Ham Radio Rallies
Ham radio rallies, often called hamfests or swap meets, are gatherings where amateur radio enthusiasts come together to buy, sell, and trade a wide range of radio-related and other items, from vintage equipment to modern transceivers and test equipment. These events foster community among radio enthusiasts, offering a platform to connect with like-minded individuals and share knowledge. One of the main attractions at these rallies is the opportunity to explore and purchase used test equipment.
Visiting FRARS Hamfest in Wimborne in 2023
Every August, the local FRARS (Flight Refuelling Amateur Radio Society) based near Wimborne in Dorset runs the popular Hamfest event, which attracts traders from all over the UK and has a large area for a car boot sale area for smaller traders and personal items for sale.
The radio rally opens at 9 am, but most sellers do not have all their items available for sale until after 10 am, so you can find bargains by looking for items still waiting to be unpacked.
Andrew visited Hamfest this year and was looking for computer-controlled test equipment and any older equipment that would make good blog teardowns.
After walking around the trader’s and personal sellers’ stands for a couple hours, he came away with the following purchases:
RF Explorer 3G Handheld Spectrum Analyzer from seeedstudio
RF Explorer is a handheld digital spectrum analyser which covers frequencies starting at 15MHz and going up to 2.7GHz. Included in the box were a dual-band telescopic 144/430MHz wideband telescopic antenna for all Sub-GHz frequencies, a whip helical for the 2.4GHz band, an RF attenuator and a soft case.
This unit was new and unused. The seller only wanted £40, saving over £180 on the new price from seeedstudio.com/RF-Explorer-3G-Combo-p-1266.html
After testing the spectrum analyser, we found the firmware was a few versions behind, and after going through the registration system, which requires an email address, we could install the control software and update it to the latest version.
Connecting the spectrum analyser to a discone antenna on our roof resulted in the front end being overloaded but with its own antennas, it could show signal levels across the RF spectrum. One helpful feature is showing 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi network channels to see which channels are in use nearby quickly.
TTi Thurlby Thandar Instruments PFM1300
The PFM1300 is a compact battery-powered 1.3GHz hand-held frequency counter, which covers 5Hz to 1300MHz frequency range.
This had a faulty switch which was easily replaced, restoring the functionality of the frequency counter.
Hantek 6022BE 2CH 20Mhz USB Digital Storage Oscilloscope
The Hantek 6022BE is a PC-controlled Digital Storage Oscilloscope and connects to the host PC using a USB 2.0 cable. It has a maximum sampling rate of 48MS/s and bandwidth of 20 Mhz.
It was in new condition and supplied in its original box, including two HanTek probes which have never been used, a USB cable with two USB A plugs, also never used and a software CD.
Pair of Psion Series 5 handheld personal organisers
The Psion Series 5 was a personal digital assistant (PDA) from Psion. It came in two main variants, the Series 5 (launched in 1997) and the Series 5mx (1999), the latter having a faster processor, clearer liquid crystal display (LCD), and updated software.
The Series 5 was the first to feature a unique sliding clamshell design, whereby the keyboard slides forward as the device opens to counterbalance the display and brace it such that touchscreen actuation does not topple the device.
The units purchased are the early models, one has a faulty screen, and the second is in much better condition, being sold in a protective case and including a 32Mb compact flash card. The working model is a special edition that came in green instead of the usual black.
With a new pair of AA batteries installed, we found the memory card had files from the previous owner and all the built-in software and stylus working correctly on the touch screen.
We had previously owned the older Psion Series 3 in the late 1990s, and the Series 5 is a nice addition to the collection.
With the faulty Series 5, we will see if it can fit a newer LCD into the case and a Raspberry Pi into the keyboard side to make a tiny Pi-based computer.
The video below shows the Psion Series 5 starting up and opening different applications.
Universal AVOmeter Model 8 Mk II
The Universal AVOmeter Model 8 started production in 1923 and remained almost unaltered until the last Model 8 in 2008.
AVOmeters are a common site at radio rallies, and having an analogue multimeter like this can be useful for some electronics applications, including measuring high voltages.
This model was a Mk II manufactured in November 1960.
The meter uses an Avo Battery BLR121 battery which outputs 15 volts, but we do not have one to test with the meter we have tested the voltage and current ranges, and it seems to still be very accurate despite it being over 60 years old.
Current: A.C. and D.C. 0 to 10 amps.
Voltage: A.C. and D.C. 0 to 2,500 volts.
Resistance: 0 to 20 megohms with internal batteries
Pair of 2.4 GHz beam antennas from Lucent Technologies.
These compact 2.4 GHz antennas will be useful for a planned project to add remote plant monitoring to our allotment on the far side of town with a WiFi link back home, allowing us to monitor moisture levels in the soil.
Benefits of Buying Used Test Equipment
- Affordability: One of the primary reasons individuals go to ham radio rallies is the chance to purchase high-quality test equipment at a fraction of the cost of buying new. This affordability particularly appeals to newcomers to the hobby or those looking to expand their workshop without breaking the bank.
- Wide Selection: Ham radio rallies bring together various vendors and sellers, each offering their selection of used test equipment. This variety gives attendees a unique chance to explore different brands, models, and functionalities, allowing them to make informed decisions based on their specific needs.
- Hands-On Inspection: Unlike online purchases, buying test equipment at a rally allows you to physically inspect the items before purchasing. You can examine the equipment's condition, test its functionality, and ask questions directly to the seller, ensuring that you're getting exactly what you're looking for.
Considerations When Buying Used Test Equipment
- Research: Before attending a ham radio rally, it's essential to research the types of test equipment you're interested in. Understand your target equipment's specifications, features, and average market prices. This knowledge will empower you to make informed decisions and spot good deals.
- Condition Assessment: When inspecting used equipment, pay close attention to its physical condition. Check for signs of wear, damage, or corrosion. Ask the seller about the equipment's history, maintenance, and known issues.
- Functionality Testing: test the equipment's functionality on-site whenever possible. Bring a set of essential tools and accessories to ensure that the equipment is in working order. This step is crucial to avoid purchasing a faulty item.
- Negotiation: Don't be afraid to negotiate with sellers, incredibly if you've researched and know market prices. Polite and respectful haggling can often lead to getting a better deal.