Dayton 2013 – Recap

Following on the sage comments of Jeff KE9V Dayton 2013 was a mixed experience.  Here are some of the things I noticed:

The Day of the SDR – everyone was showing SDR radios, many of them technically faux-SDRs with very limited control by the software.  Pulling a intermediate RF product off a tap for other processing isn’t SDR folks.  Flash Upgradable bandplan data isn’t SDR either.  Having the control and audio handled by a vendor configured I/O package isn’t SDR as well.

The Meek Shall Inherit – QRP Fantasy – the other overused term was QRP.  Even saw marketing slogans misusing QRP like “Our 100w amps will add some fire to your QRP experience” or something like that…  100w isn’t QRP, nor is 20-30w… but is is a Marketing Buzz Word and sells gear.

Log Periodics are back – with much more mention in forums/banquets and new products showing up.  Some providers are working on wide band Log Periodics designed to pair with the latest radio gear.

Long live the King – dinosaurs in a modern age – there were plenty of vendors showing very long in the tooth arguably obsolete technology hoping their well established good brand name would carry them another year.  I mean who buys station accessories anymore that lack USB or Ethernet connectivity? Expensive rotor controllers with DB-9 serial connection to allow some command line access is stuff that should have been out in the flea market, not on the show floor.

Big Vendors who didn’t show – where was AES?  Where was the owner of MFJ?  Someone said that Ham Radio Station was AWOL too?  I know I wanted to look at a specific headset and was told by the vendors that were there “to look on our website, we have it there” – what crap!!  If I had wanted to browse their website I didn’t need to come to Dayton.  Something fundemental is happening here.

End of an Era – But who are the old timers giving way to? – in an Internet World many of the well known in our hobby are Internet Personalities – and some don’t carry as well in person as they do on the world wide web.  Just like the famous “Peggy” mystery support person in the TV ads, the public really doesn’t have a connection with these web personalities.  Few of the elder icons in our industry seem to be interested in groom heir apparent team members to eventually take over as they age, retire and leave us.  Who will run Gordon West’s enterprise when he retires?  Does the ham public know that person?  Ditto for Bob Heil’s audio world, or any one of our valued icons.

Hello Zigbee, Raspberry-Pi, Arduino, and Beaglebone – the embedded processor and PC on a board seemed to be everywhere.  Lots of devices were available that you programed, plug in and run one of these project boards as the “brains” of the final system.  Even radios were using the Arduino-compatible as their marketing “buzz.”

Marketing becoming a Vaporware Game – Who shows a new transceiver so far from production that the sales guy is waiving his hand saying “eventually the RF deck will go here?” … There were many mock-ups making second or third year appearances with no real products ready.  Even many of the “hot” buzz catching products were mockups “available soon.”

Some class acts – be certain in the midst wading through the unwashed masses there are some class acts.  Several were from overseas and really had their presentation & act together. Some standouts in my eyes were in Audio Alley (W2IHY, Heil), Hilberling, the FlexRadio Systems hands-on demos, Array Solutions on-going mini-forum demonstrations) – there were quite a few more.

Composting or Recycling? – the improbability of the Flea Market – if you haven’t found the Thingerwang XT-1000/J14 Mod 7 you’ve been searching the flea market for since 1967 will you ever find it?  Who cares if you do?  And why are you living in the past?

It Stinks, it’s dirty, it’s unsafe, and that is the upside of the Hara – there is not enough parking and it’s past its prime – Dayton is not a place you’d be proud to show your XYL.  There is NO security and the carnage if even a drill were attempted to evacuate the building would likely be large.  The place just makes me feel dirty and at risk.

Feast or Famine – events were either standing room only (the most popular forums needed twice the seating) or other opportunities were ghost towns ( did any guest operators make contacts at the Special Events Station?  Heck they didn’t even have a chair for a guest to operate from)

Paint Drying vs Rapture – always an interesting observation that stuff that is painful to me is held in nostalgic regard by the next ham.  Once does need to remember one size doesn’t fit all.

Fake Grandiose – right down to “Imported Beer” claims for beer from New England at the Hara Pub!  Or how about the dirty linens on the banquet table Dayton not-so-Grand, or the flea-btten Ramada telling banquet attendees “we’re short of forks” and “our computer system is down today, so we can’t check you out”, or don’t you just love the ubiquitous  car-eating potholes?

What trips my Dayton Trigger?


I do get a chance to meet with and eyeball QSO (face time) with some really great folk.  First I get to spend time with my traveling partner George W9EVT, which is always a privilege.  Next I get to meet with my cousins, who have made Dayton one of our annual gatherings.  Then I get to spend time with a lot of great hams – many who I not only have a great time with on the interpersonal side, but who are kind enough to share their experiences and mentor.

Like all experiences YMMV as I react in my own way to the limitations and features of the event.



Is that Dayton on the Horizon?

Looking ahead fifteen weeks, Dayton 2013 is coming around.

Always makes sense when travel a fair distance to get one’s ducks lined up early, so reservations are being made.

Working to ballance a couple events our small group would like to attend – the the FlexRadio Dinner, the Collins Collector Dinner and one of the Contest or DX Dinners.

I make this one of two anual events where I meet up with the eldest of thre three family branches, so that is truly a highlight to look forward for.

This year George W9EVT is panning to be my navigator for Dayton 2013.  Doing Dayton with George W9EVT is real pleasure as he knows and is friends with so many interesting hams – the wort that are doing neat things.

I’ve also invited my youngest son, Vic KC9NWB to come along.  He will have to decide if he can cut some classes to make Dayton.

Links for this year are:

The Dayton Hamvention Website:
The DX Dinner Webpage:
The Collins Collectors Group Website:
FlexRadio Systems Website:
The Contest Dinner Website:

Hope to see you there!



Hamvention Alternatives (2012)

As I have remained concerned over the quality at Dayton here is a list I put together for my research:

Alternatives to Dayton Hamvention: Orlando FL 10/11/12 February Toronto 24 March Visalia, CA 20/21/22 April Dayton 18/19/20 May Texas 8/9 June Friedrichshafen 22/23/24 June W9DXCC Chicago 14/15 September RSGB Newark UK 28/29 September List of UK Rallies



Dayton 2012 – Thinking and Thinking Hard….

Have had some rough Dayton plans on the boards for month or so.

As usual I am a bit torn. I’d really like to see the people and spend some time at the various functions. I’ve relatives in the area I’d like to see as well.

Then I keep coming back to Hara, the rough side of Dayton with its problems, the investment in time (and money) to do the Dayton run, the likelihood of$4.00+/gallon fuel, with Chicago DOUBLING their tolls for 2012 to circumnavigate the windy city, and then the risks of playing the odds on personal safety.

Having a second cousin robbed at gunpoint at the Dayton Greyhound Station at Christmas puts me even more on edge,

Hearing that Dayton is averaging a murder a night or more.

I hear from Dayton area hams that they won’t go out and about without their conceal carry pistols.

I’ve couple friends who say they would like to go as a group, so perhaps in the end I’ll get past my objections, but it sure is tempting to pick another event to attend.

It doesn’t have to be this way. I attend several tradeshows each year, including some that are either modest fee like Dayton or fully subsidized for the attendees, and none are as seedy & unsafe as a show at the Hara in Dayton.

With a whole lot of use-or-lose air-miles to use in 2012 would I be better off to run the TSA Security-Gauntlet and do one of the other events?

What are your thoughts?



Dayton Dust – Hamvention Reflected

Some closing Dayton Hamvention thoughts before I move onto other topics.

The pluses of Dayton 2011 - People! I had the fantastic opportunity to spend time with my friend George W9EVT traveling, visit family who made Dayton the focus of a long overdue reunion, met lots of old and new friends, spent time talking first hand with developers & vendors of products I’m interested in, learned much first hand from those presenting.

The downs of Dayton 2011 - Logistics! It is a day’s run to get to a place that bluntly is substandard. Living in the present, rather than taking on the rose colored glasses of a nostalgia for Dayton’s Past, the place simply isn’t “destination quality.”

The ROI (Return on Investment) and CBA (Cost/Benefit Analysis) is still working for Dayton because of the people. Really if I wanted to see “stuff” I would be money ahead to order everything that interested me, have it shipped to me, and return what I didn’t like or want. But with a hobby that is about communication – about sharing a personal interface with others – it really is the people that holds Dayton together by overcoming the squalor.

Having done trade shows, including hobby shows, in several countries I am embarrassed that we pretend that Dayton is a “nice place” to meet & show our good side to fellow amateurs from around the world. We can blow all the smoke we want, but it is simply isn’t much of a place compared to how many of these other shows run.

On the CBA basis there are alternative – Hamcation, Ham-Com, and overseas, then a great number of regional and/or focus events. Last year I attended the W9DXCC which remains on my radar for this year.

Now there is a bit of personal focus – I am not a Flea Market person by temperament, and am busy enough that I really appreciate easy, clean, well run recreational events. I know that this is different for folk who have have the smarts & interest to sift through the bargains in the swap meet.

Dayton Past may have been better – though most of the nostalgia I hear centers on People, which remains a highlight.

Dayton Present is what it is – a bunch of great people meeting in a facility that in many other places would have long ago been condemned. Again the People make up for so much.

Dayton Tomorrow – is a for me a “Big Maybe.” I’ve skipped several years, and mostly had people reasons to return (friends and/or family). My son Tom KC9JGD wanted to go a couple years ago, and if I get a chance to spend time with George W9EVT I am always happy to be the driver. Another son Winston KC9FVR asked about this year, though his school schedule conflicted, where next year it looks like he would be free to go. I still have family in the Dayton area.

That said perhaps it is time to see if the “grass is greener on the other side of the fence” and pick one or more alternative events to attend? Maybe one overseas and combine the travel with catching up with friends & family there?

Look at that question – again it comes down to “the people” and perhaps no matter what that it is “the people” that make an event, wherever & whenever something special?



Dayton – 2011 – Random Notes Edition 6

Returned home about an few hours ago, straight forward nice 7 hour run. Pretty decent traveling.

Some last thoughts in this series about Dayton and about Ham Radio.

The Hamvention simply has to move to a better venue. Apparently plans to move in 2008 to an as yet built new Dayton Expo Center failed when backers fell out due to the poor economy, but that is lame excuse for wallowing in the Hara Dump. When basic needs like bathrooms and ventilation repeatedly don’t work, and the general shabbiness of the amenities is taken into account, the show is great, the site doesn’t deserve the show. I’m not going to dwell on this, as for me there is the honor of being the transport for my friend George W9EVT, which trumps pulling out while he wants to attend. A couple years back my son Tom KC9JGD attended and all three of the boys expressed interest in attending something amateur radio, but between school and Tom’s memories of lousy food, the unclean Hara, sweltering in unventilated forums, being accosted by street vermin (verbal, as I suggested they would be better off finding someone else to bother), and dour Dayton itself – well he said he’d rather work…. That tells the tale right there – the Hamvention of yesterday doesn’t hold enough for youth to build enough interest to overcome the downside.

It is sort of like showing your best jewelry with the pieces cast into a bucket of mud. The jewelry – in the Hamvention case the vendors and education – still is the same shinny product, but the display setting is poor. [EDIT - I didn’t realize the “pearls in the muck” analogy was so accurate, as a number of Outside Vendors had to relocated during the show as sewage broke through the surface flooding their allocated spots with raw pong-water – again showing the infrastructure at the Hara is very past it’s prime, and in decay.]

That leads to “The Alternate Dayton” – events like the QRP Four Days in May (FDIM) started it, but there are an increasing number of Dayton Area, but NOT at the Hara events that you can fill your entire Dayton experience with. These events are becoming more and more popular for a variety of reasons:

  • First they don’t try to be everything to everybody, and have a shared focus of excellence.
  • Second they tend to he held at higher quality facilities – places with onsite parking, clean facilities and working A/C.
  • Third they tend to a shared decorum – less of the odd antics folk with HT’s hairsprayed into their beehive hairstyle, or wearing hardhats with antennas bristling.
  • Fourth they tend to be “Living FOR the Future” of the hobby, rather than “living IN the Past.”

General impression is that the decline in attendance has stabilized, though to what percentage the support of the Alternative Events share responsibility?

A lot of Ham Radio history is just that “History” and is so far from the state of the hobby, while being distant enough from the leading edge of the hobby that you “can’t see here from there.” Will Boat Anchors continue to interest people as those who originally knew this gear when it was new leave the hobby or become SKs? Or will the hobby have more folk like myself who would like a single affordable representative Boat Anchor setup, while having little time to even think about collecting these large pieces? Pretty good question…..

Another interesting phenomena is the broadening differences between various classes of hams:

  • The Experimenter who has his most fun when developing and trying out new ideas.
  • The Tinkerer who gets their enjoyment from repairing/modifying/restoring gear, mostly older gear – or gear old enough to at least be out of warranty.
  • The Operator who wants the station they assemble to simply Work, while giving less thought as to what the tech specs are.
  • The Status Hound who might not get on the air hardly at all, though has an IC-7800, an Orion-II, and an FT-9000 and lets you know all about it.
  • The Sportsman who is driven by pure performance, whatever the source or pedigree.
  • The QRPer who with a Zen-like passion is drive to see how much they can do with how absolutely little.
  • The Ready-Alert Emcomm focused who is ready for something, just when is that sometime going to happen?…..
  • The Disco Dandy who is locked in a sharply focused, often single band/model, focus on one of the product offerings from the 70’s or 80’s.
  • The Retro-Ham who is having a blast rediscovering old technology – whether tubes, crystals or something less common, and building up new old style rigs.
  • The Tanner (because they mostly expose themselves to U-V of UHF/VHF) who is puzzled why anyone wants any radio that can’t be clipped to your belt.
  • The Birdman who is working Satellites….
  • The Map-Man who is DX focused…

Well you get the idea, and there are others I’ve not recognized, and of course most amateurs have a mix of several of these traits.

An interesting mix to market to, as in general the expectations of each type have increased each decade. Perhaps expecting the Hamvention to extend to meet these expectations is too much?

I’m going to leave the idea of what could replace the Hamvention for myself, and what should happen to return the Hara to the the basics expected to be worth the trip, for a week or so from now after I’ve had time to think some more.

Very curious what your take is?