Though I haven’t said much about it lately, I still maintain an IRLP node at home. Node 4212 has been in operation continuously since 2003 and yes, I still believe it’s superior to all the new digital voice modes – combined. D-STAR, Fusion, and DMR are interesting technologies that certainly deserve attention, but IRLP still connects users with good old-fashioned FM and existing repeater systems.

The Internet Radio Linking Project has been around for every moment of the 21st century and while there have been no exciting new paradigm shifting breakthroughs in the core technology requiring the purchase of all new expensive hardware to make use of it, it simply keeps cracking on.

I’ve been through three iterations of the node hardware. Originally, I installed Linux on an old PC and squeezed several more years of life out of it. In 2006 I purchased an embedded node from the IRLP project and used it for ten more years. Last summer I replaced that with a new Pi-based node controller.

An Alinco DR-435T has served as node radio since 2006.

It works like this. I pick up my handheld UHF transceiver set to my node frequency and tone squelch, press four digits on the touch-tone pad, and my node is connected to wherever I’ve dialed and I’m ready to talk. When I’m done, I press two touch tone keys and I’m disconnected.

Contrast that with the machinations required to connect to another system using D-STAR or DMR. Even after purchasing new equipment and getting it setup, there’s a steep learning curve to getting on the air with it - while most of us already know how to use an FM transceiver.

The current crop of digital voice “methods” are enjoying a surge of popularity because it’s something new and many enthusiasts like the challenge of figuring out how to implement networking and software to make something work. I get it. It’s new and shiny. And anything that gets the amater radio community building and growing digital networks is a good thing.

Let me put it this way, I have D-STAR and DMR equipment, but if you want to talk to me on the air, find a repeater that has IRLP and dial 4212. It works wonderfully and without the need for a code plug, expensive equipment, or to politically align with the proper network. (Good grief!)

Once connected, we’ll chat like humans using the same local repeater. No pinched audio or digital artifacts (“R2D2”) to contend with. Just FM – no static at all.