As with virtually any mode of Amateur Radio operation, packet can and is used for message handling in the National Traffic System (NTS). Like anything else, there is a right way to do this, and a wrong way. In this edition of our series, we will explore just how to use the Wisconsin Network of BBS's to handle NTS Traffic.
If you know anything about the NTS, you know it uses a specialized format. There are reasons for this - NTS operators want to make certain that the message gets through accurately, and want to know what when wrong when it doesn't. For this reason, it is important that you know how to do this properly, and follow a standard format. Knowing how to properly handle a routine message now will be invaluable if a disaster strikes and you have to handle disaster traffic. All that being said, let's look at how to do it.
First, the usual Send command is now changed a little bit. Use the ST command when sending traffic. The line sent to the BBS includes the Zip code, the @ symbol, then the letters NTS followed by the destination's two-letter state abbreviation.
For example, suppose you are asked to send traffic to me. The person asking you to send the traffic should have a name, address with Zip code, and hopefully a telephone number. In my case, the line you would send to the BBS would look like this:
The preamble appears on the first line, and includes the number of message that your station has handled from the start of the year, the handling instructions, your call sign, the word check, the town of origination as well as the date and time of origination. Let's say your call-sign is AX9XX, and this is the first message you have handled this year. You sent this on October 31st at 12:01 A.M., and it is a routine message of 10 words. The preamble would appear like this:
This article is not intended to give you a complete tutorial on traffic handling, just how to enter and handle the message via packet radio. If you are not familiar with the contents of a preamble, consult the Radio Amateur's Handbook. The chapter on "Operating a Station" covers this material well. The next line to send to the BBS seperates the preamble from the body of the message, it is simply:
Of course, originating the message is only part of traffic handling. While the BBS forwarding system will handle relaying the message, some person has to deliver it. Delivering traffic can be a lot of fun, especially if the person you are delivering it to is not a ham and you have a chance to educate them a little about ham radio.
It is best to deliver the message without all of the preamble stuff - most non-hams have no idea of what it means. If ARL numbered messages are in the body of the message, don't read them to the recipient as "ARL 63" (or whatever), just interpret the number as text.
Naturally, you have to know if there is any traffic on your BBS if you want to deliver some. Use the LT command to determine if there is. You will get a listing of NTS traffic, or "***None Found***" as a reply. If you do find a piece of traffic and do deliver it, be sure to kill it from the BBS. Otherwise, some other well-meaning ham may find it and deliver it again. Use the format:
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