Thoughts on touch screen technology and amateur radio

I recently wrote the following on an email list for blind radio amateurs.  It was in response to concerns about the increasing use of touch screens to replace physical controls.  I thought it would be useful to post here, and might help explain why touch screens, even with full talking accessibility, might not be ideal for all radio applications.


If the accessibility has been implemented properly, touch screen technology can be easily used by a blind person, and in the case of the Smartphone, can lead to the use of apps that would never be found with a traditional device.  On this basis I certainly wouldn’t dismiss touch screens out of hand.


Saying all that, there is a problem with touch screen technology that I’ve not heard mentioned anywhere else.  Basically, you need to be listening ‘fully’ to know what you are doing.  On a device with voice feedback and traditional buttons, you can probably get most things done with only cursory attention to the voice, because you remember the sequence of physical operation.  Using a touch screen needs you to be listening to the feedback completely at every stage.


On a radio, this is not a useful function.  Ideally you will want to make adjustments without any chatter that might distract you from the signal.  I touch on this scenario in my review of the Kenwood TS-590, when pressing the button to hear the sub VFO.  The frequency is announced by the voice every time you press and release the button.  Fortunately, you can turn off the automatic chatter, and it can be seen that Kenwood have given this some careful thought.  Too much talk is as bad as not enough!


Turning a silent physical control to adjust say Noise Reduction is likely to be much more  comfortable for a blind operator, than  one being forced to use a chattering touch screen.  It is for this same reason I prefer not to use software, with a talking screen reader,  to control a radio in real time.  The only audio I ideally want to hear is the incoming signal, anything else can be  a distraction <big smile>!