By Kelvin Marsh M0AID
A RAIBC 703 arrived today from ML&S stock. I’ve spent the afternoon
evaluating it for use by a blind op with G4JZL.
First off, it’s a great radio for an M3. I’ve had several contacts around
the country with good reports. The ATU tunes well. My aerials are resonant
on the bands I use, but the worst I could find was 12m on my dipole. This
showed 6-1, and the tuner tuned it fine. The front panel can be detached,
and I could imagine any disabled person being able to operate this from a
bed or chair.
The voice chip. It is an optional item and it reads Frequency and mode, and through setting a menu option, will add signal strength. The volume of the synthesizer was very quiet. In fact, I could only
Hear it properly when switching RX to dummy load. The manual refers to an internal
pot for adjustment, but we did not attempt this.
As suspected, the biggest problem I found, for a blind operator, was the lack of direct frequency
input. There is no number pad, and the radio does not support a keypad
microphone. I’ve just checked with Icom, and neither the 703 or 706 allow
direct input via mic keypad.
The problem can be addressed with the addition of a QSYER keypad. See the Comments section below.
Without an external keypad, the only way of a blind operator finding a frequency, is via the band up & down, followed by
laborious VFO spinning, and checking the voice output. The Multi-Channel
control, the one that clicks as you turn it, can be set for 1kh steps, but
going from 3.5 to 3.8 takes 300 clicks.
In my opinion it is too difficult for a blind op to use the memories. The
Mem to VFO function is a button found in the Menu system, as is the locating of memory channels, and the memory write. There is no
voice feedback for any of this and it is easy to get lost.
Perhaps I’m being over cautious, but in my experience, I’m directly entering
frequencies all day long. It is though feasible many of our blind operators
simply tune up and down on one band, without the regular need to find a
specific spot. I hear the difficulties experienced by blind operators, on
our Nets, all the time. Nnetting on the exact frequency, even when given
the figures, can be a real challenge. It’s a case of nudge and check the
voice, nudge and check the voice, and so on.
The radio will work with the John Hansen Millenium qsyer keypad. This keypad will work with Icom radios and Yaesu radios.
I own an Icom 703 and use this keypad with it. I also own a Yaesu FT817ND and the keypad will work with this radio as well.
One has to order the keypad with either a cable that will work with the Icom radios or the Yaesu radios.
In the case of Yaesu radios it will work with the FT817ND the FT857d and the FT897D.
These keypads give bare access to the Yaesu radios. You can switch modes and read out the frequency in CW. I had to have a sighted ham friend set the menus on the Yaesu for me.
Of course there is no speech available on the Icom 703 menus either.
73, Eric Clegg KU3I