The Internet Radio Linking Project (IRLP) has been around for every moment of the 21st century. I got involved with the project in 2003 when I built my first node from a discarded personal computer. That was replaced a few years later with an embedded node, and that was replaced this year with a new node built on a Raspberry Pi.
In a nutshell, IRLP links repeaters and individual nodes, like mine, with others via the Internet. For instance, a repeater in Florida can be linked with a repeater in California and users on each end can communicate with each other – sometimes without even realizing that the person they are talking with is in another region.
Reflectors are computers running special software that facilitate the linking of multiple repeaters and nodes. These are often installed in a data center and have access to considerably more bandwidth than a home user with cable Internet access.
The bandwidth permits many systems to be linked together, forming ever larger networks as each reflector can support hundreds of simultaneous connections via multiple “channels”.
In the early days this was all heady stuff and very unique. But IRLP has matured considerably and these days many repeaters with IRLP capabilities will connect on a semi-permanent basis to a specific channel of a reflector, usually for geographical convenience.
For instance, reflector 9070 is considered the “Alaska Reflector” and a quick look at the status of channel 0 this morning shows more than twenty repeaters from around that State all linked together. Say “hello” on any one of these linked repeaters and chances are good your signal will be copied all over The Last Frontier.
This is handy for state-wide nets as well as percolating traffic on seldom used systems. Of course, you don’t have to be in Alaska to link into that system. Other systems from around the world can, and often do, join in.
But as IRLP and its many adherents have matured, I’ve noticed the propensity for disparate repeater systems to link to a single channel and remain linked.
The East Coast Reflector (9050) is a good example. There are some fifty to sixty regular repeaters located up and down the eastern seaboard of the US that remain connected to it 24/7.
These reflectors take on unique personalities as users eventually come to know each other. This permits Bob in Ft Myers, Florida to chat with Marvin and Bill in Vestal, New York, every weekday while driving to work. Before you know it, you’ve made new friends in faraway cities and since the system is immune to the vagaries of propagation, you can exchange brief pleasantries every day if you like.
Or you could get yourself into longer conversations though given that the systems are linked across wide areas, it would probably be appreciated if long rag chews moved off to seldom used reflector channels or through direct node-to-node linking.
Check out the list of reflectors and channels available, pick one, and then hangout there for a few days to see if it’s your cup of tea.
You might find that these “islands” of connectivity have morphed IRLP into the most useful of all the linked radio systems.