The KJ4ERJ / APRSISCE/32 story
by Lynn Deffenbaugh - KJ4ERJ
Believe it or not, the groundwork for APRSISCE/32 began in the early 70s (that's 1970s for you youngsters) with a magazine article describing some sort of data transmission protocol over radio while I was in junior high school. I studied that article and began to partially understand how it would work, but didn't have the financial resources to even dream of having equipment to actually do anything about it. I looked into amateur radio but couldn't handle the Morse Code requirements at the time, so I gave up on it. In hindsight, it must have been AX.25 I was reading about because I vaguely remember the whole destination and routing pieces and even the "used" bit.
Fast forward to a few years ago. My son came home and told us that he and a few friends were planning to get their amateur radio licenses. They studied together, passed the Technician exam, and promptly got after me to do the same. Once I learned that the code requirement had been eliminated, I studied up and got my own license about 3 months behind them. KJ4ERJ was born. (Yes, that's Echo Romeo Juliet, isn't it romantic-sounding?)
And then I discovered APRS. I've been playing with GPS ever since my son brought home a GPS developer board quite a few years ago. A DeLorme USB GPS followed, and we did our first GeoCache with an open laptop on the bicycle basket running Street-Atlas. Throw in a DeLorme BlueLogger later on and a PN-20 handheld shortly after they came out. But the best was and is the dashboard GPS-based digital speedometer that was a Father's Day present from my son. It sports a 4x20 display with big digits for the speed along with coordinates, date/time, and satellite counts along the right side. He did the hardware, I did the Basic Stamp software which he later adopted and ported to the SX PIC. It's only smoked once when the Florida heat softened the hot glue inside allowing the backup AA batteries to short the 12v supply. Made a nice little smoky patch. on the windshield.
But, what's all that got to do with APRSISCE/32? Well, when I discovered APRS, I naturally also found UI-View. I installed it, listened to Roger's voice saying the station callsigns as they appeared, and thought that the program looked like it came from Windows 3.1. Well, after researching a bit, and following the amazingly supportive UI-View Yahoo group, I learnt the tale of G4IDE's last wishes and the frozen state of UI-View due to the destruction of the source code. I thought "I'd really like APRS on my GPS-capable AT&T Tilt cellular phone", so I started writing APRSISCE for Windows Mobile. Yes, it started out on the reduced power, small screen, mobile platform.
After getting the basics of the APRS-IS connection and understanding of APRS packets (lots of nights reading aprs101.pdf, highly recommended if you really want to know how it works) firmly in mind, had a non-map-based version up and running and tracking my phone as KJ4ERJ-12. That was around August or September of 2008 (you mean I've been doing this for nearly THREE YEARS?).
Sometime in July of 2009, I realized that a few compiler switches would be all that is required to build a version for the Windows desktop and APRSIS32 was born. OpenStreetMap.org maps were added in August of 2009 and the whole APRSISCE/32 visual interface became much more friendly and informative. Geo-caching, Echolink, Grid Squares, NWS Weather Alerts, Direction Finding, PHG Circles, Nicknames, local Sun rise/set times (did you know those are on ME's station information popup?), and more followed over time with invaluable input (and prodding sometimes) from the growing user base.
But if you asked me what my favorite features are, I'd list three (in no particular order).
- It works on Windows Mobile as well as it does on Windows desktops.
- MultiTracks. I LOVE the ability to have different windows simultaneously tracking different stations across the planet.
- The Chat interface.
APRS messaging has never been easier with automatic line wrapping, interleaved message displays, automatic and retrigger-able retries, Reply-Acks for RF performance enhancements, and direct access to a world full of like-minded individuals with a few mouse clicks to open a new Chat and say "Hello". (Just watch for a group chat feature to knock your socks off sometime before the end of 2011 hopefully).
So, that's the story of uncountable hours of development and support time over an increasing number of years. It wouldn't have been possible without the talents that God gave me nor without the patient understanding and support of my YL, KJ4OVQ (she's never going to be X IMHO). And I would never have had the motivation to continue nor the ideas for the continued improvement without input from the active APRSISCE/32 users. You all make it possible for me to continue working toward making this the BEST APRS Client EVER! (Yes, I'm a bit biased in that department too!)
Lynn (D) - KJ4ERJ - Author of APRSISCE for Windows Mobile and Windows/32
(c) 2011, Daytona Beach Amateur Radio Association, used with permission