Dayton Hamvention 2015 has come and gone

Another Dayton Hamvention has come and gone. While the weather was warm, there was still the usual rain. Not too bad though as it usually came later in the day on Friday and Saturday.

I did not get too many pictures this year. Just take a look at some of the previous years picture I have on the site to see what it looks like at the Hamvention. But what pictures I did get are pretty funny.

I attended this year with Rod, WI0T, and Russ, WB8ZCC, but Russ only made it on Saturday. Seems he came down with one of those 24 hour bugs on Friday. We all ran into an old friend from the UK, Rod, G3KEL. We met Rod about 10 years years ago at the FDIM get together which runs in conjunction with the Hamvention. Rod missed the last two years so it was good to see him return.

As for new products. Elecraft introduced their new K3S which has more improvements over their previous K3. Nothing really new from TenTec, Icom, Yaesu or Kenwood that has not already been introduced.

CQ Magazine actually made it there and they sure scaled down their booth to a tiny single unit. Some new subscribers asked when they would get their first issue and I heard them being told "about 6 weeks." Think those new customers might be surprised. I did enjoy watching some other current subscribers having lively discussions about delivery and refund issues.

The folks working on the FreeDV/Codec 2 were there showing a small box that will allow encode and decode of FreeDV digital voice without the need for a computer. $200 bucks but the creator did not feel the need to bring them to sell at Dayton! Seriously, that was a bad move. WI0T and I would have each bought one on the spot.

Algoram was showing off their open HT platform. Only issue there is you have to use it in conjunction with your smart phone! That alone turned me off....on to next booth for us. Give me one piece of hardware to carry, not two.

AES was absent again. So that left more business for R&L, HRO, Main Trading, and the rest of the retailers. AES just not what it used to get back in their glory days.

ARRL had a nice exhibit as usual and they always had a number of visitors.

DStar forums were always packed, but folks, quit mixing the newbee information with the information for more experienced DStar users. How many times must we have to listen to the basics presentation!

Good news is that there are now over 3,100 DStar repeaters in the world and still growing. So when people say DMR and Fusion are growing, well they have a long way to go. So if you want to talk to someone no matter where you travel, you might want to get DStar.

DStar's open platform is clearly demonstrated at Dayton. Plenty of add-ons and even non-Icom radios. You won't find things like DVAPs, Hotspots, etc. for DMR and Fusion. While DMR and Fusion may have slightly better audio due to using about twice the bandwidth, those other digital modes still do not have the flexibility of DStar.

The flea market was the usual disappointment. Mostly consists of equipment that should be in a landfill somewhere or recycled for the metal and plastic. Prices for dirty old crap were high. I mean you might as well spend a few more bucks and get new equipment with a warranty.

BTW, some of the vendors inside were selling those Beofeng dual-band handhelds for $29 with charger and battery! Who says ham radio is expensive?

Ham Radio Deluxe confirmed that JT-65 will be added soon to their DM-780 application within HRD. HRD just gets better and better. It's a bargain for what it does and the number of radios it can support. Buy it and pay the annual's worth it!

The big news are the flyers around the Hara Arena saying some remodeling will be taking place for 2016! Great news as Hara is really bad looking. It almost appears that maintenance is just not being done. In one area inside we noticed the roof leaking. More good news in that the air conditioning appeared to be working. So while it looks bad, at least it was reasonably comfortable inside.

All in all, we had a great time and look forward to the next Hamvention in 2016.


The Upcoming Hamvention

I always get fired-up for the Dayton Hamvention. It's really is a great time in spite of the fact the Dayton Hara Arena where the Hamvention is held each year is truly a dump and in disrepair. I bathrooms stink since the ventilation is poor. The parking lot where the flea market is located is still in fairly good shape.

The sad fact is that I cannot think of anywhere else in the Dayton area where they could hold this event. So for the foreseeable future, I guess it is stuck at Hara.

The fun part is meeting all the hams from around the world and running into people you have talked to on DStar.

Then there are the vendor hams working the booths trying to sell their latest and greatest products. I just love seeing new equipment, new features, and new innovations. New product introductions at Dayton always intrigue me.

There are rumors this year that AES (Amateur Electronic Supply) will not be attending Dayton. Frankly, if you are a major vendor of amateur radio products and you are not at Dayton, it speaks volumes. It sends one of three messages.

One, they really don't care about meeting their customers at Dayton, or two, they are having financial difficulties and cannot afford to attend, or three they are not competitive against the other vendors at Dayton. It's all just speculation since they have not stated their reason for not attending.

AES tries to push I think what they call their "Superfest" but from what I have read, it's not very super and mostly attracts a mostly local crowd.

AES used to be THE ham radio retailer. But they seem to have lost their luster years ago. I think they even closed a few of their stores as they do not seem to have the same number of retail outlets as they did years ago. I guess other vendors such as Ham Radio Outlet, Gigaparts, R&L and the like have taken their toll on AES. Too bad.

In any case, Dayton should be fun and I will post pictures of the Hamvention to the website again as usual.

Hope to see you there!

Dayton Hamvention 2012 Recap

Another Dayton Hamvention has come and gone. I spent Thursday night thru Saturday afternoon with Rod WI0T and Russ WB8ZCC at the Hamvention. Thursday evening was the usual pre-Dayton drinking festivities. WB8ZCC suffered with a headache on Friday.

The good news is that the weather was great. It was the first Dayton Hamvention in recent memory where is did not rain at some point during the weekend. In fact, the skies were blue and beautiful and temperature in the 80s.

The crowd seemed about the same as last year to me, but then on Monday I was listening to the Dayton DStar repeater and the hams there said that the attendance was up this year to around 25,000 people. That means growth again. Great news for the Hamvention going forward.

Flea market vendors were down again. That's OK since most of the vendors who did come had nothing but junk at premium prices. I suspect a number of them toted the stuff home since they apparently think their junk is worth just a little less than buying something new with a warranty. I just don't understand what people are thinking with these asking prices. Some say it is because of eBay, but I don't believe it. Most of this stuff was junk and most of the stuff on eBay is of decent quality, or at least that is my experience.

In any case I anticipated that there would be a big crowd at the Yaesu booth looking at their new digital handheld radio the FT-1DR/E. To my surprise, there was very little interest and no crowd whatsoever. Just the usual people stopping by to get their free Yaesa hat (by the way, someone told me that in Japanese, Yaesu means "free hat." In any case, when I tried discussing the new digital offering with the Yaesu people, about all they could tell me was that "it is not P25 and not DStar."

From what I can tell the bandwidth is twice as wide as DStar, hence faster data speeds, it has a built-in GPS, and that it is capable of taking and sending very low resolution pictures. Since the handheld cannot display the picture I am not sure what the full benefit is with that function. Furthermore, even if sending it to a base unit allowing them to view it on a PC, the picture is so low in resolution it would not be worth much to me. The radio does attach the position of the radio to the picture so you can return to the place where it was taken. In marketing we would call it flash and trash.

It does allow for a micro SD card to back-up data and store GPS positions just like the current DStar handheld radio the ID-31. It also has digital ARTS, but I have never seen or known anyone to use ARTS on their analog radios.

There is no mention of call-sign routing or being able to use the GPS function to transfer position to the APRS network as there is today with DStar.

You can apparently send Group Short Messages and we all know it is not easy to send messages with the keyboards on anyone's handheld….at least not fast.

It appears that this Yaesu digital radio is really just trying to migrate a commercial technology into ham radio. We all know that DStar from the ground up was designed specifically for amateur radio. So now you have a choice between a technology designed for amateur radio and one designed for commercial users and shoe horned for you. An easy selection in my opinion.

So Yaesu was not selling any of the radios, with little excitement from amateurs, with no one to talk to because of zero Yaesu digital capable repeaters, why would you buy it? Again, I think Yaesu made a big mistake with this direction since DStar is already an established digital standard that works extremely well in spite of Yaesu's attempt to create FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt) by saying it is old technology. Don't believe it folks.

Well I had to have some fun with Yaesu and mock their poor decision to go in another digital direction. WI0T, WB8ZCC and I did wear some yellow T-Shirts I had produced prior to the Hamvention that said "DStar, THE Digital Standard for Amateur Radio" on the front and "DStar Accept No Substitutes" on the back. We wore them the entire day on Saturday. People loved it for the most part. A few made negative comments, probably the old hate to change CW forever crowd. We also wore them at the Yaesu booth and stood around talking. Yaesu folks didn't seem to care and since most people passed on taking a look at their new FT-1DR/E, the average ham didn't even get the meaning.

In summary, it looks to me that the Yaesu digital offering is DOA.

On the other hand, DStar is alive and well with tremendous and growing interest at the Hamvention. The DStar gatherings on Thursday and Friday nights were packed with hams. Icom gave a presentation on the history of DStar that was very interesting. It outlined why they selected the Codec and GMSK for the base of DStar. Once you listen to that presentation, it all makes sense.

The DStar education forum was also packed with hams eager to learn about the DStar technology and all that it can offer.

Many of the vendors of DStar equipment had sold most of the on-site DStar inventory by Saturday morning. The ID-31 handhelds were the first to sell-out as that is the latest and greatest easy to use DStar handheld complete with GPS and the entire DStar repeater database. With the GPS, the ID-31 can automatically find and program the radio for the closest repeater. Of course since it has the built-in GPS, it can also send your position to the APRS network. So DStar is growing very rapidly now and just exploding in growth. With close to a thousand world-wide DStar repeaters now and all 50 states covered, it is no wonder the digital excitement is with DStar and not Yaesu.

TenTec showed off the new QRP transceiver and the new QRP amplifier. The amp looks very interesting. The QRP transceiver is missing 12 meters. TenTec said it would not fit. Huh? So Elecraft can bring out a 10 watt QRP radio with 160 meters up to 6 meters in a smaller box and TenTec cannot even get all the HF bands to fit into a larger box. Very puzzling to me.

Alinco showed off their new SDR transceiver. Frankly, it looks like their regular HF transceiver without the panel and with a computer to control it. No comparison to the Flexradio SDR radios.

Flexradio showed off their new and coming new SDR radio. This is aimed towards the money crowd with a price to be around $7,000. Out of my league, but I am sure it is going to be great.

Kenwood showed their new 990 HF radio. Wow, this thing is a monster and rumored to be around $10K list price. Again, for the money crowd, but the radio looked great.

Go to my Dayton Hamvention 2012 Photo Album for pictures of all the new offerings.

The ARRL booth was crazy with activity and helps to create a lot of excitement around ham radio.

W4PC and the Ham Radio Deluxe gang were there to show off what is coming in the new 6.0 release. They had a line of people waiting to pay $60 for support and the next HRD version 6.0 which of course will start the paid subscription model of HRD. HRD is by far the best radio control, multimode and logging program out there supporting all the major radios with one license. I know hams are use to mostly free software. But if we want people to continue to support and develop their software, we're going to have to start paying them to do so. There is nothing more frustrating to me than to use and like a program, only to have the author drop support because it takes up too much of his free time. These guys and gals need to get compensated for their time. Let's support HRD folks.

There were also many vendors selling all those new cheap China radios. Many people were buying the Wouxun, Baofeng, TYT and some other weird name radios. Hey, they're pretty much cheap throw-a-ways. I mean were else can you get a dual band four or five watt handheld with rapid charger for $65 bucks?

So we had a great time and there is so much more to talk about. After all there are hundreds of vendors and I would wear my fingers out typing comments about all of them so I just tried to hit the highlights.

I know gas prices are up, but the trip to Dayton each year is well worth it.