Radio Amateur

llbook

Dept. B

925 Sherwood Dr,, Box 24 7 Lake Bluff, I L 60044, USA

same a* the FM voice repealers wc are used to. In fact, any packet station can be a digipeater. Remember thai each packet station listens to every transmission on the frequency to see if that transmission is addressed lo it. it also looks at each transmission to see if it is supposed to be repeated. The addressing information specifies which stations are lo repeat the information and in what order they are to repeat it. Thus a cham of repeater stations may pass along a message and carry it a long distance beyond the local area Thai is the basis of networking.

Packet Is Fun

Enough of ihe theory and history1 Packet is loads of fun Thousands of hams use packet for rag-chewing just as they do any other mode. You can share the channel with a dozen other conversations and watch them all at oncc if you like. Or you can limit your screen to displaying only what is sent by the person with whom you arc conversing.

A major pastime on packet is non-real-time communication. Real-time communication is when both panics in the conversation are on the air at the same time. In amateur radio, the further apart two real-time stations are, the greater the chance that one of the panics is either up late, up early, skipping work, or retired. In non-real-time communication, only one party needs to be on the air at a time. The originator o\ a message leaves the message on a "mailbox," which stores it for later retrieval. This is similar to leaving a written message taped to the refrigerator door for a family member who won't be home when you are. As long as the mailbox is accessibic 24 hours a day, communication can occur between two persons regardless of whether they arc both on the air at the same time or not. This frees the amateur from the tyranny of the clock—and the ionosphere.

There are numerous mailboxes or bulletin-board stations active on packet. ARRL bulletins, newsletters, computer files and programs, and many public iaid personal messages are available on these computer systems for access by anyone within packet range (and remember that packet range is greatly extended b\ the use of digipeat-ers). The network automatical)- forwards messages to the mailbox serving the addressee, It is very thrilling (and convenient) to check into your local mailbox and get messages from numerous states and several countries.

What does it take to gel on packet radio? The minimum equipment is a terminal node controller (TNC), which is the packet controller; a 2-meter FM radio ;ind antenna; and either a computer or a terminal {see

The TNC is the device that contains the microprocessor that does most of the work of getting your information sent and received. There are now a variety of TNCs to choose from, in a variety of price ranges and capabilities. There will no doubt he ads for several TNCs in this issue of 73 , Many radio stores have TNCs on display, and most clubs have at least one person on the air w ith packet. Although it takes many words to describe what packet is, ti only takes a few minutes to see what it can do when you get a demonstration.

Packet can be used with any radio capable of sending voice—i.e., those with microphone jacks—and can be sent anywhere the FI emission is permitted In practice, taking various gentlemen's agreements into account, packet is in the 11RTTY portion of the HF bands, all but the "CW only" portions of the 6- and 2-meter bands, and everywhere else. Avoid repeaters where digital is not welcome and. of course, don't interrupt a conversation in progress on implex channels The most common radio used for packet today is the 2-meter FM rig,

The terminal is any device that has a keyboard for inputting information and command ^ to the packet controller, and a screen or printer for displaying the information that comes in from the controller. If you use a computer as a terminal, it needs to have communication software to make it act like a terminal. Any software that works with a telephone modem will work fine with a packet controller. In general, any stand-alone terminal will work, as will any computer equipped to handle an external mode. The kev words to look for are "serial," "RS-232," and "ASCII."

The Future

As more and more packet stations come on the air. there is increased support for a good network. Since the radio and computer gear to form such a network is not inexpensive, clubs jre forming to take on the job of supplying such equipment. Many traditional clubs are showing more packet awareness and will be willing to support a packet repeater or network node, just as they have supported an FM voice repeater in the past,

Satellites will play an exciting and importan! role in the packet network. OSCAR 10 is used for packet connections, and OSCAR 11 carries the Digital Communications Experiment. Future satellites will provide even more packet services. JAS-1 should be up about the time you read this and wiU provide a space-borne store-and-forward mailbox capability.

Within a few years, the nationwide network described above willj be in place. Certain amateurs or clubs wil] operate high-cupacity micro- or minicomputers on the network to provide on-line access to information of interest to amateurs, This includes things such as special micrest groups for various types of amateur activity, indexes to magazine articles, propagation forecasts, and technical data and specifications. It is really going to be convenient, useful, and lots of fun. Please read the additional articles in this series fur more information on packet satellites, mailboxes, operating practices, and other interesting information. Join a local or national packet club, get some packet equipment, and "meet me on the kcys.^B

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