SEA-PAC 2009 Wrapup

Whew, I just got back from a nice day at the SEA-PAC 2009 convention in Seaside, OR. Due to the *ahem*unstable*ahem* financial situation that I have recently found myself in due to the current economic conditions, I decided a few months ago that I would skip the show this year. However, things ended up changing, as they often do. Since I'm now working for Buddipole, I figured that it would be good to make an appearance, if for nothing more than getting in some time at the booth, soaking up the feeling of the chaos, and maybe trying to learn a thing or two. The deal was sealed when Chris, W6HFP called me last night to let me know that he had an extra exhibitor's pass that I could use. Being a ham, thus cheap by nature, I jumped on the chance.

Found: SSDRA
Found: SSDRA

The morning started a bit late for me since I was busy doing some much-needed hibernation the night before. I ended up rolling into Seaside around 1030. Surprisingly, I didn't have much trouble finding a parking space within a few blocks of the convention center. After a quick check-in at the Buddipole booth, I started off with a first walkthrough of the convention floor. As usual, the sheer mass of stuff, along with the throngs of hams smashed together in narrow aisles kept me too distracted from finding much that I wanted to buy. However, when I was about ready to quit my first pass through the show floor, I found it: my reason for being there. The thing that I knew made the trip worth it, regardless of whether I found any other good purchases. Sitting on a lonely swap table in the middle of the main floor was two first edition copies of Solid State Design for the Radio Amateur (SSDRA). For those of you who aren't homebrewers and don't listen to SolderSmoke, just know that SSDRA is a long out-of-print book that can command quite high prices on eBay and other reseller sites. These two copies carried a cover price of $7.00, but the seller had marked them down to $5.00! Immediately, I snagged both of them. However, I'm not quite as greedy as it might seem. I had loaned out my 3rd printing copy to W8NF, who hadn't had access to one for years. Since I knew he needed one, I had to save one copy for him (coincidentally enough, he had brought along my loaner copy to return to me). I know that still puts me in that club of hoarders who have more than one copy, but I don't really care! I've got two copies of EMRFD (1st edition and Revised 1st edition), so it feels right to have the first and third printing copies sitting on my shelf. Don't hate me.

After that small bit of excitement (yes, I'm a geek to the core), I went back to the Buddipole booth for a stint in helping out. What I thought would be a fairly small amount of time behind the booth turned out to be about three hours during some fairly busy periods. I was at a pretty big disadvantage because I couldn't remember the prices on most items, and I had to bug poor Chris numerous times to ask. However, I started to get more comfortable fielding questions as the afternoon wore on, especially regarding the technical side of things. The best part was getting people pumped up about our new A123 nanophosphate battery packs and chargers. A lot of folks were interested in these things. I also ran into a few people of note while manning the booth. First off, I got to meet Randy K7AGE when he stopped by the booth. He was a really nice guy and I got to tell him how much I appreciate his YouTube videos, especially the 6 meter stuff he recently released. A bit later, Dan KK7DS and his wife (Mrs. D-RATS, according to her t-shirt, LOL) stopped by. You may remember him from our January Eggs & Coffee, where he was kind enough to stop by to demo D-RATS. Dave W8NF, came to the booth to give me my copy of SSDRA, and I had the pleasure of surprising him with a copy of his very own.

The Law
The Law

Across the way from the Buddipole booth was a vendor selling ham radio-related t-shirts. I had to do a double-take at one point because I saw someone well-known to the locals browsing the wares across the way. Paul Linnman, who used to report for KATU and now broadcasts on radio station KEX, was right there, along with who I assume was his wife. He was there to give the evening banquet speech regarding the famous Oregon Exploding Whale story, which he covered as a newbie reporter back in the day. I pretty much expect media types to kind of look down their nose at us nerds, but Paul seemed genuinely interested and amused at the hamfest. Speaking of the t-shirt vendor, I spotted a shirt that I just had to pick up. I don't normally go for the extremely nerdy fare that you find at these things, but if you check out the photo to the left, you'll probably appreciate why I had to have this one. Of course, I got a ton of eye-rolling from Jennifer when I brought it home, but it's not like I plan on wearing it out everywhere we go in public. Or maybe I will, just so she'll be embarrassed to be seen with me.

Even with all of the cool stuff that I saw, the best was still to come. After my stint at the Buddipole booth, I had a bit of time to kill before the seminar I wanted to see. When I was wandering near the front doors of the convention center, I spotted the ham homebrewer #1 rockstar, Wes W7ZOI. I've communicated with Wes a few times via e-mail but I've never met the guy in person. I almost walked up to introduce myself to him, but chickened out, figuring the poor guy didn't want to be ambushed by some unknown geek at the front door. So I continued browsing the tables to see if I could find anything else I couldn't live without. As fortune would have it, I ended up right next to Wes once again on the mezzanine level right by the table full of old Tek junk. Since it appeared that the universe was giving me a second chance, I got up the nerve to walk up and introduce myself. Surprisingly to me, he actually recognized my name and mentioned that he had been hoping to meet me at some point, since I'm one of the few locals who is out there homebrewing and publishing my work on the Internet. To say I was flattered is a huge understatement. He also invited me over to visit his shack some day; asking why I hadn't come over sooner. My reply was something along the lines of "I didn't want to be a crazy stalker"...or maybe it wasn't quite that dramatic, but you get the gist of the message. Wes is a really nice guy, and it was truly an honor to finally meet him. When I do get over to his shack, you can bet I will get some photos and a write-up for you.

The end of the evening was a presentation on "Construction & Design Ideas" by Jeff WA7MLH. Jeff is a protege of Wes, and it showed in his really neat presentation. He brought along a PowerPoint deck showing off his shack and many of his homebrew rigs. He discussed strategies for acquiring parts cheaply at hamfests, techniques for repurposing used chassis,  design elements for receivers, transmitters, and transceivers, as well as a bunch of other random homebrewer wisdom. After an hour-and-a-half, he still wasn't done with the first part of his presentation, but I had to go! Which was a bummer, because I really wanted to stick around for part two, which was about building crystal filters. Alas, real life had to intrude into my geek bliss, and I needed to return home.

This was the best time that I've had yet at any hamfest. Even though I'm a pretty shy guy, I got a lot of socializing in this time. I've come away really reinvigorated to get building more stuff, but unfortunately I don't have much time for that right now. But that's OK, because the fire is really burning once again. Thanks to everyone who I met at SEA-PAC this year, and a special thanks to Buddipole for giving me the opportunity to get reconnected with a lot of good ham radio stuff.

5 thoughts on “SEA-PAC 2009 Wrapup”

  1. Hi Jason, Great to hear of renewed interest in Ham and homebrew! Sounds like you will enjoy the new job a great deal! I generally leave Dayton with this "renewed interest" each year. Setting through the FDIM seminar and spending most of the weekend with the QRP crowd will renew interest! Interested in hearing more about these A123 battery packs! Been searching last couple days for info ( after seeing WG0AT last video ) Google has not helped much, just video's of guys ripping apart 36V Dewalt packs. Good luck with the job, and I look forward to seeing the next project you've got bouncing around in your head at the moment! 73 - Seth - W8FG

  2. Jason, it's always good to encounter you. I, too, had the pleasure of finally meeting Wes in person. I wonder how many people in attendance at Jeff Damm's presentation realized how close they were to the epicenter of modern ham radio homebrewing. Here they were, in the room with Wes, a co-author of SSDRA and a principal author of EMRFD, and Jeff WA7MLH, who built many of the prototypes photographed in SSDRA.

    Jeff's presentation did a great job of showing us how to re-purpose things that nobody else wanted. Those things in the flea market that don't look like fancy new solid-state gear can be a treasure trove of not only "the right chassis" but also some dandy parts. Those precision gear-driven air variables are ever so much better than a polyvaricon, and half the price at a flea market!

    The social aspect of a ham convention is part of why I go now. The sponsoring club, OTVARC, has done a tremendous job of publicity. Part of this is because the club's FD chairman JD Fort K7JDF, is the producer of KEX radio's morning news program - that's why they scored Paul Linmann as the evening banquet speaker. OTVARC is also the home club for KE7JSS, who won an ARRL award for his public relations work on behalf of ham radio. One of the club members, W6ABM, is active in local politics, and recently ran for (although did not get elected to) public office. So, for some reason, this is the local club that seems to be able to get ham radio noticed. Even if you're not into the social scene, I always encourage hams to support one of your local clubs - at least if you can find one that is good at bringing newcomers to ham radio. Fresh blood will keep the hobby alive.

    Seth you HAVE to get your hands on one of those batteries. Chris showed me one and it was so light - in my mind I saw the cartoon of me expecting it to weigh more so I'd be throwing it high in the air. Just from visual appearances, it occupies perhaps 20% of the volume of my 7AH SLA batteries and can't possibly weigh more than 10% as much. It's so light, you figure it must be filled with feathers - and not all that well stuffed.

    And of course, no end of thanks to you Jason for procuring for me, my very own copy of SSDRA!!! It will be a long time before you'll have to pay for your own frosty malted beverages if we're at the same watering hole together.

    And you finally got me to log in to a blog - first time ever.


    Dave W8NF

  3. @w8fg

    Hey Seth, great to see that you're a reader of my blog!

    It sounds like I might get the opportunity to go to Dayton with Buddipole next year. If I do, it will be my first trip, so I'm hopeful that I'll be able to go

    You can find about a bit more about the A123 technology from the cell manufacturers website. There's a lot of good info there if you take the time to dig for it. Also, watch the Buddipole website. I've written up a page about our A123 batteries, which should be deployed very soon

    73, Jason NT7S

  4. @w8nf

    Dave, thank you for taking the time to sign up for an account on my blog, I appreciate it!

    You are 100% correct about that seminar. I was pretty much thinking the same thing as you. I couldn't believe that I was right there some of the titans of our hobby. I learned a lot from Jeff's presentation, and I've already got some new attitudes about how to approach the next hamfest I attend.

    I got the chance to chat up Wes some more when he stopped by the Buddipole booth. I had the opportunity to tell him all about the A123 battery technology, which he said was the most interesting new technical information he found at the whole convention. I'm still shocked that he invited me to come to his shack. I'm sure I could end up talking with him for hours if he gave me the chance.

    It was my pleasure to find you a copy of SSDRA. As soon as I saw it, I knew it had to go to you. The extra copy was just a bit of gravy for me. LOL

    73, Jason NT7S

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