I was watching the tweets go by on Twitter the other day and somebody ask the question “ What good is a packet BBS anyway”. That makes me a little sad. When I was freshly licensed Packet was the king of digital modes on VHF and above. It was also one of the top three on HF. To understand Packet and where it fits in today we need to look back.
In the late 1980′s and early 1990′s the world wide Packet radio BBS network provided message transfers and file transfers around the globe much like the Internet does today. Using PBBS’s on VHF you could post a message locally and if you knew the address of the person on the other end (ex. kb5jbv@N5LDD.NTX.TX.NOAM) that message could be sent across the county or around the world. This was accomplished by using a text editor on the local PBBS to write the message. Then the message was forwarded over the air to an HF Gateway station. Then sent over the air to the nearest gateway to the destination. Then forwarded by VHF or UHF to the PBBS it was addressed to for pickup up by the person it was intended for.
Now you are probably saying this sounds familiar. Well the old land line BBS’s used a similar setup for forwarding messages and files. Today the Internet serves this purpose for most folks.
Since the hay day of the Packet radio the Internet has come along. New digital modes have been developed that work much better on HF. There are many reasons that Packet is no longer king but the Packet BBS is still a tool that we can and should utilize if we can.
PBBS’s have the advantage of being a place to store information and move written messages without the need of commercial service. You don’t need the Internet or a phone line. PBBS’s can be setup to forward messages from one location to another automatically. They also use the full AX.25 protocol which is an error correcting mode unlike APRS that only uses half of the AX.25 protocol. This make Packet BBS’s well suited at the very least for local Emcomm use. Winlink is great if you an plug it into the Internet. Cell phones are great if the tower has power or the system isn’t overloaded.
I think we need to consider the humble Packet radio BBS. We need to reconsider Packet in general. Being around for a long time doesn’t make it less valuable. I think it makes a case for how good it is.
Of course thats just me.