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?



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2 thoughts on “Dayton – 2011 – Random Notes Edition 6

  1. WS4E says:

    My suggestion is to move it to Louisville (cross roads of I65 I64 and I71).

    A great city right smack in the middle of the USA, that is why UPS chose it. They have great facilities and routinely get some great conventions because of it.

  2. Mike Young says:

    Thoroughly enjoyed your Dayton posts. Wish I had taken better notes while I was there. Guess I’m one who goes to Dayton partly for HARA. Yes, I’m living in the past but it was a better time at least for me. I have been going there since 1969 and have watched Hamvention go from a one day event to the three day event it is today. I volunteer in the Inside Exhibits for DARA. Of the many perks most enjoyed are onsite parking and I usually get there around 7am so if I need to use the restrooms can get in before the crowds muck them up. I’m lucky to still be healthy enough to not need to use the restrooms multiple times a day. And I enjoy the confusing setting and as an volunteer get to help folks find things. It helps that Dayton is only a 3 1/2 hour drive from my QTH near Akron, Ohio. Don’t know if I’d be as enthusiastic if I had to take a day to travel to a different venue. I have been to the Louisville Hamfest and I believe the entire Hamvention could be under roof of the facility they use. But all that aside I do agree with your comments… HARA is a dump but I’m going to enjoy it as long as it is used and I can attend walking on my own too feet. Not sure where else in Dayton they could hold the event. GO FLEX… Just got my 5K last December… Attended the Flex Banquet enjoyed it immensely and to think I almost changed my mind to hang with the AMSAT bunch who I work with thru the year and at their booth. But it all worked out. Enough of my ramblings… 73’s Mike, WB8CXO

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