“The real purpose of the scientific method is to make sure nature hasn’t misled you into thinking you know something you actually don’t know.” ― Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values
An HT or handy-talkie, isn't of much use if you don't use it. Perhaps it could be an unusual paperweight or interesting desk ornament. They do look nice sitting on the desk in the shack in a sad inert, powered off, dust-collecting way. Our two Kenwood TH-F6A HT's were mostly idle due to having relocated across the country to California.
The radio memories had been programmed chock-full-o-stations located on the East Coast (New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York, and the Easter Seaboard). None of the repeaters in the radio memory were accessible from California. Lack of useful programming was main reason our HT's weren't getting used. Turn on the radio and there was simply no way to contact anyone other than via simplex communication.
The Kenwood TH-F6A is a compact and very capable radio. It transmits 5W on 144/220/440 MHz and includes a wide-band receiver. You can really pack the radio's memory with stations given its 435 PC programmable memories. The radio has all kinds of really great features and it has been reliable since purchased back in 2007.
Kenwood TH-F6A HT (Handy-Talkie)
We decided it was time to get our Kenwood TH-F6A radios back on the air and that meant reprogramming them with California stations. The first thing we needed to do was to locate the radio's programming cable. If you have ever moved then you know how much fun it can be to locate a particular item after moving. The memory of where it was located at the old residence is always clear and the location in the house is always a mystery. Is it still in a box or in some drawer? After much searching in all the wrong places we found the cable logically stored next to the computer. Lesson learned: always start the search with the most logical place we would have placed the item.
The next step was to load the latest version of the free Kenwood programming software (MCP-F6F7) onto the PC. This was very easy since the software is available for download on the Kenwood website.
Whenever reprogramming a radio we always make a backup of the radio's memory first. You never know when you may need to reference or revert to an earlier memory configuration. This is very easy with the Kenwood MCP-F6F7 software. We simply connected the radio to the cable and the cable to the computer and then read the radio's memory (from the menu: Radio --> Read --> All). Once you have read the memory contents save it as a file on the PC (from the menu: File --> Save-As).
Our next step was to delete all of the undesired East-Coast stations from the memory we just read into the Kenwood MCP-F6F7 software. We find it is much easier to delete the stations using the PC software than directly on the radio. Just click on the memory item then right click and select, "delete" from the from the pop-up menu. We found we could only delete one memory at a time which worked just fine. It would be a nice if you could select and delete a range of memories. C'est la vie.
Once we had cleaned up our memory we resorted the remaining memories to organize them and make them contiguous from memory 1 (menu option: Edit --> Memory channel Sort --> Memory Name). This provides a nice clean set of memories to program in the software.
The next step was to locate California area repeaters on the three bands that the TH-F6A can operate on (144/220/440 MHz). There are a variety of repeater reference guides available. We use the RepeaterBook.com website and iPhone app. The iPhone app is quite handy since it works with or without an Internet connection. RepeaterBook allows you to search on wide area coverage repeaters. These are particular useful repeaters so we targeted these specifically.
Using RepeaterBook.com we searched for repeaters in various areas that we frequent or intend to visit and programmed them each into the Kenwood MCP-F6F7 PC software. This is really easy to do by double clicking on an empty memory and then filling out a simple form.
MCP-F6F7 PC Software - adding a repeater to memory
The TH-F6A has an LCD screen and allows for station memories to be named. This is helpful though the real estate for a memory name is limited to 8 characters. We have come up with a coding standard for our station memories that is surprisingly simple and effective. After programming, we handed the HT over to another local ham who was able to scroll through the memories and translate (name and city) all but one.
2-digit state code (e.g. CA - California)
Use a capital letter to indicate the start of a new word
Eliminate vowels since it is proven that people can read most words effectively without them
Numerous California cities begin with the word, "San" so abbreviate this to a single letter "S"
In this example, "CASFrncs" denotes California, San Francisco
We were rewarded for several hours of station searching and programming with a nice long list of California repeater programmed into the MCP-F6F7 Software. After programming, we sorted the list again by name so that all memories would be organized logically (menu path: Edit --> Memory channel Sort --> Memory Name). We then saved the programming on the local PC under a different file name than our backup. We use a simple and effective file naming convention to organize our files. Each file name includes:
Name of the radio
State or location
Version (we only use this if there are several version on a given day)
Applying this naming convention we named our file, "20150815 TH-F6A CA". A little forethought saves time down the road.
The next step was to load the programming from the Kenwood MCP-F6F7 PC software to the radio. Turn off the radio before plugging in (or removing) the cable to avoid damaging the radio (power is present on some of the jack connections). Once the cable is connected to both the radio and computer, turn on the radio.
On the radio, use the menu to find the parameter, "SP/MIC Jack9" and set it to, "PC". Exit the menu on the radio.
Next, from the Kenwood MCP-F6F7 PC Software select the menu option, Radio --> Write --> Memory. This will initiate uploading the memories to the radio. If you get a "Communication Timeout Error" then check your COM port settings on your PC. These generally work:
9600 Baud Rate
8 Data bit Rate
1 Stop Bits
Xon/Xoff Flow Control
If you receive an error message, "The radio is invalid please check and try again" then check your cable connection into the radio. We found that our cheap cable was a little finicky on one of our TH-F6A radios but not the other. If we angled the connector out at the top a tiny bit it would work better than when fully inserted. Results may vary. Remember to power down the radio before inserting or removing the connector.
We gave both newly programmed TH-F6A radios a good testing on our local repeater by cruising around the area on a motorcycle with our HT to see if we could maintain contact through the repeater at various locations. For safety purposes, we would stop and park the motorcycle before attempting the contact. Test results:
Home - full quieting
Local grocery store - full quieting
State Park Entrance in town - full quieting
End of the road in the State Park - DEAD SPOT - no area repeaters could be reached
Fruit stand in neighboring village 17 miles away - full quieting
2003 Suzuki VL800
We had a lot of fun with our motorcycling HT/repeater coverage test. We were very pleased to find excellent local repeater coverage at each destination with only one dead spot on the trip. Most of all, we were thrilled to have our HT's returned to full operating status instead of sad (though cool looking) inert dust collectors.
Do you have an inert dust collector HT on your desk? If yes, we hope we have inspired you to get it charged up, programmed, and back on the air. Looking forward to our next contact with you either on an HT (or the HF bands).
There cannot be a language more universal and more simple, more free from errors and obscurities...more worthy to express the invariable relations of all natural things [than mathematics]. [It interprets] all phenomena by the same language, as if to attest the unity and simplicity of the plan of the universe, and to make still more evident that unchangeable order which presides over all natural causes” ― Joseph Fourier