Early in HAM radio, in our tool kit, we had CW. It is an efficient way to send messages but it takes a certain skill to be effective. You have to learn Morse code and the “lingo” of the mode. You needed to understand the short cuts or Q-codes and the abbreviations like “fb om 73” (fair Business Old Man best wishes)
With the introduction of Voice we now had another tool in our kit for sending messages but it took a bit of a practised ear to clearly pick out the words if the signal was not great. One persons voice might be a little harder to understand than an others but checking and protocols worked to make the messages transmitted clear and understood.
We are adding a new tool to our tool kit. Digital messaging, although there are many modes like Olivia, PSK, JS8Call etc the one I am going to look at in particular is Winlink. Essentially this is email by radio and or internet. This allows the person needing to send the message to fill in an HTML form and have the information in the form sent by radio out of disaster area and then through the internet to it’s destination. Untouched by human ears or rewritten by human hands the transmitted message can be sent even to a non Ham. Alternatively the sender can tell the operator what to transmit, verify it is written in the message as they need it to be worded and have it sent along it’s way.
Winlink has a network Radio Mail Servers, Hybrid (Radio/Internet) servers and Computer Mail Servers available 7 days a week and 24 hours a day. In an emergency or disaster a message can be transmitted out of the disaster area, for example from Edmonton to Whitehorse or Vancouver or somewhere in the BC interior or if need be to a station in the US where the message can be forwarded or passed on to the internet to speed along to it’s final destination.
The Winlink operator needs to do some learning or take some training , which is being developed, so that they are capable of taking advantage of all the features of Winlink. Various protocols need to be understood and practice filling in, transmitting and receiving forms so that in an emergency it is second nature. This digital form of message handling, of course, does not replace Voice or CW but will augment our tool kit to ensure the passing of messages is accurate and timely when needed. Amateur radio continues to develop and grow to provide Supplemental/Auxiliary communications for when the need arises.