Hamfest Observations by Peter Naumburg, N5YJ


The weekend of September 21, I attended the Duke City Hamfest, along with about 400 other amateurs. While well organized, this size of an event, isn’t large enough to attract first-line vendors often seen at Dayton and Visalia. Nonetheless, the organizers did a great job with the various classes, including two excellent talks by Rob Sherwood, NCØB. With these thoughts in mind, here are my observations and comments.

That whole world of vendors has dramatically changed. In days past, the vendors could come and with the help of the manufactures cover their expenses, maybe make a little money, and would continue to support their mutual customers. This was a win-win situation. With the advent of the $100 + per night per person room costs and high transportation costs, it has become too expensive for the manufacturers, much less vendors, to attend a hamfest. This is not an ideal scenario.

Another big change is the resale market. Once upon a time, amateur radio gear tended to hold its value over time, as long as it was smoke-free, and well maintained. Good, bad or indifferent, Icom changed that with the introduction of the IC-7300! At a street price of $1,495, it literally blew away the used market place. However, there is a hidden issue, applicable to any, used, solid-state transceiver—replacement parts!

Icom sold about 70,000 IC-706, of which about half were MarkIIGs. Parts, especially finals, are no longer available for these radios. Asking $700- $800 for this used, unrepairable, out-of-date transceiver, is pie-in-the-sky thinking! This scenario is applicable to any transceiver, regardless of make, made after 2013 or so. And just to emphasize the point, Yaesu’s FT-857 is one of the longest service-lived, mobile transceivers, ever made. But like the IC-706 in any guise, it has gone through numerous revisions, in an attempt to keep ahead of the ever-changing, solid-state, obsolescence-based, marketing strategy by all of the device makers, especially Toshiba.

About the only transceiver which seemingly is holding its own, is the Elecraft K3. I suspect that is about to change, as Elecraft will be shipping the new K4 later this year. One good thing about Elecraft, their accessories are backwards compatible. Meaning, if you bought their Panadapter for your original K3, it will still work perfectly with your K4!

Bill Mader K8TE, NM Section Manager, did a day long, HF University, at the hamfest. I have attended his sessions in the past. Bill really upped his game with this year’s HF University! For example, there was a lot of interesting discussion about FT8. While becoming popular for its ability to be deciphered in near impossible band condition, for those not into digital communications, it leaves a lot to be desired for all of us, old-school, amateur operators, who really like one-on-one, DX contacts!

Bill also spent time explaining the importance of a resonant antennas, like a dipole, with the current, on-air propagation we’re seeing tases days. And the importance of a computer in the shack. The class was great for the beginner to the expert.

The importance of amateur radio clubs and the impact they have on our world was brought up over and over during several of the class sessions. The consensus? A club is everything! If your club needs help, then why are you just sitting there? Jump in and help to improve and grow it!

There was a two hour class on the NanoVNA. The bottom line is, the time and effort to use this unit may not be worth the perceived cost savings. There exists a good reflector and many who are supporting the unit.

No discussion of any amateur radio get-together, would be complete without mentioning the increasing amount of misinformation presented within on-line forums. Perhaps the two prime example are www.qrz.com and www.eham.net. The truth is, it is not their fault, at least directly. The elimination of the code requirement, the debunked, all-learning, Novice class license, and simplified tests, have reduced amateur radio to not much more than CB Extra class. As one, astute attendee stated, these sites have become a Cesspool of Stupid!

At the banquet Saturday night, was an excellent talk by Riley Hollingsworth. An accomplished speaker, he gave us insight into the FCC world and many entertaining stories. He also shared one of his many beliefs that CW operators do not get Alzheimers! I do not know if it is true or not, but it should inspire some to get their code speed up. It should be noted, he is working hard to implement the new program to replace the Official Observer program.

While waiting for Riley to give his talk, I had the opportunity to spend a short time with Jeff Ryan, KØRM, the Rocky Mountain, Division Director. He stressed the positive things which are happening inside the ARRL. And, he was very helpful with ideas on communications for my Technical Coordinators position.

Many of you know about the Technical Specialist program, but if you are not familiar I will try to share with you how it can help you. If you have Radio Frequency Interference, as many do in this age, a Technical Specialist can help you with boots on the ground find the source and/or teach you how to find the source and remediate it. The Technical Specialists are available to teach classes on many topics of interest including RFI. If your antenna is not performing properly a Technical Specialist may be able to help you. Most Technical Specialist have been around for a while and made many mistakes that they can help you avoid.

It is a helpful program but you need to know it is available, and how to contact the right Technical Specialist. In the South Texas Section call me, Peter Naumburg at 505-610-7800. I will do my best to help.

At the close of the event, a few prizes were given away, but not before Alan Applegate, KØBG, was given the ARRL Technical Service Award for 2019. His site, www.k0bg.com, has provided information on all facets of operating mobile, both as a vocation, and as a means of emergency communications in times of national disaster. Congratulations Alan!

All in all a great event. I am glad I drove 700 miles. There is nothing like a good hamfest to get me fired up.

Peter Naumburg, N5YJ


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