I made the trek again to Dayton this year, my second pilgrimage to the largest amateur radio event on this side of the planet. Realizing there are several other blogs, podcasts, and Internet broadcast shows covering Dayton, I will attempt to limit my observations to those you likely won’t see elsewhere.
The Hara Arena we all know and love continues to be, well, Hara Arena. The good news is renovations are in the works. A Hamvention official told me it’s for real and probably a three to four year project. Yaaaaaay!
Tower Girl, Back at Dayton!
The differences between the Yaesu, Icom, Kenwood, and Elecraft booths were quite notable. Yaesu was giving away hats and entering people for prizes drawings. They often had a line extending well out into the concession area and their System Fusion hats were worn by hamfest goers everywhere. They had employees stationed at each area of the booth and the booth had a continual number of visitors. I stopped by and looked at HTs and a friendly Yaesu employee helped me out.
Yaesu’s New FT2DR HT
Icom’s booth was smaller, but was more high tech and hip-looking. It was more crowded due to its small size. Icom was generating a good deal of interest, with visitors often extending out into the aisle area. Icom should really get a bigger booth next year.
Icom’s Tower Motif Booth
Elecraft’s booth was very busy, as usual, and was well staffed. They even had volunteers staffing the booth. It was difficult to make your way into their booth to see the rigs on display, it was that crowded. A table on the end had three order takers. Even one of the founders of the business was busying taking orders. It goes without saying, but Elecraft essentially has a money-printing machine that is running full tilt with no signs of stopping.
The Kenwood Booth
Kenwood’s booth was well built and arguably the most spacious, but it was the least visited. There was much whitespace on the walls. I looked at their three HTs on display and I couldn’t get any of them to power up. I looked around thinking maybe someone would notice me and assist. Behind one podium there were two Kenwood employees talking to each other. Behind the other podium the two Kenwood employees were talking with visitors, one employee chomping down a candy bar. No one was out walking in the open booth area, and no one helped me. This seemed to be the general state of the Kenwood booth each time I walked by. It’s like no one is really trying and the goal was merely to show up, which they did. Being a long time Kenwood fan, this really troubles me.
In regards to equipment, two notable announcements were the Elecraft K3S and perhaps the Flex Radio Meastro. The Elecraft K3S is essentially an update to the now-discontinued K3. The buzz on the street is that it’s a performance upgrade, mainly to get the platform back up to the top of the performance charts. Several current K3 owners and recent orderers are reportedly a bit miffed, which is to be expected. The Flex Radio Maestro is a hardware frontend / remote dashboard unit for the Flex radio 6000 series. Yaesu did not announce an FT-817 replacement, which salespeople in the booth sheepishly acknowledged. Yaesu was pushing System Fusion like mad. Icom had a separate D-STAR booth that was educational and impressive. Kenwood…?
Hiberling was there with their rig you can’t afford. DZ Kits had an interesting booth with their rigs scattered about, many with the covers off and in various states of assembly or disassembly. There were several (many?) little DSP rig companies, so many that it’s difficult to differentiate them. I wonder how many are selling sufficient numbers of rigs to state financially afloat.
Icom’s Rig You Can’t Afford
Yaesu’s Rig You Might Be Able to Afford
The flea market had the usual wares, but it’s shrinking. The parking lot continues to evolve from asphalt to black sand. I recognized several items for sale that I saw last year at stands. Folks, if you’re bringing the same stuff back to Dayton each year, it’s probably overpriced. I don’t care if it was $10K thirty years ago, you’re not going to get $300 for a solid brass ship compass or a gas mask.
Need a 25 Watt Laser for your World Domination Plan?
Deals You Can’t Refuse
On four occasions I walked up to flea market stands where gruff-looking, optimism-challenged OFs were talking about politics and one where the single digit IQ attendee was complaining about people speaking Spanish. I guess if your junk isn’t selling and you’re bored with amateur radio it’s difficult to be positive and talk about the hobby or something other than politics. I wish these people would just stay home rather than putting their mantras on display at the Hamvention. Attendees who agree with this OF mindset can get their fill by listening to broadcast AM radio, and those who don’t didn’t come to a hamfest be schooled in political drivel. But I digress.
It was nice to see a few unattended flea market tables with “pay what you want” and honor system payment boxes. Perhaps the Hamvention could increase flea market occupancy by offering free spots to sellers doing all “pay what you want”, unattended, or all free giveaway tables. What extra amateur radio stuff I have I would rather give away than sit behind a table for two days, only to garner a few bucks selling half of it and taking the rest home.
The Hamvention appears to be continuing to pursue a Maker theme, but there is a dearth of Maker content and products for sale. I don’t fault the Hamvention team for this, and applaud their efforts. I think it’s going in the right direction and is going to be crucial to keeping the Hamvention, and other hamfests, sustainable into the future. (More about this in a future article.) Rather than just write or complain about this, I am plan to make an effort to help. I’m going to write a proposal for an Arduino forum and a related activity. If you’re interested in presenting or participating, send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
More about Dayton 2015 in the next article…