One experience I have yet to share about ham radio is the experience of the Ham Fest. A Ham Fest is not where you go and eat ham with your fellow radio operators. It is a conference where you can go to learn about the rigs, get training, and buy things! Think CES combined with a state fair, and you’d have it half-right. There is no better hamfest out there, in my opinion than the one, the only, the Dayton Hamvention.
A Little History
The Hamvention came to being in 1952, when the Dayton Amateur Radio Association in Dayton, Ohio hosted the first event. The first Hamvention planned to have about 300 guests, but they actually had 600! In 2012 there were an estimated 25,000 in attendance and visitors from all over the world. The Dayton Hamvention is THE hamfest that ALL hams should experience at least once. People who have been to the show start talking about the next year as soon as the show closes (including me)! It’s that big of a hamfest.
This was the first Hamvention I’d been to in about 4 years since last attending, and I was not disappointed! I was able to attend Friday and Sunday, and like I said, I am already planning to make my Hamvention even better next year. With that said, I will share below some of the things I was able to see as far as new equipment goes and any purchases I made.
Icom didn’t have a whole lot of new items this year at the show, but they did have two radios on display that were previously announced at the Tokyo show.
One radio is the new ID-51A Dual Band D-star handheld. If you have seen my review of the ID-31A, then you know a lot about the ID-51A already. The ID-51A is very similar to the ID-31A, but it has a larger display, and it includes the 2 meter band This is the handheld I would recommend for those new to D-star. This radio is now available at Universal Radio or wherever Icom radios are sold.
The other radio they have announced, but that has not yet been approved for sale here in the states, is the new IC-7100. This radios display and controls are designed to sit right on your desk, and the rest can sit on the floor out of the way. The screen on the radio is also a touch screen making it easier to work through the menus. Icom has tilted the display so that you can set it on your desk and still be able to read it. It supports ham bands from 160meters to the 70cm band, and it will support D-star on HF! This is a first for this radio. As this radio has not yet been approved by the FCC, no price has been announced; however, I hear that this radio should be approved for sale in the US in the next month.
TenTec Rebel 506
TenTec had a unique radio at Dayton this year in the new 506 Rebel. The 506 Rebel is an open source QRP(or Low Power) radio. The code that runs on the radio and the design of the radio itself is completely open with even the circuit design files, done in Cadsoft Eagle. I can imagine this little radio being hacked to do things that it can’t do out of the box. As delivered, it operates on both the 20 meter and 40 meter bands on CW (Morse Code) mode only. Since I am not a CW guy I probably won’t be buying this rig, but it is interesting nonetheless! Oh, in case you have never heard of TenTec, they are one of the few radio manufacturers completely based here in the United States. Unfortunately I was unable to take a pic of the radio.
TenTec Argonaut VI
TenTec also had their QRP, or low power single sideband radio at Hamvention. This covers all of the high frequency amateur radio bands except the 60 meter band. Power out put can be between 1 and 10 Watts. The best part about all Tentec radios is that they are made right here in the United States, specifically in Sevierville, Tennessee. Tentec is less than 30 minutes from my parents house, so maybe I will be able to visit the facility on my next trip to Knoxville. The Argonaut VI is available direct from Tentec for $995.
Yaesue’s new FT-1DR uses C4FM FDMA which is a new digital voice mode that Yaesu is working on. Other than the digital voice mode, it also supports APRS (Automatic Position Reporting System) utilizing the internal GPS. The optional speaker mic also has an integrated camera. You can use it to snap a pic and send it to another station with a FT-1DR. You must pop the memory card out to view the picture though, so it’s not a great solution, and shooting pics with the mike can be iffy since it has no viewfinder. It’s better than nothing I guess! The rig is up for pre-order at $539.95 via Universal Radio.
The biggest and baddest radio at the Dayton Hamvention was from Kenwood, and it’s their new TS-990S. They announced the radio last year at Hamvention, but it wasn’t shipping until recently. This radio can switch between 4 different antennas, has 2 USB ports for using thumb drives and upgrading software on the radio, an Ethernet jack, 2 TFT display panels, a Serial port, integrated power supply, integrated antenna tuner, and it is capable of power levels from 2 watts to 200 watts. The receiver in the TS-990S is the same one that is in the TS-590 radio. The radio can also use Kenwood’s Sky Command System II.
Sky Command uses a combination of a base dual band radio and hand-held; software integrated in those radios to let you control the TS-990S from your handheld. Of course all radios in the chain must be from Kenwood and support the proprietary Sky Command System II. All of this tech comes at a HUGE price of $7,999.95 from Universal Radio. This is a radio I drool over, but will never be able to afford. I almost want to say that it’s the radio for hams who have more money than sense, but that would change if I had one given to me or could afford one!
I wish I could have bought more, but I did make one purchase from a company called Gold Medal Ideas; I bought a brand new hat with my name, call sign and some art on it. The art is a Wouff Hong which is an artifact from Ham Radio lore. The best thing is that once I purchased it, they were able to embroider my hat using machines they had brought with them; in about an hour I had the hat in my hand. This is one of those things that are relatively cheap and affordable to buy at the show, and it helps when someone you have only talked to on the radio is looking for you at a hamfest. The quality of the hat’s stitching is top-notch, and the hat is very comfortable. The price? $27 with the artwork from Gold Medal Ideas.
The tech is very important at Hamvention, but as always, the thing I enjoy most about Hamvention is being able to see the hams that I talk to on air, read, watch their content on the web, or have learned from via their books. I got to see Gordon West, WB6NOA ,who wrote the book I used to get my first license. I was also able to talk to Bob Heil, K9EID and founder of Heil Sound. Finally I met and talked to George Thomas, W5JDX of Amateurlogic.tv as well. All three of these guys are hosts of Ham Nation, which is a weekly show on Leo Laporte’s This Week in Tech network. I watch this show every week, and I still learn something new every week. These three guys have done so much to bring awareness of Ham Radio to the masses, and I felt very privileged to get even a minute or two of their time since they were incredibly busy at the show.
The famous hams are fun to see, but talking to all the other vendors, many of whom are either hams themselves or employ hams is the best part. You never know when you will meet someone in a hall that you will talk to on the radio or become friends with over the air. If you have yet to come to the Dayton Hamvention, and if you are a ham or an aspiring ham, then you should definitely try to make it. It will be an experience you will never forget, and you will want to come back again and again.