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Surfin’: Oh! The Places You’ll Go!

05/27/2011

By Stan Horzepa, WA1LOU
Contributing Editor

This week, Surfin’ recounts seeing great sights at the Hamvention.

The annual trek to the Dayton Hamvention began mid-morning last Wednesday when the LOU-mobile hit pavement in a westerly direction. Eight hours later, I decided to call it a day, after passing the massive antenna farm of Tim Duffy, K3LR, located on the east side of the Pennsylvania-Ohio border, just south of I-80.

The LOU-mobile hit the road again mid-morning Thursday and pulled into Dayton four hours later. In my youth, I used to drive to Dayton in one shot, but now that my youth is a memory, I split the trek so that I will not be too tired to enjoy Hamvention.

Now that my youth is just a memory, I find it difficult to gauge the age of the current youth -- or anyone under 50. A classic example occurred at the AMSAT/TAPR Banquet Friday night, when I perused the faces of the folks seated at the dais. I knew or knew of most of the faces up there, except one at the extreme right. He looked like a college kid to me, but it turned out he was astronaut Doug Wheelock, KF5BOC. Wow -- did I feel like a boat anchor when he was introduced! By the way, Astronaut Wheelock got up and spoke off-the-cuff for a few minutes about hamming from the International Space Station; he was very entertaining.

Speaking of my youth -- that is when I was a “hacker” experimenting with ham radio hardware and software (mostly software). I don’t do much hacking these days, but it is still in my blood and I am always interested in seeing the latest ham radio hacks, which is one of the reasons I am very active in TAPR.

During Hamvention, TAPR president Steve Bible, N7HPR, alerted me about a Sierra Radio Systems ham radio hack called “HamStack.” Their booth was right around the corner from TAPR’s booth, so I moseyed on over to check it out.

Turned out that HamStack is very cool.

“The HamStack platform is designed to help ham radio operators learn how to design with microcontrollers and program them. A HamStack-based project can be used stand alone or embedded into your own project. The 'ham' part of the name refers to the desire to target the platform to the needs of the ham radio operator. The ‘stack’ is a play on words that refers to the physical design of the platform with its ability to stack multiple boards together. Stack also refers to the ‘software stack’ of libraries that are available to make programming easier.”

You start with a CPU Board Kit with its Microchip PIC (18F4620) that you program in C or BASIC. Then you can add on other boards as needed to interface your creation to the world. For example, there is a General Purpose IO Board that has eight relays, one analog and four digital inputs, and an RS232/485 interface.

I have to tell you that HamStack got my hacking circulating and I almost bought some kits, but my C programming skills are non-existent and my BASIC skills are rusty.

Hamvention is a place where you meet old friends and acquaintances. Joe Eisenberg, K0NEB, in his signature Cat in the Hat hat is hard to miss and I was glad to renew my friendship with him at the Hamvention. Joe mentioned that his 2011 Hamvention videos would be up on the net shortly after the convention, so visit Joe’s YouTube channel and see what Joe saw in Dayton.

I missed W4KAZ at Hamvention because Kaz missed the Hamvention, but he put together a collection of links so that anyone who missed the event or anyone who attended the event and missed something may be able to find it on his Vicarious Dayton Hamvention 2011 website.

Until next time, keep on surfin'!

Editor’s note: Stan Horzepa, WA1LOU, did not get lost in Akron! To contact Stan, send e-mail or add comments to the WA1LOU blog.



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