Saturday, October 12, 2019

I Guess I'm In Another One of Those Awkward Phases

This one has to do with hamfests, which are usually annual events in any given city where hams get together to socialize, sell extra gear, buy extra gear, attend talks and more.  By "annual in any given city," I mean that in many places in the country a local ham club usually hosts one annually, but that within a couple of hours of driving there might be a few in a year.  If you're into taking longer trips there's one going on every weekend for various driving distances.

Here in the Silicon Swamp, the annual fest is held by the biggest club in the county, the Platinum Coast Amateur Radio Society.  I know I've mentioned going to it pretty much annually and while we've gone to the granddaddy hamfest in Dayton, Ohio, including the last one actually in Dayton (they had to move to Xenia, OH) we pretty much go to only two every year: Melbourne and Orlando (which is now one of the biggest in the nation).

What I should have done was rented a table to sell off some of my extra gear.  But with the lightning strike and the uncertainties that came with that, I didn't get a table.  The only thing I looked for was a couple of adapters for connecting coaxial cables,  since I had to put one into place when I fixed my antennas.  I found them; paid a little more than I would have preferred, but I got the two I was looking for. If you include the cost of two tickets ($20) and a couple of diet cokes for both of us ($8), the coax adapters were extremely overpriced.

For several years, I've been happy with my radio situation and not really added much to my station since 2011.  Two exceptions come to mind.  I stumbled across a good SHTF ham transceiver at this hamfest five years ago, and bought an unusual general coverage receiver three years ago, but that was it.  I don't buy and sell radios all the time.  We're at the point in our lives when we think more about getting rid of clutter than adding things.  We got to chatting with several friends I used to work with and we're all in the de-cluttering mode.  Confidential to Gen X, and younger - there's going to be a lot of excess gear available as the population bubble ages out of various hobbies.  It's a buyer's market on some things already.

This is rambling (who? me? rambling?) but in all of our hamfest trips in the last 9-1/2 years life of this blog, we've bought next to nothing.  They're a combination of "social trips" and "because we always do."  Orlando is to far and too inconvenient to get a table and try to sell things, so it's either going to be online sales or save it to try to sell next year.

Maybe by then I'll have the amplifier fixed.  Or at least know if it's worth fixing. 


  1. Maybe it has always been that way, but HAM radio seems overly concerned with contesting, "working all states" or 100 countries or whatever.

    FT8 - the new digital-mode hotness - is programmed so that while QSOs are possible, actually using the mode to communicate is not. It is great that it has such ability to process weak signals, but you can't use it for EMCOMM. Or is it only "Public Service" now?

    Filling in Log Book of the World isn't the only reason people get into Ham radio, but it sure pushed me out. I have an ICOM all-in-one radio in a box somewhere, and I have a 2 meter that I used to have in my car, but I didn't install it in the new-to-me-SUV, and that switch was almost 4 years ago.

    It also doesn't help, that although I have a General license, most guys just assume I can't possibly know anything about radio, and have to rush to help me. Or they did when I was younger anyway. Gets old in a hurry.

    And I knew the hobby was in trouble when the likes of Flex Radio had to build a separate module to make their SDRs act more like a "traditional radio interface" before they could sell them. Well, that and the age distribution at places like Hamvention.

    1. Deb, you sound as curmudgeonly as I do.

      You've missed developments in the world of digital modes. FT8 has spread out into more modes, with some dedicated to quick signal report contacts with (F&H mode and MSHV multi-streaming) and one for more extended conversations (FT8CALL). There's no reason to use FT8 if you don't like it; there's got to be at least a dozen digital modes. Olivia is a good error-correcting mode that can decode well below its noise bandwidth, and the non-correcting modes like PSK31 are all still there. RTTY is still there, although you only seem to hear it during contests.

      Re: the Flex radios, the ergonomics are completely different from any radio folks have used before, but more importantly, if you're already using a computer for logging, rig control, and other things, you're going need two monitors to control the radio and everything else you're doing. You're trading the front of the radio for a monitor and control app. It makes your station bigger. I always have a bunch of apps open, Firefox with a couple of tabs open, Ham Radio Deluxe (which has three or four windows open itself) with WSJT (FT8) or DM780, sometimes other things. OTOH, the Flex front panel you describe (Maestro) is like a 10" tablet. Quite a bit smaller than a 17" monitor and it does far less than the front panel on the modern SDR radios. It's a bad trade.

    2. FT8Call had a name change. Its JS8Call now, named after the initials of the creator, with the blessing of Franke and Taylor (FT8).

  2. Sounds like the hamfest scene here in Northern Colorado. The local club has the kick-off hamfest in January, then there's one in Longmont, and one in Boulder, and that's it.

    Back in SoCal, the World Famous TRW Hamfest ran monthly, rain or shine, and was only changed if the hamfest date fell on Christmas or New Year's.

    And the hamfests here are smaller, and much more ham radio specific, much like the ones I grew up with in Illinois.

  3. Speaking of Ham radio's, I was absolutely stunned to see that California is making the Ham radio operators take down their repeaters from public property or else pay a bunch of money for rent. This is just insidious.
    Article here,
    I found the link to it here,

    1. As people keep saying, folks need to stop saying "how stupid can California get?" because they keep taking it as a challenge. Get rid of an army of volunteer communications experts so they can snarf up a few more tax dollars. That'll work out real well for them when the next big earthquakes hit.

    2. You are 100% WRONG on that, Phil.

      Per the ARRL Section Manager in SoCal:

      "1) The video in response to a lengthy lawyer-generated letter, written in reaction to a harshly worded letter from a CAL FIRE property management employee, makes certain statements about the Governor’s position or State policy that I have been unable to corroborate..

      The State of California has not made any determination we can find "that Ham Radio [is] no longer a benefit."What happened is that CAL FIRE has transferred responsibility for its communications sites to its property management department. That department has the significant task of evaluating each site, its condition, use and tenants. If a repeater not known to be associated with the emergency management function of a local jurisdiction is found in a CAL FIRE vault, the default action is to move it out or subject it to commercial rental rates.

      Our contact in the California Office of Emergency Services suggests that, if any affected repeater is in any way involved with local emergency or government support activity, they should ask that agency to engage with CAL FIRE concerning the repeater. If the agency makes the case, there is a good chance that the repeater will be unaffected.

      Their advice, with which I agree, is not to elevate this to State Legislators or the Governor's office.

      There has been similar activity in Southern California, wherein sites managed by the U.S. Forest Service have required repeater owners to post bonds to cover the dismantling of their sites if they cease operation. Negotiation has resulted in considerable easing of the original requirements and a modification of terms to help mitigate the short-term financial impact on those repeater owners."

  4. As Zendo Deb said, "....the age distribution..." and that is true of a lot of hobbies.

  5. If this shows as a duplicate, feel free to delete - first post disappeared.

    Pugsley and I are just getting into ham - we've been studying the ARRL material and I'd expect we'll pass our Technician test just before Thanksgiving. I'm sure the ARRL local chapter will have some advice on equipment, but if you have any advice for a newby, SiG, please drop me a line ( or toss out a link or two.

    Much thanks.