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AEA Packratt PK-232 not displaying received data

Discussion in 'General Technical Questions and Answers' started by KC2SDS, Aug 6, 2013.

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  1. KC2SDS

    KC2SDS Ham Member QRZ Page

    Got a bit of a frustrating issue with a PK-232. I'm trying to use it for APRS at the QTH, but it won't display any incoming data. While monitoring a freq I hear classic packet stations on, I see connect and disconnect messages (ie KC2XXX>K2YYY [C]) and can even connect to one of them (*** CONNECTED to KC2XXX), but once connected, I see no text/data. CON and MCON are maxed, command mode works fine. I should be able to power the thing on and see the UI traffic from APRS. Any ideas?

    Jeff KC2SDS
  2. W9GB

    W9GB Ham Member QRZ Page

    Do you have MONITOR function ON ?

    MON 1 (2 for DX) for AEA PK-232

    Document version: 8.3.4
    Document dated: 9 Mar 1999
    Author(s): Bob Bruninga, WB4APR
    AEA.TXT Details of differences with the AEA PK-232 TNC's

    AEA TNC's have a different command set than the TAPR-2 standard.
    APRS tries to set up your TNC for simple display of monitored packets as follows:


    therefore it turns off extra linefeeds, timestamps, and other special headers:

    TAPR COMMAND | AEA PK-232 | CMD Function
    ------------ -------------- -------------------------------
    MON ON MON 1 (2 for DX) Sets up MONITOR function
    SCR 0 ACRDISP 0 Turns off screen length limiter
    LFADD off ALFP off Turns off outgoing Linefeeds
    AUTOLF off ALFD off Turns off incomming LineFeeds
    MST off MST off Turns Time Stamp off
    HEA off HEA off Turns Header line off
    MDigi ON So that you see packets that are digipeated through you! (via RELAY)

    If you have your PK232 battery removed for PACKRAT, you must first use the OPS
    COMM command to setup your TNC autobaud. Hit several ***'s until the TNC res-
    ponds. Then hit ESC to return to APRS. In APRS, hit alt-S and T to initialize
    the TNC. Also AEA dualport TNCs toggle HF/VHF, so they will not switch bands.
    Some programs leave the AEA TNC in HOST mode. This will not work with APRS!
    Make your TNC work with any dumb-terminal program, and it will work with APRS!
  3. N5MDT

    N5MDT Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    I believe on a PK-232 you should set MONITOR to 6, assuming a current firmware.
  4. N5MDT

    N5MDT Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    I also assume you are on a frequency that you would expect to see APRS traffic on? Been a long time but isn't it 144.39? I would not expect to see connect/disconnect frames on a frequency normally used for APRS, unless it is also used for conventional packet.
  5. KC2SDS

    KC2SDS Ham Member QRZ Page

    Thanks for the advice. I have confirmed my settings, MON was 6, but still no received data display. I usually use a KPC3+ for APRS, but I want to take that mobile, so I'm quite familiar with what should be displayed.

    The thing that gets me is that the pk-232 is actually doing something with received data, as demonstrated by my ability to connect to a packet node. the status light goes from CMD to CON, and I get a *** CONNECTED to KC2XXX message. I'm able to control the TNC and see it's cmd: output in response to commands, so I'm sure the serial port working is okay in both directions.

    I suppose I can open it up and check to see all of the socketed ICs are seated properly.
  6. W9GB

    W9GB Ham Member QRZ Page

    The AEA PK-232 was based on the popular Zilog Z-80 (8-bit) microprocessor family.

    What version of firmware (EPROM) are you using with this PK-232?? v7.1 or v7.2 ?
    I have performed Timewave upgrades on a number of the original AEA PK-232 units.

    SOME modified in late 1980s / early 1990s to optimize RTTY performance (170 Hz shift) - K0BX,
    OR permit AMSAT satellite usage (AO-13) and UoSat 9/11.

    AEA PK-232 Modifications through the years
    Last edited: Aug 6, 2013
  7. KC2SDS

    KC2SDS Ham Member QRZ Page

    I'd have to open it up again to check the EPROMs, but it's showing 25.JUN.87 release.
  8. W9GB

    W9GB Ham Member QRZ Page

  9. KB1NXE

    KB1NXE Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    Two Things:

    Upgrades are available from Timewave, including new EEPROMS.
    Second, make sure the TNC is in KISS Mode (Kiss On).

  10. N5MDT

    N5MDT Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    I've never used a PK-232 in kiss mode for APRS unless UIVIEW put it into kiss mode for it's operation. I wish I knew more about kiss mode.

    @OP - Are you simply using a dumb terminal to interface with the PK-232 or are you using UIVIEW or some software made for APRS? And NXE is correct. Some of the firmware upgrades specifically addressed APRS use.
  11. W9GB

    W9GB Ham Member QRZ Page

    KISS mode was developed by Mike Chepponis, K3MC, and Phil Karn, KA9Q in 1987, and incoporated in the updated EPROMs of almost every commercial Terminal Node Controller (TNC), since that time.

    If you think of the computer and TNC as the non-RF parts of a data-communication system, originally almost all of the system’s intelligence was built into the TNC, not the computer.
    As a result, it was possible for completely dumb terminals to be used with TNCs to provide packet communications.
    This was done because the personal computers available when TNCs were first developed (early 1980s) weren’t very powerful. With time, computers became substantially more powerful.
    Taking the opposite approach, the Baycom and Poor Man’s Packet modems move all of the intelligence out of the TNC and into the computer. KISS mode plows a middle ground, moving a portion of the intelligence from the TNC to the computer, but leaving some intelligence in the TNC as well.

    A KISS-mode TNC can’t be used in conjunction with just any terminal program. That’s because certain TNC functions must be carried out in the computer, not the TNC. However, a significant amount of software has been created that supports KISS mode, including APRS, TCP/IP, and a range of other programs.

    The KISS TNC: A simple Host-to-TNC communications protocol
    Mike Chepponis, K3MC and Phil Karn, KA9Q
    Presented at the ARRL 6th Computer Networking Conference, Redondo Beach CA, 1987.
    Translated to HTML by KA9Q, January 1997.
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2013
  12. KC2SDS

    KC2SDS Ham Member QRZ Page

    I'm using dumb terminal program to troubleshoot using both APRS and traditional packet operation. I don't believe this unit has a KISS mode.
  13. W9GB

    W9GB Ham Member QRZ Page

    KISS support Integrated into standard AEA firmware as of 21 Jan 1987.
    You do realize for KISS you have to use a personal computer with an application program?

    IF you are confused -- READ the 1987 paper by authors that tell you how KISS works!
    KISS Support
    7. Implementation History

    The original idea for a simplified host/TNC protocol is due to Brian Lloyd, WB6RQN. Phil Karn, KA9Q, organized the specification and submitted an initial version on 6 August 1986.
    As of this writing (1987), the following KISS TNC implementations exist:

    TNC type Author Comments

    TAPR TNC-2 & clones Mike Chepponis, K3MC First implementation,most widely used.
    Exists in both downloadable and dedicated ROM.

    TAPR TNC-1 & clones Marc Kaufman, WB6ECE Both download and dedicated ROM.

    VADCG TNC Mike Bruski, AJ9X Dedicated ROM.

    AEA PK-232 & PK-87 Steve Stuart, N6IA Integrated into standard AEA firmware as of 21 Jan 1987.
    The special commands "KISS ON" and "KISS OFF" (!) control entry into KISS mode.

    Kantronics Mike Huslig Integrated into standard Kantronics firmware as of July 1987.

    The AEA and Kantronics implementations are noteworthy in that the KISS functions were written by those vendors and integrated into their standard TNC firmware.
    Their TNCs can operate in either KISS or regular AX.25 mode without ROM changes.
    Since the TNC-1 and TNC-2 KISS versions were written by different authors than the original AX.25 firmware, and because the original source code for those TNCs was not made available, running KISS on these TNCs requires the installation of nonstandard ROMs. Two ROMs are available for the TNC-2. One contains "dedicated" KISS TNC code; the TNC operates only in the KISS mode.
    The "download" version contains standard N2WX firmware with a bootstrap loader overlay. When the TNC is turned on or reset, it executes the loader. The loader will accept a memory image in Intel Hex format, or it can be told to execute the standard N2WX firmware through the "H" [3]command. The download version is handy for occasional KISS operation, while the dedicated version is much more convenient for full-time or demo KISS operation.

    The code for the TNC-1 is also available in both download and dedicated versions. However, at present the download ROM contains only a bootstrap; the original ROMs must be put back in to run the original TNC software.
  14. KC2SDS

    KC2SDS Ham Member QRZ Page


    Yup, I'm familiar with KISS mode, as I've used it with my KPC3+, AX25, and linux packet fun. I know I can use xastir with a tnc in kiss mode, but I'm really just trying to figure out why I can't seem to get this PK-232 to be usable on a basic level, one that it should be well within it's capabilities. I really don't need it to do KISS. It sat for 2 years after working fine, and now that I've returned to it, rewired the jury-rigged cable to my rig, it's just given me more bald spots. :)
  15. W9GB

    W9GB Ham Member QRZ Page

    Given its age, it is possible that the EPROM has gone flaky.
    This was reported (Yahoo group) by some AEA PK-232 and PK-900 owners --
    a replacement set of ROMs cleared the issues.

    Did you check the soldered lithium battery?

    The other problems I have seen are ESD related to RS-232 drivers & receivers (U19, U20) operation.
    You will see local echo of processor responses, BUT will not see external serial data from computer or terminal.
    U19: MC1489 -
    Quad Line Receiver U20: MC1488 - Quad Line Driver

    In early PK-232 these two integrated circuits are soldered-in (later boards used sockets).
    These two Motorola ICs were very common in serial port designs of the 1970s and 1980s, before the Maxim MAX232 was released and widely available.

    AEA PK-232 Technical Supplement (Service) Manual (circa May 1987)
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2013
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