Friday, May 30, 2008

Dayton Hamvention 2008

Agreeing with another writer on another blog, the problems with Dayton are the problems with ham radio today. Yes, the Dayton Hamvention is a metaphor for the hobby at large.

One of the problems we face is that we are not willing to allocate large sums of money to the hobby. For most of us, it's just a hobby. Yes, we are cheap, but many of our membership have limited funs and other important financial demands. And part of the appeal of ham radio is it's offerings for inexpensive fun.

I bristle when vendors complain that we do not spend more money. Just attending Dayton is a big expense. I drove 12 hours each way this year so I could spend more money. There are no bargains in the flea market. The appeal is on the inside where we have a chance to connect with established vendors. We all have our priorities. It's a free market. Let the vendors vote with their feet. I would hate to see them go, but maybe we can't afford to keep them.

Yes, we have an aging population. How attractive would it be for a young person to join a hobby populated with a bunch of grumpy old men. I started on my own at age 14 and now find myself becoming a senior citizen at 59. No other business or interest group complains because youth do not choose their offerings.

Yes, Dayton is filthy. I've attended for the last few years and every year I come home appalled by the conditions and sick with one or another respiratory condition. My advanced years may partly account for it, but, to say again, Hara Arena is filthy and, for me, a health hazard. I intuit that the owners of the property are holding it for some future development. It's certainly not maintained for events like the Hamvention. I wouldn't be surprised if the owners would be content to let it fall down. Holding costs, etc. Face it, Hamvention will only get more filthy. Maintenance costs money. Hams are cheap. Round and round we go. We get what we pay for.

Yes, the Crown Plaza is no gem. And it's not cheap. But it's becoming a center piece for the "other" Hamvention. Things evolve. The Contest University is becoming a big part of Dayton. The dinners and the suites are important too. Maybe something will grow out of the Crown Plaza activities that can survive to another venue.

Our hobby could be rejuvenated by some killer product or application. ICOM is trying hard with D-Star, and it has great potential. Advances in equipment technology are exciting, but they are usually expensive. I do my part to buy the latest and greatest, but I'm still not able to move up to the ICOM 7800. (Thanks ICOM for the chance to dream.) QRP offers the best combination in technology and costs, but it requires more operator expertise. Elecraft may have found a profitable market niche here. Satellite work is exciting, and some forms of it use our existing equipment. Contesting may be our salvation. It doesn't require big equipment expenditures since it has flighted categories for low power, single operator, etc. It also has the virtue of collegiality.

Inertia is a powerful force, things at rest, things in motion, etc. Hamvention has inertia because it's still the biggest hamfest in the country, but it's in a state of decline. Rather than complain, we may as well make our decision from year to year based on what's offered and how we want to spend our lives. I'll go again, but my interest in going to Dayton is declining with the decline of Hamvention. DARC take note.

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