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Reflections on My First Dayton Hamvention


I arrived on Friday afternoon and was amazed at how big the Hamvention was. There were hundreds of commercial vendors in the several indoor arenas and even more private vendors in the outdoor flea market. In addition, there were numerous seminars covering topics such as contesting, emergency communications, bicycle mobile, spectrum enforcement, ham station audio, various digital modes, Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS), amateur satellite communication AMSAT and many more. The ARRL national convention also took place at Dayton, making 2009 the year to attend. You could even get your license or upgrade at Hamvention. Finally, there were dinners, banquets, other gatherings and door prizes, and many outside activities such as visits to the National Museum of the United States Air Force.

The keynote speaker was Richard Garriott, W5KWQ, private astronaut, who visited the International Space Station (ISS) after blasting into space on a Soyuz rocket in October 2008. While in orbit, he participated in numerous ISS-to-Earth ham radio contacts and conducted scientific experiments.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see everything at Hamvention because it was so big and crowded. I was also working the Handiham booth where we made many good contacts and got a few donations, too. Thanks to my fellow Handiham booth mates, John Pedley, NØIPO; Bill Rouch, N6HBO, and Pat Tice, WAØTDA. A special thanks to John Hoenshell, NØBFJ, who not only worked the booth, but also donated to support the Handiham presence at Hamvention.

Pat Tice introduced me to a number of people. We met Hap Holly, KC9RP, of the Radio Amateur Information Network (RAIN) Report; Gerry Leary, WB6IVF, of the Unseen Bean (good coffee, too); Jay Bellows, KØQB, Dakota Division Director; Dr Greg Widin, KØGW, Vice Director, and Mary Hobart, K1MMH, ARRL Foundation secretary. Mary and I discussed some common interests in furthering Amateur Radio educational activities.

During my free time, I visited a number of booths, but did not get to any of the seminars, dinners or banquets. We all just had dinner and went back to the hotel at the end of the day, as we were very tired from all of the activity.

Exploring Hamvention 2009

With our batteries recharged, we returned to Hara Arena on Saturday morning.

My interest in emergency communications led me to the MARS booth. The Military Affiliate Radio System (MARS) is a US Department of Defense (DOD) sponsored civilian auxiliary, primarily consisting of licensed hams, established as a separately managed and operated program by each of the several armed services. The MARS programs also include military units and personnel. MARS provides DOD-sponsored emergency military and civilian communications both locally and worldwide. One major mission that MARS has had for many years is to handle morale, welfare, official record and voice communications traffic for the Armed Forces and authorized government personnel stationed throughout the world. Might MARS stations use amateur satellites? You bet, so let’s stop at the AMSAT booth.

The Amateur Satellite Corporation (AMSAT) had a sweet SuitSat-2 exhibit with qualification, non-flight hardware. SuitSat-2 turns an old Russian spacesuit into a repeater and when set adrift, presto, another ham satellite on 2 meters and 70 centimeters is born. (Yes, there was a SuitSat-1. It burned up in the atmosphere as planned after several months in orbit.) I also was able to experiment with an antenna rotator that allows both azimuthal and elevation orientation of the antenna for satellite work. Wouldn’t it be cool to send CW via satellite? On to the world of Morse code.

In my wanderings, I ran into the “Morse Club Incorporated.” It was awesome. The folks were very nice. They’re coming out with a USB to key/sounder adapter. They recommended a program called “MorseKOB” (key on board). They had a lot of cool old sounders, too. Who needs texting?

Also present was the Italian key manufacturer, Pietro Begali, I2RTF. His keys were more beautiful and more expensive than the Vibroplex keys, but I like the action on my Vibroplex straight key better. Maybe it’s just what I’m used to.

Want to send CW on your handheld radio? MFJ’s Jim Handy Morse Code Interface will let you do just that. It plugs into your 144/440 MHz handheld transceiver and converts it into a modulated CW transceiver. Well, one can’t send CW without a good antenna, so it was onward and upward to the antennas.

The antenna that caught my interest was the Buddipole portable for my attic. The Buddipole is an HF/VHF portable dipole antenna system constructed of threaded aluminum tubing sections. It is designed to operate from 2 through 40 meters by using traps. It can be configured as a sloper, L, V, inverted V, vertical, etc. Yes, I’m afraid that we need a radio, too.

Let’s take a look at the FlexRadio Systems stuff. Their folks said that their software defined radios, while not blind-accessible via their proprietary software, should work pretty well with Ham Radio Deluxe (HRD). HRD is a wonderful way to control many modern Amateur Radio transceivers using a personal computer running Windows.

Of course the ARRL area was enormous. The League’s national convention had many events and exhibits, including the huge rectangle of tables that became the ARRL bookstore, a project-building booth, a Field Day exhibit, a W1AW/8 special event station, a talk on the ARRL legislative agenda, special guests and much more. The ARRL Foundation was also there. It offers scholarships and grants for Amateur Radio and raises money in support of ARRL programs.

Finally, Hamvention wouldn’t have been Hamvention without getting some freebees and spending some money. I got a Yaesu hat for free. Back at the ARRL exhibit, when I told Mary Hobart that I recently became an ARRL life member, I couldn’t get away without an ARRL tablet and pen. The kind folks at the FISTS table gave me a free 5-20 WPM CD Morse course. I also bought a number of computer items for my shack.

These are some of the highlights of my first Dayton Hamvention experience. It was great with a lot of cool technology, gear and super-nice folks. It was easy to strike up conversations with people because we all shared the common bond of ham radio. Everybody should go at least once.

Oh, heck — one Hamvention isn’t enough for me. I can’t wait until next year.

Ken Silberman, KB3LLA, is an ARRL life member and the President of the Handiham Radio Club. When he is not on the air or working at NASA, he serves on the National Information Standards Organization (NISO)/ Digital Accessible Information System (DAISY) Digital Talking Book for the Blind Standard Revision Working Group by NISO and the DAISY Consortium. He pulled some serious meet and greet duty at the Handiham booth during Hamvention 2009, but still had at least a little time to explore the exhibits.

Dr Kenneth Silberman, KB3LLA



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