Friday, February 7, 2020

Our Other Annual Hamfest - Orlando Hamcation

Over the year, Mrs. Graybeard (also a ham) and I usually only go to two hamfests, Melbourne and Orlando.  This weekend is our 38th annual visit to Orlando, and like every year since I retired, we went over today rather than the most crowded day (tomorrow).  This time, I forgot my camera, so you'll get recycled photos from other years (it doesn't change that much year to year).  Unlike last year, when these pictures were taken, a cold front went through in the early morning hours and it was cool and windy until late in the day.  I think it warmed up to 64 today.

As I've said before the Orlando HamCation (real name) is now commonly referred to as the second largest in the country only behind Dayton's Hamvention (which is only Dayton in name - it's held in Xenia, Ohio).  Dayton tends to be the one where major products are announced.  I was aware of only one product's first showing of a radio in US: major manufacturer Icom had a working prototype of their latest incarnation of a DC to 450 MHz, low power transceiver, the IC-705 on display.

Like virtually all hamfests, there's space for sellers indoors and outdoors.  Outdoors is always referred to as tailgate space, although most sellers bring tents, tables, and other things rather than sell out of their trunks.  Next year, I'll know this is a recycled photo because I only saw one guy dressed like this today (probably Canadian or Minnesotan).  90% of the crowd was wearing a jacket or windbreaker and long pants.  Plus, the sky never got that blue.

A table of old, vintage radios in one of the tailgate areas.  It's 100% certain some of those models of radios were on sale back in 1982 when we went to our first Orlando hamfest.  Heck, it's possible one or more of the radios on that table or others around the hamfest were on sale there on that day in 1982.  See those big black boxes in the left front?  Those are Collins Radios, a favorite among collectors, and the second one from the left says "75A-2 Receiver".  According to this site, the model was introduced in 1950 so one could have been sold many times.   

Another thing you see lots of besides old radios is used computers.  This seller was there today.

Yes, I recognize him.  Just kidding.  It's possible, but I'm not sure. 

This trip focused on learning about a couple of possible station replacement radios that I'm interested in, plus looking for another little SDR I've heard great things about, the Airspy HF+ Discovery.  I should have read that nobody sells the Airplay except them.  I got to get my hands on two radios that seem to be where ham radio is going, a very configurable software defined radio from FlexRadio Systems, the 6400, and a less configurable, less dependent on external software radio, an Icom IC-7610.  I was able to find enough information to drown in.  Being fairly early on Friday morning, both sales managers were more than happy to show me all their bells and whistles.

Edit 1942 EST 2/8/20:  Entered the wrong name for the Airspy HF+.  The link was correct, but I typed a competitor's name.  Bad Zut!  Naughty Zut!


  1. I didn't care for the Airplay I had. I could never make it work with Linux, and their supplied driver borked a couple of the libs, and I could never get it rolled back correctly.

    I bought an AirSpy, which I really enjoy using.

    We have one close by hamfest per year here, and I blew off the last one for lack of interest.

  2. Did you see any well-made, small, portable SDR equipment with enough spare capacity and openness that third party nerds can add digital voice wrapped in real crypto?

    1. I didn't. I wasn't however, looking for any of those characteristics so it probably doesn't mean much.

      All of the big manufacturers were pursuing pretty high end SDR architectures that were "none of the above".

  3. I'd love to go one year, but coming from NC means that it's a $1000 plus trip unless I come for one day only. I wouldn't have any money left over for buying! :-)

  4. I just managed to get my technician license this year. I fully intend to go to Dayton Hamvention. Need to start assembling a radio set - any suggestions for a n00b?


    1. Ham radio has been called a thousand hobbies under one name, and that's pretty true. I always answer that question with another question: what are you interested in?

      If you'd rather go to email, it's in the right sidebar,"Contact Me".

  5. I went to the Orlando HamFest a couple of times. If you work 3-4 hours you can get in for free, something like "security guard watching the door".

    If I had to sum up the hamfest in one table/booth it would be "The Suspender Man", flawless targeting of the audience of grumpy 60-somethings.

  6. I Missed the Miami hamfest and missed Orlando too. I have a affinity for used quality nonworking test equipment and always come home with a piece of HP or Tek that I didn’t need and have no room for but somehow scrape some space off the bench and try and get it working. Ebay prices for the stuff has gotten crazy and shipping is also prohibitive, but I did recently get a deal on an HP 8591EM.

    Also bought a Nanovna to see if there as good as many have reported. For the money its a good value.