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I want to be able to get in touch with hams in my area when we are not both on air at the same time, but are close enough to each other for VHF communication. I want to be able to use my radio to call in a message for them to retrieve at a later time, like calling in for voicemail?

What sort of existing solutions are there for setting up a base station that will record messages and then on command re-transmit them? It must work on FM, not a digital mode, and of course be legal in the US. I am a General class licensee.

This repeater control software seems to have the functions I want, and a lot more: http://www.arandis.se/rlm/index.html

But I wanted to have some more options to pick from, and really only need the voicemail type functionality.

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    $\begingroup$ Hello and welcome to this site! What are the "more options" that you need? BTW, ham is not an acronym, and capitalizing it turns off a lot of hams, thus my edits. :-) $\endgroup$ – Mike Waters Apr 20 at 16:12
  • $\begingroup$ I assumed there had to be more software options with similar functionality. I post the 1 software I've found to demonstrate that i have at least googled the topic. I was also hoping for some notes on how my goal would be achieved. A piece of software might be needed, but I imagine there is more to a complete answer than just a download link. $\endgroup$ – OrangePeel52 Apr 20 at 19:09
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You may like checking out svxlink. I've had success setting it up on a Raspberry Pi, interfaced with a baofeng (pls don't judge) to accomplish VM (as well as successfully interfacing with EchoLink) in a simplex configuration, but only as a prototype... I haven't experience running it for an extended period.

Obviously, you can interface the RPi with the radio(s) of your choice for additional power or duplex configuration etc.

From their site, a list of modules and their functions, including the VM you may enjoy experimenting with.

The SvxLink Server is a general purpose voice services system, which when connected to a transceiver, can act as both an advanced repeater system and can also operate on a simplex channel. One could call it a radio operating system since it sits between the hardware (transceiver) and the applications (modules) and handle basic system services as well as input and output.

SvxLink is very extensible and modular. Voice services are implemented as modules which are isolated from each other. Modules can be implemented in either C++ or TCL. Examples of modules are:

Help – A help system

Parrot – Play back everything that is received

EchoLink – Connect to other EchoLink stations

DtmfRepeater – Repeater received DTMF digits

TclVoiceMail – Send voice mail to other local users

PropagationMonitor – Announce propagation warnings from dxmaps.com

SelCall – Send selective calling sequences by entering DTMF codes

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I can imagine a device that listens on a ham frequency to record voice messages and decode commands, and then retransmits recorded voice messages on the same frequency on command. Such a device would be relatively easy to design and build. But there are legal issues, at least in the US.

Legally speaking, I presume that you're talking about an automated system that can transmit without being constantly monitored by a control operator. I can think of three types of stations in which an automated system can transmit legally on the ham bands under US law (not including earth stations, space stations, and telecommand stations, which have to do with stations in orbit): propagation beacons, automatically-controlled digital stations, and repeaters under automatic control. You ruled out digital modes, and propagation beacons aren't allowed to transmit voice messages, so as I see it, the only legal way to operate such a device in the US would be as a repeater under automatic control. (Please know that I'm not a lawyer.)

Unfortunately, your device has now gotten quite a bit more complicated: in addition to listening for messages and commands, and retransmitting stored messages and acknowledgements, now your device has to also retransmit everything it hears on another frequency, and also comply with other legal requirements for automatic control such as transmitting its call sign periodically, timing out after someone transmits through the repeater for more than a few minutes, and monitoring a separate control channel (another frequency, or a telephone line, or an internet connection) for commands.

Repeaters are quite expensive, if your goal is simply to store and forward messages. But if you have a repeater already, and the repeater controller is a computer, then installing some software that works with your repeater hardware sounds like a reasonable way to accomplish what you're asking for.

The poster of the question has pointed out that there is a device marketed as a "simplex repeater" that connects to a radio and does what the poster of the question is asking for: it records messages and retransmits them later upon command on the same frequency. Unfortunately that device doesn't comply with the definition of a repeater in 47 CFR § 97.3 (I added the bold face):

(40) Repeater. An amateur station that simultaneously retransmits the transmission of another amateur station on a different channel or channels.

Because that device marketed as a simplex repeater doesn't simultaneously retransmit on a different channel, legally it's not a repeater, and therefore such a device can't legally transmit under automatic control. But the FCC has changed quite a bit from the old days, and their attention is on spectrum auctions, mobile phones, and broadband internet far more than on the amateur service, so unless they get quite a few complaints, in my opinion they are unlikely to act to prevent "simplex repeaters" from being sold.

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  • $\begingroup$ I suppose that explains this device which i found, ADS-SR1 Simplex Repeater. argentdata.com/catalog/product_info.php?products_id=98 $\endgroup$ – OrangePeel52 Apr 21 at 14:37
  • $\begingroup$ Didn't hams used to call their own answering machines at home? For sake of argument if I built a POTS-based mechanism that could "store and forward" voice recordings, I don't see much in arrl.org/phone-patch-guidelines to scare me off from calling into it via autopatch. If that's the case, why couldn't I ditch any use of the telephone system itself and build an equivalent feature (e.g. using a Raspberry Pi) attached ± directly onto an auxiliary/remote-operated station? $\endgroup$ – natevw - AF7TB Apr 27 at 21:35
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    $\begingroup$ @natevw-AF7TB I did some research and edited my answer, and answered your question in the process. $\endgroup$ – rclocher3 Apr 27 at 22:42
  • $\begingroup$ In my local area, there is a repeater with a voice mailbox. So they do exist and are legal $\endgroup$ – Brian Apr 30 at 23:12
  • $\begingroup$ @Brian in my understanding, such a thing is legal as long as the repeater simultaneously retransmits on another channel. The OP talks about a device marketed as a "simplex repeater" that doesn't simultaneously retransmit on another channel, which in my opinion isn't legal. $\endgroup$ – rclocher3 May 3 at 15:25
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Winlink Global Radio Email "is a worldwide radio messaging system that uses amateur-band radio frequencies and government frequencies to provide radio interconnection services that include email with attachments, position reporting, weather bulletins, emergency and relief communications, and message relay. The system is built and administered by volunteers and is financially supported by the Amateur Radio Safety Foundation." Despite an apparent focus on a worldwide HF-based system, it can operate on any frequency with the right equipment (radio, TNC, etc.) and software.

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    $\begingroup$ The OP asked for solutions to record VHF FM messages. $\endgroup$ – rclocher3 Apr 26 at 15:10
  • $\begingroup$ Winlink could be used to forward a voice message file. $\endgroup$ – Brian K1LI Apr 28 at 11:11
  • $\begingroup$ True, but the OP is presumably looking for an easy-to-use device that both he and his non-technical ham buddies on the local repeater could use. You get on the repeater and punch in some DTMF codes to see if someone left you any messages, that kind of thing. Winlink and a desktop computer and voice message file attachments would be way too complicated. $\endgroup$ – rclocher3 Apr 28 at 16:14

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