National Amateur Radio Equipment Manufacturers Recommendation

Last week the National Amateur Radio Manufacturers’ Association met in Orlando, Florida.  The annual invitation-only event is an industry get-together of major companies that make amateur radio equipment where trends in technology, standards, and the overall direction of amateur radio is discussed.

This year the industry group released an official recommendation regarding amateur radio equipment obsolescence, urging all amateur radio operators to replace all their rigs on an annual basis.  Several manufacturers spoke about the recommendation and the reasoning behind it.

Elecraft spokesman Ed Jabloski advised hams to follow the recommendation due to performance concerns.  “We released the K3S in May 2015 to address the now mediocre performance of the K3.  The K3S, which is nearly a year old, is approaching obsolescence.  We intend on releasing the K3S+ soon in which we improve several key performance metrics by at least a two tenths of a dB.  Amateurs not using this new and modern technology risk their QSOs while using substandard and aging rigs, like the K3.  But also, regardless of new model releases, having new rigs each year will insure that you have the latest and best performance from new components and software.”

Kenwood representatives had a different take on the annual rig replacement recommendation.  “We see it as more of something that gives hams peace of mind.” stated John Finley, of the Kenwood sales and marketing group.  “Take for example the Kenwood TS-590S.  That rig had a RF output power spike bug.  While we have a factory modification to correct the power spike issue, we released the updated TS-590SG which doesn’t have the nasty power spike.  Do you really want to be on the air with a rig with a output power spike problem?  I mean, it’s just very, very risky….very scary.  If you have a TS-590S you really should destroy it and buy a brand new TS-590SG.  And really, do this each year with all your transceivers.  It’s irresponsible to sell old rigs on Ebay.”

Baofeng attended the manufacturer event for the first time this year.  “We already support the annual rig replacement methodology.” noted Alex Taylor, a US Baofeng representative.  “Our rigs tend to last about a year anyway, and getting a new, fresh rig annually is common for our customers.  We’re proud that we have supported the annual rig replacement initiative from day one.”

The recommendation will undoubtedly have radio amateurs scrambling to refresh their hamshacks with new rigs, and may have a positive impact on Dayton Hamvention 2016 vendor sales and attendee numbers.  All manufacturer representatives at the National Amateur Radio Manufacturers’ Association event stated they were ramping up production to be able to support the recommendation and meet the demands of hams.

 

AO-73 Funcube and AO-85 Fox 1 Satellites Collide

In a shocking turn of events in the amateur satellite community, AMSAT-NA is claiming AMSAT-UK steered their AO-73 Funcube satellite into the AMSAT-NA AO-85 Fox 1 bird.  NORAD satellite tracking confirmed at 0200Z a combined debris path consistent with the orbits of both satellites.  Both satellites are silent and assumed totally destroyed.  AMSAT-NA officials in a press conference called the move by AMSAT-UK an “act of war” and promised swift retaliation but wouldn’t give details on the next move.  AMSAT-UK officials taunted AMSAT-NA with several incendiary tweets.

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In other satellite news, North Korea announced their plans to launch the first of many amateur radio satellites.  The satellites were described as being “worthy of Supreme Leader” and will feature outrageously over-modulated audio similar to North Korean state run television so that North Koreans can properly understand each other when communicating through the satellites.

 

New Heathkit Antenna Offering

The reincarnated Heathkit company has a new product offering, the Pipetenna, a 2 meter and 440 antenna.  Heathkit claims the antenna is stealth and high performance, featuring a colored, rounded end PVC tubing sort of look.  It’s really not that difficult to build a stealth at VHF and UHF frequencies due to the short wavelengths involved.  The specifications of the antenna lists the gain on 2 meters as 6 dBi, which doesn’t scream high performance.  Puzzlingly, no gain figure is listed for 440.

Heathkit proclaims the antenna has multiple patents filed for many inventions in its design and is waterproof, yes waterproof.  I thought all antennas should be waterproof in the first place, or at least not be affected significantly by rain.  To Heathkit’s defense they go on about how it can be used on a ship or by the ocean where there is corrosive saltwater.  But this isn’t a really novel antenna feature.  What is perhaps a truly novel feature is the choice of colors, currently Light Sky Blue and Olive Green, with other colors such as Terracotta and Camouflage Green listed but grayed-out on the order form.

The antenna sports an N connector, with Heathkit citing that it eliminates an impedance bump, presumably when compared to the common UHF connector.  While this is technically true and the N connector is overall a better connector, the impedance bump of a UHF connector at 2 meters and 440 is negligible.  Furthermore, most of the target audience of this product probably have never dealt with an N connector before.  Perhaps more amateurs should become familiar with the N connector, but it’s overkill for this application.

The Pipetenna has me and presumably others scratching their heads, much like their premier offering, a pricey speaker-lacking TRF AM radio kit.  Overall the Pipetenna is heavy on marketing but light on compelling technical reasons to buy, in my opinion.  Amateurs wanting to learn about VHF/UHF antennas who aren’t so interested in a vintage Heathkit experience could better spend their money constructing a ground plane or J pole antenna.

While the new owners of Heathkit undoubtedly need to take baby steps in building what is essentially a new company from the ground up, these initial product offerings are disappointing and somewhat bizarre.  Some people probably have unrealistic expectations of Heathkit bringing back original tube radio kits from decades ago.  It’s not out of the realm of possibilities for Heathkit to release an updated HW-9 QRP rig or some new minimalist handful-of-2N2222s QRP rig.  Even if an “HW-10” design wasn’t significantly improved or a minimalist rig offering wasn’t a great performer, the QRP community, known for its rabid appetite for new rigs, would buy a new HW offering in droves.  Such a rig would be more true to Heathkit’s roots and legacy than the eclectic AM radio product.  The level of marketing is troubling as well.  The products need to speak for themselves and Heathkit needs to build a community of users that extoll the virtues of their products, something Elecraft has masterfully done and assumed the throne once occupied by Heathkit.  I don’t want to be a naysayer and I truly would love to see Heathkit succeed.  I think we all do.

Heathkit Pipetenna is a registered trademark of Heathkit.

This article originally appeared on Radio Artisan.

Thanks Comet and SWODXA!

Friday night at the Dayton DX Dinner I won in a drawing this wonderful antenna analyzer from Comet, the CAA-500.  It features a measurement range of 1.8 to 500 Mhz and displays SWR and impedance.  It is powered with five AA batteries or an external 8 to 16 volt DC supply can be used.

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Thanks Comet and SouthWest Ohio DX Association!  This will really come in handy considering I’m in a new QTH and I’m in the process of putting up antennas and reassembling the radio artisan shack.  I couldn’t have asked for a more useful measurement tool.

(I am back home and I have several reports from Dayton to post in the next few days.  Stay on frequency…)

Dayton!

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Yay!  After a nine hour drive I made it to Dayton.  This year I drove solo so I got to listen to audiobooks and actually did several long business phone calls.  I forgot how flat Ohio is, but at least they have several three and four lane highways which makes the drive go quicker.

I’m in the Dayton Marriott if anyone is around and wants to have an eyeball QSO and a cocktail =)

Are You Going To Dayton?

This is a question I ask of vendors I order equipment and amateur radio goodies from. You should ask the same of your vendors. If your vendors don’t support Dayton, perhaps you should consider supporting different vendors. Why, you ask? Dayton is the largest amateur radio event in the US and perhaps the western hemisphere. It’s struggled over the years.  However, the visual appearance and condition of Hara Arena tends to tarnish the state of the Dayton Hamvention, in my opinion.  I think the Hamvention is actually doing well.  Attendance was up last year.  Looking at the schedule of seminars this morning, it’s a wonderful collection of varied topics, with something for everyone.  The flea market is huge and it’s exhausting to cover the entire area in the three days.  If your vendor is devoted to amateur radio, they should come to the Dayton Hamvention.  If they can’t make a profit attending and selling products or generating sales leads, perhaps something is wrong with their products, marketing, or business model.  If a vendor devotes the time and effort to come to Dayton with products to sell, buy their warez!  The Hamvention is more than a hamfest, it’s a social event, a gathering, a celebration, and an economic ecosystem for amateur radio.  See you at Dayton!

What Would You Say?

In July I’m giving a 45 minute talk on amateur radio to a local neighborhood group that restored and maintains an old historic schoolhouse down the road from my QTH.  I plan on bringing my FT-897 and throwing a dipole up in the yard so I can tune around the bands and maybe even whip up a phone QSO.  (It sure would be nice if 20 was open to Europe.)  I’m going to avoid “death by PowerPoint” and just work off of some simple bulletpoints.

So, any suggestions on what to talk about?  What would you definitely not talk about?  Any tips from seasoned speakers on things to wow the audience with?

Let the Speculation Begin

Kenwood took out a full page back cover ad in this month’s QST hinting at a new HF rig being unveiled at Dayton.  What could it be?  Another super multi-kilobuck uber contester rig?  A KX3 competitor?  A fun little rig like the Yaesu FT-817?  Inquiring minds want to know!

The Menta


MakerShed announced a new product that will probably appeal to radio artisans who like to build little rigs.  It’s the Menta, a smaller version of the Arduino which fits nicely in the venerable Altoids tin.

Get a few 2N2222s, some toroids, resistors, and a crystal soldered on the prototyping area, then burn some CW keyer software on the Arduino and voila, you got a nice little QRP rig.