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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Furuno FR 8002 Series Radars w/ Trackball

Furuno is billing its new FR 8002 Series radars as "Pure Radar for the Radar Purist," and that's a slogan that attracts my attention. As far as I'm concerned, you can take your radar overlays and multi-function displays and shove them in the back of your bosun's locker. I like my radar simple and unadulterated, and I've been that way ever since the days when a radar meant sticking your head into the rubber hood and waiting for the sweep to tell you if there really was a contact or if it was just a low flying gannet.

Seriously, I'm all for a GPS interface, AIS, ARPA, etc. It's just the radar overlays and the split screens that give me angina. I think it's too much on too small a screen and a terrible distraction. I'd rather split my time between dedicated screens.

Another thing I missed with the rash of so-called technical achievements was the retirement of the track ball, which I'm very happy to see Furuno has brought back in the 8002 series.

Understandably, track balls were prone to problems, similar to the problems you had with your original mouse. You had to clean them regularly by rotating the locking nut, removing the ball, and wiping or picking the accumulated dust and grease off the three or four contacts underneath. In a radar with a waterproof head, this meant taking the cover off the radar, which meant removing all the cables and screws from the back. Pain in the proverbial butt.

Hopefully, Furuno has a more robust trackball in the 8002 series, or one that cleans with less effort.

The thing with the trackball as compared to the joystick button that replaced it is this: The trackball is faster, much faster, than the joystick button. I challenge any joystick radar user to a cursor race. Give me a new trackball, and I will leave the joystick user in my wake. Hey, as we all know, sometimes cursor speed counts for a lot, particularly if you're in a high traffic area and you're on the radio trying to tell a seemingly oblivious boater off the starboard bow exactly where to look for you.

Another thing: Although the joystick button is probably longer lasting than the older trackballs, it still wears out and gets dirty from oil and grime that finds its way under the rubber waterproof boot. In fact, I find them very susceptible to radar operators with "heavy" thumbs. The trackball, while prone to dirt problems, can withstand more of this type of abuse.

So, thank you, Furuno, for bringing back the trackball in a small, powerful radar. And thank you for appreciating the concept of "simple IS beautiful."

Furuno 8002 Series PDF.


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