Hamfest

Discussion in 'Survival Communications' started by Tempstar, Mar 13, 2017.


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  1. Tempstar

    Tempstar Old and crochety Site Supporter+

    For the Hams among us, I thought I would post some observations made at a recent hamfest I attended. For the non-Hams, a hamfest is an organized yard sale of sorts where gear is bought and sold.
    First, I noticed that this particular hamfest had a lot of empty spaces for vendors. This was upsetting as we had driven 3.5 hours to get there. Sadly, I have noticed this decline in other hamfests as well.
    Next, the old guy with the 5 Collins boat anchor radios was there. He is at every hamfest I attend, with those same old 1940's era radios. Why?
    Then I started paying attention to the crowd, as there wasn't much to look at vendor wise. The crowd was split between the guys who wore multiple HTs with speaker mics clipped all over, hat and shirts proudly proclaiming their call signs and skittering about like a national crisis was about to break and they needed to be ready to save the republic, the old guys (guess that's me) that were there to see if there was anything they needed for the shack, and the social climbers, the ones who were only there to see and be seen, buy nothing and brag a lot about accomplishments.
    I told the XYL on the way home (She is a Ham too) that this division in Ham radio is becoming more and more prevalent. It seems that the multiple HT "save the world" guys are becoming the norm, getting a Technician ticket and joining ARES to keep doom and disaster at bay, but never advancing beyond it. When they tire of the world not needing them, the radios get put aside and forgotten. Then comes the braggers. These guys have pursued at least a general ticket and read every thing they can to better be able to discuss propagation, antenna modeling and amplifiers. They can be heard on the HF bands, telling all who will listen why their particular setup is hands down the best out there.
    Then the old guys. This group has the most Extra and Advanced class hams. Been there, done that, knows what will work, and does radio for the enjoyment. None spend a lot of money at a hamfest because the shack is overflowing already. They go to meet old friends and make new ones.
    Now for the vendor observations: Lots of ARES gear, especially packet set-ups. It's dying out folks. Municipalities are weary and leery of hams who may or may not show up should there be an emergency. There were also lots of DMR radios for sale, so I see this as a growing thing even though it is internet based. Then, the China radios, of which at least every other table had a few. Don't get me wrong, they are O.K. radios (I own a few), especially to start out in the hobby. Most of the "save the world" crowd wears at least two of them at all times. Nothing beats the spectral purity of a Kenwood or Yaesu or Motorola though. I'll hit on antennas too. There were bunches of wire antennas there, neatly packaged and proclaiming to be the best. G5RV's were going for as much as $125. A lot of money for $15 worth of parts!
    Final thoughts: Every Ham should attend a hamfest once in a while. If we don't they will surely die. I suspect the internet has a lot to do with falling attendance numbers. It's easy to just order online and not wait. A hamfest is better in my opinion though, because you can hold the item, try it out, and talk to others about it before buying. There are usually forums about radio, and almost always a VE session to upgrade your license. In addition, there are usually a few vendors selling books on various things radio. These are a great resource even in this Google age. And then the people. Meeting someone you have talked to for years is great! So get out to a hamfest and let's keep it alive!
     
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  2. Tevin

    Tevin Monkey+++

    I'm not sure how long you've been hamming, but I've been doing it since 1982 and (mostly) agree with your observations.

    The reflective vest "I'm going to save the world" crew has been around at least as long as I have. They have become more visible now that ham tickets are not really earned anymore. They look and act ridiculous but are completely harmless.

    Also in the mix that you did not mention is the "I don't need a ham ticket because when SHTF there will be no FCC to stop me anyway" group. As annoying as theses A-holes are, I don't worry about them. They buy a radio, stick it on the shelf, and forget about it. When S does hit the F, their $28 Baofeng handhelds will not be powerful enough to cause much trouble to those of us who know what we are doing. And speaking of knowing what one is doing, these guys don't have the technical wherewithal to put together an effective HF station, either. It's a problem that more or less takes care of itself.

    I have seen an overall decline in hamfest attendance, by both buyers and sellers. For this reason, I will not drive more than an hour and a half for a hamfest, and even that's starting to be a stretch. One hamfest in my area used to be h-u-g-e. Back in the day it would take a whole morning to go through it. Now, it's little more than a glorified garage sale.

    But I'm with yah, @Tempstar . I show up anyway. Many of these hamfest have the same old cranks selling the same old crap, year after year, and they usually park in the same place too, but that's part of the flavor and fun of the event.
     
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  3. Oltymer

    Oltymer Monkey++

    I haven't noticed much decline in attendance over the years at the Lawrenceville GA one I usually attend, but I haven't been in several years. I'm not a HAM, but am on the lookout for parts for Crystal radios I build. My best buy ever was a 5 gal. bucket full of variable tuning caps stripped from old radios. I asked the guy how much and he said $5, and I think that was the fastest my wallet ever came out of my pocket!
    I think the old guys that always show up with the same stuff is the same as in other hobby gatherings I have been to. They aren't really there to sell anything, but to socialize with the other old geezers.
     
  4. Bandit99

    Bandit99 Monkey+++ Site Supporter+

    I think also there are so many easy ways to communicate now that interest in HAM has died somewhat. For example, my wife recently jumped on a plane, traveled at least 10,000 miles and upon arrival powered up her mobile phone to call and inform me she had arrived and then later, upon having WiFi access, sent me a detailed written message of great importance to her concerning the watering and care of her plants...written so I could later reference these instructions and have no excuse for negligence. LOL! I currently hold a General license which I obtained about 1 year ago. I will obtain my Extra this or next month but I don't have any HF radios which I think is what has affected my motivation to obtain the Extra license. Also, in my defense, I have only been back stateside ~2 years and there is only so much money so one prioritizes.

    I wonder if SDR radios (Software Defined Radio) will have a major impact on regenerating interest? Currently, their cost is still too high but dropping fast. I have been interested in SDRs since the early 90s. I'd like to imagine that someday one would be able to sling up an antenna, plug a front-end in one's computer and you have a high-quality Tx/Rx radio, actually more of a communication facility since one will be able to do all the bands (well, most of them) and much more because you're jacked into the computer. Anyway, I think your observations are valid but wonder if the technology which is much of the cause of disinterest in HAM will be the cause of a new awaking, a new generation of HAM?
     
    Last edited: Mar 13, 2017
  5. GOG

    GOG Angry American Site Supporter

    I think I'm going to have to start learning the whole radio thing. I'll be going through the threads here.
     
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  6. Bandit99

    Bandit99 Monkey+++ Site Supporter+

    It certainly would behoove you to do so especially in an emergency (as I am sure you know). Or, for no other reason, you would be able to put a voice to some of the monkeys here! :) I feel sure this year I will get licensed and a HF radio...which one I am not sure. I like the iCom IC-7300 but pricy so probably will be a Yaesu 857D or FT-450 especially given that I truly don't have too much interest in talking to people so I know it won't get much use...that is of course until it becomes necessary in a time of crisis. I would have taken the test tonight actually but timing was bad, so to speak, so it will have to wait until next month (only place to test here is once a month). One cannot pass that Extra exam without study. I tried. I took both, my Technical and General, at the same time and passed (missed only 1 question for both but I did study for them) so I tried the Extra and blew it as missed 3 too many...and I have been in communications and electronics all of my adult life. It's like anything else, half the crap you learn you don't use in real life so...you use it or lose it. But, I will get something going this year. I finished building my computer now so comms is higher on the 'Do List' and soon Spring (I hope so!) and already picked out antenna location and how to route cabling into the house.
     
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  7. Idahoser

    Idahoser Monkey+++ Founding Member

    I didn't get into it for real until it already didn't take any real knowledge to get Extra. Even my mom got Extra and she doesn't even care.
    I think the test for Extra ought to be, they drop you into a crashed airplane and you have to build a radio to call for help.
    I go to the local hamfest, and some years I go to Huntsville and/or Jackson MS, and I enjoy it, but I still don't have any interest in "talking on the radio". I call myself interested in the tech stuff but only as a fan, I'm no expert. I do like to collect portable antennas but I don't really put them up or use them for anything.
    I do think there's no way to call yourself "prepared" if you have not learned to use your equipment. Just buying it and putting it on the shelf is worse than a waste. I'm not saying you have to get licensed, but you don't need a license just to listen. You need to do almost all the same stuff, and you are ABLE to do ALL the same stuff, as if you were planning to transmit, just ... don't. If you insist on just prepping and not getting licensed, that is. I don't recommend that, you should get the license. Like a carry permit. Think of it as a vote.
     
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  8. techsar

    techsar Monkey+++

    Our hamfest has not shown any drop in attendance, either by vendors or buyers...the one exception being a couple of years ago when everyone was concerned with the economic outlook. Even then it was a small dip, and the following year was back to normal. This year we are even getting some new vendors, mainly to replace some of the smaller ones that due to age are retiring.
    New ham testing usually has a good turnout, well balanced by upgrade testers.
    All in all, a larger venue would be a boon, but that just isn't in the budget :)
    There has been an uptick in folks interested in digital modes such as C4FM and D-STAR, and many local repeaters are reflecting this trend...but not alienating analog comms. Digi just doesn't do well when a wall of water, such as is common in a hurricane, is present. The forums address the pros and cons for EmComm...along with many other subjects.
    Variety and addressing hams' wants and needs seem to keep our 'fest relevant in today's world.
     
  9. Sgt Nambu

    Sgt Nambu RIP 4/19/2018

    Same at the smaller or club gun shows! Same old boys with the same old overpriced guns! I'm pretty well convinced that if a buyer said, "OK, I'll take it!" The old boy would have a coronary 'cause he really doesn't want to sell his collection! :)
     
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  10. Seepalaces

    Seepalaces Monkey+++ Site Supporter+

    I would certainly count myself in the "save the world" crowd. One giant problem I'm having with my radio set up is that I'm really interested in the tech aspect of it, but I'm not a talker (unless I'm crazy nervous). Typically, I'll tune into a technet and for whatever reason the guys leading it want me to give input. "Uh, yeah, I'm new. " Then they want me to interact, why I wonder? I mean, it's not like I could really add anything of import.
     
    Last edited: Mar 16, 2017
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  11. BTPost

    BTPost Stumpy Old Fart Snow Monkey Moderator

    Comms has been my thing since I was. 12 years old... when I got my Novice License... Just listen, until you have a question, then ask... and if you get a "LID" who answers, then come here, and ask here, and we will be more than happy to answer...
     
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  12. Tevin

    Tevin Monkey+++

    This is going to sound odd, but for all the radio gear I own, I do very little on air operating. I am more of tinkerer/experimenter; I also write technical articles about my work for my blog and occasionally accept invitations to give off grid power/ham radio demonstrations. These invites come mostly from scout groups and ham clubs. I just don't feel a need to flap my jaws on the radio a lot. When I am on the air, it's often with a data mode so I actually don't have to "talk".

    Getting back to hamfests, I guess I'm the guy who goes mostly for the tradition and the social experience. I like to browse and chatter in person. I might buy some connectors or other small parts but I seldom spend any real money. One local hamfest is now billing itself as a "Computer, Electronics, & Ham Radio Fair". I guess they feel they gotta expand beyond ham radio to get feet through the door. It must be working because it's a very well attended event.
     
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  13. Tempstar

    Tempstar Old and crochety Site Supporter+

    I also find myself talking little, playing a lot. I enjoy building antennas, trying for that holy grail all-band-fits-in-a-shirt-pocket-with-no-losses HF antenna. Picked up two 48" replacement whips, a 34ah battery with the charger, and sore feet this weekend. This brings about another observation- I saw NO One carrying any components around that they had bought, aside from PL-259s.
    On a happy note, a fellow is sending me his like new Heathkit grid dip meter for $20! He didn't bring it, but said he would ship it and I paid him there. Got the email that he had UPS'ed it this morning. Feels good to trust someone once in a while!
     
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  14. Sgt Nambu

    Sgt Nambu RIP 4/19/2018

    Well, Seepalaces, it is communications! :D Chat a little!
     
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