Winlink 2000 (WL2K)

I’ve been looking for ways to revive an old hobby of mine, ham radio. I struggled to find reason (for myself) to stay involved especially with the not so recent decline in packet radio and active hams in our area.

As I have no interest in rag chewing or using antiquated CW I couldn’t come up with something useful to do or contribute. So I started up my old packet station and set up a BPQ32 BBS. As it turns out there is tremendous interest. I’m linked to Amsterdam, the UK and  BBS about 60 km from my home and regularly forward messages. My one VHF packet subscriber checks in once a day.

This was loads of fun to set up and I learnt a lot. But, the greater community pointed me to something even more special, Winlink. I quote from their web site:

Winlink 2000 (WL2K) is a worldwide system of volunteer sysops, radio stations and network assets supporting e-mail by radio, with non-commercial links to internet e-mail.

I followed a course presented by them and quickly had my client up and running. This resulted in my an email address, zs6io at being registered for me. Btw, ZS6IO is my ham call. I can also be reached at ZS6IO@ZS6IO.PTA.GAU.ZAF.AF (packet radio only obviously).

What the system offers is a message relay via HF, VHF and also the internet via Telnet if it is available. It relays to the internet, so if you’re a sailor at sea or in need of emergency communication this is a very effective means of reaching out.

Winlink supports a number of digital modes, including Pactor 1 – 4 (my word, Pactor modems are frighteningly expensive – $ 1000 region), HF and VHF packet and also a new mode called Winmor. Winmor is my obvious choice as it is free and operates as a software modem on a generic PC sound card. Apparently it is similar to Pactor 2 in terms of performance.

More on the apps later.

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