PACKET RADIO: Network Node Information

Steve Wolf, W8IZ@W8IZ

(This text from the W8IZ packet radio bulletin

board. It's formatted to fit a 80 character screen.)


From: Steve, NO8M@NO8M.OH.USA.NA

Date: January 5, 1990

Subject: What are Network Nodes?

Four popular versions of nodes are the NET/ROM, The Net, KA9Q Internet

and MSYS. The first two are firmware mods made to standard TNCs. The

addition of a ROM to a TNC, and its accompanying transceiver, makes it a node.

The others rely on computers to make them run.

NET/ROM and The NET operate identically. In the beginning NET/ROM was

offered commercially. It is expensive. The NET was designed overseas and is

free. Feuds exist over whether The NET is a copy of NET/ROM and should not be


Network nodes talk to one another. Every so often, like a beacon, the

node will transmit all it knows about the network in which it works. Other

nodes copy this information and learn about their neighbor. They also learn

about their neighbor's neighbor and so on.

Let's say a Cleveland node gets on the air and says, "I'm here!". A node

in Akron would copy this Cleveland node and note it in it's table of nodes it

hears. Later, Akron comes on and broadcasts that it is there and the nodes

that it knows about. Cleveland hears Akron and notes it's presence. It also

notes all the nodes that Akron can get to. Let's say that one of them is a

Columbus node. The Akron node broadcasts that it can get to Columbus and

the route that is required: Akron to Mount Gilead to Columbus. The Cleveland

node notes in its table of nodes that it can now talk to Columbus.

Nodes are smart, too. A short time later Mount Gilead comes up and says

it is there and the nodes and routes it can take. Cleveland hears Mount

Gilead and the fact that Mount Gilead can talk to Columbus. Cleveland looks

in its tables and notes that it has Columbus but with an extra step to Akron.

It amends its information and now can talk to Columbus through Mount Gilead

rather than to Akron, to Mount Gilead and to Columbus.


Network nodes are not difficult to use. There is a file called


explains the commands. If you send an "H" after a connection,

it will tell you the commands you can use. The "N"

for node command will tell you what the node knows about the network.

A Cleveland node may announce that it can talk to Fort Worth. If you

wanted to use this route you would just issue a command to connect to Fort

Worth. The node would look up Fort Worth in its table and begin connecting to

intermediate stations on the way to there. When it has connected, it will let

you know.

Long haul routes, like Fort Worth, especially on a busy channel, are

likely to take some time to complete. Once your command is received and

acked, you may not hear from the node for quite some time. Nodes have the

ability to cross-band. Issuing a connect may cause the node to go to a

different frequency for the route.

The most important parameter is the path quality. That is explained in

the NETNODE.CMD file. If the quality is low, your connects will be



No, they are not. Although a node might announce its ability to connect

to a distant station, this information may have been logged when the band was

much more active than it is now. You may find a disappointing message in

response to your connect request.

Nodes will adjust their tables over time. However, during the good

conditions afforded in the summer, their tables may show route that no longer



First off, there are a number of nodes which contain a pound sign (#) as

the first character of their alias. These are high speed backbone nodes.

They are not destinations ... you can not talk to someone from them.

Connecting to them is a waste.

Attempting a 500 mile connect on VHF when the band is active is not a

good idea either. Much like DXing two meter repeaters, your activity will tie

up many of the network's resources and air time that could be better used by

locals all across the 500 mile path.

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