I installed the Winlink Express radio email client software on my new laptop last weekend. I had long ago setup an account and fiddled with this a little using a telnet connection, but never via RF. Wanting to give it a better look I proceeded to set things up using a free sound card modem connected to the IC-7300. With this arrangement I managed to connect to a remote gateway on 40 meters and moved a few “test” messages into the system and though it worked, it was brutally slow.

Migrating to VARA HF, a higher performance software modem, had always been part of the plan. The free version of VARA HF limits transfers to 180 bps, where as the paid version allows transfers up to a maximum (theoretical) speed of 8490 bps. I installed the software and paid the fee ($69) to unlock its higher speed capabilities.

The difference in transfer speed was dramatic.

All of this was proof-of-concept stuff for me as I don’t really have a solid use case to be a regular Winlink user. I don’t live on a boat or frequently visit places that don’t have cell service and I’m not interested or involved with emergency services.

I simply enjoy the notion that I can connect without the Internet to a virtual post office box for digital messages via radio. Having tweeted about the new installation I quickly received a few messages, one from a ham on a ship sailing in the Far East.

Turns out that email via HF radio is every bit as cool as I imagined and I plan to continue looking for ways to further integrate it in my ham radio experience.