Early Handheld Radios

Presented by Fox Tango Intl.

Spanning nearly 30 years in handheld technology.

We will attempt  to look at a few of these fine Yaesu

transceivers from the past in more detail.

At Fox Tango our goal is to entertain, educate and explore both old and new technologies as they apply to the radio amateur.  While many of you reading this page may have grown up with these products you will find it fun to look back an remises how "I use to have one of those" and the newcomer to the amateur radio hobby who doesn't really know a megacycle from motorcycle will hopefully learn from the history and service tips included herein.  Needless to say we are not going to cover every VHF / UHF handheld radio Yaesu has manufactured to date.  We will start out  by looking at Yaesu's early introduction into what has become nothing short of a huge and hungry market for VHF / UHF hand held transceivers.  We will begin our tour with a little bit of history then look forward to the more modern type of handheld transceiver currently being manufactured by the company today. 

Many of the technologies that surround us every day we take for granted, like radar, television, AM & FM broadcast radio, Internet, cellular telephones and two way radio technology.  We turn them on and we expect them to work and they usually do what they were designed to do.  But it wasn't  always that easy or convenient and in the beginning not very reliable to use.  The evolution of the handheld radio started during World War II with  the SCR-536.  This  was the original walkie-talkie, also called handy-talkie.  At the time it was the smallest of Signal Corps radio transmitter and receiver set  in use during World War II, using  the static prone AM mode of operation.  Using a battery that weighed in at over 1 pound, the unit itself weighed in at nearly 4 pounds without the battery.  The SCR-536 used  a  40 inch telescopic antenna that collapsed into the transceiver, and operated over the 3.5 mc to 6.0 mc frequency range on any one of 50 channels with plug in crystals and coils to control the frequency.

  1943 - SCR-536 AM mode

   1945 PRC-6   Col. Howard Armstrong inventor of FM Radio

The PRC-6 used subminiature tubes (acorn tubes) and FM mode


After World War II, Electronic technology rapidly advanced with knowledge gain throughout the war years.  New technology advances in the area of television broadcast receivers and FM broadcast radio  were a direct result  from what was learned about from such things as radar and radio advancements made during the war.  Then later with the introduction of solid state technology introduced in 1948 in the form of the Bi-polar transistor, thing were only going to get smaller and lighter in weight.  Solid state technology was later put to use by companies like Yaesu and Motorola in their HT-220 - FM handheld radio shown below.


    Motorola's HT-220 introduced in 1969. The HT-220 was the envy of ham radio operators for its compact size and performance.  However production of these units was not exclusively directed to the amateur radio market and were very costly.  The HT-220 contains a very sensitive and selective receiver and a transmitter that can deliver up to 5 Watts (4 on UHF)  and they were easily converted for amateur radio use. the Motorola HT-220  can easily be identified with the silver center band and its weatherproof housing.  The were produced as business band radios both for VHF and UHF services.  The Motorola HT-220 was considered by many as the standard in portable handheld transceivers for many years.




Yaesu FT-202R

"The Handie" (Circ 1979)


In 1956, Yaesu was a fledgling company that was started by its founder Sako Hasegawa San.  From its modest beginnings in a small home in the Tokyo suburbs, Yaesu's early equipment line (1950s & 1960s) was primarily focused around it's larger HF radios.  By 1972 the company had introduced several  VHF mobile radio transceivers to the amateur market, the FT-2 Auto and the FT-2F both were crystal controlled high quality VHF FM transceivers for mobile use.  It wasn't until 1979 that we saw Yaesu's first entry in what would become a very long list of hand held transceivers that would follow.  Indeed by today's standards miniature handheld radio technology in the 1970s was still in it's infancy at that time.  The  "Walkie-Talkie" of the 1970s era resembled more so that of a brick then a radio, this could be said for all manufactures of hand held radio equipment (I.e.. Motorola, Wilson, Yaesu, Icom.)  In early 1979 Yaesu introduced it's first truly portable handheld radio the FT-202R.  More often then not the fist thing one would say when they saw the FT-202R is that "It looks like a Motorola HT-220"  True it does bare a strong resemblance to the Motorola, but Japan has always had a way of taking things from elsewhere in the world and making them uniquely her own!  And no doubt that meant a quality product at an economical price for the end user.  And Yaesu was there to fill that need for the amateur market, building the latest modern technology had to offer at a reasonable cost that most any radio amateur could afford.

Looking at the FT-202R, the circuit board of the FT-202R is mounted on a metal mainframe and the board utilizes a separate section for the transmit and receive.  Transmit audio quality was excellent and the unit was built to endure rough handling. With a frequency range of 144-148 MHz, the transceiver was capable of running on six crystal controlled frequencies, three of which were provided with the transceiver.   Interesting to note the power output of the FT-202R is a whopping 1 watt.  Benefits were portability in an impact-resistant ABS plastic body,  weighing in at approximately one pound, far less then  that of the 4 pound transceivers of 1943.


Either NiCd or dry cell batteries could be used with the FT-202R

FT-404R 440 MHz Version





Microprocessor Controlled PLL

Synthesized Handie (Circ 1979 / 1980)


Bigger Batteries! More Power! Smaller Size!

Truly the "Breakthrough In Technology" as the colorful advertisement said it was.  With a MSRP of right at $300 US dollars, the FT-207R was a proven winner right out of the starting gate. Introduced in late 1979, the FT-207R was an eagerly awaited 2-meter synthesized handie-talkie. In January of 1980 they were in short supply due to the extraordinary demand which was built up between the time the unit was first announced and its first appearance on the local amateur market.  The FT-207R featured in the 1980 Yaesu catalog, featuring a central processing unit (CPU) in the heart of it's control circuitry.  Capable of operation on as many as 800 channels in 5 KHz steps between 144-148 MHz. up/down scanning and ~FOUR~ whopping memories!  Drawing 800 ma on transmit the unit quickly became known as the battery eater or more fondly referred to as the brick!  If you are the proud owner of an FT-207R, the battery problems have become much less of an issue in the 21st century with the advent of far superior battery technology over that of what was available in 1979. 


 The transceiver was plagued with some problems but nothing so serious that could not be corrected by turning the unit completely off and back on again to reset the CPU.  On occasion the FT-207R will lock up and show 500 on the display or not allow a frequency change to be made from the keyboard.  Again simply turning the transceiver off and removing the "BU" back up power to the CPU the problem would correct itself.  Considering the many advantages of owing an FT-207R over that of the FT-202 above or any other crystal controlled transceiver, this became little more then a small annoyance.  With only four memory channels to program, loosing the memory back up on the CPU would temporarily reboot the transceiver and memories were entered again by the user.  Transmit power is 3 watts on high power and 300 mili-watts on low power. Again a big improvement over the FT-202 mentioned earlier with its 1 watt of power output.   Other features included effortless scanning of the entire two meter band, a bright LED display,  DTMF encoder and frequency entry keyboard, double conversion super heterodyne receiver and great receiver sensitivity.  Not to mention a long list of options, YM-24 speaker / microphone, NC-2 NiCd quick charger / AC Adapter and a tone squelch unit.  Owners of the FT-202R and FT-207R  could also use the NC-1A NiCd charger or the PA-1 DC power adaptor on either unit.


  When using the YM-24 speaker microphone you can raise the FT-207R above obstacles that might ruin your reception.

  I Wonder what ever happen to this guy?


  A nice FT-207R with accessories YM-24, PA-2 (DC-power adaptor) and leather case!


  There were at least three different version of chargers for the FT-202/FT-207R/FTC-2003/FTC-703A/FTC-4703.  Not to mention the NC-9B wall charger and a multi radio charging unit.


At least two type of DC power adaptors were produce for mobile operation. Looking at the DC-1 it looks similar to the NC-1 AC supply and was replaced by a light weight plastic PA-2.


FTS-32E Sub Audible tone encoder installed in the rear battery panel of the FT-207R

A Look under the bonnet of the FT-207R Main Unit component side and back

Can't find the Micro in your FT-207R?

   uPD650C CPU

The brains of the FT-207R resides on the control unit just behind the speaker.

The man behind it all!

Mr. S Fujiki JR1FPZ, Yaesu senior engineering team leader for all Yaesu hand VHF /UHF hand held radio products. Mr. Fujiki is responsible for all hand held radio design and Yaesu's first fully synthesized two meter amateur transceiver the famous FT-207R introduced in late 1979~1980.

While we are discussing the FT-202 / FT-404R, & FT-207R, it's note worthy to mention the commercial arm of the company, Vertex Standard.  About the same time the amateur market was being introduced to the FT-202 and FT-207R there were also many variations of these transceivers being manufactured for the commercial market with the nomenclature FTC-XXX.  FTC-2003 / FTC-703A / FTC-4703 to name only a few.

Here we see on the left photo an interesting transceiver, the FT-703A similar to that of the FT-202R less the signal strength meter that is on the FT-202R.  This unit is a six channel crystal controlled transceiver designed for operation within any 1 MHz range of the 68 to 88 MHz land mobile band and was marketed in Europe.  The FTC-703A features 3 watts RF output and a flexible quick connect antenna.  And lastly we see another commercial version of this transceiver the FTC-2003 designed for operation within any 4 MHz range of the 134-174 MHz land mobile band.


Yaesu FT-208R


FT-208R 2m  / FT-709R 70 cm (Circ 1981)

Next in the line of handheld Radios is the FT-208R VHF 144 MHz  handheld transceivers and the FT-708R UHF ~ 440 MHz handheld transceiver.  Introduced in 1981 the FT-208R  uses the same battery and some of the same accessories FT-207R. 


Sporting a 4-bit microprocessor and an easy to read LCD display the FT-208R was a much improved compact synthesized transceiver with lower battery consumption (approx 20 mA RX) and lithium memory backup battery, it had a life estimated at more then five years. Many can still be found working this day working as good as they day when they were new.  Having 10 memories, more then twice that of the FT-207R, the transceiver featured 2.5 watts of RF output and covered the full 4 MHz of spectrum allocated to the U.S. two meter amateur band.  A fine handheld transceiver at that, but still quite large in comparison to 21st century technology.

Heavy leather cases were quite commonly used to protect the transceiver of the 1970s & 1980s

Top panel controls were the usual Volume, Squelch /Tone, High / Low and repeater shift switch.

A look inside the FT-208R reviles the technology was used in the FT-208R was similar to that

used in the FT-207R still using somewhat large and discrete components, never the less the

microprocessor was here to stay!


FT-208R recently sold on Ebay sold cheap and was ignored by most bidders due to the damaged LCD display.

 This problem is not uncommon with LCD displays, they are fragile and require care in handling.

   The LCD display is a small piece of glass and if dropped or banged too hard can fracture resulting in a display that is barely readable if at all.    Luckily however the display is still available  (Yaesu part # G6090021)

 A good technician can change one out in relatively short order!

Opening the hand held reveals the display with easy access.

   An LCD display such as the one used in the FT-2078R / 708R must be handled with care when installing the replacement part. The display itself mounts in a clear plastic housing and must be set in just right with the right amount of pressure to push the contact pads up against the circuit board. Failure to set the display on correctly will result in a distorted display or  partial numeric display showing. If that happens to you, then you will have to remove the display and try to reset the display on the component board again.

   9/1/2007 and AS Good As New !

Once properly replaced the unit will likely give many more years of good service to it's owner.

A beautiful find!  This pristine FT-208R was recently sold on Ebay and they usually will still work as good as they day they were new.  The old saying, they don't build them like they use to applies!  See if you can get anyone to fix your new VX-1 should you drop while on your tower!

While finding a vintage piece of equipment in pristine condition yields a lot of pride in ownership.  See if you can find a fixer upper.  If you feel up to the challenge take on a unit that is inoperative or has a damaged display like I did, see if you're up to fixing it, likely you will get it at a bargain price too. Service manuals are all over the club web site and can be found just about anyplace on the Internet.  Even if you can't fix it for some reason the small investment you make will yield far more in the way of learning by your hands on experience.  You can't learn if you don't take the time to dig into a piece of your own gear now and again!  If you want to operate an appliance, then go out and get a coffee pot!





Coming Next a more in-depth look at:

FT-203R (2m) with tech tips

FT-209 (2m)

FT-109RH (220 MHz)

FT-709R  (440 MHz)



 FT-470 (2m / 440) With Tech tips