In Packet Radio: App For the Apocalypse, we discussed packet radio, an off-grid solution to digital communications in the event of a shutdown or tight control of the Internet. The article described the TNC, Terminal Node Controller, which is the smart modem that connects between a radio transceiver and a terminal or computer and allows BBS, store-and-forward email, and keyboard-to-keyboard communications over the airwaves.
Now there is an even simpler way to start operating on packet: Alinco has the DR-135, which has as an option an internal, plug-in TNC board. The radio has a serial port to plug your computer into, and it also includes a port to interface to a GPS receiver, if you want to be able to transmit geo-location data. At the same time, you can use the radio as a standard FM voice transceiver, with or without the digital equipment connected.
With this setup in your car or RV, you have the ability to communicate via short-range simplex voice, intermediate range repeaters, long range repeater link networks, and also packet BBS and email forwarding. In addition, if your car or RV breaks down in the desert or something similar, you can set the radio to beacon a digital mayday signal with GPS location on the amateur APRS (Automatic Position Reporting System) frequency. When you do that, you will show up as a "Mayday" blip on the on-screen map of any amateur within range who is running APRS. And quite a few of them do.
All this stuff has been around since before the Internet became popular. APRS has been around since before Onstar; in fact, Onstar is a commercial version of the amateur APRS.
So how much do all these services cost? Nothing. Absolutely free. In fact, it is illegal to charge anything for the services. That is part of the agreement whereby amateur radio operators are given all these frequencies to play around with.
The only thing new here, is having it all in one box. And you can get it here: