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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.

3 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. 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.

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