Packet was popular back in the 80s. It has renewed itself now for emergency operations and satellite communications. Our ARES (Amateur Radio Emergency Service) has adapted Packet for our digital mode. In a lot of communities there are also digipeaters to extend the range of the packet stations. To run packet you will need a TNC (smart TNC), computer, software, and transceiver. There are lots of TNCs, some of these have been around for a long time, and they are sill working and used everyday. You can also buy a used one off of eBay or you can build one from a kit (TNC-X). I have been using a PC but it died so I had to look around to find software for my Apple. I have been using MacTNC 1.2 for my software. MacTNC is a freeware program. It is a basic program that has some neat items. It has buttons that you can use, so you don't have to remember all the commands. There are basic button that you will use all the time and you also have some button that you can customize for you own use. I'm using a Kantronics KPC 3+ which is one of the popular current TNC. It communicates at 300 - 1200 bps. Most of the time it will be used at 1200 bps (rate for 2M).
MHEARD - a list of station heard by your TNC
KD5AT* - * means it was heard through a Digipeater
Transmit Area- Buffer
^ Communications parameters for the computer serial link. It is setup for 9600 * bits, No Parity (none), 1 Stop, and Hardware signaling (XON).
Standard Screen without cutom button showing.
KD5AUT Beacon, Via Conroe Digipeater information is programmed into his TNC for the Beacon
You will notice some of the callsigns have numbers after them(WD5CFJ-15). This is called the SID, and it can be any number from 1 - 15. This allow addressing for different items. Some TNCs have a mail box (where you can leave messages) and it is usually your Callsign - 1. You could connect to WB5CXC which would be my TNC or you could connect to WB5CXC-1 which would be my mail box inside my TNC. If your TNC is acting as a digipeater then you would give it a different - #. You can also give it an Alais (name) along with your call. An example of this, is the digipeater CONROE, it has a callsign but is easier to remember CONROE. It is not a violation of the law to use an alais as every transmition in packet has your callsign as part of of packet.
Buttons - can be Commands or operating items
The Default Buttons at the top of windows are commonly used Commands. You will need to consult your TNC manual for the commands. The above command are general commands used by most TNCs. For my TNC there are ~ 100 commands that you can use, some are for setting up the TNC and some are for operating. You can use the customized buttons on the right side, to use them you will have to write the code etc. for each button and then label it so you can remember it (you will have to restart the program for the button label to appear).
CONVERSE - Puts the TNC in the conversation mode (this is done automatically when you are connected)
COMMAND - Put the TNC in COMMAND mode.
MON ON - Turns Monitor mode ON. Displays all messages.
MON OFF - Turns OFF Monitor mode OFF - ONLY displays messages addressed to your call.
MHEARD - Dispalys all the stations heard by you TNC.
MHCLEAR - Clears the MHEARD register.
CLEAR TXT - Clears the screen.
DISPLAY - Displays the setting of your TNC.
Example on how to make your own cutomized button.