Saturday Pacificon Snapshot
By Ward Silver, N0AX
QST Contributing Editor
What does a hamfest fleamarket in Silicon Valley look like? Palm trees and soldering irons, that's what! After a couple rainy days, everyone was relieved to have cool, clear weather for the parking lot to fill with buyers and sellers. Being in the heart of the West Coast's electronics industry did seem to influence the wares on display with a lot of test equipment and computer gear. I managed to avoid buying a really nice rack-mounted spectrum analyzer at a bargain price, but only because it certainly wouldn't fit into the overhead storage compartments on the flight home. Next time, I'm driving!
Surrounded by flea market tables, the W1AW/6 station was going great guns with lots of visitors. With radios by Elecraft (Aptos, near Santa Cruz) and antennas by Tom Schiller, N6BT, (Templeton, near San Luis Obispo) on a U.S. Tower (Woodlake, near Visalia), this was a home-town station on display. Located right outside one of the Santa Clara Marriott's main entrances, no one could miss it. Maybe you made a QSO with W1AW/6? 100% QSL!
Back inside, the miles of aisles and a forest of forums were busy with hams of all ages in attendance. The ARRL EXPO was busy all day long, the area for youth activities was a beehive, and the Amateur Radio and Education area had quite a crowd with the Boe-Bots and a robotic submarine on display. These novel uses of ham radio are a Big Deal with the science groups and experimenters. ARRL Program Instructor, Nathan McCray, K9CPO and Education and Technology Director, Mark Spencer, WA8SME, were answering questions and giving demos all day long.
One of the more novel attractions was the opportunity to contact a "parachute mobile" (Did they sign /PM, I wondered?) on 2 meter simplex. Every two hours or so, a jumper did his thing and made QSOs on the way to Earth along with live video via ATV! How did the jumpers keep a log?
The highlight of the day for your scribe was the ARISS QSO between a dozen students here at Pacificon and the International Space Station flying over Europe! Since the ISS was far from being visible in Santa Clara, California, the contact was conducted via an audio telebridge between the Marriott's Sedona Room under the direction of Joe, K6WAO; a ground station operated by Claudio, IK1SLD in Casale, Italy; and under the control of Tony, VK5ZAI in Kingston, Australia. The 2 meter link produced only white noise for Claudio's first couple of calls, but the third time was magic and Japanese astronaut Aki, KE5DNI, answered loud and clear, producing loud cheers from the audience. Each student read their question to Aki clearly and quickly, receiving a 20-second response on various topics as the ISS moved rapidly to the northeast. The contact concluded with a short exchange between astronaut Lee Morin, KF5DDB and Aki. Lee followed the ARISS contact with a great presentation on his background and 10 days in space.
What a day - it went by way too fast and there was just so much to see and do. On my way out of the room after the ARISS contact, I passed by the exhibit of the Maritime Radio Historical Society, doing a brisk business as K6KPH and with two complete stations set up, including a Morse tape sending unit. A few paces farther along was the display of the California Radio Historical Society. And just inside the doors of the exhibit hall, Sierra Radio Systems and Pignology were displaying systems based on the latest wireless technology.
Ham radio sure is big and broad and deep!