I Can Work This Thing!

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The Icom IC718 HF Transceiver: A Review from Tom Behler: KB8TYJ

In recent months, I had been looking for a small and affordable, HF rig, which would be useful for
portable or emergency operation, and which would serve as a "back-up" to my main HF rig--an Icom 746.
In addition, as a blind ham, I needed to be especially careful to select a rig that would be "user friendly".
To be sure, this was a rather tall order, but with the help of Pat Tice and the folks at Handi-hams, the
answer was found. It took the form of the Icom IC718.

I purchased the IC718 at the Dayton Hamvention in mid May, and had the interesting challenge of trying
to get the rig up and running for our local club's Field Day operation in late June. This meant that I
really had my work cut out for me. Nevertheless, the UT102 speech synthesizer chip, a very well-written
manual, and some patient assistance from my wife and son, who are sighted hams, made the task quite
manageable and enjoyable.

As with any new rig, reading the manual was essential before attempting even the most basic operations.
A number of settings in the "initial set" menu, had to be customized to my preferences. These included
UT102 speech synthesizer parameters, CW key type specifications, RF/squelch settings, and IF filter
designations. Sighted assistance was required to work through these "initial set" menu items.

Once the rig was initially set up, my next challenge was to figure out a way to access the items in the
"quick set" menu. Items in this menu included things like RF power, mic gain, vox settings, CW key speed
and weighting, CW break-in, CW pitch, etc. This was indeed a moment of truth for me, since, as we all
know, these are items that need to be changed to meet various operating situations. What a relief it was
to find out that the various menu items can be accessed via the "up" and "down" arrow keys, with a long
beep to tell me when I was at the first menu item (RF power), and short beeps to indicate later selections
on the menu list. All I needed now was an ordered list of menu items, and I was basically "good to go".
Then, another pleasant surprise followed. For those items in the "quick set" menu for which specific
values are set via the tuning knob, the scale from "low" to "high" values was not continuous. In other
words, if I turned the tuning knob counter-clockwise for several turns, it wouldstop at the lowest value,
while several turns clock-wise would result in the highest value.

The UT102 speech synthesizer chip was also helpful in terms of facilitating the everyday operation of this
rig. The speech was clear, and provided helpful information such as the frequency in megahertz, s-meter
readings for received signals, and mode selection information.

Are there any short-comings to the Icom 718? Yes, there are a few, and some are easier to deal with
than others. First: The rig doesn't have much in the way of filtering, which can be a problem if an
individual is going to do a lot of CW and RTTY work. I solved this problem by purchasing a 400 HZ CW
filter from INRAD, which was easily soldered in place with the help of clear manual instructions.
Second: The rig doesn't have an automatic antenna tuner, which could be of concern if less-than-resonant
antennas have to be used. Auto-tuners are available for the rig, if you're willing to pay the extra bucks
to get one. Third: the UT102 synthesizer chip does not provide speech output for the ALC, power, and SWR
meters on the rig; this obviously would be helpful information to have available without having to resort
to sighted assistance. And finally: here's a problem I have not yet resolved. There is no way for a
blind ham to know whether the "speech compressor" function is "on" or "off". This can make a big difference
if the mic gain is set for one setting, when you think you are on the other.

All and all, I can say with confidence that the Icom IC718 is a terrific bargain, and an outstanding rig
for its price. In addition, it would be a great beginning HF rig for any ham who has just upgraded to
General class, and wants to get his/her feet wet in HF communications. No, it doesn't have all of the
bells and whistles that the more "up-scale" rigs have, but it's got the important stuff. The rig certainly
provided me with all the features I needed for a successful Field Day operation.

Handi-hams has a tape-recorded version of the manual for the IC718. In addition, thanks to the help of my wife, Sue
(KC8IFP), a text version of this manual is now available from Handi-hams as well. This text-based
version is divided into chapter files, for quick and easy reference.

I invite anyone with questions or comments on the Icom IC718 to contact me. I hope your experience
with this rig is as positive as my initial experience has been. I want to thank Handi-hams for bringing
the rig to my attention.

Best 73 from Tom Behler: KB8TYJ
E-mail: kb8tyj@arrl.net
Regular mailing address:
511 Spring Street
Big Rapids, MI 49307
Home telephone: (231) 592-9854

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