Winter 2009 Issue

Digital Radio

Hosting a Digital Conference

By Mark Thompson, WB9QZB

Those of you who read CQ VHF Editor Joe Lynch, N6CL’s “Line of Sight” editorial will have noticed in the Fall 2008 issue that Joe covered the ARRL/TAPR DCC (Digital Communications Conference) in Chicago. I was the local co-host of the 2008 DCC in Chicago along with Kermit Carlson, W9XA. In this issue I will discuss planning and organizing a digital conference.

History

In the mid-1980s I became involved and active in packet radio. Packet radio grew dramatically from the mid-1980s through the mid-1990s. In many areas local packet clubs were established. In the Chicago area CAPRA (Chicago Area Packet Radio Association) was established to educate hams about packet and build backbone links. CAPRA grew quite quickly, like packet radio, and had monthly meetings.

Because packet was a new technology, many hams were very interested in learning about it. CAPRA hosted packet forums at local hamfests, and in 1990 CAPRA sponsored a packet radio day on a Sunday in October. We invited Kantronics to present at the event. A CAPRA member, George Dorner, W9ZSJ, was a dean at a local community college and arranged for the club to use an auditorium for the event. We didn’t require registration in advance and were astounded when 200 hams participated in the event. In 1992 and 1994 we hosted the event again in conjunction with Kantronics.

The first TAPR annual meeting was held in 1995 in St. Louis. In 1996 TAPR and the ARRL jointly organized the first annual DCC in Seattle.

In 1997 we submitted a proposal to TAPR to host the 1998 DCC. While we had never hosted a national event before, we did have some experience with hosting the well-attended Kantronics packet days a few years earlier. Carl Bergstedt, K9VXW, and I were the local co-hosts.

The first task was to find a hotel at which to hold the DCC. We worked with TAPR to determine the hotel requirements for a DCC. One critical objective was to keep the hotel cost affordable for both the TAPR organization and the attendees. The annual W9DXCC DX conference held their event at a Holiday Inn in northwest suburban Chicago. We visited the hotel and met with its conference representative. The hotel seemed to meet TAPR’s requirements and we recommended the hotel to TAPR.

At that point, TAPR took responsibility for negotiating the contract with the hotel. As local co-hosts, we worked with TAPR to assist in logistics. The DCC was well attended, with the the ARRL, FCC, and major manufacturers present. In fact, Kenwood debuted its first prototype of a packet/APRS HT at the second annual APRS national symposium at the DCC. The agenda and presentation audio of the 1998 DCC are available at <http://www. tapr.org/conf_dcc1998.html>.

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