Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Hacks: Articles about programming in Python, Perl, PHP, and whatever else I happen to feel like hacking at.

San Diego 2010 ARRL Convention and Swapmeet

Jerry Stratton, August 24, 2010

The Southwestern Division of the ARRL shifts the annual convention between cities every four years; in 2010, the convention will be in San Diego at the Four Points by Sheraton, 8110 Aero Drive, 92123, from September 17 to 19.

Ham Radio conventions, for me, are marked by the swapmeet. It’s about as geeky as you can get and not know a thing about computers. Unfortunately, they’ve also gotten smaller. The San Diego swapmeet will only be from 6 AM to 10 AM on Saturday morning (September 18).

Spaces are limited so please only use the area you need. First come, first serve. All FREE, but we do request you visit the Convention afterward. Ham Radio and Electronics items only, Please. Flea Market will be in the Far West parking lot of the Hotel, near the Communications Vans exhibit.

See the San Diego County Amateur Radio Council page for more information. The convention itself is inexpensive: $20 at the door.

Growing up in the seventies, Hamfests were an incredible experience. I looked forward to the Grand Rapids hamfest every year. We’d go up early in the morning, and the swapmeet itself filled several halls of what was probably a school or college; around brunch time there was lunch at the cafeteria—a meat and potatoes meal. It felt like all day, but we probably left in mid-afternoon.

This was when personal computers were just starting out. I saw my first PET computer there; I bought my first “commercial” software package that same year, a Space Invaders clone for the TRS-80 Model I.1

I also picked up a wide variety of totally strange crap. For years, I kept a huge, ancient oscilloscope with a faded green screen, and a bulky, heavy strip-chart recorder, the kind that might be used for a seismograph or an EEG readout. They were only a couple of bucks each, and they looked like something out of a fifties mad scientist’s lab. My plan had been to set up a radio telescope, but apartment living squashed that idea. Every once in a while I’d hook up the strip-chart recorder to the audio output of a stereo, just because it was so damn cool to see the pen scratch back and forth on rolling graph paper. I finally gave them to an artist friend who likes to put that kind of thing in installation art.

It was like a Make exhibit where all the parts to do the same thing were tossed into boxes for scrounging through, for 10 cents each or a trade. Because it was on the cusp of the personal computer revolution, there were both “commercial” PCs, such as the PET and the Model I, and completely hacked-up PCs with one-line readouts for measuring radio frequencies.

I don’t expect the San Diego swapmeet to be quite the same experience. I think the only hamfest left of any size is the Dayton hamfest; in the seventies, hams used to fly down from Michigan to Ohio just for that con—in their own two-seater airplanes. That was the culture of the ham community in the sixties and seventies. If you could do it with personal tech, you did it. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of them built their own planes from kits.

  1. That was why I started programming in earnest. I went to the hamfest planning to get a word processor. When I saw Space Invaders running, I had to have it. So I bought Space Invaders, and wrote my own word processor.

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