ARRL Conventions

Started by cockpitbob, September 11, 2016, 08:58:59 pm

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September 11, 2016, 08:58:59 pm Last Edit: September 11, 2016, 09:22:32 pm by cockpitbob
After being a ham for 6 years I finally went to one of the ARRL conventions.  The New England Convention was conveniently 1hr from home just a little west of Boston.

My first impression was what I expected, as a 58 year old guy in reasonable shape I felt young and incredibly healthy.  The average age must have been well over 60 and most were over weight.  But that's expected.  Unlike 40 years ago, kids aren't into ham radio much.  However, the club I belong to put on their tech-in-a-day class Saturday and reports are of the 24ish attendees there were 2 "Kids" and the average age was under 40.  That's good news for the hobby.  I'll hear later tonight on the club net, but a rumor said everyone passed and got their ticket ;D .   (update) 22 of 24 passed and at least one passed the General test too.

There were a lot of seminars to choose from, and the 3 I attended were quite good.
* Radio Propagation:  I came in late to this 2hr presentation and I learned a lot.  The presenter had good slides and had a very down to earth way of describing things. 

* QRP: the New England QRP club (their web site is down at the moment) gave a moderately informative, but fun talk on QRP.  The usual stuff of why, how it compares to 100W, construction methods, etc.  The main presenter has build dozens and dozens of rigs and accessories and he passed around a bunch of his home brew stuff.  Later in the evening they held a 3hr build-a-thon where people built a kit transmitter useful in testing receivers or as a CW transmitter.  These guys are passionate about their hobby.

* The Enigma Machine:  The main guy running the for-profit Enigma Museum ( gave a great presentation on the history of the machine, how it impacted WW-II, how the machines work and some of his adventures being an Indian Jones trying to recover machines from fields, sunken ships and lake bottoms in countries that aren't that excited about him doing it.  It was a great WWII communications encryption history lesson.  One big take-away is that you can throw out every WWII history book you have published before 1975.  In what he says is a world first, about 10,000 people doing the secret decoding work at Bletchley Park in England kept the secret of their work until 30 years after the war when they were given permission to talk about it.  Until 1975 no one knew we were reading the German's communications!  Also, Alan Turing didn't invent the "Bombe" code breaking machine as depicted in the movie Imitation Game.  It was 3 Polish geniuses that fled to England after Germany invaded Poland.  After WW-I, Germany was split into East and West with Poland between.  The Polish government knew Germany would eventually invade them so they maintained a code breaking group.  When the 3 Poles fled to England with their Eingma and Bombe plans England gave them zero credit.  It wasn't until the 1990s that England erected a monument to them at Bletchley Park.

The convention also had tons of vendors and a big flea market.  I managed to buy very little though.

So, though conventions really aren't my kind of thing, I recommend the ARRL conventions.  Give one a try.


Too bad that the younger crowd isn't interested much. I'm sure they're out there, just not in droves. Teenagers don't want to study to pass a test just for a hobby, young adults have new-found freedom and aren't interested in a hobby that basically keeps them at home and, these days, it's difficult to afford this hobby. I have hope, though. My son is turning 17 and has asked for a cb for his Jeep. I guess several of his friends have them. So, I'll get it for him and it'll open the door to talking about propagation and long distance comms. Unbeknownst to him, he'll also be getting a Baofeng to listen to, if he's ever interested. There's a repeater in our town that gets zero use. Maybe I can interest these kids in the hobby.

One thing I admire about Gil and this site is that he advocates packing light and getting outside. Thanks for the description of the convention. I've never been to one and probably won't go to one.
So long, and thanks for all the fish


If there's a ham flea market near by, tell your son you can only afford a used one and drag him to the flea.  It may inspire him.  The fleas I've been to usually have a good selection of CB radios.  Not many CB antennas though  ???


QuoteMy first impression was what I expected, as a 58 year old guy in reasonable shape I felt young and incredibly healthy.

I used to go to a coffee shop almost daily. It was a dive, but a great dive. You could get away with murder in there, including sleeping on the couch. People brought all kinds of stuff, played music, sold drugs, you name it... It was a young crowd. A couple times I brought my soldering iron and a kit... I operated from the front terrace with my Buddistick, K1 or MTR. These kids in their early 20s had no idea that amateur radio even existed...

QuoteOne thing I admire about Gil and this site is that he advocates packing light and getting outside.

Thanks. I guess I get bored easily operating inside. I even get bored using "normal" radios. I'd rather plug in my RT-320 or MTR than my KX2...

If we don't tell the younger guys about radio, nobody else will. Operating outside is a great way to spread the word. It could also just be giving a pair of toy walky-talkies to a kid. That's what happened to me, then CB, and later HAM radio.



QuoteI even get bored using "normal" radios. I'd rather plug in my RT-320 or MTR than my KX2...

That's funny, I was just deciding the same thing the other day. I much prefer sending or answering a CQ with my HB-1B than with my Icom 706 or Kenwood TS-140s. Yes, I can turn those down to 5 watts or so but it still doesn't feel the same as a successful QSO with a small radio. There's just something fun and satisfying about these little "gimmicky" radios. Even while sitting in my ham shack it's more fun to use the QRP rigs than the QRO rigs, though it's the most fun using the QRP rigs outside.

At the other extreme of the spectrum is my grandfather's Collins KWM-2. This thing is anything but QRP. Sure it "only" puts out 100W but the thing glows like a lightbulb and keeps my shack nice and toasty in the winter. What it has in common with the QRP rigs though is that its more fun to have a QSO with than my Icom and Kenwood. I don't know if it's the whole multistep tuning with the big knobs and switches you have to do to get it ready to transmit, or the spinning of the old analog dial or the smell of the tubes or the nostalgia or what it is. It's probably all the above and then some but a casual SSB QSO on it can leave me glowing inside almost as warmly as the tubes in the rig glow.


Yep, so I'm not the only one! Interestingly, I like using the KX2 outside, not at home. I had a nice session last night with the 320 at a parc, but I like using it at home too.. The MTR, anywhere.. Weird.. Every radio has its own character I guess, but some just beg to be used..