Dayton Hamvention 2017: New Tech, New Location, and Old Friends

The location change had to be on the minds of most Dayton Hamvention goers this year. When you were in a location as long as Hamvention was, a location change is big for everyone. I am happy to say that the Dayton Amateur Radio Association, the group responsible for the show, was successful beyond any imagination.

GearDiary Dayton Hamvention 2017: New Tech, New Location, and Old Friends

The show did start out a little rocky, but I did not experience the same issue that Friday attendees experienced. There was an issue with the handling of traffic in and around Xenia heading into the fairgrounds. I heard from other attendees that they waited as long as 2 hours in traffic just trying to get into the show. However, thanks to the partnership with the Greene County Sheriff and DARA(Dayton Amateur Radio Association), this was not an issue the rest of the weekend. Dara, Xenia and Greene County really wanted to make Hamvention work in the new location and this is just one of the many issues that had to be resolved as soon as possible and in a short amount of time. They just found out they had to find a new location less than a year ago so as well as the show went it is obvious to this attendee that Hamvention has found its new home.

With that said, mother nature did have something to say about the weekend. While I can’t speak for Friday, Saturday and Sunday were plagued by rain with the flea market, mostly located in the infield of a horse track at the fairgrounds, was a muddy mess. Sunday when taking a break in the grandstands I was watching a poor ham who got his scooter stuck in the mud. Fortunately, someone came to his aid and he was able to move on. The other rain-related issues were that the rain-soaked grass parking lots at the fairgrounds, while convenient, they were also extremely soft and muddy thanks to the rain.  It was so muddy that they closed all of the parking on the fairgrounds and directed everyone via the talk in (a repeater with a ham connected to Hamvention on his radio) to the satellite parking which was ample and on concrete! 🙂 I parked Sunday at the Xenia High School and road the school bus so graciously provided by the school district’s transportation provider for free to Hamvention attendees. Once we arrived near the fairgrounds, multiple golf carts appeared and we were able to ride to the Hamvention entrance. I can’t blame the rain on anyone.  It happens!  DARA and the officials in the area handled it in a professional manner.

Now as for the location itself, it was new, it was clean and there was plenty of space. In Hara, the Arena was surrounded by buildings that were connected to the main arena.  Essentially this was a building that was continually added on as the years went by, but if you closed all of the arena entrances it was an enclosed space. The Green County Fairgrounds had many buildings and much of them were connected with walkways but none of them were connected to each other with each building being a separate entity. This allowed plenty of space for people to congregate and it combated the issue you get with thousands of sweaty hams crammed in an enclosed space: body funk!  Thankfully this made attending the show pleasant even though I predict attendance was higher than it had been in ANY of the last few years at Hara.  They have yet to post the final attendance numbers, but I think they had around 30,000 PLUS attendees as evidence by the crowds on Saturday.

Now that I have covered the elephant in the room — the new location —let’s talk about the most important thing:  The tech!

GearDiary Dayton Hamvention 2017: New Tech, New Location, and Old Friends

GearDiary Dayton Hamvention 2017: New Tech, New Location, and Old Friends

There were lots of new radios, but the most interesting ones, to me, weren’t from the top radio companies, but from a newcomer. I am not sure of the company name who made these radios, but the radios were called the RFinder M1 and the RFinder P1 and both were available for purchase in the ARRL(American Radio Relay League) booth this year. RFinder is the official online repeater reference of the ARRL. A repeater is a bigger radio that will repeat what it hears on one frequency on another nearby frequency and this reference is a database not just for America but for the entire world. It has both an Android and an iOS app. They also have a web-based component as well. The app itself will run on any Android or iOS device and there’s a $9.99 yearly subscription that you can activate via the app that adds features. RFinder helps you find repeaters based on your phone’s GPS coordinates. The subscription fee allows you to see many more details about each repeater than the old-fashioned paper books did. You can even see the coverage of the local repeaters in the app. Why is this related to the RFinder M1 and P1? It is because these are an Android based phone (the M1) and Android based tablet(the P1) that have integrated radios and are run mostly by the RFinder app itself. These radios support both analog and DMR(Digital Mobile Radio, a more open alternative to Dstar). The integration with RFinder essentially lets you tune the radio on the M1 and P1 instantly by doing a search using the GPS and tapping on any of the repeaters that come up. The M1 and P1 both come with LTE as well and the M1 also works as a phone.  It can use either T-mobile or AT&T in the US. Sorry, Verizon hams! 🙁 There’s much more that these can do beyond allowing you to talk on the radio, and I hope to be able to review one of these soon. The pricing is between $649.99 and $799.99 and you get a choice of either 2 M band or 70 cm band with or without DMR.

GearDiary Dayton Hamvention 2017: New Tech, New Location, and Old Friends

As for the bigger companies, Icom had its new ID-4100A at the show which replaces the previous ID-880H. The 4100 has the new D-star style interface similar to the ID-51A and ID-31A I reviewed here. The radio will run at 50 Watts maximum and has a removable face plate. This allows you to put the face of the radio at eye level in your car and put the radio itself somewhere else in your car. This makes it easier to put the radio in a modern vehicle. The pricing on this is $459.95 at Universal Radio. Very reasonable for such a well-equipped radio.

Icom also had its new IC-7300 at the show as well. The IC-7300 is an SDR or Software Defined Radio. The radio has a USB-A port on the back for making it easy to connect the radio to your computer for firmware upgrades and other uses. The radio covers the HF (High Frequency) Amateur Bands as well as the 6 m ham band. It is available now from Universal Radio for $1349.95.

That just scratches the surface of what was at the show but it’s also what I found to be the most interesting besides the tech is getting to meet up with friends and other hams.  I was able to spend some time with my friend, Ed Liddle, KE8ANU and was able to talk with much more famous hams like AE5DW, Don Wilbanks, and Dale, K0HYD from Ham Nation. I was also able to talk to Russ Woodman, K5TUX, Bill Stearns, NE4RD and the NEWLY licensed Cheryl Jones who us currently KE0NLC and currently searching to change her call to something else via the vanity program. They are from the Linux in the Ham Shack podcast(link down as of this writing). They are some of the best people to talk to and are what makes ham radio great. That’s why I go to hamfests and especially to the Dayton Hamvention.  It may now be in a new place but it’s STILL the best hamfest on earth.


About the Author

Joel McLaughlin
Joel is a consultant in the IT field and is located in Columbus, OH. While he loves Linux and tends to use it more than anything else, he will stoop to running closed source if it is the best tool for the job. His techno passions are Linux, Android, netbooks, GPS, podcasting and Amateur Radio.