Packet radio

May 22, 2019
@tony expressed an interest in packet radio. This uses a radio transceiver, TNC, and software to connect two computers over radio.

Does anyone have experience with packet radio? I’ve done just a little bit, mostly just testing and experimenting. I have a Kenwood TS-2000, as well as a Kenwood HT that has a built-in TNC. I bought a TNC a few years ago, only to find that the only packet BBS in my area had gone offline, and so the only thing the TNC was good for was monitoring APRS.

When I have some time, I will write up a quick intro on the subject. For now, here’s what you’d need to get started:
  • A ham radio license. Testing is done by local ham clubs, you can use Google or visit the ARRL web site to find a local club who does testing.
  • A transceiver with a TNC input. Most mobile radios have a connection for one. The Yaesu FT-7800 works well. Or you can use something with a built-in TNC, which makes things simpler.
  • A TNC, or Terminal Node Controller. This is essentially a modem with a push to talk circuit and firmware designed for half duplex operation.
  • Software. For keyboard to keyboard chat, you don’t need anything special. Just a serial terminal program. However, serial terminals are a dying breed, and only TeraTerm seems to have all the necessary bits and pieces - at least on Windows. I am working on my own terminal program, but let’s talk about that separately
Finally, there are two common modes for packet, like TCP and UDP on IP networks, packet has a connection mode with error correction and a broadcast mode.

Keyboard to keyboard or BBS operation involves the connection oriented mode, where the TNCs filter out other units on the air and can relay data through multiple stations. There’s also a broadcast mode, where packets are transmitted to all listeners and the TNC decodes all received packets. This is used for APRS (Automated Packet Reporting System.)

Think of APRS as the ham version of SMS, with its most common use being position reporting and weather data transmission.

Im not an expert on packet, but I know enough to help you find more information and point you down the right path.


New Member
Oct 23, 2019
I messed with a TNC-2 on 2-meters years ago. Unfortunately I didn't have a new enough ROM in it to run TCP/IP, though. I think I was running NET/ROM, but I can't really recall too clearly...

Always wanted to get into HF packet. Maybe I still will someday.....


New Member
Dec 6, 2019
Seattle, King, WA, USA
Some also did Morse/CW decoding, WEFAX, RTTY, PACTOR, Hellschriber, other modes as well as TCP/IP. I'd too love to be able to TNC again with the X16, with the right sort of software that interfaces with most TNC's out there.

I don't know that many SWL'ers and Amateur radio operators back in the day that didnt have some sort of computer, 8 or 16 bit, doing some sort of work in the shack.

Most of the C64, VIC and 128 software.. although there was also Apple ][, TI, Tandy, Atari and others didn't really survive the test of time, except for 1 or two and some were available as carts and on disk.