How do I start

From Digital Traffic System
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  • Have a little desire
You do not have to sign up or commit to a lifetime contract.
Read some of the material on this web site and on the web sites noted on the DTN Links page
  • What electronic resources are needed?
A computer and TNC with cables to connect to a radio. On HF you need a modem which will operate on Pactor I or II. On VHF you need a modem which will operate packet. In general, the more recent firmware versions are better (1996 or later usually works).
If you have a sound card system, I do not know of a good way to get on Pactor. Most use a TNC of some sort.
  • Can I get on HF? Or, do I have an DTN HF station within VHF packet range?
HF access is best and the most flexible. There are stations on 80, 40, 30, and 20 meters that you should be able to contact at some time of the day. The more active stations use several bands.
If there is an HF DTN station in your area with a VHF packet port, you may get messages directly from that station. You may also generate and send messages directly into the DTN system the same way.
  • I don't hear anyone on the frequencies
Most of the time the frequencies listed do not have traffic being passed so you will hear nothing. The stations are quiet until someone calls them. They do not ID like VHF packet stations. One of the more active frequencies is 7100.4 (center) in the morning between 6:30 AM and 8:30AM and the afternoon between 4:30 PM to 6:30 PM. Because various TNCs and program combinations cause a variety of frequency shifts, tune to LSB and tune from about 7.098 to 7.105 MHz. You will hear the sounds of pactor ... (click to hear it) . Tune it in with your TNC and you will see it printing out on your screen.
  • I tune it in and sometimes see mostly funny symbols.
Some of the stations use Pactor II. It will not be readable with a Pactor I TNC. Some of the stations also compress the messages and send using a binary format to increase speed and efficiency. You will be able to read the beginning and ending parts of the connections.
  • Contact someone
With the above plans in progress, contact one of the DTN stations by phone, email, or NTS message. They will be happy to assist you and fill in the gaps of understanding you may have to become more involved.
Feel free to connect to one of the DTN stations and see what is there. The commands I for information and H for help usually will give you some information about their system.
  • Send a message with Airmail
Sending is as easy as using a typical email program.
The subject line contains the city to which the message is going followed by the area code and first three digits of the phone number.
The message text uses the common ARRL message format.


  • Now ... go to AirMail DTN for setting up Airmail to connect to the DTN Area Hubs and to learn how to address and send a message


  • DTN can assist you in obtaining the necessary equipment if you would like to participate. All this comes with the technical help and knowledge to get it up and running.