With all the hoopla surrounding Hamvention®, I nearly missed the deadline for submitting my results from the May edition of the Straight Key Century Club’s Weekend Sprintathon. The monthly event took place the weekend before Dayton and as usual, I was ill-prepared for the activity.
I was up early Saturday morning and tuning the bands when I heard someone calling ‘CQ WES’ which is shorthand for, “hey dummy, did you forgot again?”
Now that I’m a Centurion (3383C), my priority is reaching the next level. Tribune. This is achieved by working 50 other Tribunes and exchanging highly secretive information with them — you know, call signs, names, numbers and such. My thinking was that if I could spend just an hour in the pursuit, I might come up with enough “T’s” in the log to make it.
Each weekend sprint has a theme and this month, there were bonus points to be had for mixing S&P with calling CQ. Of course, I didn’t know that until after the event and had spent about an hour in S&P mode and wound up with a big, fat goose egg in the bonus column.
But I did manage to work 21 stations, which was one more than last month in just half the time. I’ll credit that to the new TenTec Eagle and it’s 100 watts as band conditions weren’t very favorable and being Mother’s Day weekend, time was exceedingly short.
Just you wait until next month!
Bottom Line: Dayton 2013 was lackluster. The crowd was slightly smaller than last year and the weather wasn’t much of an issue. Judging by the hardware shown, amplifiers and SDR were the HOT trends. The most interesting new item shown was the CrankIR portable antenna.
Hamvention® 2013 is in the books.
The weather was a bit damp, though we avoided any torrential downpours and all-in-all, the weather outside was tolerable. Inside the buildings was stifling and humid and required frequent trips outside to cool down. There seemed to be no ventilation in action anywhere inside.
I only attended on Friday and Saturday this year and arrived before the doors opened on both days.
I’m going to go out on a short limb here and say that the DARA folks will eventually announce the 2013 attendance to be higher than it actually was. My own impression was that attendance was down at least ten-percent, maybe fifteen, from last year.
I have no formal experience estimating crowd sizes, but when you can walk the main arena floor unimpeded at noon on Saturday, you probably don’t have to be an expert to form an opinion on attendance.
The biggest news out of Dayton this year was that there was nothing new under the sun.
Kenwood had nothing new and exciting to show. They were the talk of the show last year when they debuted the fake TS-990S under glass. This year they had the real deal in all its glory — powered-up and working and nobody gave it much notice.
Yaesu had nothing new and exciting to show. And once again, no hats to give out. The loneliest ham in the universe might well be the guy who carried away one of their new digital handhelds, the FT-1DR. When asked about it the booth rep said the new handheld was not compatible with any existing standard and there are no repeaters available for it. None. So who can you talk to with this new handheld? Another user with the same handheld — within a mile or two of you. Crickets, crickets, crickets.
ICOM was showing the IC-7100. But it’s still not yet available for purchase and like naked pictures of Paris Hilton, everyone has seen enough of it. They claim it should be on the market next month, MSRP $1799. Other than that, you could have seen everything they had in the booth in any single episode of Last Man Standing.
TenTec introduced the Rebel, a low-powered, open hardware transceiver whose details were as confusing as the message that T-T is sending by bringing it to market. We may have reached a point where if you brand something as “QRP” and “Open Source” you sell a thousand of them before anyone knows what they even bought. I was more impressed with their new auto-tuner (Model 278-100W), something that has been sorely missing from their product line.
It’s not possible to provide a laundry list of everything seen or noticed missing from the big show so what follows are the things that caught my attention and seemed worth a mention.
- The CrankIR portable vertical antenna was very cool. I probably don’t need one but while standing in front of it for the third time during the show one of the operators heading to Wake Island later this year told me they are taking two of them along with them for that operation. Not surprised. Excellent.
- The place was loaded with amplifiers — more than I’ve ever seen in a single show. HF amps from solid state and 500W to full legal limit offerings. I saw a dozen different amps for HF and then saw three different manufacturers showing amps for UHF, VHF, and 6M. And I’m talking big iron here. 1KW on 50Mhz, 144Mhz, 440Mhz — and up.
- You couldn’t spit without hitting a booth manned by somebody that no one has ever heard of, promoting their new SDR offerings. This technology has reached the point of true democratization. Anyone can jump into the business of providing amateur radio transceivers and accessories crafted from low-cost hardware. I see this as good news and a positive sign that the future of amateur radio won’t be dictated by BIG companies. How we will separate the wheat from the chaff from hundreds of micro-offerings is going to be a challenge. Anyone already working on that?
- D-STAR was everywhere at the show. From the main floor to vendors and ICOM along with informational events and forums. ICOM says there are now 27,000 D-STAR users with over 1,000 repeaters — and they’re dropping the price on those repeaters. Yet for all the frenetic energy expended and lack of any significant competition, it still just feels like a questionable niche to me.
The ARRL once again had the big booth with a lot of buzz and activity yet was nearly unchanged from last year.
AMSAT seemed to be taking up a little more room than usual. They announced a tentative launch date for their Fox project but of course, it’s far in the future with plenty of opportunity for delay and cancellation. AMSAT’s promises are a lot like those of religion. Something is coming. Someday. Nobody knows when and we’ve been waiting a long time for it. But soon. Oh, and we need more money while we wait…
Here’s something that might be a developing trend. The fawning crowds of fanboys were absent from the region around Bob Heil’s personal space. Bob was still getting plenty of attention mind you, but it was easy enough to walk right up and say ‘hello’ to him this year, something that was nearly impossible last year due to the crowd. Could the HamNation magic be starting to fade?
Outside, the flea market appeared almost exactly the way it looked to me in 1977. Lots of old junk, some of it with the power to cause me to stop and gaze respectfully upon it for a moment, while most of the rest desperately needs to be hauled to the dump.
The 21st century value of the flea market is not really for the buyers — it’s more for the comfort of the faux sellers.
Apparently, the deal is to pay for a flea market spot that provides you a nice place to park your vehicle/camper/motorhome and that way you can carry in your own food and drink. If you do happen to have something for sale, you put up a sign explaining what you have and how you can be reached and then you go about enjoying the show. Someday, we will all get a flea market spot and mess this game up!
As always, the real value of attending a major ham radio convention is the people, not necessarily what you can see or purchase. In this regard, it just doesn’t get any better than Dayton. Whether it’s traveling to the show with a group of friends, bumping into old acquaintances while trekking around the flea market, or introducing yourself and pressing the flesh with some notable operator from a faraway land, there’s no better experience for a true radio enthusiast than Dayton.
Having said that, I will now (finally) add my voice to the growing chorus of those who deride Hara Arena as a dump. Of course it’s been a dump for a long time yet I’ve regularly been the lone (ham radio blogger) voice supporting it. I was raised in an era when hamfests and swap sessions were conducted at the old National Guard Armory or at a run-down county fairground. A time when complaining about smelly restrooms at a hamfest would call into question your manhood.
Dilapidated and amateur radio hamfests just seem to go together. At least to me.
That’s probably why I bristle when I hear others say things, stupid things, like suggesting that the event be moved to an ultra-modern facility with valet parking, supernatural volumes of air-conditioning, roving cocktail carts, and a 150-foot Jumbotron with Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck serving as keynote speakers…
But the fact is, Hara Arena should have been condemned a decade ago.
If DARA continues to hold the event there, the problem won’t be a decline in attendance. Ham’s are going to keep coming. The problem is going to be that eventually, something big and bad and awful is going to happen, and probably in a catastrophic manner. The roof will collapse or a giant HVAC unit is going to fall from the ceiling and injure — or kill someone.
This sort of liability should be motivating DARA to quickly find another facility in Dayton, announce a final show at Hara and be done with it. I don’t like to think about amateur radio without Dayton but nostalgia should have no sway when it comes to public safety.
There. I said it.
While there I posted a large cache of photos via Twitter that can be viewed here. I’ve got more photos that I’ll get online over the coming week.
I’ll probably also recall a few additional details and commentary omitted from this long treatise. Stay tuned.
I’ll be tweeting live from the Dayton Hamvention® this weekend for a fifth, and final year.
My schedule is a little different this time so listen up. I’m not staying in Dayton this time around. I’ll drive over on Friday morning and home again that evening and then do that again on Saturday. I won’t be staying with the QRP crowd for their FDIM extravaganza for the first time this century.
I expect to be in the gates and on the main floor first thing Friday and sticking around until the doors close. Same goes for Saturday. If you can’t attend and there’s a particular vendor you would like me to visit to ask questions or get photos, etc. on your behalf, ping me via Twitter once you see that I’m there and I’ll do my very best to accommodate you.
I generally send 50-60 photos via Twitter over the weekend so if you don’t want your timeline filled with my news and views from Hamvention® you should block me, mute me, or unfollow me before Friday.
I understand how frustrating it can be to have your timeline flooded with something you don’t really care about — and for two solid days!
Make the necessary arrangements to shut me up ahead of time. And if you choose to unfollow me, no hard feelings. In fact, shortly after coming back from Dayton I plan to retire my Twitter account so you really won’t miss a thing.
For those of you who intend to come along for the ride, it all kicks off in just a few more days. Giddy up!
The trade-in of my Argonaut VI for a TenTec Eagle is a done deal.
It actually arrived here on Monday but I was out of town and so after getting in last night and having dinner with Brenda, I had the joy of unboxing new equipment. What emerged was the slim, trim, elegant transceiver with only a few more controls on the front panel than the Argonaut it replaced — along with a hand mike, bag of accessories, power cord and the manual.
I haven’t ordered any additional filters yet as I wanted a chance to use it a little before deciding which will be selected.
This is a completely stock unit except for the built-in auto tuner. It only took a few minutes to get it powered up and on the air and the tuner seemed pleased with my antenna, an 88-foot center-fed wire arrangement supported by a 30-foot mast. The ends slope down to about 15-feet on each side and it’s fed with 450-ohm ladder line that terminates in a 4:1 balun.
A quick CQ with the straight key on 40 meters yielded instant results from the skimmers who rewarded the bump to 100 watts with the best signal reports I’ve seen from them on that band.
I didn’t buy the hand mike for the Argonaut since I planned to use it for CW only. But the microphone comes with the Eagle, so I plugged it in and went looking for my first phone contact in a long, long, time. That took all of a minute, maybe two. Good reports all around and a little later, I even checked into the OMISS Net for the first time since 2002.
Late in the evening I was still fiddling with the new toy and noticed 20 meters was not only open for business, but in great shape. I spent most of an hour just listening and getting to know the controls, though I did work a C6 who was calling with no takers. The DSP and auto-notch worked exactly as expected and the results were excellent.
In fact, I stumbled across Martti Lane, OH2BH who created a big pile-up just by being on the air!
But you certainly will hear more about it — the equipment changes, but the adventure continues.
Depending in how you’re viewing the site, you might be seeing a “read later” button with each post. This permits those who use Instapaper to quickly add the article to their queue.
I had mentioned using Instapaper as part of my reading workflow and later thought it obvious that I should make the process easier here as well.
For about one week, engineers at NASA’s Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA, and amateur radio operators around the world collaborated to reconstruct an image of Earth sent to them from three smartphones in orbit. The joint effort was part of NASA’s nanosatellite mission, called PhoneSat, which launched on Sunday, April 21st, 2013 aboard the Antares rocket from NASA’s Wallops Island Flight Facility in Virginia.
Education, science, exploration, ingenuity – and ham radio.
You probably have noticed that I’ve turned off and removed all comments from the site. This was intentional as life is simply too short to spend a moment of it dealing with comment spam.
I’ve maintained a blog here, in fits and starts, since 2003. That’s a long, long time and while I never kept a tally, I think it’s safe to say that there hasn’t been even a single day in all that time when at least one spam comment didn’t hit the system. It’s simply a fact of life for bloggers.
I’ve tried all the tools and can tell you that, far and away, the very best tool for trapping comment spam is Akismet. It has worked flawlessly – or at least nearly so. In my case it has caught 100 percent of the spam – but it has also collected a handful of false positives and therein lies the problem.
Every now and then a blogger is bound to write something that gets some folks blood moving faster than usual. And they comment. And if just one of those comments happens to get tossed into the spam folder, a conspiracy theory begins to grow.
Been there, done that.
And so I began scanning through the spam folder every day just to make certain that nothing got pitched that didn’t deserve to be pitched. When I used to get twenty of these a day I told myself it wasn’t a big deal. When it started hitting a hundred a few days each week, I realized that I was spending more time managing the blog than writing it.
I’d prefer to have your comments but to be honest, this last week without them has been like a vacation. The two-way exchange was one of my favorite parts of the blogging experience but it brought with it just enough of a daily burden that it has worn me down.