General Update & Thoughts

Here are some updates on my activities and observations on ham radio.

Ten-Tec - It seems that many are starting to give up hope that we'll ever see a return of Ten-Tec. No news from the new owner. He has had the company now for about a year and we still have not seen the start of amateur radio production and sales. The "store" has noted it is under construction for months. It does not take that long to build a website so we have to assume that there is nothing to sell. I wonder if Elecraft has become the new "Ten-Tec" in terms of being an American manufacturer hams can rally around.

Digital Voice Modes (DStar/DMR/Fusion) - Kenwood is now selling their new DStar/APRS radio. The radio looks sweet, but the price is just out of the range of many. Hopefully we'll see the price come down over time.

I have to wonder if Icom has lost real interest in DStar. I love DStar. It is a great mode designed specifically for amateur radio. It can do all sorts of things that modes like DMR or even Fusion cannot do. I think two things have really caused the growth of DStar of slow to a trickle.

First, DMR and cheap Chinese radios. Let's face it, a ham can get into digital voice for a hundred bucks. If DMR radios were $500 and up, DMR never would have exploded. Sure some buy those expensive Motorola radios, but a vast majority got into DMR with low-cost radios. I use DMR and the problem I see with DMR is that for the most part, DMR is just digital voice. There are no digital messaging programs developed for ham use. Most DMR radios have no connection that would allow the radio to connect to a computer to allow for digital messaging (think DRats with DStar). It is just digital voice and networking of repeaters. The DMR sandbox has really produced nothing revolutionary. In fact, I have not seen any announcements of folks even using the sandbox to create new DMR add-ons. Yeah, they have the hotspots and dongle to allow access for those without DMR repeaters nearby, but that is about the extent of it.

Second, cheap Fusion repeaters from Yaesu. Amateur clubs and organizations bought these repeaters in droves when Yaesu offered them for $500 each. So money that may have gone to a DStar repeater purchase, suddenly went to Yaesu. I mean why not? $500 for a repeater that would do FM or Fusion. Another issue is that most of these repeaters are being used for FM only. I bought a Fusion radio at Dayton this year. It was their low cost mobile and got it for $169 as I recall. I think it is lower now. Trying to find someone to talk to on Fusion digital is almost impossible except during their weekly Fusion net with very few check-ins by the way.

We also have a P25 repeater in the area. I don't have a P25 radio, but I can monitor it. There is very little P25 activity on that repeater.

Again, because we have so many competing digital modes, the activity is rather limited since everyone is spread out among multiple digital voice technologies and repeaters. It has become not only difficult to find someone to talk to on Fusion, but also on DMR and DStar. Sure, you can find someone on the national or state level, but just trying find someone local to talk to is a challenge.

I wish hams would have agreed on one standard and moved forward with a single digital technology and united everyone instead of creating this fragmented mess.

Multi-protocol digital radios - Here is another beef. You would have thought that manufacturers like Icom, Yaesu and Kenwood would have come out with a dual band radio capable of DStar, DMR and Fusion and even P25. But sadly no. However, it looks like some hams have taken this on themselves and starting to just do it without the big three. Albeit the radios are expensive, but still cheaper than buying multiple single technology radios. Hopefully the big three will have taken the hint and will create something to fill this much needed void in the market.

HF and Digital Modes - Sunspots maybe down, but the activity on digital modes is still happening and very strong. DX is even great on the digital modes. So if you are still chasing countries and DX contacts, move to digital as there is still plenty of DX there.

Dayton Hamvention — Finally the Hamvention is moving and away from that dump called Hara Arena. Have to reserve judgement on the new location until this coming May. I am optimistic. I am sure the Hamvention committee is working hard to make this a success. Even if the first year is a little rough, it will not discourage me as they will learn from the issues and make it better the second year. Looking forward to Dayton again in 2017.

SDR Radios - If you have not played around with an SDR radio, think about giving it a try. I have an Afedri and a Funcube and both are fun to experiment with as there a a number of free programs out there that you can try. Even transceivers are moving in the direction of SDR. Icom has taken a real lead incorporating SDR technology into their radios.

With Thanksgiving this week, I hope all my fellow hams have a Happy and Safe Thanksgiving. Remember to give thanks to God for all the goodness in our lives.


Update on Everything

Yes I know I have been a bit quiet on the blog recently. And this is really not about everything. I've actually been fairly active on DStar, DMR, and JT-65. Messed around with a few other modes like CW, FSQ, and of course FM on 2 and 440.

Looks like Connect Systems has finally gotten close to finishing the firmware on the CS750 handheld and CS800 mobile radios for DMR and FM. Still a few bugs but they are almost there. Still would like to see the CS7000 which promises to support both DMR and DStar. Now wouldn't it be nice to have a radio that did all the digital modes and FM? Well they say they can get there but want to do DMR and DStar first.

Yaesu Fusion is out there and a number of people/clubs bought their repeaters at the special price of around $500. However, our club only has them in FM operation. I think a lot of clubs did the same thing. Not many people using them for Fusion. Seems like DStar and DMR seem to be the predominant digital modes. DStar still in the lead and there is still so much more activity on DStar than DMR in my opinion. In any case, for voice, they both do a nice job. When it comes to more than voice, DStar is still the choice.

I am sure you all read where TenTec changed hands yet again. Fourth owner in two years. But we have to face it, the old TenTec is gone. The new owner of the assets of the old company promises a new more invigorated TenTec with great products. So we'll see. However, I would not expect anything new for at least a year. There is a lot of work to do to basically start the company from scratch.

Rumors were that Kenwood was going to announce a DStar radio around Thanksgiving. So far, just the sound of crickets.

Another rumor is that Alnico is going to introduce a DMR radio for hams. So we'll see if that comes to fruition.

Since most of the nation is facing snow and cold, you might as well get on the air and communicate with someone. Ham radio was meant for cold Winter nights. So take advantage of the season and get on the radio!


TenTec Advertising, or lack of any

I was surprised when I was paging through the July issue of QST, that there were no advertisements from TenTec!

Usually when someone stops advertising, that is not a good omen. I know they are moving their facility, but that is not until Fall so why stop advertising? A very curious situation indeed.

Within the past few years we saw them bring out a crippled QRP rig, drop their high-end transceiver, add a couple of new open source software based QRP radios, but have added no new kits in quite some time.

I hope this does not mean TenTec is having money issues and therefore cannot afford to advertise.

Thinking about buying Ten-Tec? Might want to wait until September!

Ten-Tec is moving their headquarters. As a result, they are saying that they are going to have a big sale in September. Here is the announcement from their website:

Dear Ten-Tec customers and friends,

Hamfest at Ten-Tec has been cancelled this year due to our plans to relocate in early fall.

After enjoying 46 years in our headquarters on Dolly Parton Parkway, we are actively seeking a new location in Sevierville that will offer more modern and energy-efficient facilities, a new showroom, and a much-needed upgrade in working environment for staff.

Our current facility and property are already under contract, and, as a result, they will not be available for our annual Hamfest open house and flea market. And, chances are, in September we’ll be neck-high in boxes and crates preparing for our move.

So, in lieu of our weekend Hamfest, we’re planning to celebrate the entire month of September with a moving sale, offering not-to-be-beat discounts and incomparable specials on

Stay tuned for more details about the moving sale. And, in the meantime, come see what’s new at Ten-Tec at Booths 548-550 at Dayton Hamvention, May 16-18.

Jim Wharton, NO4A


So my advice if you are thinking of buying one of their radios at the Dayton Hamvention or sometime during the Summer, try and hold off until September and get a discount. Sounds like you’ll get a much better price if you can wait until September.

TenTec's Website

TenTec’s website proudly proclaims “Ten-Tec equipment is made & manufactured in the USA!”

Isn’t that the same thing? Shouldn’t it say “Ten-Tec equipment is designed & manufactured in the USA!”

Second, what about the Chinese stuff they are selling now? Where was that manufactured?

Ordered a TenTec Rebel

Well I decided to order a TenTec Rebel to have something new and different to try. Seems some of the shortcomings of this radio are being addressed by hardware add-ons and modification to the radio programming by hams who have a lot more programming experience than me.

Let’s hope some third-parties out there will offer mods at the Dayton Hamvention this year.

The radio is sold out right now, so I’ll have to wait for TenTec to produce another batch. Hopefully I will have the radio in the next few weeks as the TenTec website says availability will be in early February.

Hams aren't spending enough on their hobby

Hams are obviously not spending enough money on their hobby.

In recent weeks this has become more evident. As a result, companies are going under. Some are cutting back on products or product introductions.

First, we recently saw CQ Magazine cut back on the number of paper magazines they publish. They even cut back on the electronic editions eliminating World Radio altogether. Now, one magazine remains in paper format - CQ Magazine. The December 2013 issue arrived for most hams around mid-January. Obviously they are having some financial issues.

Second, Tokyo Hy-Power announced it is in bankruptcy and not coming back after a re-org. They are done.

When we look back a little further we see other troubling signs.

Ten-Tec is no longer manufacturing a high-end HF transceiver. Kenwood has yet to introduce a digital radio either in competition to DStar, or an actual DStar radio.

Yaesu cut back on the annual hat give-away at Dayton replacing it with a cheap mousepad instead.

Many vendor booths at Dayton are empty. The flea-market is half of what it used to be.

Radio Shack no longer exhibits at Dayton like they did for years.

All this has happened at a time with the number of licensed hams continues to grow.

People we need to help keep these folks in business. Patronize their businesses or lose them.

Ten-Tec Discontinues Omni II

I received an email from Ten-Tec announcing they have sold the last Omni II transceiver and have discontinued the radio. The text of the email in its entirety follows:

Dear TEN-TEC Ambassadors & Friends,

We hope everyone is having an enjoyable summer experiencing all the thrills of DX and working QRP. Your friends at TEN-TEC are busy as usual making ready the new Rebel 506 for delivery in late July. Dayton was a huge success this year with sales exceeding 2012. We thank you and also the wonderful group of Ambassadors who helped us in the booth this year. We could not have done it without you.

As time is marching on we are beginning to make plans for another TEN-TEC Homecoming Hamfest September 27th & 28th. This is always a huge event and preparation will begin before we know it to welcome our guests from far and near. Check the web site and watch for further information and news as time draws nearer.

On a rather sad note, about the time you read this message, we will have sold out of the last 566 Orion II transceiver. Unfortunately, due to the availability of some very critical parts plus skyrocketing prices for difficult components, the staff at TEN-TEC decided to discontinue this product. This does not mean we will not trade or sell used and demo Orion's and Orion II models. We will continue service and support this product as we have done in the past with all TEN-TEC products. Is a new Orion III on the horizon? There are plans for several new TEN-TEC products lined up for the future but at this time no concise decision has been made for another Orion transceiver.

We are very pleased with the results of our efforts on the Argonaut VI with matching 418 linear amplifier. Check out the product review in the August QST and Rob Sherwoods testing More fantastic news: This year, a pair of Eagle transceivers will be working as W4S at Ft. Pitkins on Santa Rosa Island off the coast of Pensacola in July for another IOTA contest.

As always the staff here at TEN-TEC continue to welcome your support and participation in the TEN-TEC user nets that meet every Sunday. The TEN-TEC 40 meter SSB net will start first at 20:00 UTC on or about 7.260 LSB and the 20 meter SSB net will follow at 21:00 UTC on or about 14.325 USB + or -

Sincerely & 73

Your TEN-TEC Sales Staff

I have to wonder about Ten-Tec in recent years. Elecraft is running rings around them. Elecraft can bring new products out faster than Ten-Tec. Ten-Tec's new QRP transceiver not only took an extremely long time to make it to market, but when it finally was available for sale, it arrived crippled without the 60, 12 and 6 meters bands. When I asked a gentleman working the Ten-Tec booth about it at the Dayton Hamvention, I received a very smart-a$$ answer.

He stated that the case was too small to put in the additional bands! So I asked how your competitor Elecraft was able to do it AND have space for battery, tuner and 2 meter module? He said go ask them.

I did, they told me they are capable of superior transceiver designs. So there you have it.

But I digress.

The real issue is the lack of a follow-on model. Now there is no high-end transceiver from Ten-Tec. Based on the amount of time it took them to bring out a new Argonaut, who knows when we'll see anything that might replace the Omni II.

Too bad for a company once so highly respected with a fiercely loyal customer base. If you can't change fast enough and are not nimble enough in this competitive world, if could mean the death of the company. I do hope not.

But there appears to be a downward direction for Ten-Tec. To the best of my knowledge they have not had any new kits or refreshed the kit line in over 10 years. They started selling Chinese made QRP CW radios - yikes! Are you kidding me? What happened to the Made in America focus? Ten-Tec needs to recapture their mojo fast.

Dayton Hamvention 2013 Recap

Another Dayton Hamvention has come and gone.

The weather was pretty nice most of the time, though there was a quick shower on Saturday morning. Attendance seemed on par with last year. Noticed that a large number of people taking the amateur license exams were passing.

There were a number of vendors missing this year. AES, Ham Station, Scanner Master were the vendors I noticed. But some of the indoor display areas had isles completely empty. Not a lot, but very noticeable to those of us who go to Dayton annually.

Again, as last year, there were a large number of empty flea market spaces. Also, as usual, most of the stuff being sold in the flea market is junk that no one would even put on eBay. It seems to be a recurring theme that the good stuff that will bring increasing bids goes to eBay, while the junk that no one really wants is brought to the flea market. Prices for the junk in many cases is too high and unrealistic. Why would I buy a beat-up and scratched radio with questionable history for $100 less than I can buy one new? But people don't seem to mind bringing that same junk back to hamfest after hamfest. Seems to me, you take what you can get quickly and move on.

As far as the big-five at the Hamvention.

Icom's exhibit was packed as usual. DStar is still hot and growing rapidly. At the DStar forum they indicated that world-wide, there are now over 2,000 DStar repeaters and 50,000+ DStar registered users. The reports that you see on dstarinfo are only for U.S. Gateway 2 registrations and do not include the other gateway infrastructures. So clearly, DStar is even bigger than many of us thought. Icom as usual had a separate DStar display that was packed with people all the time. The ID-51A dual-band DStar radio was flying off the shelves with most vendors sold out by Friday night. HRO some how got another 50 for Saturday and they blew out. This radio has all the world-wide DStar repeaters already loaded. It can program the nearest repeater using its built-in GPS. As usual there was much interest in all the Icom HF offerings.

Kenwood's display seemed lightly attended. The only "new" thing they had was a $7,000 HF rig so since that is way out of the budget of most hams, it was not creating much excitement. Fact is, I have never witnessed such a dismal crowd at the Kenwood display. Probably because there was nothing new.

Yaesu was not giving out their traditional hat. They were giving out mouse pads instead. Yawn. Their display was also lightly attended, though not as bad as Kenwood. Hardly any interest in their new digital VHF/UHF handheld which is finally for sale. The woman who was manning the position could not say much about it. Still no repeater offering from Yaesu. Frankly, Yaesu's entrance into the digital voice world has been a disaster. Yaesu, wake up and go with DStar as that is where the momentum is in the worldwide market.

The DMR Mototrbo folks are trying to make everyone think DMR is overtaking DStar, but their booth was no where to be found. Someone told me yesterday it was located in the ARRL area. I was in the ARRL area at least four times, and did not see them at all. Frankly DMR has so many issues that DStar is continuing to rule and outgrow them. The DMR radios are a nightmare to program. Each radio has to be registered and not the more simple method of registering the ham call sign only. TDMA is reported to having problems when the distance is more than 45 miles. It does not seem to do integrated data and voice as some say it is "capable" of doing. It's not the right technology for ham radio. It's a commercial standard for a commercial market. But some people continue to push a square peg into a round hole.

TenTec was fairly busy all the time. They had a new computer controlled CW QRP radio. Boring. Yet another CW QRP rig for the market (I have a picture of it on the Hamvention 2013 Photo page on this website). Does anyone have any ingenuity? Their new QRP radio the Argonaut VI was not creating a lot of excitement. Many hams have shied away since it is a crippled radio missing 6, 12 and 60 meters. In this day and age given the technology, how can you create an HF radio with missing bands?

Elecraft was packed as usual. Their influence in the U.S. ham market is obviously growing. The fact that they continue to create new products and rapidly bring them to market is why they create excitement at the Dayton Hamvention year after year. TenTec needs to take a lesson from them. They created an all-band QRP rig in a smaller package than TenTec that can also include an antenna tuner, battery and 2 meter module. Why TenTec cannot do the same is beyond me. Elecraft was also not offering any discounts because the demand for their products is so high.

As for other vendors.

Flexradio had a lot of visitors to their booths as usual. Still showing the 6000 series of radios and software, but still no deliveries. Mel K0PFX told me that he has had his order into Flex now for a year and still no radio. The Flex1500 and Flex3000 are still the most economical way to get into an SDR transceiver.

Ham Radio Deluxe is doing well and has a growing following since the new owners have taken over. Great full-featured product for rig control, digital modes, logbook and satellite tracking.

LNR Precision was showing a dual-band CW QRP radio - again yawn - BUT the real exciting thing was a quad-band SSB and CW QRP radio that they will be offering around the Q3/Q4 timeframe. 5 watts and very small. This was really neat and supposed to be less than $500 when offered for sale. Watch for an announcement at

Silent System is a tiny Japanese company who is offering a very small QRP PSK transceiver with built-in display. Connect a keyboard, antenna and power supply, and you have a fully-functional PSK station. The only issue I saw was the power output was only 100 milliwatts. The price was under $300 as I recall and you can get more information or order it at

The FreeDV/Codec2 folks had a nice display in the main arena. They even showed a concept of an open source digital voice handheld.

Palstar was showing their new TR-30 5-Band SSB/CW (full QSK) touch screen transceiver. Great idea, but not yet available, but it should be later this year. My only concern is the price as they quoted it would be around $1,600. Maybe a little high if it were all band, but for only 5 bands I think it is a bit overpriced.

GRE America was there and yet not there. They used to have two booths in the past. One for scanners and the other booth showcasing Alinco. This year it was a combined single booth and none of the usual GRE America folks were there as it looked like all Alinco staff manning the booth. GRE made some of the best scanners in the past. But the parent shut down the scanner line and it looks like GRE America is trying to become independent and restart scanner manufacturing. Not sure where they are in that process.

The ARRL had a lot of visitors to their usual large display. Again, there was a great focus on youth in ham radio.

I expected to see more SDR (software defined radios) this year. WinRadio's booth was scaled down. Bonito had their integrated SDR/Control application on display and it looked very interesting, but I expected to see a few more vendors.

Summary - In general the Hamvention is THE hamfest of the year. But clearly the continued poor economy is keeping away vendors and some hams. Another thing that might be keeping away hams is that there just wasn't anything really new to generate the interest in going. Prices on radios and the like were not as good as they have been in the past. Even the cheap Chinese radios were not discounted as much this year. In fact, some of the radios offered could be purchase for less money on Amazon.

I would also suggest that the Hamvention start giving new and smaller ham radio vendors the chance to come for the first year for a very discounted price ($100?) on a first-come-first-served basis for the open slots on the inside. It's a shame to see those precious spaces sitting their empty. I know new upstarts that would love to come to Dayton, but find the cost too much for their budgets. Come on Hamvention committee, let's give them some assistance while growing the Hamvention with new products.


Argonaut VI - More bad news

This morning I received an email from TenTec making the official announcement of the Argonaut VI, even though I noticed it on their website yesterday.

Well the radio is crippled more than I thought at first. I did not notice that they also left 60 meters off their radio.

So the radio is missing 60, 12 and 6 meters. Why would anyone produce a radio with missing bands in this day and age? Not too long ago TenTec was able to produce a radio with all those bands, with only 6 meters missing. It was the predecessor called the Argonaut V. So instead of moving forward and offering more, TenTec is offering less for more money.

What were those people thinking?

TenTec Argonaut VI vs. Elecraft KX3

Back in July I wrote about TenTec and how I think they are losing their innovation an appeal.

Well I guess their latest product, the Argonaut VI confirms my opinion. The new Argonaut was recently listed on TenTec's website and now available. The price is a whopping $995. One hundred more than my worst guess.

Here are the problems. The radio is not a complete HF radio. Second, the price is very high for what you get. Three, the radio is not competitive.

The Argonaut VI is missing the 12 meter band! It also is missing the 6 meter band. How can a company be taken seriously is you leave off one of the HF bands? It cannot.

I will tell you my suspicions. I'll bet that TecTec originally planned on making this radio 80 through 10 meters. But when QRP folks heard about this, they raised a stink for the 160 meter band to be included. Since they were so far along with the design, they had to give up something so they sacrificed the 12 meter band for the 160 meter band. In my mind, it's a crippled radio and not complete with an almost $1,000 price tag to boot.

Frankly, the radio should have been designed from the beginning to have 160 through 6 meters. The decisions on this radio were poor from the start.

Now let's look at the Elecraft KX3. Assembled the radio retails for $999.00, just $4 more than the new Argonaut VI. Unassembled it sells for $899.

The KX3 comes with 160 through 6 meters. So it is complete. The KX3 also does RTTY and PSK31 which are not features of the Argonaut VI.

Elecraft has also noted that it is supposed to be introducing a 2 Meter module for the KX3. You can also get an optional internal auto-tuner and use a battery pack to go truly mobile. None of these are possibilities with the Argonaut VI.

When I brought up the lack of 12 meters and 6 meters on the Argonaut VI radio to the TenTec folks at Dayton, the response was that there was not enough room. When I asked how it is that Elecraft can build a radio that is smaller and with more features than the TenTec Argonaut VI, they answer was a rather rude, "I don't know, you'll have to ask them."

Really? TenTec wants me to go to a competitor and ask them how they can make a superior, more full featured radio than TenTec and at a better price. I can only guess the answer. It would be something like, "we have superior engineering" or " we build better products" or "we create better designs."

In full disclosure I am or was a TenTec fan and promoter. I have owned a number of TenTec radios over the years and still have an Argonaut V which is very nice.

I do not own any Elecraft radios so I do not believe my opinions are biased. If anything, I would be biased towards TenTec. But with this recent debacle, I am less biased and very disappointed in TenTec's lack of innovation and progress with the new TenTec Argonaut VI. I say avoid it and wait another 5 years or so when they can maybe make a competitive product again at a competitive price.

Thoughts on TenTec

I have been a big fan of TenTec for a long time. I like to be able to buy a radio that is made right here in the United States with excellent support if it is ever needed.

In the past I have owned a Paragon II, Omni 6+, Jupiter, an Argo V, and even a few of the QRP kit transceivers.

The Jupiter was a favorite of mine for working digital. It was just a great rig for PSK, Hellschreiber, MFSK and the like. It was also a dream to use on CW as it had no noisy relays. Wish the Japanese could figure out how to get rid of the relays. Guess their engineering is just not up to par with the Americans.

The Jupiter was also one of the first ham transceivers to have updatable firmware. But it seems that the Jupiter is coming to an end at TenTec. Their ads have not had the Jupiter featured for sometime. This is only a guess, but I think once the existing stock is gone, they will announce the Jupiter is discontinued. Too bad, nice radio at a once good price point.

TenTec seems to have moved to higher priced radios now. The Eagle, the Omni and the Orion are out of reach for the average ham. They are bringing out a new replacement for the Argo V, but they crippled the radio by leaving off 12 meters and not including 6. They claim a space limitation. Really?

Seems that Elecraft can engineer a smaller radio, with the same power output that includes all bands including 6 meters and still have a place for batteries if you want to backpack. Why is TenTec going backwards? The price is still unknown, but I am guessing $899 which would be fine if it included all the bands.

The other issue is their CW QRP radios. They are importing them from China! A once proud U.S. manufacturer has sold out to the Chinese. Really, they could not have built such a radio in Tennessee?

TenTec, please get your focus back. U.S. made and innovation. Leaving off bands for "space limitations" is not innovation in my opinion.

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.