There seemed to be a very good atmosphere during that first Friday night construction evening, I took part in the construction myself and successfully completed a Manhattan style Z match ATU. I enjoyed building the project but I found that I rather missed out on the social activity.
This year the Friday night event seemed better than ever, all seemed to be enjoying the conversation and free buffet. I was very pleased to meet Rex, W1REX, for the first time. I have built a number of Rex's QRPme kits since buying my first SUPER Tuna ][ kit from G-QRP club sales at the 2011 convention. Rex had brought the original 1976 Tuna Tin 2 transmitter built by Doug Demaw, W1FB, with him from Maine. I spent most of the evening chatting with Rex about RockMites and Tuna can kits. George Dobbs G3RJV kindly signed my copy of his new QRP book. The Buildathon project this year was the RSGB centenary 20m PSK receiver, I heard that ten builds were attempted and all ten were working at the end of the night.
By 1130pm there were only four people left in the room, including myself; we decided to retire for the evening. Rex picked up his soldering ironing and headed off for his room to do a couple of hours of kit building, whilst I drove the 12 miles to my home QTH.
Saturday 26th October.
I left home at about 9am and stopped off at the convenience store to pick up some sandwiches and drinks for the day. The convention is famous for it's pie and peas, but as I'm vegetarian it's not much good for me! I managed to find a space on the main road outside the school not too far from the entrance, I got there about fifteen minutes before the 10am convention start time. The queue to get in had started to form but I was pleased to be reasonably near to the front.
Unlike previous years, the event opened pretty much exactly at 10am, in the past the doors seemed to be open earlier than this. I heard the usual reports that the traders had all looked at each other's stalls before the official opening and snapped up all the good stuff - I guess that's a perk of being a trader!
My first port of call was to find the book stall run by Richard G3UGF. I bumped into fellow SOTA enthuiast Mike, 2E0YYY whilst trying to locate the book stall. Eventually I spotted Richard at the other end of the hall and dropped off my donation of books, it was a relief as those books were heavy! The book stall had lots of stock and lots of them were interesting historic titles, including some copies of the famous 'Solid State Design for the Radio Amateur' (SSDRA) by Wes Hayward W7ZOI.
The lecture stream started at 11am, first up was a talk by Ian Keyser G3ROO about spy sets. Ian was also joined on the stage by Roy GM4VKI and Johnny Apell SM7UCZ and there were a number of radio sets to look at after the talk.
The second talk, after lunch, was by Paul Darlington M0XPD about using the Arduino and similar platforms as a basis for radio projects.. Paul's talk was very well delivered and quite inspiring. I came away thinking about having a play with an Arduino myself, so Paul's talk certainly worked on me! Paul's blog here - http://m0xpd.blogspot.co.uk/
The next talk was by Colin G3VTT. Colin's talk was about his adventures with AM broadcasting from ships at sea. The talk was very entertaining and a good insight in to the technical challenges of operating a high power radio system away from the comforts of land. I felt a little connection with the story as Colin described operating his Elecraft K1 from the Radio Seagull ship. Colin described how he used the Rishworth Buildathon ATU project as a 'sacrificial ATU' to protect his K1 from the AM transmitter. That particular ATU was built by his wife who was sat next to me when we built the kits together!
The rest of my afternoon was then spent chatting with friends and Rex on his QRPme stand. I got to see the original Tuna Tin transmitter again and pose for a photo with it.