Pack-it boards are sold for both commercial and educational purposes. Built it yourself kits are available at a reduced price.
Build it yourself kits cost $90. This includes all components and a diagram illustrating where each component belongs on the PCB. It is also necessary to have access to appropriate Motorola programming tools and have knowledge of surface mount component soldering. For Pack-it, there are two surface mount components, a 100 pin qfp package and a 80 pin qfp package. The rest of the components are through-hole for ease of assembly. It takes about 3 hours to build and fully test each unit. Students and hobbyist often choose this approach.

Alternatively, a pre-assembled and tested Pack-it board cost $175.

Although the firmware has been tested, it is not guaranteed free of defects. Understand that Pack-it only supports UDP and not TCP at this time. As a result, 1 of 2 conditions must be met in order for Pack-it to transmit user data.
  1. You fill the internal rs232 collection buffer which in that case Pack-it then transmits your data and continues to take in new data to be transmitted in the next datagram.

    Or

  2. You stop transmitting rs232 data into the pack-it board for 500ms and the buffer timeout expires. This will cause the buffers content to be transmitted.
These conditions are intended to prevent Pack-it from having to absorb the overhead of sending a new datagram for each rs232 byte received, and also to make the received data more meaningful to the destination host since the entire UDP message arrives at once. Unlike TCP, UDP does not have a way of tracking packet sequencing / fragmentation. So it is best to group the data in this manner.

If the 8 bit parallel I/O port is selected as input instead of the rs232 port (though rs232 can still be selected as the output port), Pack-it will transmit a datagram with that 8 bit byte as payload. A new datagram is transmitted whenever the state of the 8 bit input port changes.

If DNS is enabled, a DNS lookup will occur each time a packet is sent. Using a static IP address instead of a domain name as a destination address will improve packet throughput. This is especially true when the 8 bit parallel input mode is selected.

When the 8 bit parallel IO port is selected for output, the user can choose to strobe each byte from the Pack-it data buffer at your own convenience. This works well as long as the user's device keeps the buffer empty. If a buffer overrun condition occurs, the newly arriving data will be lost. There is a Data Arrival Notification pin which the customer device can use as an interrupt source for data arrival. This pin also serves to notify the customers device when the outgoing data buffer becomes empty. (Pulls low when data is present, and returns high when the customer device has removed all data from the buffer).

All in all, itís a very good system. Be aware that Pack-it is not intended as a high throughput device. For the occasional transmission less than 1500 bytes per packet, it's great. So far its been used as an rs232 extension cable, alarm system interface to the internet, soft switch controller and for a few other odd applications.

If you would like to see some running Pack-it demo's, that can be arranged.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact me.

--Eric Shufro