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Charleston HamFest 2014

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Charleston, SC – This morning I traveled up to Charleston for the North Charleston HamFest and Computer Show at the Armory Park Community Center.  Those used to going to something like Orlando or Dayton would likely have been disappointed but I thought for a small HamFest it was pretty good; the selection of gear and merchandise may have been lacking but I thought they scored some pretty good forums.   The weather for the trip was, in a word, dismal and I think it curtailed some of the crowd and most certainly some of the tailgaters but there still seemed to be good attendance.  There was one dealer present, The Wireman (an excellent source of wire and cable of all sorts) was there, and there were a number of tables with various parts, pieces, and relics (one table had 4 old PCMIA cards for sale!).  Only one hardy tailgater was there and he a number of  four bay dipoles and HF rotatable dipoles for sale as well as 125ft of Rohn tower.  I had hoped to meet up with some of the Charleston area hams I know through Twitter but the only I saw was Eugene, AB4UG (thanks for showing me around the Charleston Amateur Radio Society Communications Trailer!).

Perusing the tables at the Charleston HamFest.  I thought it was a decent crowd given the poor weather.

Perusing the tables at the Charleston HamFest. I thought it was a decent crowd given the poor weather.

The Charleston Amateur Radio Society Communications Trailer with pneumatic tower, trailer, repeaters, two operating positions, and generators.

The Charleston Amateur Radio Society’s very nice Communications Trailer with pneumatic tower, trailer, repeaters, two operating positions, and generators.  Thanks to AB4UG for showing me inside.

I arrived around 0830 and the parking lot I used was already almost full and there were plenty of folks perusing the tables.  I went around a few times and decided to buy 100 ft. of RG-8X from The Wireman for use in portable operations; it will be easy to manage and will work just fine for the HF bands with the G5RV Jr. I’ve got.  After wandering around a few more times I came across a table with an Icom PCR-1000 HF/VHF/UHF computer controlled receiver for sale.  I figured it would work good with Windows XP machine I’ve got at home so I picked it up as well.  The final purchase was Jetstream’s version of the Diamond RH77CA antenna; now I’ve got one for the ham HTs and one for the scanners and I don’t have to switch back and forth between the two.

I hung around for the forums which began at 1000 and thoroughly enjoyed the two that I attended.   The first was given by Dr. Jim Boehner, N2ZZ, ARRL Roanoke Division Vice Director who gave an overview of what the ARRL’s been up to lately including relations with the FCC, what’s been going on in regards to CCRs and ham antennas, the debate over symbol rate in the digital community, and the ARRL’s proactive stance in regards to Congress looking to rewrite the Communications Act of 1934.

Dr. Jim Boehner, N2ZZ, ARRL Roanoke Divisinon Vice Director giving the ARRL Roanoke Division Report.

Dr. Jim Boehner, N2ZZ, ARRL Roanoke Division Vice Director giving the ARRL Roanoke Division Report.

Bob Allison, WB1GCM, ARRL Senior Test Engineer and Editorial Content Coordinator gave the second forum.  He talked about what the ARRL tests, how they test it, and the lab they test it with.  I never have thought about their testing process much but I was pleased to learn that they don’t get the gear they test from the manufacturers, they buy the gear retail or in the case of gear that isn’t sold through retailers, they make a third party buy in order to make sure they get something randomly from the production line instead of something a manufacturer has made sure will test good.  He is also the author of an ARR book and that is available now explaining what all the test results mean and how it can help you chose a new radio:  Amateur Radio Transceiver Performance Testing.  He also mentioned how the Baofeng radios have tended to fall outside of FCC regulations and showed graphs that illustrated their problems (after what I saw I would definitely be hesitant about purchasing one).  He went on to talk about RFI including common causes and how to track it down.  Part of the information he presented is a page on the ARRL website devoted to RFI:  http://www.arrl.org/radio-frequency-interference-rfi.  He also mentioned a page on the ARRL website that has sound files of various types of RFI:  http://www.arrl.org/sounds-of-rfi

Bob Allison, WB1GCM, ARRL Senior Test Engineer giving a presentation on the ARRL Lab, gear testing, and RFI.

Bob Allison, WB1GCM, ARRL Senior Test Engineer giving a presentation on the ARRL Lab, gear testing, and RFI.

All in all, I think it was a worthwhile trip if just for the two forums I attended and I’m glad I went.  It’s probably the first HamFest I’ve been to in at least 7-8 years and definitely the first one I’ve been to since I upgraded to General.  It was good to hear what the League has been up to and I learned a few things during the forum about the ARRL Test Lab.


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