Thursday, May 25, 2017

Dayton Hamvention Recap

Rain was one of the defining characteristics of this year's Hamvention. It got very wet out there in the grass fields used for parking and the flea market. The rain even followed me home, making for a somewhat gray and depressing drive. That is, other than the conversations with my fellow travellers.

Rain also featured on my return. On Monday (a holiday in most of Canada) the tower service company called and delayed completion of the foundation work for my big tower, again. And then again midweek. We apparently got several centimeters of rain while I was away and more is in the forecast. May rainfall has broken all historical records in much of eastern Ontario.

While the rain falls and tower work is delayed I have a few moments to write down my experience of Dayton. It's been 25 or 26 years since my previous attendance and much has changed. When you frequently attend an event changes might not be obvious since each step is small. In my case it was one very large step crossing from one generation to the next. Already by 1990 the Hara site was deteriorating so the move to Xenia is appreciated and needed.

I'll quickly step through my experiences, touching only lightly on each to keep this article brief. I do not need to repeat what everyone else has had to said about the Hamvention.

Mud: The reports about it are true. Continuous traffic in the wet turf parking areas turned them into lakes of mud. Rev the engine with the wheels on solid turf to gain the momentum to get over the hill of mud and reach pavement. The messy flea market kept many people away on Saturday but not enough to bring down prices! In the hope of great deals I waded into the muck. Even so I still enjoyed myself. I crossed off many of the lines on my shopping list.

Access by road: Friday was hell and then got remarkably better on Saturday. I got out of the car on that first morning and walked the last few miles. I'm a distance runner and cyclist so this was no great effort. Aside from the pleasant walk past the miles of cars it was a surprising opportunity to meet old friends and make new ones. I was frequently slowed by pleasant conversation.

Flea market: There was less junk than I remembered. I expect most of the old, heavy equipment is now in landfills. The equipment on display was of more recent vintage, and the selection was great: from parts for the QRP experimenter to big gun equipment such as prop pitch motors and Alpha amplifiers.

I stocked up on Heliax connectors and adapters even though most of what was available was 7-16 DIN. These are great connectors but I need more N connectors at the tower and station ends. I can use DIN to splice lines, especially at the tower bases for grounding cables. There were few extreme bargains in the flea market, though I found a few. The DIN to N adapter was a pleasant surprise. The free DIN to something adapter next to it remains a puzzle. The seller didn't know either so he kindly made a gift of it to me. Conversation in the flea market was friendly and unhurried. It was well worth the mud spatter.

Getting around: Because I carpooled to Dayton I did not have my own transportation while there. This became a problem since I was dependent on others and could not attend everything I wanted and had to travel even when not convenient. I walked when the distances weren't too great. Others were happy to help out in a pinch, for which I'm grateful. These included Glenn VE3XRA, the president of RAC, a ham from HamNation in a vehicle with WKRP TV plates, and of course from my fellow Ontario contesters I shared rooms with. Next time I plan to take my own car.

Forums: I attended a few of these. It's something I eschewed in years past since I generally was more interesting in shopping and meeting people rather than sitting and listening to presentations. Perhaps I changed. Without going into detail I'll mention the best talks I heard. The best was by Dr. Tamitha Skov of Space Weather fame. She was informative and entertaining and spoke well to a ham audience despite not being one. Second best was by W5OV of the CQWW contest committee who took on the disqualification controversy with panache and humour. I suspect that even the guilty parties would have enjoyed the talk. Talks I disliked were thinly disguised sales pitches.

Contest hospitality: I attended the hospitality suite Saturday evening after the contest dinner. I did not attend the contest dinner since I am bored by speeches and turned off by the food. Reports indicate I was right on both scores. However I did miss out on some interesting table conversation. The hospitality suite itself was very tame. Years ago it was often a wild affair with bathtubs full of ice and beer, impromptu pizza orders, pursuit of operators for multi-ops and less savoury activities in the wee hours. But we were all younger then, and it is much the same people. With age many like their comforts and the level of organization, while commendable, made it a somewhat dull affair to my eyes. That said, there was much enjoyable conversation to be had.

Attendees: Most attendees were like me: white, male baby boomers. But not all. There were far more women in attendance and all people of all colours and ethnicities. More young people than I expected were there, far more than are seen at Canadian events. US hams are doing a better job recruiting youth, and I hear that Europe is doing even more. However ham radio will not be the same once the older generation passes. For the present the numbers and activity levels are there, and well represented in Dayton.

People: I rubbed shoulders with some well known hams. I'll mention two. One was Nodir EY8MM. I made a point of speaking to him since he has a long acquaintance with a good friend of mine who asked me to pass on his regards. Notice the camera in his hands. On his web site you'll see some of the excellent photographs he has taken, many of which are from the DXpeditions he's been on. If you're a DXer you've certainly worked him. The other person is Richard K0XG of rotating tower fame. A pleasant chat with him ensued in the course of my friend negotiating the purchase of a prop pitch motor in the flea market muck.

Product: As noted everywhere there were numerous products introduced at Dayton. I saw it all although I avoided the lineups and crowds around those exhibitor booths since it is not the best way to learn about the products. I'll wait for the reviews. One display of note was Flex Radio that had several Maestro remotes connected to stations around the continent that you could listen and tune around on. That was a nice touch.

LUSO120US (I believe)
The only other product I'll touch on is the Luso crank up tower you see pictured here. From all the other cameras present I'd guess it was the most photographed product at the Hamvention. It looks impressive with a price to match.

Without deriding Luso I do question the value for money. With transportation, heavy equipment, concrete and other costs I strongly suspect that for those hams that do not climb towers it would be less challenging and more cost effective to go with a conventional guyed tower and pay a professional climber to raise and maintain antennas and related equipment.

Of course there was a lot that I missed in the flea market, exhibits, forums and social venues. I picked my spots and did not rush about more than necessary. I expect that I'll attend again next year or the year after.

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