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Surfin’: A Hamvention Diary

05/25/2012

By Stan Horzepa, WA1LOU
Contributing Editor

This week, Surfin’s contributing editor recounts last week’s excellent adventure at the Dayton Hamvention.

I left home after rush hour Wednesday morning and drove 8 hours/466 miles (I-84, I-81 and I-80) in the general direction of the temporary QTH for thousands of hams every May: the Dayton Hamvention. Traffic was not bad, except for some highway construction in Scranton where it took about 20 minutes to travel 1 mile.

After staying a night on the road, I left the hotel after a late breakfast Thursday morning and drove the remaining 257 miles (I-80, I-76, I-71, I-270, I-70, I-675 and I-75) in about four hours and arrived at my hotel south of Dayton (Miamisburg) in the mid-afternoon. Unlike some past trips west to Dayton, I successfully maneuvered my way through Akron with my new (“new” for this trip) TomTom XXL 550 GPS leading the way.

Thursday evening, I attended the TAPR Board of Directors’ dinner and meeting. I am a TAPR director, its secretary and newsletter editor. We got some work done and called it a night at 2200 local time.

Up at the crack of dawn on Friday and Saturday, I staffed the TAPR booth about half the time. During the rest of the time, I attended forums and visited other booths at the Hamvention.

TAPR’s Friday morning forum was the first I attended. Speakers included:

  • TAPR President Steve Bible, N7HPR, who provided an update on the current state of TAPR
  • Scotty Cowling, WA2DFI, who talked about Hermes, which is the latest addition to the openHPSDR SDR (Software Defined Radio) family
  • Lyle Johnson, KK7P, who discussed embedded DSP (Digital Signal processing) for computer-less SDR
  • John Ackermann, N8UR, who revealed what’s upcoming in the TAPR line of time- and frequency-related projects, including the new TADD-2 mini frequency divider
  • David Rowe, VK5DGR, who spoke about and demonstrated CODEC2, an open source low bit rate speech codec designed for communications quality speech at 2400 bit/s and below.

On Saturday, I attended two forums: The RTTY Forum, where this column’s editor, Khrystyne Keane, K1SFA, regaled the audience with her RTTY contesting tales, and the “Microcontrollers for Ham Radio Projects” forum, featuring George Zafiropoulos, KJ6VU, of HamStack fame.

Not a Hamvention forum -- but just as informative -- I attended the Friday evening annual banquet, sponsored jointly by AMSAT and TAPR. After an excellent meal, we listened to the words of Howard Long, G6LVB, who described the trials and tribulations of designing and manufacturing the FUNcube Dongle, which is a 64-1700 MHz SDR receiver similar to a broadcast television USB dongle that receives ham radio satellite transmissions.

Back in 2003, I reviewed the Peet Bros Ultimeter 2100 Weather Station for QST and I visit their booth every year to discuss what’s new and to pick their brains about maintaining my weather station. I recently had a problem with the station that I inadvertently caused, so I visited them again this year and they helped me out of my self-imposed quandary.

Earlier this year, I wrote about my renewed interest in chasing long wave (LW) and medium wave (MW) DX, so when I saw the C. Crane booth at the Hamvention, I was very interested in checking out their wares.

My Kenwood TS-440S is state-of-the-art (circa 1986), and the other radios I use for LW and MW DXing (an eclectic collection of table top, portable and pocket-sized consumer radio receivers) are even older, so I was curious about the current state-of-the-art.

Poking around their booth, their CCRadio-SW intrigued me. It is a portable AM/FM/Shortwave radio with a built-in Twin Coil Ferrite® AM Antenna. When I discovered that the $125 radio was on sale at the Hamvention for $75, I was sold and took one home for myself. So far, I am very satisfied with my purchase and will have more to write about it here in the future.)

A few weeks ago in one of my run-ups to Hamvention, I mentioned the idle HamStacks in my ham shack. I would like to start hacking them again, so I stopped by the HamStack booth, spoke with KJ6VU, discussed options, continued our discussion via e-mail and soon I will have their Project Pack in hand to hack along with their Starter Pack. After I hack, I will write about it here.

By the way, I had a wonderful time at Hamvention this year. I renewed acquaintances with old friends and made many new acquaintances and perhaps, friends. All the new ham radio hardware and software at Hamvention sure is always an attraction, but it is the ham radio people who really make the show in my opinion.

Until next time, keep on surfin’!

Editor’s note: Stan Horzepa, WA1LOU, seeks the unusual in radio. To contact Stan, send e-mail or add comments to the WA1LOU blog.



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