If you're a geek and an amateur radio operator (but I repeat myself), a $40 full-featured handheld VHF/UHF transceiver is difficult to pass up. I'd been looking at the Baofeng UV-3 and UV-5 models for about a year and Amazon finally sold me one.
(If you want one, use the "Stuff you need" link to the giant river o'stuff at Tam's: helps her, doesn't cost you one cent more. Please note they're really only legal for commercial and amateur applications: go putting it on FRS and you're on your own. Be aware the Feds have no sense of humor about coloring outside the lines.)
It's tiny! There's plenty of online help available, too. I picked up a programming cable at the same time, which proved to be a handy thing. Sat in the hospital waiting room yesterday programming it via the front-panel buttons (or trying to) and found the procedure unforgiving; I got it to work but you can't skip any steps or do them in the wrong order without having to start over..
Conversely, the ham "CHIRP" shareware* is about as simple as filling in a spreadsheet with the pertinent info. Using it, I've got my UV-5R programmed to listen to a couple of frequencies in use aboard the starship and have it set up for two-way use on several local ham repeaters, too.
Repeaters are what make a pocket-sized radio like this useful; in most practical apps, FRS stuff is okay for "just out of sight" comms but past that, it's a coin toss or worse. Having a good receiver with a high antenna listening for your handheld and relaying your signals to a (relatively) powerful transmitter with another (or even the same) high antenna is a huge force multiplier; just as your cell phone is no good if it can't grab a cell site, a repeater turns a handheld into a "big radio."
So far, so good -- oh, it's a $40 radio, you don't want to drop it ten feet onto a hard surface -- but for price/performance, it's quite a deal.
* CHIRP will program a lot of different handhelds, worth a look if that's something you ever need to do.
T. R. MCELROY'S STREAMLINED TELEGRAPH KEYS
6 months ago