Those Were the Days
It’s going to seem weird not going to Dayton this week.
I’ve tried to do a reconciliation from foggy memories of my many visits and I think I’ve been to Hamvention 39 or 40 of the last 46 years. Living just 90 miles away it’s an easy annual sojourn.
I don’t feel bad saying that while the move from Hara Arena was necessary and non-optional, it hasn’t really felt like Dayton Hamvention to me since. There are obviously many things about the new facility that are better, it’s just a different experience. I have so many fond memories from Hara that I don’t suppose it will ever be the same for me. New hams can form their own mental connections with Xenia, I’ll continue to reflect warmly on the way we were.
To be honest it’s not so much Hamvention that I’m going to miss this year. It’s Four Days in May. FDIM is a long-running QRP happening that began in a previous century (yeah, I was there then too) when some wise guys got the notion to tack an extra day onto the normal Hamvention three-day weekend. Over the years it became one of the top QRP conventions on the planet. I’ve been to all but a few FDIM’s since they began and I’ll miss it most of all.
My own entry into the modern QRP movement can be traced to the explosion in the late 1990s. It was an exciting time when new hardware designs and techniques were bursting onto the scene no doubt assisted by the fact that everyone finally had email and the web. Elecraft tossed more fuel on the fire with the release of its K2 transceiver and the rest is literally history.
I’ve had a lot of fun and learned so much running with the low-power crowd exclusively for many years while drinking the five watt kool-aid. That all has cooled in recent years though. QRP ain’t what it used to be. I blamed a lot of that on the pain brought by Solar Cycle 24 and the poor propagation that attended it. With the higher bands closed tight for long periods of time it sorta felt like the QRP movement was losing steam.
More likely was that those of us who were a part of the 90s explosion just got old, and tired. And a few became Silent Keys. Sustaining a movement like that at a fever pitch for years on end requires constant infusion of new blood and it’s tough to say if there is enough available to keep it flowing. A brief resurgence brought back some of that old time religion when Parks on the Air first got underway, but now POTA seems mostly dominated by 100 watt portable stations.
Over the last several years a hundred QRP blogs have fallen silent and most of the clubs have been abandoned. One of the few that remained in operation simply forgot about one of their own popular operating events a few years ago, they missed it.
Yeah, I’m going to miss FDIM this year. It’s the largest gathering of the old gang who still share ideas and techniques with whoever will listen. But mostly they share warm memories from those days when every issue of QST and CQ magazine had more QRP content than would fit in the pages available. Now those were the days.