A trip to the ARRL 2014 Centennial Convention

We made the trippilgrimmage to the ARRL 2014 Centennial Convention this past weekend (July 17-20, 2014) in Hartford, CT. Had a fantastic time and we’re so glad we went. We had planned to go a while back, then decided not to go, but then in May (practically last minute) decided that it was an event we needed to go to.

We flew out Wednesday so we could be there for the whole three days. After we got off the plane, we made our way to the bus stop  to catch the bus into Hartford. On the way to the bus stop, we met a ham from Germany, DJ5JH and had a nice conversation while we waited for the bus to show up. We ended up being joined  by a few more hams by the time the bus arrived.

The first day (Thursday) consisted of a number of training tracks. I spent my time in the Intro to Amateur Radio Satellites and learned a lot about the history of amateur radio satellites, how they get into space and how to make contacts through them. Thoroughly enjoyed it and I think it will be another aspect of amateur radio that I will eventually explore. The track ended with an outdoor demonstration of making satellite QSOs through the OA-7 satellite using a handheld antenna and two Yaesu 817s.

Making satellite QSOs
Making satellite QSOs

The Thursday training tracks included a lunch with a very inspiring and motivating talk given by ARRL First Vice-President Rick Roderick/K5UR. He told some funny stories about his amateur radio adventures and challenged everyone there to leave an amateur radio legacy and promote amateur radio to youths.

Friday and Saturday was spent in a variety of forums and wandering around the exhibit hall. There was a pretty decent amount of activity in the exhibit hall. Although the flea market area was pretty small, there were a few things I think I might have come away with if luggage space wasn’t an issue. I ended up buying a copy of The Best of Idea Exchange from the QRP ARCI table and ARRL’s Hand’s On Radio Experiments.

There were a lot of interesting non-vendor related tables that were worth lingering at in the exhibit hall. The W1TP Telegraph Museum had a lot of neat old telegraph equipment and a very cool collection of Enigma machines. There was the fully restored 1964 Collin’s Communications Van and the working phonograph at the Vintage Radio and Communications Museum of Connecticut table.

One of the highlights of Friday was the trip out to ARRL headquarters and W1AW. There’s a pretty impressive collection of vintage and antique radio gear, and the ARRL Testing Lab was a pretty neat area, especially for a geeky type like me. They even fired up Old Betsy, Hiram Maxim’s spark gap transmitter, for a little bit. It’s a loud beast.

"Old Betsy", W1AW's spark gap generator
“Old Betsy”, W1AW’s spark gap generator

For the convention, operating slots for W1AW were being scheduled in 15 minute windows. I was able to get a slot operating in Studio 1 and operated as W100AW on 20m. Managed to get two contacts in, which I was pleased with. It was pretty cool being able to operate there.

At HPM's desk
At HPM’s desk

Saturday ended up being a pretty low key day. Went to one forum on antenna modeling and spent some time sitting and people watching, and wandering the exhibit hall some more. Had a Twitter/Reddit meetup in the afternoon where I got to make some eyeball QSOs with a few hams. Always nice to be able to put a face to the online persona.

Sunday was our travel day home, and we ended up being joined on the flight to PHL by DJ5JH. Not only was he the first ham we met in Hartford, he was also the last ham we saw when we left.

More pictures from the ARRL Centennial Convention over in the gallery.