you are using a tube radio or an Icom IC7300. Here are my questions:

What would a modern radio allow me to do over my forty year old Kenwood. Think Yaesu FT450D, Icom IC718, and the basic Alinco. Are modern entry level radios better at tuning and fighting band noise?

If you do not own a computer nor have one in your shack, and you operate the radio from its front panel, are there any major differences from my Kenwood TS120S?

What modes can an entry level radio open up to me that did not exist when my Kenwood was made?

I am asking to learn. I can not afford a $750 radio right now. Maybe someday. Thank you for the help.



Decades ago I was where you are.  As a kid with paper route money all the gee whiz stuff at the radio store was but a fantasy.  In my day used boatanchor radios where a dollar a pound, not exactly thrifty by teenage standards but attainable.  It's not an exaggeration to say my first station weighed as much as I did.  I think I was a ham about 20 years before I bought my first brand new in the box whizbang HF rig.  Being in the electronics biz I usually bought old broken stuff and got it working but it sure is nice to get something that works without having to fix it first.

Your limitation of accessing data modes isn't limited so much by your radio (for the most part) but your lack of a computer to run the digital mode software.  "Digital" modes in terms of HF use analog audio signals into and out of a PC's sound card, and software does the rest.  So even a 40 year old SSB rig can run many digital modes just fine, with a few limitations.  It would at least give you the ability to try some out and get familiar with the setup and operation then when you get a more modern (stable/selective) radio those modes will work just the same.

I get that you have a visual handicap but you're using an ipad, so there must be something there.  PC's anymore are throwaways, you can often find them at ham radio swapmeets for very cheap or even free.  People are always upgrading computers and most everyone has an old laptop or desktop in the closet.  Ask around.  The software is free.  You would have to build or buy a simple interface to connect the PC to the radio, but they're ubiquitous.  Once you have a PC running you can then explore digital modes to your heart's content.  If you don't care about transmitting and just want to see something happen, I've demonstrated various modes by putting my laptop near the speaker of the radio and just using the audio coming into the laptop microphone to decode the data.  It's really that simple.

Yes, a newer radio can make digital modes easier and more reliable to operate.  There's a learning curve there, a modern DSP transceiver is like an F16 cockpit compared to your TS120 in terms of features and complexity.  You figure out what you need to eventually and at least in my experience, once you have a nice radio you will never want to go back.  Older radios can often drift a little more than digital modes can tolerate and receive filtering may not be optimum for narrowband data like that.  But it will "work" and is definitely worth getting a PC set up for and learning the ropes with what you have.  As time goes on you'll end up with something newer and better but in the mean time with your current budget limit, I think tracking down a cheap or free computer and getting familiar with the various modes and programs would be a huge step towards furthering your knowledge.

Mark K5LXP
Albuquerque, NM