Packet Radio Bulletin Board System Demonstration

Here’s a quick, 5-minute demonstration of how packet radio can turn your handheld radio into a computer-to-computer communications system. This demo shows how one ham can leave a message for another ham using a packet bulletin board system (BBS), in this case KB0YNA’s node that sits atop Waterdog Peak, not far from here. Note that any ham radio operator, including Technician Class, can do this.

Packet radio requires the use of a terminal node controller (TNC). The least expensive of these is about $200 new, though I picked up an older, working TNC (well, it worked with a little tender loving care) for $2 at a recent swap meet. The part “older” is quite literal – it’s way behind where the current ones are in terms of capability. Note that it’s possible to pay lots more for TNCs. You can get by with the least expensive one. The additional capabilities are for HF radios (General Class and above), but most of the popular digital modes on HF can be used with just a computer sound card.

So that brings up the question: is it possible to do packet with a computer sound card? After all, it’s just tones on a radio. The answer is supposedly yes, using AWGPE’s software. Frankly I can’t make heads or tails of the software (and I’ve tried), nor do I know of anyone who has. If you have, please let me know how you did it! In the meantime, we’re stuck with hardware TNCs.

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2 Responses to Packet Radio Bulletin Board System Demonstration

  1. Dave says:

    Thanks for the tip. The TNC-X is a KISS-mode TNC. Another option is the Tiny-Trak-4, in the same price class and also a KISS-mode TNC. KISS-mode TNCs require software on the PC side, and I haven’t seen this software available for free (except for UI-View, but that’s APRS, not traditional connected-mode packet), so if you’re going to do traditional packet, such as have a mailbox, etc., you’ll need either software or purchase a “fully-featured” TNC. I’m no expert on packet. I use my TT4 for APRS. I have my weather station connected to my old AEA DSP-232 (upgraded with the Timewave update), also on 2-meter APRS. Out here in Western Colorado, I see essentially no activity on traditional packet or APRS. We live in a sparsely populated area, so very few hams per square mile.

  2. KJ4UFX says:

    What about the TNC-X? The base cost is $35, #123 if you want it assembled for you in an enclosure with USB.

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