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Eighteen years. It's been about 18 years since I went to a ham radio convention outside of Alaska. Pacificon 98 became my window into the real people of QRP and QRP-L (The QRP mail reflector with 2850 QRPers online).
You can view QRP-L messages at QRP-L Message Archives ... http://listserv.lehigh.edu/lists/Archives/qrp-l/
If you need information on how to subscribe...send me an email.
The Journey to Pacificon
My travel from Alaska was quite reasonable except for the fact that I left the house at 11:30 PM on Thursday night. I was able to sneak about 2-3 hours of sleep on the plane and arrive in Oakland, CA at 8:50 AM. A trip via AirBART, BART and the hotel shuttle took 2 1/2 hours and by 11:30 AM I was checked in.
As I turned around from the hotel counter, the first person I spotted had the look of a QRPer (i.e., wearing a NorCal QRP Zombie badge) and was a mountain man type of a guy with a big bushy beard. I thought for sure I was lost and had landed back in Alaska during the gold rush. It turned out to be Scott Hogin, K7ZEN, my roommate for Pacificon. This was also his first Pacificon. In rapid order I met W7AQK-Dave, (the Pacificon attendee list man), AC6KW-Jeff, K6EXT-Ron, W5VBO-Brian (one of the speakers) and W6MMA-Vern of SLV (St. Louis Vertical made of a 20+ foot fishing pole) upgrade fame. Pacificon was off and running for me.
First Day Continues and "The Dinner"
After a short nap, I attended the kick off Pacificon Forum titled Amateur Radio in Emergency Communications. KE6WRE - Terry Matzkin introduced the speakers and informed us that Pacificon took 125 volunteers on 25 committees a full year to put this event together. It was a massive effort.
That evening at dinner, serendipity was with me as I ended up next to KI6DS, Doug Hendricks and across from NA5N, Paul Hardin, two of my QRP heroes, so to speak. Our end of the table was loaded with hams I knew from the QRP-L mail list.
The room was a riot of laughter, loud talking, big smiles, and happy people all meeting for the first time or renewing old friendships. We introduced ourselves one-by-one and I laid eyes on Jim Cates, WA6GER (Famous organizer of the NorCal Club Kit Projects), Dave Fifield, AD6AY (Designer of the now famous NorCal 20 transceiver), Derry Spittle, VE7QK, Mike Czuhajewski, WA8MCQ (President of ARCI, the International QRP Organization), Ron, KU7Y (Editor of the ARCI newsletter), QRP Bob, KD6VIO, of Wilderness Radio (QRP kits) and or course many, many more. The evening was 100% fun plus a bit more.
Saturday - Kits and Things
Finally it was 8 AM Saturday and time for the QRP forums. There was a full day of forums and fun but there were also other exciting things to notice.
In the vendor area, I squeezed through the crowds, closer and closer until I finally saw it. I quietly listened to N6KR, Wayne Burdick, explaining the rig to another ham. I couldn't help myself as my hand snaked between the other people and I touched the Elecraft K2 transceiver. I cannot believe I actually declined Wayne and Eric, WA6HHQ's offer to build and field test the K2. Still, I do need a bit more experience before I tackle the big one. I am content to wait. As I looked inside the K2 I was struck by how it seemed to be no more difficult than a small transceiver kit...there's just more parts. The density seemed very low due to the size of the chassis. I asked why the rig was the size it was. The answer: The ergonomics of the front panel dictated how big the rig would be. The K2 controls would be too hard to use if the rig were much smaller. Once the size was known, the parts were spread out to fill the space. The details of this new kit can be found at URL address http://www.elecraft.com/
Speaking of excellence...apparently K8FF gave a "K8FF original" paddle to Wayne as a gift. It was really nice and had a few changes from the stock NorCal K8FF paddle kit. There were silver tipped contacts, black flat-head screws positioned at the magnets and the arms were held down by a dressed up screw with an Allen wrench head on it. I played with the paddle and it was the smoothest of all the paddles (about 6-8) that I saw during the weekend.
At the QRP open house I was delighted to see all the equipment and paddles built by QRPers. N7VE-Dan Taloe's new 40 meter transceiver prototype left me gasping. I could not believe the intricate nature of the inside of the rig. And it works very well. Pete Hover-W6ZH brought his classic QRP20 rig and KI6DS joked it was one of only 3 or 4 ever to work. Everyone got a laugh out of that. I finally saw Bill-KD7S's cabinets he builds from plastic. Beautiful, functional, strong and low cost. Very impressive.
My QRP History and QRPp, The Milliwatt Magazine
In 1970 while living in Iowa City, Iowa I subscribed to the QRPp Milliwatt Magazine published by W0RSP, Ade Weiss. At Pacificon I met Ade and thanked him for getting me started in QRP 29 years ago. At Pacificon, Bob-KD6VIO of Wilderness Radio also thanked Ade Weiss for the major influence on Bob's life via "The Joy of QRP"; a book written by Ade. QRP Bob gave Ade a complete Wilderness Sierra, all band CW transceiver, as a tangible demonstration of thanks. Later I talked with Ade. He was very appreciative and as an added touch he told me he had been considering ordering a Sierra transceiver only to have Bob fill his need to the max.
Pacificon Eyeball Logbook
I met Jim Cates, WA6GER, and K5FO (now K7QO), Chuck Adams, and many more in less than two days. I kept a Pacificon QSO log book. I gave out eyeball QSL cards to 100% of the people I met and talked with during the weekend. How many? I talked with 81 hams. I really did concentrate on the people of QRP and I had a great time.
If you can ever possibly make it to the QRP Forums at ARRL Pacificon (Concord, CA), do it...at least once. You will not be sorry you made the trip.
AL7FS was originally licensed as WN0LPK in March 1965 (WA0LPK from 1965-1985). Jim is a member of the Anchorage Amateur Radio Club and the South Central Radio Club. For a while he was a Moonbounce (EME) fanatic and earned 2 meter WAS #36. Even then he operated in QRP style, using only about 600 watts output. Jim has participated in HF from 160-10 meters (CW and SSB), packet, satellite, 6 meter, UHF, VHF, ATV, DX, and QRP. QRP has lasted the longest and the strongest - 1970 to the Present.
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