Posted on 17 Comments

TAPR’s packetRadio

By Stana Horzepa, WA1LOU

After returning home from Hamvention 30 years ago, I wrote the following for ARRL’s packet radio newsletter Gateway:


The Tucson Amateur Packet Radio (TAPR) booth at the Dayton Hamvention was buzzing with the unveiling of a number of new packet-radio products including prototypes of the TAPR “packetRADIO,” a low-cost (approximately $250) two-stage VHF transceiver designed exclusively for packet-radio applications. TAPR’s packetRADIO features 9600 baud FSK and 1200 baud AFSK 2-meter operation with 25 watts output, five crystal-controlled channels and a transmit-receive turnaround time of less than one millisecond (ms).

The working prototypes displayed at the Hamvention were the result of a six-week crash project by TAPR. Beta-testing will begin soon with the radios expected to be available to the general public in approximately six months.

TAPR’s packetRADIO generated a lot of excitement at Hamvention in 1989, but the project was never completed and was eventually cancelled to the disappointment of many packeteers including myself.

Fast-forward 30 years…

While cleaning out the TAPR warehouse, John Koster, W9DDD, found the packetRADIO prototype and brought it to the TAPR board meeting for show and tell. I ended up with it and brought it home to add to my collection of vintage packet radio TNCs.

17 thoughts on “TAPR’s packetRadio

  1. HELP!!!! Trying to find packet software that works, JUST WORKS, with WINDOWS 10. Trying to use MFJ1270X, with a Wouxon KGUV-6X. Have all the cables, just need the software. Any leads?

    1. Hi.. I’m a former packet node operator from the 90’s. I had a dozen PacComm Tiny-2 TNC’s running TheNet Plus 2.08. I have an MFJ-1274 that I just pulled out from the past and powered it up. It works just fine, no problems. My computer has a serial port on it, a 9-pin port. I am using a 25 to 9 pin modem cable and I have no problem with the computer talking to it. I’m using Windows 7.

      I do have a PC with Windows 10 on it. I downloaded a terminal program called PuTTY. If you do a Google search on it, you can find where to download the 32 and 64 bit PuTTY downloadable file. I have had great success using cheap USB to DB9 adapters at speeds of 9600 baud between the computer and TNC. I am guessing your MFJ 1270 has a 25 pin connector on the back. You’ll need to get a 25 pin to 9 pin modem cable, then the USB to serial adapter if your computer doesn’t have a COM port. HyperTerminal or PuTTY as I mentioned works just fine with no problems at all. Most MFJ TNC’s use 7 bit instead of 8. That can be set in the terminal program settings. If you need any more help, just let me know. My callsign is N4DBM. Look me up on QRZ and my e-mail address is there. I’ve also used HT’s on packet before, no problem. I used to run an Icom 2AT which was a 3-watt hand-held and got out no problem with an outside antenna to packet nodes 25 to 50 miles away. Best of luck.

    2. The MFJ1270X was originally developed as the TNC-X by Coastal ChipWorks. The TNC-X is supported by WinLink Express. The nearest VHF RMS Gateways to you appear to be AB1PH-10 (145.090 MHz) in East Wapole and W1SGL-10 (145.090 MHz) in Barnstable. There are a host of articles on-line on setting up the TNC-X. After installing WinLink Express, set the session menu to Packet Winlink if going through an RMS Gateway or Packet P2P if making a peer-to-peer connection. Then click on Open Session. When the Session window opens, click on the Settings menu in the Session window. Then select the Packet TNC type as TNC-X, set the COM port and the Serial Port Baud fields, and click Update. If the MFJ1270X retained the TNC-X implementation relatively unchanged, you should be up and running at that point.

      1. BTW: WinLink supports a wide variety of TNCs. If you have an old TNC, aren’t using it, and/or think Packet is dead, it is alive and well in a WinLink configuration and used by many ARES units across the country. There is also a software TNC that was written by UZ7HO that can be used with a SignaLink to get on Winlink on VHF via Packet.

        1. Hi Ray, I am attempting to set up my MFJ-1270X TNC for regular packet use (including a try for a contact with the ISS). Can you recommend a software program that will get me going? I AM NOT that computer savvy! Thanks & 73, Jim N8NAV

    3. Me too. Window 10 64 bit is a no go. I really want to put this old hardware back to work! PK-232MBX with the timewave DSP up grade and ……. drum roll… Windows 10 64 bit. It seems like everything has some road block. :-). Does anyone here have a solution for us or are we SOL. Thank you for looking at this.

      Mike Burch K8MB
      Apache Junction.

  2. I think you are in for a lot of heartache. I never did much with Kiss mode back when TNC’s were very popular. I’m here poking around to see what I might learn after having put away the TNC for 10 years! Amazingly it works! I looked around for you and couldn’t find anything. Have you contacted MFJ? They might have a lead. I’ve never talked to them but I’ve heard good things about their support. The other thing you’ll find is most HT’s really don’t do very well as packet radios. It usually takes a very clean, strong signal to get anything, your situation might be different, hope it works out for you. I noticed a big difference when I went from an HT to a mobile radio. Best of luck and 73. If I find anything new I’ll let you know.

  3. Hello,

    There are some packet radio programs which still will work with Windows 10 32 bit. I am running Winpack and TSTHost for Windows in Windows 7 32 bit and I think those will run also in Windows 10 32 bit. NOT in Windows version which are 64 bit ! That’s the main problem. Most packet radio software are developed when Windows was 16 and 32 bit and therefore they will not run in 64 bit versions of Windows. Some other programs which surely will work in Windows 32 bit are Paxon and WPP.

    I think Sally 7 will also run in Windows versions which are 64 bit. This program is still under development. They have a discussion group on IO groups. Sally 7 is a modern program.

    However you can use VMWare or Virtual box to run older Windows version in a window and so you are able to use older packet radio programs. You even can run dos 6.22 in there.

    I have a FTP server running with a lot of packet radio software. This server is up when my main PC is running. The URL:

    I hope you have something about this information.

    Kind regards,

    Henk de PH5HP

  4. Does it have to be a Windows 10 machine? (I understand if you are looking at a clean shack – one PC to rule them all.) I still have my Pentium Overdrive – 486-era computer from 1994 and it works like a charm (Windows 98 and all…) I drive my MFJ 1278 and KPC-3 with it directly with my favorite DOS-based software. For my money, (which was $0.00, BTW) you couldn’t do better than Paket 6.2 and Lan-Link 2.2.3 to drive your TNC.

    By the time you buy all the cables and adapters and drivers and software, you could score a working Windows XP-era machine that has all the serial and printer ports you need and it will run those two software packages in a Windows panel no problem. Both Paket and Lan-Link are available in all the usual vintage shareware FTP repositories.

  5. Since there is little PACKET Ativity in SOUTHERN INDIANA, I have switched to HF PACKET, yes there is a lot of activity day and night, on 7101, and NET40 is up the band on 7104.
    Myself I prefer 7101.
    I am using a FT857D, UZ7HO software, and a END FED WIRE, works great at 50 watts.
    See you there.

  6. There’s plenty of packet action in 1,2,3,and 4 land on the EastNet side of things. We’re not only doing the standard messaging with FBB as our BBS software, but we’re doing SMTP mail and faxing using axMail-FAX, searchable data using MySQL, ftp, web servicing, ipv4, AND IPV6 on RF. We also gain 100 bytes per every 5 frames unlike most other networks which really speeds t hings up – but unless you build it they won’t come. Perhaps I can do a talk for the 2021 DCC.

    1. Brian, I don’t understand your post. Didn’t you recently (10/30/20) abandon the EastNet members as president without provocation by disabling the group web site, blocking FTP server access, deleting the group email list all in a matter of less than 8 hours?

      For those EastNet members displaced by your rash actions, they now have a haven they can go to as the group continues…
      Prof. Chris Lance

      1. I stepped down as president as I didn’t wish to be re-elected to begin with as I stated during last elections. It’s nice to see hostile take-overs of the name being done and false information about other nodes being posted on that list. It’s not helping new users at all.

  7. Hi.

    Another little known, but very good terminal emulator that works well on all Windows versions, XP and later, is Terminal Bpp. Found at :-
    VERY good. With macros and memories, as well as Hex display of incoming data etc. No “Install” needed, it can be carried on a USB memory stick if needed.

    No affiliation, just a happy user, as well as a PuTTy user too. They each have their benefits.

    Note to Windows 7 and 10 users, with older Prolific USB/Serial devices. You may find they have stopped working, the issue is that the bad guys in the Far East cloned their interface IC’s. That is well known. Prolific changed their design, and hence the driver interface, and pushed that out to the world. MS of course, “updated” their drivers for the new version, at a stroke “bricking” the older devices. (Hint, look for the Yellow warning triangle and ‘!’ in Device Manager.) You could roll back the driver, but at the next update… Sadly, you can’t selectively exclude updates these days.

    Don’t throw them away, they will still work just fine with Linux, including on the Pi, so long as you have enough PSU “Grunt”..

    For Linux users, CuteCom works very well as a GUI serial terminal tool, also minicom of course from a command line, that of course can be scripted.


  8. Hi all, try my server: there are lots of packet software also for win10.
    I use tsthwin on win10 x64 what still runs great.. one could also try sally.

  9. Just built a TARPN node and using with RaspberryPi… Fun times and back into packet.

  10. Thanks to all for the updated info re:win10 packet. Gonna try.

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