Posts Tagged ‘dayton’

It’s Not About Hara

There’s been a festering, ongoing social media battle over Hamvention, its new venue, the fairground in Xenia, and the old Hara arena.  It seems this has bubbled up to the surface again with the recent tornado disaster in Trotwood which severely damaged homes and the venerable, but severely dilapidated Hara Arena.

I won’t dispute that Hara was a dump.  It was a major dump.  It was abused over the years and its long tenuous financial history is available for anyone who wants to find it on the interwebs.  Despite being a dump, Hara was an ideal venue for the Hamvention.  Hamvention started there, grew with Hara even through its physical decline, and the legendary event arguably was molded and enabled by the capabilities the site offered.  Hara may be rebuilt and Hamvention may or may not return to Hara, but I’m not going to bet on it or even entertain the thought.

What bothers me is that some dismiss any commentary or criticism of the Xenia location as merely Hara Arena fanatics sore over the loss of Hara, or simply as complainers.  That’s not the case.  I’ll acknowledge that Xenia was likely the best choice out of a few choices at the time, but it’s just not well suited long term for the Hamvention.   There’s a lack of major highways and hotels nearby. The mud pit parking has become legendary.  The buildings are more suited to host livestock than technology.  The flea market is in the grassy track center, because, well, there’s no where else to put it.  And last, the venue doesn’t feel like the largest amateur radio gathering in the western hemisphere.  It feels like a county fair with amateur radio.

It’s not realistic to think Hamvention will return to Hara anytime soon.  I think what many of us would like to see is a realization that Xenia isn’t an ideal location, and it has changed the character of the event.  Xenia was a prudent, stopgap measure taken under difficult circumstances.  Now that the immediate threat to the future of the event has passed, the Hamvention powers that be should seek a better venue for Hamvention and not settle for Xenia.

This article originally appeared on Radio Artisan.

New ICOM and Yaesu products at Dayton?

Dayton is often the place where ICOM and Yaesu announce new products. I’d like to see a replacement to the FT817 from Yaesu, but have all but given up hope. Certainly a few years ago they would have released at a time of sunspot peak. As it is, we have years of falling conditions, so not the best “window of opportunity.”

Dayton 2016

Another year, another Dayton in the history books.  This was my third Hamvention trek, but this year was a bit different for me as I attended with my girlfriend.  She somehow coaxed me into it, despite my concerns she would be bored out of her mind.  However, we both had a great time.

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Happy Hamventioners

I didn’t take as many pictures this year.  At times I felt I could have recycled photos from the last two years and no one would notice.  But there were some new sights to see….

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Mannequintenna? 

 

Yaesu was handing out truckloads of free “Yaesu 60th Anniversary” hats and other logo-adorned swag as usual.  I was tempted to alter a hat to say “Yaesu FT-817 60th Anniversary” as the long-in-the-tooth rig continues to be offered with no modern update in sight.  Ride that pony, Yaesu.  As Jeff KE9V reported, no, the FT-891 is not an 817 replacement.  It’s not an FT-897 replacement, either, so don’t ask.  The FT-817 continues to be the Keith Richards of amateur radio rigs.

 

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Required Equipment in Hara Arena Bathrooms

The Kenwood booth actually had visitors in contrast with last year when there were more tumbleweeds than attendees.  Their newly announced super duper digital VHF/UHF rig undoubtedly attracted inquiries, though shame on their product line management people for not having it ready to sell at Dayton.  In Kenwood’s defense, Yaesu’s new FT-891 wasn’t available for purchase, either.

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When All Else Fails, Make a Daiquiri 

 

The crazy rig-selling train known as Elecraft continues barreling down the track.  As everyone is undoubtedly well aware now, they released the KX2 at the Hamvention.  No, this isn’t an X-rated version of the K2, or two K1s merged together, it’s a smaller KX3 without 6 meters or 2 meter add-on capability.  This rig could have been a Yaesu FT-817 killer if it had VHF and UHF capability and reasonable pricing.  2 meter capability especially would have made sense to include considering this rig has the size and essentially the form factor of an HT.  No doubt Elecraft will sell a ton of these rigs, but then again if they released a new version of the K1 packaged in a 55 gallon drum, they would sell them by the dump truck load.

I question how much longer Elecraft can keep up this sales momentum which I often feel is fueled by unreasonable customer loyalty.  (Full disclosure: I own three Elecraft rigs.)  Last year’s big announcement was the K3S, an improved K3, which teed off new K3 owners. This year’s release was a repackaged KX3.  Elecraft seems to be innovating less and recycling products more.

 

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Domo Arigato, Mr. Roboto

 

I’m pleased to report there was a robot competition area and a local Makerspace representative booth.  It’s good to see more Maker-oriented vendors and displays, which is really going to be the key to growing amateur radio after our older amateurs go silent key in the next decade.  Hamvention folks, please, keep increasing this type of content.

 

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Mendelson’s Flea Market Tent Family Planning Center

The flea market appeared to be the same size, with many long standing attendees selling the same junk, I mean, classic wares.  I think there were less amplifiers for sale this year.  That’s just a gut feeling, but I seem to recall many more amps last year.  The same goes for rigs.

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No Hamvention report would be complete without mentioning the condition of Hara Arena.  Yes, good old Hara Arena.  This is the final year for Hara.  Seriously.  I’m going on record and predicting it now.  Really.  This is it.  Seriously.  Last year’s announced multi-million dollar renovation plan fell through.  I can’t imagine the facility can continue operating in its ever-worsening condition as it’s become a human safety nightmare that would cause any sane insurance company underwriter to run away screaming like their hair was on fire.  Expect something to happen prior to the next Hamvention, either the occupancy permit being revoked, or the building turning into a pile a rubble on its own or by wrecking ball.  Last year.  Trust me.  That being said, I left late afternoon Saturday sadly waving bye to Hara Arena thinking this may be the last year, like I was losing a dying friend.  But the Hamvention is not Hara Arena, and Hara is not the Hamvention.

Dayton 2015 – Part 2 of ?

(…continued from Part 1)

This year I stayed in downtown Dayton, at the Dayton Marriott.  It was my first experience driving in downtown Dayton as last year I stayed at a hotel close to Hara north of town.  Dayton has obviously seen better days, and folks walking the streets living in poverty is a common sight.  Driving through downtown Friday morning I wondered what the locals thought of all the vehicles with antennas driving by for one weekend out of the year.  Do they know anything about amateur radio?  The word Dayton to us means amateur radio Mecca, but to them Dayton is just the place they live day in and day out, trying to eek out a living.  They were likely born here, will die here, and probably will not get to see much of the world outside of Dayton.  I think back to my childhood growing up in backwoods Pennsylvania, and I’m thankful for the people and opportunities I had that made me successful and steered me away from several perhaps less fortunate alternative realities.  Amateur radio was undoubtedly a positive influence, one that got me to where I am technically and professionally today.

Dayton has overhead electric wires for trolleys.  I can’t recall ever seeing this in my travels.  I didn’t see any trolleys, however there were several city buses using the overhead electric wires.  I wondered what it would take to equip an electric car with poles to attach to the electric lines and and get free energy for your vehicle (evil grin).   IMG_5696

Electric Avenue

Last year I promised myself that in 2015 I would spend less time on the flea market and more time on the floor and in forums.  I was partially successful, attending one additional forum this year, the Clandestine Spy forum.  This was a standing-room only presentation covering the equipment and techniques used by the Resistance during WWII.  There were a lot of photographs.

The AMSAT forum covered all the activities and projects the organization is working on, of which there are many.  In the Fox 1 program there are four or five satellite projects in progress and at various phases.  The big news was the potential for a geosynchronous payload, something satellite aficionados have been fantasizing about for decades.  The amount of work that goes into these projects from an engineering, fundraising, political, and project management perspective is mind-boggling.  It can’t be understated how complex this is.  It is indeed rocket science.  The expertise and human resources behind all this is impressive, and I can’t imagine the amount of time AMSAT volunteers and officers spend on this, as most undoubtedly have day jobs in engineering, technology, and science fields. IMG_5710

AMSAT Forum

One speaker in the AMSAT forum presentation touched upon something that really struck a cord with me and others.  Kids often see amateur radio operators as just operators.  What really sparks interest in kids are experimenters and experimentation.  What AMSAT is doing is experimentation, and at an extreme level.  Space is interesting to kids, but it’s difficult to be hands on with it due to the very nature of it, and these satellites and the projects AMSAT is leading gives them access to this.  AMSAT goes beyond providing flying repeaters for amateurs, but also partners extensively with universities, government agencies, and K-12 schools. IMG_5712

Where to find Fox 1

This is not meant to belittle other activities within amateur radio, but I don’t think most people realize just how complex and far-reaching the activities of AMSAT-NA and other AMSAT organizations around the world are, and the benefit this offers to amateur radio today and into the future.  While ragchewing, contesting, and DXing are traditional staple activities within amateur radio, the work of AMSAT has real world impact, and this is a vehicle for getting new people into amateur radio, ones that will likely stick around for the long haul.  Case in point, sitting behind me during the presentation were two young guys, both from Virginia Tech and recently licensed.  They are involved in an AMSAT project writing software for one of the birds.  In talking with them it was clear they were very intelligent and they had a passion for what they were doing.  Undoubtedly they will get high-paying engineering jobs upon graduating.  Will they ever pick up a microphone or CW key?  Maybe not, but satellite work has them hooked and it looks great on a resume. As one AMSAT speaker half jokingly quipped, there is no free launch. All of this costs money, and a lot of it.  AMSAT is continually seeking donations and new members.  With my annual membership running out, I decided to take the plunge and sign up for a lifetime membership.

The Ballonsat forum was quite interesting and was well attended with a good number of movers and shakers who frequently launch, track, and recover balloons and payloads.  A new area covered was pico balloons which are smaller balloons with extremely lightweight and small payloads.  Several people have been launching these around the world with great success, some traversing the globe five to ten times.

Friday night I attended the DX Dinner and got to network with movers and shakers in the DX world.  It was worth the cost of the meal as I won a Comet antenna analyzer door prize.  Not surprisingly, K1N was announced as the the DXpedition of the year.

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DX Pileup

While I lamented about about flea market Neanderthals in the first part of this article, there were positive social aspects to the Hamvention.  One morning walking in the crosswalk across the road going into Hara I observed an attendee thanking a black police officer stationed in the street for his service as a police officer.  At lunch I could strike up a friendly conversation with anyone, total strangers.  Folks stopped me to take a picture of my Morse code key tee shirt, many commented and laughed about it.  There continues to be a sense of camaraderie in amateur radio.  For this I’m thankful. IMG_5714

Flea Market Pedestrian Mobile

The ARRL area was superb.  ARRL folks should be commended on the layout and organization of their area.  They have all the bases covered and all booths within the area were well staffed.  I brought a stack of QSL cards in for DXCC checking.  The staff there did a great job of helping me out, after figuring out I initially screwed up my paperwork.  I’ll continue to say it, but despite ARRL’s flaws and our disagreements, we are truly lucky to have such a hardworking organization within amateur radio. IMG_5691

ARRL Area

Those often annoying, sometimes threatening death machines known as rental scooters continue to roam the Hamvention.  I don’t know if it was that I’ve become more accustomed to them or there truly are less of them, but it sure seemed to me that there weren’t as many as last year.  What’s happening to the scooter people?  Are they dying off?  Are they disappearing during the Hamvention?  Inquiring minds want to know. Undoubtedly the liability insurance for such an activity would be expensive, but I would love to have a scooter demolition derby some Hamvention afternoon.  Folks could rent dilapidated scooters or bring their own pimped-out scooters for a battle royale of destruction and excitement.  (Hamvention committee members, I can make this happen, you know where to reach me.  I want a cut of the profits from beer sales. :-)

….to be continued…

This article was originally published on the Radio Artisan blog.

Dayton 2015 – Part 1 of ?

I made the trek again to Dayton this year, my second pilgrimage to the largest amateur radio event on this side of the planet.  Realizing there are several other blogs, podcasts, and Internet broadcast shows covering Dayton, I will attempt to limit my observations to those you likely won’t see elsewhere.

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The Hara Arena we all know and love continues to be, well, Hara Arena.  The good news is renovations are in the works.  A Hamvention official told me it’s for real and probably a three to four year project.  Yaaaaaay!IMG_5681

Tower Girl, Back at Dayton!

The differences between the Yaesu, Icom, Kenwood, and Elecraft booths were quite notable.  Yaesu was giving away hats and entering people for prizes drawings.  They often had a line extending well out into the concession area and their System Fusion hats were worn by hamfest goers everywhere.  They had employees stationed at each area of the booth and the booth had a continual number of visitors.  I stopped by and looked at HTs and a friendly Yaesu employee helped me out.

 

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Yaesu’s New FT2DR HT

Icom’s booth was smaller, but was more high tech and hip-looking.  It was more crowded due to its small size.  Icom was generating a good deal of interest, with visitors often extending out into the aisle area.  Icom should really get a bigger booth next year.

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Icom’s Tower Motif Booth

Elecraft’s booth was very busy, as usual, and was well staffed.  They even had volunteers staffing the booth.  It was difficult to make your way into their booth to see the rigs on display, it was that crowded.   A table on the end had three order takers.  Even one of the founders of the business was busying taking orders.  It goes without saying, but Elecraft essentially has a money-printing machine that is running full tilt with no signs of stopping.

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The Kenwood Booth

Kenwood’s booth was well built and arguably the most spacious, but it was the least visited.  There was much whitespace on the walls.  I looked at their three HTs on display and I couldn’t get any of them to power up.  I looked around thinking maybe someone would notice me and assist.  Behind one podium there were two Kenwood employees talking to each other.  Behind the other podium the two Kenwood employees were talking with visitors, one employee chomping down a candy bar.  No one was out walking in the open booth area, and no one helped me.  This seemed to be the general state of the Kenwood booth each time I walked by.  It’s like no one is really trying and the goal was merely to show up, which they did.  Being a long time Kenwood fan, this really troubles me.

In regards to equipment, two notable announcements were the Elecraft K3S and perhaps the Flex Radio Meastro.  The Elecraft K3S is essentially an update to the now-discontinued K3.  The buzz on the street is that it’s a performance upgrade, mainly to get the platform back up to the top of the performance charts.  Several current K3 owners and recent orderers are reportedly a bit miffed, which is to be expected.  The Flex Radio Maestro is a hardware frontend / remote dashboard unit for the Flex radio 6000 series.  Yaesu did not announce an FT-817 replacement, which salespeople in the booth sheepishly acknowledged.  Yaesu was pushing System Fusion like mad.  Icom had a separate D-STAR booth that was educational and impressive. Kenwood…?

Hiberling was there with their rig you can’t afford.  DZ Kits had an interesting booth with their rigs scattered about, many with the covers off and in various states of assembly or disassembly.  There were several (many?) little DSP rig companies, so many that it’s difficult to differentiate them.  I wonder how many are selling sufficient numbers of rigs to state financially afloat.

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Icom’s Rig You Can’t Afford

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Yaesu’s Rig You Might Be Able to Afford

 

The flea market had the usual wares, but it’s shrinking.  The parking lot continues to evolve from asphalt to black sand.  I recognized several items for sale that I saw last year at stands.  Folks, if you’re bringing the same stuff back to Dayton each year, it’s probably overpriced.  I don’t care if it was $10K thirty years ago, you’re not going to get $300 for a solid brass ship compass or a gas mask.

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Need a 25 Watt Laser for your World Domination Plan?

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Deals You Can’t Refuse

On four occasions I walked up to flea market stands where gruff-looking, optimism-challenged OFs were talking about politics and one where the single digit IQ attendee was complaining about people speaking Spanish.  I guess if your junk isn’t selling and you’re bored with amateur radio it’s difficult to be positive and talk about the hobby or something other than politics.  I wish these people would just stay home rather than putting their mantras on display at the Hamvention.  Attendees who agree with this OF mindset can get their fill by listening to broadcast AM radio, and those who don’t didn’t come to a hamfest be schooled in political drivel.  But I digress.

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Got Mics?

It was nice to see a few unattended flea market tables with “pay what you want” and honor system payment boxes.  Perhaps the Hamvention could increase flea market occupancy by offering free spots to sellers doing all “pay what you want”, unattended, or all free giveaway tables.  What extra amateur radio stuff I have I would rather give away than sit behind a table for two days, only to garner a few bucks selling half of it and taking the rest home.

The Hamvention appears to be continuing to pursue a Maker theme, but there is a dearth of Maker content and products for sale.  I don’t fault the Hamvention team for this, and applaud their efforts.  I think it’s going in the right direction and is going to be crucial to keeping the Hamvention, and other hamfests, sustainable into the future.  (More about this in a future article.)  Rather than just write or complain about this, I am plan to make an effort to help.  I’m going to write a proposal for an Arduino forum and a related activity.  If you’re interested in presenting or participating, send me an email ([email protected]).

More about Dayton 2015 in the next article…

The scoop from Elecraft at FDIM

So Elecraft came to FDIM today, to announce the new K3S.

The new product is an enhanced K3 with many new features - here's a link to a .pdf which explains them all in detail. And here's a link to a FAQ.

It appears the new K3S will be approximately $500 more than the old version, and the original K3 has been "discontinued" or "replaced" - whichever you prefer. In addition, it appears most, but not all the enhancements will be retro-fittable to make a K3 a K3S. The new bezel and the attenuator, for instance, will not.



I wonder - how does the guy feel who took delivery on a brandy new K3, in the very recent past?  Are they happy because  they squeaked under the wire and got their K3 at the lower price?  Or are they feeling a bit miffed because they ordered and received something that is no longer "the latest and the greatest"?  Except for the cosmetics, it appears that you can pretty much turn your existing K3 almost into a K3S - and you do have a "system" that is continually upgradable. So if you're an Elecraft owner, you can take comfort in the fact that when you buy something, the company does its best to stand behind their product and you.

I for one, am quite happy with my KX3's. They're all the radio I need, and should Elecraft come out with a KX3S tomorrow, I would not be bothered in the least.

The morning UStream feed from FDIM was disappointing. If you attempted to watch it, you saw that only a portion of the video picture appeared and none of the audio. Basically, you missed the entire Elecraft K3S presentation. Things got straightened out during Rev. Dobb's presentation and we were able to hear that the good Reverend was inaugurated as QRP-ARCI's very first Lifetime Member.

The silver lining is that hopefully the feed will be up and running normally for the remaining sessions.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Something new from Elecraft?

Will Elecraft be introducing something new at Hamvention tomorrow? Seems like it to me. Eric and Wayne posted the following on Facebook:


Notice the use of tomorrow's date in the display. Also - the current black chassis radios in the Elecraft line are the K3 and the KX3.  Both use black screws on the bezel - not silver. AND the last character before the word "Transceiver" on both radios is a "3" ...... not an "s". Lastly, there's no current radio in the Elecraft line (that I'm aware of) that has that little "down arrow" above the VFO knob.

Seems to me that a major announcement is in the offing for tomorrow. I guess time will tell!

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

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