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Don't Throw Away or Sell That TNC!

from Rick Ruhl, W4PC on November 3, 2000
View comments about this article!

Don't throw away or sell that TNC!
Use it for PSK-31 with new Software
by Rich Ruhl, W4PC - President, Creative Services Software, Inc.

0x01 graphicPSK-31 is the hottest new mode on the band. From its inception, it's been a powerful new tool in ham radio keyboard to keyboard QSOs. Many of you have MultiMode TNCs like the KAM Plus, PK-232 or other TNC that is now sitting on your shelf gathering dust.

PSK-31 uses the sound card for audio input and output, requiring you to use VOX or a keying interface on a serial port. If you wanted to continue to use your TNC for the other HF digital modes, you had to have a second serial port free, as well as run a separate program from the PSK-31 program.

PacTerm '98 and PkTerm '99 have been the #1 32-bit TNC control program for quite a while. When PacTerm '98 had its debut in 1997, there was no true 32 bit host mode program for the Kantronics TNCs on the market, and a year later, PkTerm '99 was released as the first 32 bit TNC control program for the AEA/Timewave TNC line.

The challenge for hams was how to be able to use their TNC and this hot new mode at the same time. With release 1.5 of the product, this solves that challenge.

Hams will be able to use the TNC's keying circuit, or the RTS line on the TNC's COM port for keying the radio with PSK-31. Now the operator can save that serial port for another purpose like radio, antenna or other control. All the modes are now encompassed in the product's HF Window. One click of the mouse takes you between CW, RTTY, ASCII, FEC, AMTOR, Pactor and PSK-31! No more switching of programs to use the different HF modes. During a contest or emergency, this is a powerful advantage, as you can use the best mode for the conditions, and it's as simple as one click!

Combine this with the multiple TNC support in this updated release, and you have a product that can suit any ham's desire for HF and VHF digital modes.

CSS is a 12-year-old software development company that provides high quality software for ham radio, with technical support that is second to none. The free in-version upgrade policy means that you don't have to pay for bug fixes and new features in each `dot' release. CSS is on the web at The product line includes PacTerm '98, PkTerm '99, Wefax '99 and Log Windows! PacTerm '98 and PkTerm '99 retail for $79.95 and can be purchased from CSS or your favorite dealer.

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Don't Throw Away or Sell That TNC!  
by WB9OFG on November 3, 2000 Mail this to a friend!
Well, This is all well and good, but my computer won't support 32-bit programming.
The ONLY thing I use it for is ham radio, so I can not rationalize upgrading it. Why don't
some of these programmers write an app for those of us with "legacy" computers that run Win 3.X?
73, John
RE: Don't Throw Away or Sell That TNC!  
by W4PC on November 3, 2000 Mail this to a friend!
Hi John,

This is a good question and I'm glad to answer it. The answer is Microsoft is discontuing support for DOS and Windows 3.1 in both the operating system area as well as the development area. Both DOS and 16 bit Windows code have many limitations, and Microsoft is now working on a 64 bit version of Windows.

You still have options for 16 bit software. XPWare and KA-Win are two 16 bit programs for the Kantronics TNCs, and PcPakRatt for the AEA/Timewave line, but the power of the processor in your computer is going to determine if you can run PSK-31. For the most part, it takes a 486 or Pent to be able to handle all the DSP processing from the sound card input.

We'll be showing this technology at the Stone Mountain Hamfest this weekend (Nov 4-5), in Atlanta, GA. Myself, Sydney (KF4WGU), Mitch (KB4LGM) and Bill (WD4HEN) will be there to answer any questions.

We've also been adding support for the AGW Packet Engine (another 32 bit product) for those that have a KAM 98 or PK232 to have a dual port TNC, without having to purchase a TNC. The updated release of our program support two sound cards in the computer, so you can use 1 for Packet and the second for PSK-31 at the same time.

Rick - W4PC
RE: Don't Throw Away or Sell That TNC!  
by WA4CNG on November 3, 2000 Mail this to a friend!
If you have a CD/Sound Card in your legacy PC(like I Do), you can download a DOS version of PSK31 and in most cases it will run under windows 3.11 or Windows 95. Go to Go to download section and pick what you need. It is also good to have new applications for TNC's as I will be selling my 2 TNC's at the Stone Mountain Hamfest/Computer Show this weekend, since I am already on PSK31.
Don't Throw Away or Sell That TNC!  
by N4ZOU on November 3, 2000 Mail this to a friend!
I have noticed that even the serial and parallel ports on the new computer systems are gone and now only USB is available. What are we to do about this with our old TNC's, and now the serial port controlled HF transceivers. Will anyone produce a USB keying circuit? How about a USB interface for use with the serial port controlled transceivers?
RE: Don't Throw Away or Sell That TNC!  
by W4PC on November 3, 2000 Mail this to a friend!
There are USB to serial port converters and many of the ones we have tested (Entegra, Belkin, etc) work fine with both the TNC and radio port serial interfaces. (We support radio control in the Pacterm/Pkterm product, as well as Logwindows)

Even the cheaper, no name ones seem to work fine for TNC and radio control.

Rick - W4PC
Don't Throw Away or Sell That TNC!  
by K9BCT on November 3, 2000 Mail this to a friend!
Will the software package work with a PK-900? Do I interpet correctly that the PSK-31 audio input is derived from the input to the TNC or does it still come from the sound card?
RE: Don't Throw Away or Sell That TNC!  
Anonymous post on November 3, 2000 Mail this to a friend!
There is free packet terminal software and psk31 software available for Linux. Best of all, it doesn't cost $79 dollars.
Don't Throw Away or Sell That TNC!  
by K4NR on November 3, 2000 Mail this to a friend!
When will it be available for download?

73 de Tom, K4NR
RE: Don't Throw Away or Sell That TNC!  
by W4PC on November 3, 2000 Mail this to a friend!
K9BCT - It will work with any AEA or Timewave TNC. It still uses the soundcard for the encoding and decoding of the signal, but will use the TNC for keying, and it makes it easy to switch beween the TNCs modes and PSK-31 with a click of the mouse on the menu.

K4NR, Tom - As soon as it's ready! It's so important to me to make sure the program is as solid as possible. We do have a newletter reflector that you can sign up for on the website, and you'll get the newletter when a new relese occurs.

Rick -W4PC
RE: Don't Throw Away or Sell That TNC!  
by KQ6EA on November 3, 2000 Mail this to a friend!
Doesn't this really belong in the "Advertising" section?
RE: Don't Throw Away or Sell That TNC!  
by W9JCM on November 3, 2000 Mail this to a friend!
I think this is great!.. I cant wait to get it. I love my Kam and this way i can forget about one conncetion on my rig.. A++++++
RE: Don't Throw Away or Sell That TNC/Advertising  
by WA4CNG on November 3, 2000 Mail this to a friend!
This is the articles section where NEW things can become Visible to all, read, comment, buy if so inclined, have one comment on it! I have multiple postings in the Reviews Section, most good, some not so good, but all Factual and from real world use of the the device in question.
We all need the experiences from those willing to say it out loud (it is or it isn't), the newest finds and uses of the many manufacturers of things out there that affect all of us. There is nothing wrong about saying it works, or it doesn't, and if it is not working, say to the manufacturer FIX IT!
Don't Throw Away or Sell That TNC!  
by K8YS on November 4, 2000 Mail this to a friend!
I must be missing something here. PSK31 works fine using the sound card, we all know that. My PK232MBX and the KAM work fine (for other than PSK31) using any dumb terminal... WHY then would I want to use the PK232MBX on PSK31?
Before you say "it is because I need to switch comm ports" I say that I have 6 working comm ports and that is not a problem (com1 & com2 are serial ports and com 3, 4, 5 and 6 are Belken USB>Serial adapters) and com2 is on a 4 position switchbox.
Before you say "so you are not swapping software", I say that I can use the PK232MBX and the KAM using ANY dumb terminal that has an RS232C port.
So my question, what am I missing, why would I want to "upgrade" the PK232MBX or the KAM to a new software (eeprom?) that supports PSK31 too?

With this upgrade support PSK31 on a dumb terminal or a Radio Shack TRaSh80 M100?

RE: Don't Throw Away or Sell That TNC!  
by W4PC on November 4, 2000 Mail this to a friend!

There is no TNC firmware upgrade needed for the PSK-31 support in Pacterm '98 and Pkterm '99. This is stand alone software that integrates the soundcard psk-31 support into the program and allows you to use the TNCs keying circut to key the radio, while using PSK-31 and the TNCs modes, rather than having an external keying circut on the comm port. Pacterm '98 and PkTerm '99 use the TNCs host mode, for multi window support in a single program, to access all the TNCs modes as well as PSK-31 via the sound card.

When you are running your dumb terminal program to the TNC and the PSk-31 software, you are running two programs and using two different methods of keying the radio. You're also running the TNC in terminal mode rather that host mode, and when it host mode, you'll be able to use the AGW packet engine for connecting to your DX Cluster (with a second sound card), sync that window with Logwindows or other logging programs that support the sync interface, then make the contacts with the split screen Windows interface Pac and PK have with all the modes on one screen.

Hope this clears it up for you.

Rick -W4PC
Don't Throw Away or Sell That TNC!  
by K6SIX on November 5, 2000 Mail this to a friend!
Hi Rick,

I like you're new call :o)

Looks like you've been busy with more amateur related software. This one looks very interesting. I may have to get out my old TNC, wipe the dust off of my Yaesu FT-847, and check out this new mode.


Rick McMillion, K6SIX
RE: Don't Throw Away or Sell That TNC!  
by W8NF on November 14, 2000 Mail this to a friend!
I would advocate the cessation of support for anything 16 bit. Most of us use hand-me-down PCs in the shack, but today's hand-me-downs are pretty good, and nobody should be using a 486 any more. eBay lists Pentium-based machines from 60 to 200MHz for under $100 any minute you want to look. And they're not stripped. In five minutes of searching, I bid on and acquired two PCs - one is 166 MHz with 32Meg RAM, the other 200MHz with 64Meg RAM, both have 2Gig drives, CD-ROM, 100Base-T network cards and dual USBs. I paid $71 for both of them (not each!), and they both came with W98 preloaded by the former owner (and yes, I got the license). Anybody who's even considering paying $79 for a software package has no real place wanting to run it on a 16 bit machine. PC hardware is just too cheap these days to even consider running W3.1.

Before we go asking for support for older PCs, let's take an honest look at whether our request has merit. There may be nostalgia in old radio equipment (I do enjoy my Drake B-line much more than my IC-735), but old PCs are just old and slow, not nostalgic. Now, if you had an ENIAC, that might be collectible....
RE: Don't Throw Away or Sell That TNC!  
by W4DWH on November 15, 2000 Mail this to a friend!
"and nobody should be using a 486 any more." Would anyone be interested in my two 80286 machines for one of them 80486's? Loaded with DOS 6.22 and Windows 3.11. I would include the CGA monitor because the DB15 and DB9 monitor cords are not compatible. On second thought, I would hate to part with the 5 1/4" floppy B drives. Thanks for the bandwidth. 73
Don't Throw Away or Sell That TNC!  
by N7DC on December 4, 2000 Mail this to a friend!
Im definitely interested, it would save me from having to either build or buy another box to put between the computer and the rig. There is already one there, called the MFJ1278B, along with a box to switch between the tnc and the mike. Im presently using an older DOS program, Lan-Link, but it doesnt support PSK or any of the other new digital modes that are coming out, seemingly on a weekly basis. I see you do support the MFJ1278 for Packet. Why not go all the way and support the other modes on this TNC? Its out there by the thousands, and still being sold, unlike some other TNCs which have fallen by the wayside.
RE: Don't Throw Away or Sell That TNC!  
by W4PC on December 6, 2000 Mail this to a friend!

We do have a MultiMode version of MultiComm Host in development. Coding does take time, and good code takes testing, development and more testing to make sure it's as big free as possible.

Rick - W4PC
Press Release: Version 1.5 Preview Released!!  
by W4PC on December 23, 2000 Mail this to a friend!
Press Release

PacTerm ’98 and PKTerm ’99 version 1.5 Preview released
Muscle Shoals, Alabama. December 22, 2000: Creative Services Software has announced that they have released PacTerm ’98 and PKTerm ’99 version 1.5 in Preview. This latest update supports the hot new digital mode PSK-31 as well as the AGW Packet Engine. This is the first product to integrate DSP sound card technology in conjunction with TNC technology. This release is a FREE upgrade for owners of the current product and users who purchase the product today.

The popular TNC program, written in C++, has been available since November 1997.

Company President Rick Ruhl, W4PC said, " We decided to release version 1.5 in Preview to allow the ham community start using PSK-31 with their TNCs, and to get input from them on challenges they find with the program. A Preview version of a product is a product that has gone through internal testing and some beta testing, but may still have some outstanding issues.
Hams are pros when it comes to finding issues in a software product, and we welcome their findings".

New enhancements for version 1.5 include:

- PSK-31 sound card support, using the TNC’s keying circuit or the TNC’s serial port for keying the radio with RTS or DTR, saving a serial port for other functions!!!
- AGW Packet Engine for sound card packet support
- Voice DX spot announcements
- Support for 2 simultaneous TNCs (1 multimode and 1 packet )
- Point and click settings for TNC commands for startup
- Startup/Shutdown commands for each call sign
- 10 mode-specific macros in addition to 10 global macros for each call sign
- CQ, ID and QRT macros
- Pactor connected station call sign display in title bar
- 4K chat and macro buffer
- Support for Satellite Telemetry with the DSP-1232 and DSP-2232
- YAPP and PC-PakRatt binary file transfer support in Pactor or GTOR

And includes supports that the previous versions had:
· Macro Variables {CALL}, {UTCTIME} etc
· ASCII transfer for UNPROTO mode in Packet
· Multiple file select for ASCII transfers in HF
· Abort ASCII file transfer now available from HF
· Interoperability with Log Windows, DX4Win 4.06 and Logic 5 logging programs
· Basic radio control interface
· Added FIG/NUMS menu option in PKTerm
· Additional commands specific for the PK-900 and DSP-2232 in PKTerm
· Multi-stream multi-port support. Up to 26 streams per packet port, each in a different window
· Supports G-TORÒ and G-TOR Monitoring (Kantronics)
· Switch between streams with a click of the mouse
· Text and binary file transfers with YAPP
· Supports COM1 to COM35 (including USB serial converters)
· User defined colors and fonts!
· User defined macros!
· Separate window for non packet HF modes, from CW through NavTex at the
click of a mouse
· Save QSOs to a file that is compatible with Microsoft Word
· Multiple monitor windows allow you to watch traffic on each radio port

The program runs under Windows 95/98/Me and Windows NT/2000. It is a true 32-bit Windows application, designed using the Windows Style Guidelines available from Microsoft.

PacTerm ’98 and PKTerm ’99 are $79.95. They are available directly from Creative Services Software or your favorite dealer. You can also download the program in demo mode from the CSS web site.

Creative Services Software is at

Windows, Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows NT and Windows 2000 are Registered Trademarks of Microsoft Corporation.
Don't Throw Away or Sell That TNC!  
by PA8WIM on May 19, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
Dear OM's,
I am looking for several months now to a soundcard program with which I am able to run PACTOR. I haven't found one. What is the reason why such a program does not exists (yet)???

With kind regards
73, Wim, PA8WIM
RE: Don't Throw Away or Sell That TNC!  
by AG3Y on September 18, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
I have an old AEA AMT-1 that I obtained from a friend. It has the old DIN connectors on the back. Does anyone have a pinout/interface diagram or command set for this "vintage" TU? A scan of the appropriate pages would be very sufficient. I just want to hook up this thing and see if it still works. Thanks in advance.

Jim S. AG3Y Hagerstown, MD
Don't Throw Away or Sell That TNC!  
by K1UHF on November 29, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
Even thought I designed the RIGblaster I would not throw away my TNC, even though it is almost worthless now. I definately would not spend $79.95 for special TNC software or pay for a TNC upgrade.

The best use for an old TNC is to put it permantly it on a DX cluster so that you may work the DX on HF with your sound card and RIGblaster. Seriously, that is what I do, and that is what West Mountain Radio recommends you do with your TNC. BTW, you can leave your TNC hooked up and also have a RIGblaster connected, without compromise.

You should be aware that a TNC will not do the hottest new mode just written up in QST: K1JT's WSJT DSP FSK441 weak signal meteor scatter mode. You also will not be able to do Contest Voice Keying, Repeater annoucements, repeater control. You will not be able to do Hellschriber, MFSK16, MT63 or any other new modes. You also cannot use your TNC for a superior DSP audio filter or audio speech clarifier like you can a sound card equipped computer with a RIGblaster hook up.

An expensive TNC upgrade will pay for a RIGblaster and all the software you ever wanted. The RIGblaster comes with over 75 mutltimode and single mode programs. To upgrade a RIGblaster you just download the latest software and you have the new mode. Put in your callsign and you are on the air with the latest.

Sound card programs run in a Pentium PC have much more DSP power than any TNC has. It just doesn't make sense to have an outboard processor hooked to a computer when computers are so cheap and have so much DSP power built in.

73, Del
West Mountain Radio
by WB4M on December 12, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
There are NO soundcard programs which support Pactor ARQ modes, but a few that will support Pactor in the FEC mode. MixW is one of them. From what I have read about this subject, the problem with ARQ with soundcards has to do with timing. Not to mention Pactor is proprietory.
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