- Ranko Boca, 403A, is one of the world’s most accomplished radio sport contesters. From his incredible mountain top station above the Bay of Kator, Montenegro, he’s made over 500,000 QSOs since his country gained independence in 2006! Ranko also manufactures a growing family of networked station integration products under the 4O3A brand. Learn more at http://www.4o3a.com/
- Craig Thompson, K9CT, is the co-leader of PJ7E, NH8S, K9W and holds 3 expedition of the year awards. He designed and owns a world class, winning contest superstation with 11 towers from 1.8 to 1296 MHz plus EME. Craig enjoys station design engineering and working as a team in M/S and M/2 contests. To read more about K9CT visit http://k9ct.us/
And Craig Thompson has 11 Towers and a "Worldclass superstation". Also irrelevant to the vast majority of Flex users. The idea of having `11 Towers is too absurd to even address. This is a hobby for most. Not a lifestyle, profession or an identity.
My point? These speakers are a transparent attempt to have "one of the worlds most accomplished" and another "world Class station owner" pump up interest in the the Flex SDR platform in the Contest community.
Flex has every right to focus their marketing efforts on whoever they like. But I think their "world class" choices (Jeez what blow hard rhetoric!) are predictable and tired. The same marketing tripe put forth by Yaesu and Icom and even Kenwood on occasion.
Flex could have created an SDR extravaganza. Examples abound! A round table discussion with an FPGA designer, Application developers, veteran users (no they don't have to have 11 towers), and enthusiastic posters from this very forum. If Flex were creative and daring they could even invite representatives from their competitors. Flex could show their confidence by inviting Anon, Elad, Quicksilver others to address their customer base as well. Imagine a lively "Blue Sky" discussion of where the SDR can go with audience participation. What fun!!! The Microsoft HoloLens comes to mind. Will I have the 20 meter band on my watch on 5 years? ...........
Flex had a chance to be different. Like their platform, the possibilities are many. But their market is ham radio operators. And they like much of the hobby cannot think out of the box.
One could easily disparage all ham activity...
- Contesting - meaningless, clogs up the bands (except WARC but never mind)
- DX'ing - for the elite, clogs up the bands, meaningless (and most QRMers are from the US)
- ESSB - pointless, ham radio is not broadcasting
- Rag chewing - epitome of banal conversation (ailments, surgical procedures, aches, pains)
- Emergency response - heck, who wants an AMATEUR doing that?
- Experimentation - nobody builds anything any more why bother?
For FlexRadio to thrive, they have to break out from the no-knob, SDR as a fad meme and become mainstream.
That's where the money is - Contesters and DX'ers spend money and buy a rig more than once every 7 years.
A forum for SDR experimentation and discussion is a wonderful idea and kudos for you bringing it up.
4O3A and K9CT both built up great stations, 403A is a beacon and develops valuable hardware for station integration and more that we use building performance radio stations, K9CT not only is a great contester but uses his resources and skill to do things like handing out all time new ones from Navassa amongst many other projects. Just because these guys have the resources to take things to a higher level than many doesn't make them less a ham. In fact both of these operators regularly use their resources to give so much back to the entire community. Lets let them do the same with flex.
It is a great honor to have these guys part of the community. Bottom line, flex is making the right choices in the right places to not only boost sales but engage a community that will foster things like improved station integration, ease of use 3rd party application development, performance enhancements, and more. If the power contest community adopts the flex platform, it will benefit everyone at all levels of operating and help Flex Radio lead the pack in transitioning the performance radio community into broad adoption of SDR.
There is something for everyone here.. no need to slam any particular community nor set an expectation that a particular platform will cater to 1 particular subset of the hobby. That would signify a narrow vision. This was quite the opposite and is a very smart move.
Great job Gerald and team. Keep up the good work. and keep thinking outside the box.
Chairman, California QSO Party
ARRL Assistant Section Manager for DX and Contesting East Bay section
Past President, Northern California Contest Club
Flex Signature series owner, user and supporter.
Disparaging other parts of the hobby is part of the culture. It has existed as long as I can remember. At age 15 in 1965 I recall listening to 75meter a.m. where AMers conducted a "Slop Bucket War" against SSB users. It was amusing and fun for a Novice teenage to listen to! And variations of it go on to this day. So what?
I don't know what Flex's market share is. There is no data available like for almost every other industry and product line. It's a weird business. We have credible data that Apple sold 75 million iPhones, but can't find out whether Kenwood sold 4,000 TS -990's or Flex sold 643 6700's.
That said, I care little for whether Flex "breaks out" and "thrives". That's the beauty of the disruptive era we live in. I like their product line. But if they were to fail. I'd move on to another platform. If there is a need, someone will fill it.
Who wants stability? It's sooo yesterday. Laughs!
I could not disagree with your compliments given in your opinion piece but could not disagree more with your conclusions.
Flex has not paid 1/100th the attention to the contesting community that competitors like Elecraft and Icom have over the years. In my opinion, they have done a good balance between casual experimentors and mature operators. Personally, I think, like automobile racing, contesting involvement by a rig manufacturer is needed because they learn so much from being on that edge (and especially analying the failures).
We have all benefited by the mentoring presence of Stu, K6TU, in the Flex family as he is always pushing to do "a bit more" with his Flex's than the radio can currently do. This is how you continue to proress "early-mature" products and he has been great. K9CT is another that is trying to help out integrating the Flex contesters.
I am not sure I will be there this year but in my opinion, this looks like the very best banquet yet from Flex!
I am a contester and a DXer. I also had a very long rag chew with a ham that I had never met before last night. So long it was that the XYL asked me why I never had conversations like that with her. The only thing he knew about the Flex was what he had seen in QST. He didn't contest and wasn't into DX despite the fact he's got a TH-11 on a 75-foot tower. Nevertheless, we had a lot in common. It's the brotherhood of amateur radio.
There are many facets to amateur radio. You can enjoy the ones that appeal to you and ignore the rest. However, to criticize them simply because you don't understand or like them really isn't doing anyone any good. There are those who think SDR is cheating and those who think DX clusters are cheating. When Doctor Christiaan Barnard did the first heart transplant, some said that was cheating. After all, why can't we just die when we're supposed to.
Amateur radio is inclusive, not exclusive.
Moral of story is that you get the ability to be listened to with respect gained by accomplishment.
In the previous era, the ability to be listened to was indeed based on the currency of "respect" gained by accomplishment or marketing/advertising and publishing. Traditional propagandists were often people with many titles (Like Chris Tate, N6WM Chairman of this, President of that, Assistant to somebody.) Members of Vertical bureaucracies with self important titles that often carried weight in the swaying of opinion or endorsement of various practices or products. That era and it's methods are obsolete. With the rise of social Media, globalized communications and the ability to reach anyone/anywhere, being "listened to" is now based on the message. It's validity. And how it is conveyed. The pomposity of many vertical bureaucracies have been exposed for what they are. And media manipulation of the message is now far more difficult to conceal. ( Hello Bill O"Reilly and Brian Williams! Laughs!)
Technologists in the USA developed instant messaging and all of the top tier Social Media platforms, yet the Islamic State has used these tools with superior methods to drive their vile message artfully forcefully and globally. More than one American high level policy maker has lamented of late that the ISIL forces have mastered what our team seemingly cannot. So it's not about WHO is delivering the message. But how effectively their message is conveyed and through what distribution channel.
Just what is the "accomplishment" you refer to. Screaming into a microphone and making 500,000 contacts is an "accomplishment"? I say no.
BTW.... How much do you think Flex is paying these "World Class" hams to speak at this event? . Flex Radio Systems is a remarkably transparent company. Perhaps they will tell us?
If Flex were to "broadcast" the World class speakers at the banquet via Meerkat or Periscope you and others could watch in real time.
But oh wait! That requires a Smart Phone!!
The greatest part of this hobby is that it IS so inclusive. In my 49 years as a ham, I've handled traffic, rag chewed, contested, scratch-built my own single sideband exciter, chased DX, worked RTTY with a computer I built from the chips, experimented with satellites and now explore the possibilities of SDR with a nice little box I got from these guys.
Some times, ham radio HAS been my lifestyle. Even my high school sweetheart knew I was going to be unavailable for one weekend in November for SS-CW. I still have the picture of her logging for me at Field Day.(Yes, she's now my XYL)
Other times, I have gone a few years with nothing but a few repeater QSOs to my credit. You can even ignore the hobby entirely for a while and it will be there when time and resources permit.
If a SSB contest is clogging up the bands, call CQ on RTTY. If a DXpedition has a pileup parked somewhere, move. The spectrum display makes finding a clear spot a snap.
The point is, our hobby is what you make it. The actions and attitudes of the people manufacturing the radios don't set the possibilities, YOU do.
Knowing the company is I think I do, You might be the one surprised at how much they are paying the presenters. My suspicion is exactly what youl would pay them if they appeared at your house (ie, a good dinner or the closest the hotel can come to it!).
I agree that diversity of activities is the pure joy of the hobby, really active hams might not actually get on the air much at all (I have 2 friends who are building a 40M moxon antenna right now and its a huge project involving a lot of people who will never use it personally).
So the question is: what the heck are you really trying to say:Flex isn't pushing the technology edge hard enough by playing it safe to all these contester/dxers?
I just don't know what you expect a company in the business to sell SDRs to be doing?
Have you been to one of their banquets? It sounds like you want a SDR convention instead of what the purpose of the dinner is. The dinner has "experts/representatives" distributed so there is at least one per dinner table, allowing for some "low pressure" q/a time and general fellowship before the meal, then after the meal abt 1 hour of presentation. Usually Flex provides no concrete information on the next releases/new radios but during the Q/A they often tell more by saying "we can't tell you" then if they answered the original question.
The other thing beneficial about the dinner is seeing the FLex guys themselves. All the conspiracy theorists, etc. cannot compete with just how nice/kind/smart these guys are. Its hard to imagine other companies being this transparent.
Mike, you might consider going to the ARRL Digital Convention, its more in depth, has more than Flex and you get a real breadth of how far the envelope is being pushed.
As far as ISIL is concerned, wrong thread/forum.
wa4d.net , but Flex do have the right to make MONEY bye any means they can.
Another ham decides that DXers have expensive radios, high power amps, and huge antennas. That's not fair because not everyone can afford one and they're at the disadvantage in the pile-ups. So, we limit QSOs to a 500-mile radius of one's QTH and power to 100 watts.
A guy comes in who says Morse code is archaic and annoying to listen to. Since there isn't a license code requirement, there shouldn't be any band allocations either. CW goes away too.
This leaves plenty of bandwidth for crotchety old men to host nets that talk about their hernia surgery and medical treatment to cure toenail fungus. Problem is, as old age sets in these guys start dropping like flies and there's nobody to take their place.
If there were to be a apocalypse of the amateur radio hobby, this is probably how it would happen.
Oh I suppose we are getting a little off topic, as for the Ham Fest speakers? I never feel it is my place to critisize Flex in what they decide not being in their shoes. I'm sure they make plans for things with reasons that most of us have little info on...
I for one am VERY KEEN to hear what Ranko 4O3A and Craig K9CT have to say to the FlexRadio System's crowd.
Put into context these two gentlemen are skipping the Dayton Contest Dinner Saturday night to speak to us at the FlexRadio System Dinner.
We should be VERY curious what interesting things they have to say.
As for armchair quarterbacking of FRS Marketing, whatever points might have been worth discussing got loss in negativism - we can do better!
If Ranko and Craig are willing to give up their time to present, I am sure willing to give up my time to go listen.
I'll happily buy them dinner myself if just to enjoy their company.
See you there!
But what I found more interesting is that I did a quick look at the web sites for both these stations and did not see a single Flex radio (or did I miss something?)
So perhaps the presentations will be "Why I dumped $50,000 dollars worth radios into the recycle bin and replaced everything with Flex ?"
Or maybe just "You can contest no matter what radio you have". (as long as you transmit 50 KW ERP)
Anyway - I was more interested in the radios and setups they use to make the big scores. Since I cannot afford to go to Dayton, I will be looking for a summary or two on here afterwards.
Back to running 20 watts to my 30 ft. wire hidden in a tree behind the condo . . . . ready to Search and Pounce !
I am sure that these two guys have assembled first class stations and that they may have a lot to teach any ham, including Flexers, about the adventure of assembling high performance antennas, audio clarity, reducing grounding and RF problems, designing the layout of a station for ergonomic efficiency, safety, and other things in general relating to operating a cutting edge Amateur radio station.
Whether or not you agree with their favorite way of enjoying the hobby, there is probably a great deal to be learned from their experience. They have done things in the hobby that most of us never even dream of attempting. Besides that, they might even be entertaining! I hope my schedule will allow me to join the party. Right now things look a little sketchy.
Ken - NM9P
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