There is more to amateur radio than exchanging callsigns, signal reports, and the weather. One popular segment of amateur radio is the digital modes.
Besides the high frequency (HF) radio, and a PC with a soundcard (most have them), the main piece of hardware is a sound card interface. I currently use The Rigblaster Blue (shown at the top right in the image below).
It uses Bluetooth rather than audio cables to connect to the sound card on a PC. The Rigblaster Blue has a through microphone cable so the regular microphone may be used when not using the digital modes. An audio cable is then connected between the line out of the radio to the line in on the Rigblaster Blue. The final connection is made by pairing Bluetooth on the PC to The Rigblaster Blue. Then changing the sound card settings to the Rigblaster for input and output audio. There are other sound card interfaces available such as the Signalink.
I first started with PSK31, which is a highly-efficient data mode that lets you work long distances, even when you can barely hear the signal. PSK31 stands for Phase Shift Keying 31 baud (or 31 bits per second/bps). The characters are formed by changing the phase of the sound wave, not by using different tones. Once I got my hardware setup, as well as configured one of the available software programs (I use DigiPan), I was making regular contacts with Asia and Australia.
I recently set up my station to us WinLink 2000 with the RMS Express software. As many of my friends know, I can send and receive e-mails and National Traffic System (NTS) radiogram messages over the air, rather than use The Internet.
During disasters or other emergencies, radiograms are used to communicate information critical to saving lives or property or to inquire about the health or welfare of a disaster victim. Routine messages are regularly sent to test the system and for operator practice.