A History of The ZL1AB Packet Radio BBS

Target Audience

by Jumbo ZL1HV(sk) 

After a succession of personal packet radio BBSes had opened and closed in the Auckland area over a number of years Branch 29 decided that in the interests of continuity it would establish and maintain a station for the use of all amateurs in the Auckland area. Thus it was that the ZL1AB BBS opened in the Branch 29 clubroom at Kennedy Park, Castor Bay in August 1989.

ZL1BIV, ZL1BNE, ZL1HV and ZL1UI were the founding sysops. The machine was a "bitsa" clone donated by ZL1BPU. It had 458 752 bytes of memory and a 20Mb hard disc. The radio was a Multi 11 operating on 144.650 with a Tiny 2 TNC at 1200 baud using the WA7MBL software. The Multi 11 was replaced with an IC22S lent by ZL1UI in September . In October ZL1AOX and ZL1BAV joined the sysop team. The computer failed and was repaired by ZL1TCF.


PacComm Tiny-2 TNC

Several changes were made in 1990. The 2 metre rig was changed to an IC255 from April to November and then to a Multi 11. In May the "bitsa" computer was replaced with an AT286 supplied by ZL1TCF . It used DOS 3.3 and had a 20Mb hard drive. The MBL system gave way to MSYS. A second port was opened on 432.65 using a Kenwood TR3200 lent by ZL1TSV and a Tiny 2 TNC. A remote switching operating on 70 cm , designed and built by ZL1BIV, was installed in June, together with a printer donated by ZL1TGC. Next month a time switch was installed to switch the crystals in the TR3200 for forwarding on 439 MHz between midnight and 6 a.m. DCD modifications were made to the TNCs. The sysops made 66 visits to the BBS.

1991 was a quiet year. ZL1UBE joined the sysop team. MYSYS was upgraded 3 times and RAM increased to 1.2 Mbz by using an extension board. For maintenance the sysops made 82 visits. Equipment changes dominated 1992. A modified Plessey MTR6000 replaced the Multi 11 on 2 metres and a modified Plessey MTR7000 replaced the TR3200 on 70 cm. The computer was upgraded to a 386/25 with a 20Mb hard drive and 2 Mb of RAM. Two floppy drives catered for 5.25 and 3.5 discs. ZL1TYN took on the job of maintaining the files area of the BBS. Trial forwarding on 146.625, using a TM221 on loan from Branch 66 and a TNC lent by ZL1AGQ started in December and lasted a month before reverting to 439 MHz and the equipment was returned to it's owners. 42 visits to the BBS were necessary during the year.

Major changes were made in 1993. The F6FBB operating system FBB1.12 replaced MSYS in March. In June the complete installation was moved from Castor Bay to North Shore CDHQ at 400 East Coast Road. This gave a good increase in height and extended the coverage appreciably. In August a third port was installed - 9600 baud, using a modified Plessey MTR7000 on 438.3 MHz, a G3RUH modem and a Tiny 2 TNC. This was, and still is, the one and only 9600 port in the country. In September it became necessary for modifications to be made to the MTR6000 on 2 metres An IC25A, lent by ZL1TIA , and an IC28H filled in for the MTR6000 until an Alinco 1200T was donated by Branch10 for use on 2 metres. Further DCD modifications were made to the TNCs. During the year the sysops made 65 visits.


From 1994 to the end of 1999 few changes were made. DOS6.2 was installed, FBB upgraded to 5.15 and RAM was increased to 4Mb. A system of weekly maintenance visits to the BBS was introduced and 52 were made. The computer power unit fan was replaced in July1995. Maintenance visits were reduced to fortnightly but 31 were made, indicating a number of emergency stoppages. In January 1996 the TNC EPROMs were chanfed to version 1.17B. 42 visits had to be made to keep the BBS going. Two hard drives were fitted in June 1997. 120 Mb as the "C" drive and 60 Mb as "D" drive for back-up purposes. Routine maintenance was now being done monthly but 24 visits were made. In July 1998 the Alinco 2 metre rig failed and was replaced with the Plessey MTR6000. After servicing the Alinco became the spare set. In November a printer changeover switch was fitted to share with the Branch's 486/100 general purpose computer. In December the video card was replaced courtesy of ZL1AVY. Only the 12 normal maintenance visits were necessary.

In 1999 ZL1JJ was a sysop for a few weeks and ZL1UFO joined the team. The only change made to software was the installation of "Ghost" which shortened the time for monthly maintenance by 80%. In December a card was fitted to make the computer Y2K compatible. Break-downs were more frequent and until 22nd December 34 viisits to the BBS had been made. The installation of FBB7.00g, (DOS version) started on 22nd December and, at the time of writing is still ongoing. Up to 17th January 2000 20 trips have been made to the BBS and it is still not 100%..

In 2004 the ZL1AB BBS was upgraded to run Xrouter DOS software in a radio connected PC with an Ethernet LAN to the FBB DOS PC. Eddie ZL2AQY masterminded the revision. Now instant worldwide access to an amateur VPN is available by connecting to ZL1AB-1 Xrouter. BBS, CHAT & QRZ lookup services are available.

BBS News

The Auckland Packet AX25/TCPIP BBS operated by the North Shore Branch 29 NZART inc. has a brand new aerial fitted today (1 week later than originally planned) for the 144.600 MHz 1200 baud port. The SWR reading is good: - 15 Watts forward and 0.1 Watts reverse. Thanks to BR-29 Members ZL1AUW, ZL1TGC, ZL1TSG, ZL1BOP, ZL1AAN and ZL1ABS for attending the working party at NSCC CDEM HQ. The BBS uses G8PZT Xrouter software with the F6FBB BBS software. There are also two ports on 70cm: 432.650 MHz (daytime)/439.875 MHz National System (overnight ZL forwarding) 1200 baud and 438.30 MHz 9600 baud (G3RUH modulation). Daytime forwarding to other ZL BBS is provided by Eddie ZL2AQY who operates a G8PZT Xrouter station connected to the Amateur VPN on the internet. Eddie also operates a DX Cluster server accessible from 144.600 MHz or by Telnet connection over the internet (password required & supplied on request).      


Michael Sheffield ZL1AB